Friday, January 29, 2016

Mariachi Flor de Toloache

It's Friday! From the sunny countryside of my in-law's home in Texas, I want to start your weekend off with a Tiny Desk Concert from All Songs Considered on NPR. I hope you and your kids enjoy listening to Mariachi Flor de Toloache as much as we do.

(If you can't see the video below, you can click here.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes Contest

So today, I discovered this awesome contest for high schoolers. The National Science Foundation is hosting the Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes contest. The concept is creative and challenging; each student must research the field of nanotechnology and invent a superhero whose powers are based on current nanotech advances or that may be possible in the future given the current nano research. My kids aren't old enough, but they would SO be all over this if they were!

The students can win cash prizes: $1500 for 1st place, $1000 for 2nd place, and $500 for 3rd place.

But here's the catch: the deadline is next Tuesday, February 2nd! That's super short notice, I know, but I only found out about it. But I know that if you have a science-loving student or one that is a comic book aficionado, he or she could knock this out over the weekend.

Who: High-school students, individuals between the ages of 13-19 years old. Homeschoolers welcome.

What: A written entry explaining the original superhero and nanotechnology-driven costume, gadget, vehicle, or other gear, with particular emphasis on the research behind the nanotechnology, and a 90-second video OR one-page comic strip introducing the superhero and the student's nanotechnology gear. Entries are scored based on creativity, scientific accuracy and the visual appeal of the comic strip or video.

When: Submissions are due by midnight February 2nd.

Where: The competition's online platform, where you can learn more about the challenge, access resources, register and submit your written entry and comic or 90-second video. Three finalists must attend and present their superhero at the 2016 USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., April 16-17, 2016. All expenses will be paid for the student and a parent.

For more details, check out the Entry Guidelines.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Microsoft Launches Minecraft Education Edition

Do you have a Minecraft-obsessed kid in your house like I do? Actually, I have two of them. Well then perhaps you'll be delighted to hear that Microsoft has bought MinecraftEdu and is expanding it into a major resource for classrooms. It will be available as a free trial this coming summer.

Here's a direct quote from their announcement:
In the spirit of the Minecraft community, we are dedicated to making sure Minecraft: Education Edition is shaped in the coming months by a growing community of educators online at We’re also excited to also share that these community pages will host a variety of resources like lesson plans and a new Minecraft Mentors page that allows educators experienced in Minecraft to connect with those interested in trying it for the first time.
I have to admit that I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Minecraft because it concerns me that my kids are so addicted to it. But at the same time, I love the concept behind the game. I originally thought of it as virtual LEGOs, but really, it is so much more than that.

Anyway, I feel that if there is a way that I can use this program that my kids love so much in an educational manner to teach or reinforce concepts they are learning in school, then it is a win-win for everyone.

Monday, January 25, 2016

STEAM Skill Building with Keva Blocks

Screen time is a constant struggle around my house. My kids are constantly yammering, "Can I please get on the iPad/Kindle/computer?" We had to go to a firm schedule of 1 - 1.5 hours a day from this time until this time for it to work, and only if all their school work is complete and they've done chores and some reading. Their other excuse is that they are bored. So I've set out to find new products that keep my kids engaged and busy when they aren't on tech, and I'm going to share them with you. Today, I'm all about Keva Blocks!

This post uses affiliate links.

A few months ago, I bought a set of Keva Colors (aff). It comes with 120 planks, all the same size in four different colors. It's all about the stacking. You don't use glue, nor do they come with connectors. The set does, however, come with an idea book, and both my kids used it to create various masterpieces, including these:

But really, the sky's the limit with these blocks because your kids can build whatever their imaginations come up with. My daughter made this barn and corral. 

And my son also built this marble run...

I love this set because there's no age limit and because it embodies the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) concepts of engineering and arts. My kids must use their own creativity and ingenuity to build. It's not easy to make stairs with planks, you know!

I also love how much time they spent playing with it! So as far as I'm concerned, this set of Keva blocks gets an A+.

I looked it up and Keva has a whole collection of blocks (aff) in various play sets. I'm looking forward to buying another one simply because my kids had such a good time with this one and I love how great it was for developing their engineering skills...and their creativity!

If you're looking for a product that is fun, educational and keeps your kids entertained while they are off tech, you might consider Keva blocks.

Have fun building!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Creative Teen Opportunity from Youthvine

Do you have a young teen in your house? Would they love to earn a $10 Amazon gift card or more?? Over the last few weeks, my daughter has been participating in a fun survey from Youthvine. The online community of tweens and teens works with brands to help the latter better understand what kids want.

