Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Read Where You Are & Summer Reading with PBS KIDS

Did you know that today is a national literacy day of action? Read Where You Are is an initiative from the White House and the U.S. Department of Education to help students maintain their literacy skills and be prepared for the beginning of school.

And in honor of the day, I wanted to share some additional reading resources with you!

Raising literate children is important to me. That's why in addition to creating a national reading program for Latino children, I've also spent the last several years hosting an annual summer reading party for our friends. PBS KIDS has made it easier for me to do this by providing me with materials and resources most of which you can access, too.

This year, PBS KIDS has partnered with Harper Collins/I Can Read in support of children's literacy. If you visit the I Can Read website, you'll find lots of printable activities to complement their beginning readers, many of which you probably have at home. You can also visit PBS KIDS' Island, their site dedicated to helping parents raise readers. You'll find games, activities, printables, calendars and more.

Have you ever considered hosting a summer reading party? They are fun and easy to do! All you really need is just kids and books. They'll do the rest. But if you want to add some direction to the event, I recommend making it festive with a few decorations, fun literacy activities, and goody bags filled with literacy-building treats, such as reading logs, bookmarks, activity booklets, and BOOKS!

And reading parties don't have to take place only in the summer. You can host a reading party at any time of the year. If you have little ones, it's important to make reading fun and to create a reading culture at home. That means surrounding them with books and making reading an interactive experience with family and friends.

Whether you host a reading party or not, I hope you'll take time TODAY to grab your kid and a book and just READ WHERE YOU ARE!

Disclosure: I am a PBS KIDS brand ambassador and received literacy materials for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Preparing Kids Emotionally and Academically for the Start of School

For my family, the first day of school is quickly approaching. I typically start our homeschool year on August 1st. That's earlier than most of our homeschooling friends and lends for a short summer break, but because here in North Carolina we must have 180 days of school, it's important we start early because we do travel quite a bit as a family and I can't always count all those travel days as school days.

All children - not just my own - need to have a smooth transition back to school. Abrupt change is hard even for the most flexible of people and that is why we need to prepare our kids emotionally, as well as academically, for the start of classes.

Here are some tips for preparing your kids for the start of school:

  • Take the time to actually talk about the start of school and why their education is so important to you and your family. 
  • Don't forget to tell your child how proud you are of all the progress that he or she has made over the last year. Be specific and list a few of their accomplishments. Ask your child what he or she is proudest of - you might be surprised!
  • Talk about goals for the school year. Ask your child what he or she hopes to learn or what skills they'd like to develop. Write it all down and post your goals on the fridge or someplace where everyone will see it. I've made up a free printable to help your child organize his thoughts. 

  • Work up a budget and make a list of school supplies, clothes, etc. Then go shopping together, sticking to both your budget and your list!
  • Create 4 or 5 weekly lunch meal plans, or have your child do it. Add magnets to the back of each week, stack them on the fridge, then swap them around each month.
  • Ask your child to create a daily schedule. Make sure they begin with the time that they wake up and end with the time they go to sleep. Doing so helps kids visualize their day and prepares them mentally for changes in their lax summer routine.
  • Set aside a small space in your home where your child can sit and do homework, or update an existing space. Let your child personalize it and make the area more cozy so that he or she enjoys spending time doing his or her homework. 
  • As a family, celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of the school year with a special party, night out, or gift.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Little Passports Free Summer Camp Explorer

**This post contains affiliate links.

There are so many wonderful online camps this summer that provide endless activities to keep our kids busy learning and having fun! I just love discovering about all these opportunities for you and your kids. Here's the latest one:

This summer, Little Passports is posting an exciting Camp Explorer activity series on their blog. They started off exploring my beloved home state of Texas! Your kids can learn how to make a great campfire recipe- their very own Pan de Campo. Did you know that Pan de Campo is the official state bread of Texas? It is also referred to as cowboy bread!

For Week 2, Little Passports offered a free printable nature scavenger hunt. Get your kids outside to find some awesome treasures!  

This week, you can watch your kids reach for the stars! Literally. Download their free constellation activity sheet and watch your child learn the names and shapes of six constellations!

While you are on the Little Passports blog, find out what it is like to raise a Global Citizen in Pakistan from Little Passports' latest guest blogger, Zareen Rahman. Zareen is a stay at home mom and shares a typical day with her daughter in their home town of Lahore, Pakistan.

Interested in more Little Passports blog posts? Search the Little Passports Blog.