This particular survey is just what my daughter loves: an opportunity to share her opinion and how she thinks a company can improve their products based on her likes and dislikes.

It's all about mouthwash flavors. And she certainly has an opinion on this because, unfortunately, we spend a LOT of time at the dentist and she has to devote extra attention to her daily oral care routine.

There are three easy phases and my daughter has completed two of them. For the first phase, she just answered an online survey of what she does or doesn't like about mouthwash flavors. KIDS WILL GET A $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD just for completing this survey. (Woohoo!) And they will also be entered to win one of three $100 Amazon gift cards. (My daughter would be ecstatic if she won this!!)

Forty kids will go on to be selected to create a collage for an extra $10 Amazon gift card. This was super fun for my daughter because she chose to use an online collage builder for her project. But kids can draw or cut and paste theirs if they prefer and just upload a picture.

What I love:
My child is not contacted directly by the research company. She used the online survey to answer her questions and then she uploaded her completed collage. I was able to supervise the entire process. I knew what was going on the whole time and am their point of contact.

They are specifically looking for young teens, so if you have one in your family and would like to have him or her take the survey, click here.

Have fun!!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are strictly my own.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: A Superpower for Me

2016 is going to be a remarkable year. In just a little less than 10 months from now, the country will be electing its next president. If you are like me, you may be thinking about how you are going to turn this into a teachable moment for your kids. Which I why I am happy to share with you a new book by Mariana Llanos.

This post uses affiliate links.

by Mariana Llanos
illustrated by Daria Tarawneh

What happens when you discover your parents have an amazing superpower? And that one day, you'll have it, too? You get the makings of an engaging book for children.

This is such a great little book to introduce kids to the power of voting and make them excited about doing so. I love how Mariana has written this book using easy to understand language to explain what it means to vote and how important it is to do so.

I also love that neither the front cover or the back one gives away what the superpower is, so if your child doesn't know about this book, he or she will have fun trying to guess what sort of superpower the mother has.

In addition, she's included a several sections in the back of the book. The first one talks about the difference just one vote makes.(Did you know that just one vote in Congress allowed the Republic of Texas to join the United States?) Your kids will also learn what a democracy is and where the word comes from.

The last two sections discuss the Electoral College and the amendments to the Constitution giving African Americans, Native Americans, and women the right to vote. 

This is a great little book to explore how our nation works and to encourage social responsibility. It's especially timely, given our current election year.

And you know what the best part is? It's available in Spanish, too!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

App Review: WILD KRATTS Baby Buddies

Did you know that there's a new PBS KIDS app out? And it features one of my son's favorite shows: WILD KRATTS!

Name: WILD KRATTS Baby Buddies
Subject(s): science (basic needs, biology)
Brief Description: An interactive app for kids that teaches children about animal care and animal science.
Price: $1.99
Language: English
Ages: 3 - 8 years
Device: iOS, Android

My animal-loving son absolutely adores this app because it allows him to take care of baby animals. He joins Chris and Martin Kratt as they care for young creatures on the African Savannah. There are five different ones: a baby elephant, cheetah, crocodile, zebra, and aardvark. Within the savannah, each species lives in a different niche and has different requirements for survival. Your child will learn how to feed, wash, protect and play with each baby animal.

For each species, Chris or Martin activate their creature power to be more like a parent to that animal. Your child will learn about the different adaptations each animal has. For example, your child may learn that baby cheetahs have a different pattern to their fur to help them look like badgers and scare hyenas away.

The only complaint my son has is that there are only African animals - he'd love to see more species from around the world!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Languages4Kidz Early Language Learning Program

Today, thanks to Multicultural Kids Blog, I have a chance to share with you Languages4kidz, an early language learning program for teaching Spanish and English to children 6 and under.

Name of program: Languages4kidz
Target age: birth to 6 years
Amount of materials: Moderate
Price: $75 - $104 (for packages)
MommyMaestra Rating: ♥♥♥


I didn't receive a full program package for this review, but instead, was sent samples of materials from several different packages, including two eBooks, three MP3 song clips, and a teacher's guide for the Kindergarten program. I didn't use this with my children, who are older, but reviewed the materials myself. Here are my thoughts on this program...