Friday, July 24, 2015

L4LL's Summer Lunchtime Hangouts with Latino Authors

This summer, Latinas for Latino Lit hosted a series of Google hangouts with Latino authors. These authors are the voices of our cultures and their stories are the reflection of our children's experiences. They play a critical role in motivating and inspiring our kids to embrace their heritage and to strive to make their dreams a reality.

The last lunchtime hangout took place this afternoon at lunch, and so I thought that just in case you missed any of them, that I would share them all here. If you enjoy these videos and learning about the books and life stories of these authors, be sure to check out the L4LL You Tube channel which contains many curated videos specifically on the topic of Latino children's literature and literacy.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Star Wars Blueprints Paper Craft Millennium Falcon Adventure Pack

This post contains affiliate links.

Will wonders never cease? So the other day we went to our local bookstore (Books-A-Million) and as usual, my son headed straight for the Star Wars section. He came racing back to me absolutely delirious with excitement that there were a bunch of new products, including two new paper craft sets. After a brief bout of begging, I agreed to buy one and so we came home with the Star Wars Blueprints Paper Craft Millennium Falcon Adventure Pack.

You know, I really work hard to think of hands-on (non-tech) activities for my kids to do during the day because we are always limiting screen time. The allure of Minecraft and other games is too powerful, in my opinion. Especially for my son, so that's why we have strict rules in place. And that is why I love crafts and other activities that require my kids to think, read, follow directions, etc.

My son worked on this set all night until bedtime, and then almost all morning until he had completed both Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the Millennium Falcon. He still has the Falcon's cockpit to assemble. Putting it together required some patience and a lot of time and focus, so this little kit gets an A+ in my book!

Do you have a little Star Wars lover in your home? You can find this kit at Books-A-Million, or here on Amazon. 

And don't forget you can find LOTS of other Star Wars crafts, products, and ideas over on my Star Wars Pinterest board

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Crayon Carver from Crayola

So I found the coolest thing in my email last week! Crayola is always coming up with new products and I love it. Their latest one is the Crayon Carver!

I remember when I was sending my kids to preschool and I had to write their names on all of their crayons. Sometimes we did that at home so that when we traveled, we'd be able to find and keep track of everyone's art supplies. Do you have this challenge?

If so, you may love this new gadget! Even if you don't have to put your kids names on them, it's a great way to teach them colors. Plus, it's just fun to do!

Right now, it is only available at ToysRUs.

Friday, July 17, 2015

MommyMaestra Summer of Fun: Continuous Line Art

Time for a new summer learning activity! This summer, los abuelos have been traveling to Europe. Each day, we excitedly opened my email looking for new photos and news from England and Scotland. One particular set of photos caught our eye and provided us with inspiration for a simple activity. In their flat, los abuelos had a series of prints on the wall of these continuous line drawings:

Convinced it would be super easy to recreate similar artwork, my kids ran and grabbed some paper and pencils. But it was a lot harder than they thought!

The goal of continuous line art is to not pick up your pencil until the drawing is complete. And it is even harder if you don't allow yourself to go back over the same lines. My kids cheated a bit this time around and went back over some of their lines, but they promised that next time they wouldn't!

You can make it as simple or as hard as you want. The great thing is that you can draw anything...including Jabba the Hutt. :)

Can your kids do this?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Free Download for Advanced Spanish Learners: Making Words

July's freebie from our sponsor, Lectura para niños is a great activity for advanced Spanish students who are ready for more of a challenge.

Leah says...

What I have sent you is for the ADVANCED copy of Haciendo palabras avanzadasThis center is for those students who have mastered making basic words in Spanish and need to move on to more difficult words. You can purchase the full version here  Here is where you can get the phonics center for Haciendo Palabras basicas.
  Here is a freebie of this phonics center.

I hope you enjoy!

For more awesome Spanish materials, especially those that teach children to read in Spanish, check out Lectura para niños on FacebookTeachers Pay TeachersBlog, and Pinterest.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Free Download: Numbers Connect 4 in Spanish

Hey, Spanish Learners! It's time for another awesome freebie from our sponsor Spanish for You! 

This month's download focuses on boosting number recognition in Spanish. Numbers Connect 4 can be played the same way as its namesake or as a board game. It also includes an audio file to help you perfect your pronunciation of the letters in Spanish.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. Visit their website for more awesome materials and their curriculum for grades 3-8. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy.