This program is an introductory program for families with infants and toddlers. The immersive program has a simple assortment of materials including:
  • Read-aloud books in the target language
  • Downloadable songs or CDs
  • Teacher guides & lesson plans

The goal of the program is to expose children to the target language (English or Spanish) as early as possible. There are four main packages, each one designed for use with children of different ages: babies 3-24 months, toddlers 2-3 years, preschoolers 3-5 years, and children 5-6 years.

The books are engaging and teach basic concepts that you might find in a Pre-K or kindergarten program. They are fun read-alouds for both the reader and the listener.

The teacher's guide I received is for children 5-6 years old. The lessons are structured as such:
  1. Warm-up
  2. Circle time
  3. Theme focus
  4. Theme song
  5. Creative workshop
  6. Story time
  7. Wrap-up
The teacher's guide is very comprehensive, explaining child development at the beginning, a thorough description for using the guide, and then the lessons. The music time can include songs, nursery rhymes or fingerplays. The guide gives examples of ways to make the reading time more interactive using several different methods, such as echo reading and choral reading.

The lessons are very much activity-based, and they are fun for the children. However, this is not a no-prep program. There is a good deal of preparation required on the teacher's part. They may need to draw/create materials to use in their lessons, or gather ingredients/materials for the activity that are not included in the packet. For example, here's a partial list of the materials you'll need for lesson 1.

This program also requires a teacher who is fluent in Spanish. So if you are a parent or teacher who speaks and reads Spanish, this may be a good fit for you. If you don't know Spanish, then you'll more than likely need to pass because you won't know how to pronounce the words and phrases listed in the lessons. 

Overall, the lessons are fun, instructional, and well thought out. Mrs. Graciela Castellanos is the founder of the company. According to the website, she is a native of Venezuela with nearly 30 years of teaching experience. 

You can download examples from the website.

Overall, I think this is a nice program for educators who are fluent in the language and have the time to devote to preparation.

If you'd like to learn more, visit Languages4kidz.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. Bilingual Writing Activity

On Monday, our nation will be celebrating the values of equality and peace with a national holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity for us to discuss the actions of this historic civil rights leader, and how they affect us today. One way to do this in the classroom is with my Martin Luther King Jr. bilingual writing activity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Bilingual Writing Activity

If you're looking for a fun little activity to do with your children, check out my bilingual writing activity on TeachersPayTeachers. It only takes 20 - 30 minutes to complete and helps students to think about the question: What would make the world a better place? My kids enjoyed doing this activity this morning.

The activity is available in English and Spanish.

How it Works

Begin by printing the writing page of your choice. Ask your students to think about the question: What would make the world a better place? Then ask them to write their answers in the lined space provided. Encourage them to use a complete sentence.

Next, print the cover flaps. Have students color in the original writing page and the cover flaps, then cut out the signs. Make sure the do one vertical cut down the middle to make the flaps. Apply glue to the back edges as indicated on the page and attach the flaps over their writing section on the original writing page. 

Allow to dry and it's done!

Supplemental Activities and Resources

For picture books to share with your children before or after the writing assignment, take a look at my list of 5 Books to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. There are tons on the market, but these five books approach the subject from different perspectives focusing on the man and/or his message.

You can also find more ideas and resources on my Martin Luther King Jr. Pinterest board.

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January Bilingual Multimedia Materials Giveaway

Time for our monthly giveaway from the generous writing duo Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy! This set of multimedia materials is mentioned in their Transformative Calendar, a free download for parents and educators. It is full of suggestions for books and poems appropriate for different dates throughout the year.

This month's Multimedia giveaway includes:

Books + DVDs

1. Island Treasures + DVD My Journey as an Author by Alma Flor Ada

2. Vuelo del quetzal from Puertas al Sol Quince Años Edition by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy + DVD El encuentro mágico con el folklore infantil by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy


3. Arrullos de la sirena poems by A.F. Ada, voice and music Suni Paz

4. Gathering the Sun poems by A.F. Ada, voice and music Suni Paz

Book + CD:

5. Música amiga Number 2 Canta la letra by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, music by Suni Paz


FIVE lucky MommyMaestra readers will win one of these materials.

To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Free Download: Beginning Sounds in Spanish Homework Book Sample

Is this the year that your child will be learning to read and write in Spanish? If so, you'll love Lectura para niños! Our sponsor is sharing their first freebie of the year with us today. It is a sample of her excellent Homework Book for Beginning Sounds and is a valuable resource for students in a dual immersion environment. Whether you homeschool or are supplementing your child's public/private school education, the materials from Lectura para niños are a must-have for Spanish-speaking children.

Today's freebie is a sample of her Sonidos iniciales file. Your child will have a blast with this one!

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, January 11, 2016

What Homeschoolers Need from a Library

It is a common misconception that you have to have a lot of money to homeschool your kids. In fact, research shows that homeschool families spend on average $546 per year on each student. Even if the family invests in a costly curriculum, most homeschoolers rely on free resources they find online or at their local library to supplement their lessons.

And when finances are tight (as they are more so in some years rather than others), some families rely heavily on their local library to provide the materials and tools they need to educate their children. And with the dramatic increase in homeschooling families across the United States, the demand on libraries only continues to grow.

Unfortunately, the majority of libraries cannot fully meet the needs of most homeschoolers. In some cases, I imagine limited funds are the reason, but in the majority of cases, I suspect that most librarians are not fully aware of the needs of homeschool families.

Not that they aren't willing to help! Quite the contrary, in my experience. I have yet to meet a librarian I didn't love. In fact, this article is the result of my experience with my own librarian who has always been eager and proactive about finding our local homeschool group new materials. She's asked us outright what it is we need and she's worked hard to find those resources.

So if you happen to be a librarian doing some research so that you can help the homeschooling families in your community, here's a list of ways that you can benefit your visitors.

(Note: The following post uses some affiliate links.)

Books ABOUT Homeschooling

For many parents, the hardest part about homeschooling is starting it. The decision to homeschool can be a difficult one. There's so much to consider: How do I start? Can I afford it? What are my curriculum choices? There have been so many books published now that help parents make educated choices. So it is important for libraries to have a set of these books. A great basic collection would include:


The best thing a first-time homeschooler can do is use a complete curriculum. It helps them learn how to structure their day, ways to teach their kids, time management, builds confidence, and so much more. But even veteran homeschoolers would love to save money by borrowing those expensive core textbooks so that all they have to do is buy the workbooks for their kids to write in. Complete curricula can be expensive, but you can find gently used ones on sites like eBay or even at homeschool conventions. More and more homeschoolers, however, are moving away from complete curricula because homeschool students are often at different grade levels in different subjects. So purchasing curricula in individual subjects is a big plus. Here are just a sample of some popular curricula include:






Audiobooks remain a precious treasure for homeschoolers. Long car rides for field trips, sports, extracurricular classes and clubs, etc, make for valuable learning time. But even at home, audiobooks may be used. Homeschoolers - better than most people - recognized the value of reading aloud, and so books on CD or MP3s remain an important part of the school day. Some important audiobook resources include:

Reference Books

Oh, yes, we need reference books. Atlases, dictionaries, thesauruses, biographies, and other non-fiction will always be in demand.


This is a biggie. Obviously, access to computers and internet access are a must-have. But there are other tools that homeschoolers need to use from time to time that are often not affordable or easy to find. Microscopes, for instance, can be a major investment for a homeschool family...or a wise one for a library!


Story times, summer reading programs, and other special programs give homeschool parents a much-needed break while providing new and different learning opportunities for students. Librarians often also have access to professionals and experts in various fields who can share their experience and knowledge with homeschool students at times that are more convenient for them.

Meeting Rooms and Work Spaces

Homeschool groups often look for venues in which to hold classes or club meetings. Libraries that offer conference rooms free of charge are highly valued. Also, cubby work stations or computer cubbies that allow students to participate in online classes (foreign language, science, and more) are extremely helpful for homeschool families that may not have the internet access necessary for streaming classes.


Educational videos are an absolute must! Liberty Kids, for example, is popular with homeschool families because the award-winning, animated series that features many celebrity voices, such as Walter Cronkite, teaches children about the American Revolution. And there's almost no better way to help your kids travel the world without leaving home than with the animated series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? featuring Rita Moreno.

Other educational series include:
  • NOVA
  • Nature
  • American Experience
  • Time Scanners
  • Documentaries (such as those by Ken Burns!)


Who knew there were magazines on homeschooling? Well, there are and most offer a subscription for libraries. Here are a few:

Extended Checkout

And perhaps most important of all, homeschool families need trust and time to use these resources. Traditionally, most libraries offer their patrons a period of two weeks to check out items. But for materials such as curricula, homeschoolers need more time. Many libraries offer teacher accounts allowing them up to 6 weeks to check out materials. This privilege needs to be offered to homeschooling parents, too. Maybe longer for complete curricula.

Okay, homeschool parents! What am I forgetting? What do you need from your local library?