Thanks, Spanish for You!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Camp Google Begins Tomorrow!

Camp Google


This week, Camp Google officially launches. This free science camp features a different theme each week for four weeks. The four themes are:

  • Ocean
  • Space
  • Nature
  • Music
To participate, just visit and click on the theme you want to explore. You'll find directions for fun science activities, as well as interactive, online adventures led by experts in the field. Your kids can earn badges as they complete the science activities at home, just print the badge tracker for use at home. 

The whole thing starts TOMORROW, Monday, July 13th, 2015.

Google has partnered with National Geographic, Khan Academy and the National Park Service for this project. 


Friday, July 10, 2015

New from Maestro Classics: Merry Pranks of Master Till

Do you remember, oh, about three years ago when I told you about Juanita, the Spanish lobster/Juanita, la langosta española? That CD has remained one of my children's most favorite homeschool lessons. And Maestro Classics has continued to be one of my favorite resources for introducing my children to classical music. Not only do they absolutely LOVE to listen to the stories in music - do YOU know anyone who doesn't love/recognize the story and music of Peter and the Wolf? - but I love the activities and lesson plans that accompany each album. You can get any of the albums as a CD or MP3. We've used both.

Merry Pranks for Master Till is the newest album from Maestro Classics. It features music of the great composer Richard Strauss. This musical work is actually one of Strauss' tone poems and is considered one the best tone poems ever composed even though most of his audiences didn't understand or like it at the time of its release.

The poem tells the story of Till, a witty boy from medieval German folklore who is prone to playing pranks on the snobby people around him who are of the upper class. Although his main purpose seems to be entertaining others, he's also quick to teach them the error of their ways! Click here to listen to some sample snippets.

The album comes with a 24-page booklet that is full of activities and is illustrated with cut paper art by Giles Laroche. My kids so enjoy flipping through the booklet and doing the activities on their own.

I love that I can go to the Maestro Classics site and download lesson plans specific to this album. The curriculum encompasses many subjects including history, science, geography, language arts, music, art and math. I don't have to do any research. I can find information, links, and ideas all in one place. Last year in history, the kids studied Medieval history so the Merry Pranks for Master Till and the links we discovered through the curriculum were a perfect complement. There were also a lot of crafts related to the time period and I'm really looking forward to making these German Schultüte {school cones} filled with candy for the first day of school.

So if you're looking for fun materials and activities to keep your kids busy and entertained, I highly recommend the albums from Maestro Classics! All of them, including Merry Pranks for Master Till, are available for purchase as a CD or as a MP3 (the MP3 includes the booklet as a pdf download).

Disclosure: This product was sent to me for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Does Your Family Follow Fire Safety Practices?

Fire Safety Starts at Home

Disclaimer: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with the PreK12 Plaza. However, all stories and opinions expressed are my own.

I remember once when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my grandmother was having a party. She had this amazing little tabletop chimes set that had angels on top and candles on the bottom. When you lit the candles, the heat made this little fan spin, causing the little angels to move around and the chimes would tinkle with a faint unearthly, magical sound. So I decided I would use a match so that I could light those little candles and show everyone how amazing the chimes were.

Unfortunately, I had never lit a match before and so I didn't know that when you strike the match on the matchbook, you shouldn't hold it close to the other matches inside. The whole matchbook lit up like a roaring fire and, startled, I dropped it on the floor at my feet.

Luckily, my Tío Pancho, was walking by right at that exact moment and he immediately stepped on the miniature bonfire with his shoe and put out the flame. "What are you doing, girl? Trying to burn down the house?" were his exact words, if I remember correctly.

Fast forward 30 years or so to when my kids and I were driving to the store. My daughter tentatively says to me, "Mom, can I tell you something and you not get upset?"

Those words don't come out of her mouth very often, so when they do, I know I need to listen carefully and control my reactions.

"Remember when we were visiting [our grandparents] in January? Well, [my cousin] and I were upstairs playing in Grammy's sewing room. And we found a box of matches and wondered what it would be like if we lit one. So I did. But I quickly put it out."

Images of that room full of flammable batting, fabrics, transfer papers and more swam before my eyes and I remember turning to her and saying as calmly as I could, "I sure am glad nothing happened to you guys. Can you imagine what would have happened if just one of the fabrics had caught fire? At the worst, we might have lost both of you in a terrible fire. Or Grammy's house might have burned down."

My son piped up, "When I was in the shop once, I found a little box with these little sticks in them. But when I opened the other side they had little red tips and I realized that they were matches so I quickly closed the box and put it back where I found it!"

My daughter gave him a sour look.

The point of me telling you these stories is that no matter how careful we are with matches and other fire starters, our kids have a way of finding them. When I was little no one talked to me about fire safety other than the popular one-liner, "Don't play with matches." I've been careful to talk to my kids about what they should do in those situations, but my daughter proved to me that even when we do talk about the dangers, they may one day find themselves in a situation where they have access to fire starters and their curiosity may or may not burn brighter than their sense of obedience or safety. 

That's why I think it is important to talk about these issues starting when they are little. We have to have a plan and hope that by drilling it into them over and over, they'll be more likely to use caution. There are so many ways that children can get burned - or worse - by fire hazards. From matches to candles to fireworks, even cooking with mom or 'Buelita can lead to dangerous situations. One of our big ones is barbecue - those suckers can get bien caliente! And when my kids are running around, I'm always worried that one of them will accidentally run into it or put their hand on it. So we talk about that a lot, too.

I keep two fire extinguishers in my house. One big one in our laundry room, and a smaller one in the pantry in case of a kitchen fire. We also have five smoke alarms: one in each bedroom, one at the top of the stairs and one in the hallway by our bedroom. How many fire extinguishers and smoke alarms do you have? I know they aren't cheap, but they are long-term investments that I'm willing to grit my teeth and purchase knowing I don't have to do it that often. The peace of mind that they give me are worth the price. 

When I talk to my kids about fire safety we cover things like: 

  • What do they do if there is a fire in the house? 
  • Where will we all meet? 
  • Where should they go to get help? 
  • If they suspect a fire on the other side of a door, how do they check without opening it?
  • If the room they are in starts to fill with smoke, what should they do?
  • What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?
  • Do they know how to dial 911 to report a fire? What information will the person need? Do your children know their home address?

Take the time to draw up a Home Emergency Evacuation Plan. Your kids need to know how to get out of the house in the case of a fire, and what to do if the doorways are blocked.

If you're looking for resources to start this conversation with your kids, check out some of the resources from PreK12 Plaza, such as this fire safety song:

Or these short videos on fire safety:

Fire Safety Song

Fire Safety Part 1

Fire Safety Part 2
And yes! They're available in Spanish, too!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Infogaphic: Understanding Homeschooling in the United States

I stumbled across this yesterday. It's an interesting look at homeschooling in this country. I'm not sure I agree with it all, but one fact I found interesting is that it claims that 15% of homeschooled kids are Hispanic. I don't know how accurate this is our where they got their information, but this number seems rather high to me. I know that when I started homeschooling 6 or 7 years ago, there was virtually NO information for Hispanics on homeschooling. Today, I know that number has grown because of the number of emails I get from Latino parents who are exploring the possibility. But I would be incredibly surprised if that number was up to 15%.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this infographic!

Home Schooling

Monday, July 6, 2015

Joan Miró Activities, Crafts, Lesson Plans and More

Is your child studying a famous artist this summer? Are you looking for fun activities to help make their research come alive? I was doing some research on Joan Miró and found some wonderfully awesome materials. I hope you enjoy them!

This post contains affiliate links.

Lesson Plans



(This section contains affiliate links)
  1. Miró (Famous Artists) by Anthony Mason, Andrew Hughes, Jen Green
  2. Joan Miró Coloring Book by Annette Roeder
  3. Draw with Joan Miró by Ana Salvador
  4. Sticker Art Shapes: Joan Miró by Sylvie Delpech
  5. Joan Miró, artista silencioso/ Joan Miró, Silent Artist by AA.VV. (SPANISH)
  6. Pequena historia de Joan Miró/ Short Story of Joan Miró by Fina Duran


These links are to YouTube. As always, parents and teachers should watch the videos first to make sure they are appropriate for their students. If you'd like to share them with your students without giving them access to YouTube, check out the cool tool Video.Link

 The Garden, Juan Miró, Animated Video:

Joan Miró. Un resumen de su vida... Para niños:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Activity Books for Young Engineers

This post contains affiliate links.

Both of my kids love building things and creating things from their imagination. Here are five of our favorite activity kits from Klutz books.

by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs

by Doug Stillinger

by The Editors of Klutz

by Doug Stillinger

by Ben Harper and Pat Murphy

by The Editors of Klutz


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