Did you enjoy this article? Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Let me help! My book - The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling - covers everything you see here and more. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Review: Do Families Grow on Trees?

by Lauren Machta
illustrated by Jodi Hill

Explaining what a family tree is to children can be a complicated thing to do...unless you have this book! Lauren Machta is a Spanish language professional who has written this sweet little story to help children understand the concept of family relationships and family trees. 

The bilingual book comes with full text in both English and Spanish, but there is also an English version and a Spanish one. The simple storyline is sweet and features an Abuelita explaining to her granddaughter - little Eva - how family trees work. She even helps her make their own family tree. 

The illustrations are cute and colorful. The last two pages of the book include a tree template for your child to fill in with his or her own family information. Machta has also created a few downloadable resources on her website, such as a word find and list of interview questions for a child to ask. But while the book is best suited for children probably 5 years old and younger, the resources are more in line with older children who can read and write. 

This is a self-published book, so when you purchase it, you are helping the author. I did notice one tiny little typo (a missing set of quotation marks), but other than this, the story is well written. 

You can purchase on Amazon here.

Happy reading!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Free Download: Luck of the Draw Conjugation Squares Game (Spanish Verbs)

MommyMaestra is thrilled to welcome Spanish for You! as a sponsor for another year. This is great news especially for those MommyMaestra readers who are teaching their students and/or children how to speak Spanish because Spanish for You! shares monthly activities that help your child to learn the new language.

I especially love this month's download because it is all about making the process of conjugating verbs fun. Luck of the Draw helps kids learn how to conjugate verbs that end in "ar", "er", and "ir".  The 8-page download comes with game boards, game cards, instructions, a list of commonly used verbs, and a blank verb card template so you can create your own using different verbs that aren't included. And if you aren't sure about the pronunciations, then you'll love the accompanying audio to help you with the pronunciation of each word.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Free Download: Grammar Force

On December 19th, my husband and I loaded up the kids into the car and headed to town for dinner and The Movie. The tickets had been bought weeks in advance (when they became available), but the planning of attending said movie had been going on for two years.

Four days later, my kids went and saw it again, this time with a new set of friends. They noticed new details and came home equally obsessed as when they saw the very first one.

Then one day over the holidays, my daughter and I were sitting around and we decided to welcome the movie into our schooling. Do you remember this giveaway? Well, my son was terribly sad that he was too old for these workbooks. So my daughter and I decided to create a few pages that he could enjoy during our class time.

We had fun creating these. And I was thinking, "Hey! Maybe some MommyMaestra readers will enjoy them, too."  So here you are, dear readers.

Inspired by my kids' love of the series, this little freebie simply contains five worksheets, each one with a different theme:

• Common nouns
• Proper nouns
• Contractions
• Adjectives
• Prepositions/Prepositional phrases

Enjoy this little freebie!

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Día de los Reyes Printables and Decorations

Woo! Día de los Reyes is only a couple of days away. And to celebrate, I have some new resources available in my TpT shop! 

First, my Día de los Reyes Reading Passage is a one-page summary of the holiday. Available in full color or black-and-white, this informational text is written for students in 4th - 8th grade and includes an 8-question comprehension quiz plus answer key. It is in English only at this time.

The second (and my actual favorite!) is this set of decorations for celebrating Día de los Reyes! This packet comes with a festive banner to print and hang, photo booth props (so fun!), a writing activity where your kids write a letter and stick it into a printed shoe (see image at top), and shoebox decorating sheets for those who put out a box of grass for the camels. Each sheet contains a different scene. 

And don't forget you can still find my Bilingual Minibook of Día de los Reyes - now updated with three minibooks (bilingual, English only, and Spanish only) - in my shop.

For free Reyes printables, check out my letter to los Reyes Magos and my Reyes Activity Sheet (both in Spanish and English) for little ones.

Happy learning!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Printable Bilingual 2016 Resolution Worksheet for Kids

Happy 2016!!

This morning, my kids spent time working on their 2016 Resolution Worksheet. You may remember I shared one with you last year, to help you guide your children as they thought about the previous year and how they'd like this next one to go.

I decided to update it for this year and share it with you again. I love it when my kids set goals and try to work toward them. I don't think I really like the word "resolutions" since too often it brings to mind things people promise to do but don't. However, I really enjoy this chart which helps children think about their lives and their own education or enlightenment. :)

So if you'd like to use this printable with your own children, you can download it free below. The file contains both and English and Spanish worksheet.

Happy New Year! 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...