Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How to Send Your Kids to Summer Camp...at HOME

Hallelujah! Summer is officially HERE!

For us, that means a more relaxed schedule, less structure, and frequently bored kids. And that's okay by me. Boredom is the mother of invention and creativity. So I'm more than happy to let my kids get bored and have to use their brains to dream up ways to stay busy and entertain themselves.

One thing summer does NOT mean around here: free tech all day long. Nope. No way, José. I have pretty strict tech time rules. They can only play on the computer/iPad/Kindle AFTER they have:
  • Read a book
  • Finished chores
  • Made something
  • and Completed a family service project (more about that later).
They also have assigned tech times (from 2- 4 in the afternoon).

However, despite all of my intentions to have no set schedule, I do need some guidance at home. SO I was compelled to create my own little non-schedule schedule for guidance this summer. And I started thinking, maybe some MommyMaestra readers would enjoy a little non-schedule schedule, too?

And then THAT got me to thinking about summer camps and this post on my Facebook page: 

Not everyone can afford summer camp all summer long (I certainly can't). And while one or both of my kids may have a week in June that they'll be doing a class at our local college (LEGO Robotics!), it won't eat up the whole day and it's only one week. SO that means I need to be thinking about how to keep these kids busy in a way that isn't too structured and doesn't requite TOO much effort on my part.

Enter in the MommyMaestra FREE Summer Camp at Home Plan!

Okay, so I've already started off by stocking up on all the basic art/craft supplies at the now-far-away Michaels (Boo hoo! Still mourning the loss of the one I used to go to near my house that closed up!). And I made a list of those items that we typically use. It's now available in this packet so you can stock up, too, if you want to. 

I also have a simple, open plan for those of you who like a lot of freedom. You can just print and cut out my little weekly guide and hang it up somewhere in your house for easy reference.

Or if you just want ideas for things your kids might enjoy doing, I've made a calendar for the month of June that includes one activity to do each day. These crafts teach your children valuable skills without them realizing it. I’ve also been very careful to include crafts or activities that explore Hispanic heritage. You don't have to do the activities in order, and you don't have to do all of them. Just pick and choose what you'd like your kids to do and go with it. Heck, you don't have to do ANY of it if you don't want to!

Remember: No stress! No pressure! Just FUN and EASY!!

In addition to this packet, I have lots of fun stuff planned for you here on the blog, so be sure to stop in often and see what sort of goodies I've shared to keep your kids busy when they get bored. (While secretly learning without their realizing it!)

I hope you guys all have a great summer! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How I Look at End-of-the-Year Tests

In our state, homeschoolers are required to give their students an end-of-the-year test. (Not all states have this requirement. You can look up your state laws here.) In our state, you can administer the test to your kids yourself, or you can have someone else give your kids the test, such as a fellow homeschool parent or a testing service.

I know some homeschool parents who absolutely resent this demand because they don't believe the tests accurately reflect their children's knowledge and skills.

Others stress out, allowing that niggling self-doubt that so many of us have to explode into all out worry that maybe we aren't really competent to teach our own children. That they won't equal their peers, thereby confirming the opinion of some that their decision to homeschool was a foolish one.

Others find it a minor annoyance because it takes up precious time, interrupting their homeschooling schedule and flow.

I used to be like this: Stressed about the test because I felt like it was a reflection of me as a teacher. I worried that I wasn't teaching them all of the concepts that other kids were learning and I was sure that I deviated too much from the basic curriculum because we like to explore all sorts of subjects. But a funny thing happened that changed my perspective. When test time rolled around, my kids always did well. So all that worrying and working myself into a stressed out mess was for absolutely nothing.

Now, whenever test time rolls around for me, I'm actually intrigued. I don't mind administering the tests, and I even make it a point to order the comprehensive tests that cover not only ELA and math, but also science, social studies, language mechanics, vocabulary, and math computation. I purchase the CAT 6 from Seton Testing, an online service. You have the option of doing the very basic test - the Complete Battery with just Reading and Math, the slightly more comprehensive - the Complete Battery Plus which also includes Science and Social Studies, and the whole enchilada - the Complete Battery Survey Plus, which also includes Language Mechanics, Mathmatics Computation, and Vocabulary.

You are asked to create an account when you purchase your test. Seton sends you the tests, your child takes them, then you send all of the materials back to them and they grade them. You'll then receive the results in the mail, and they'll also be stored in your online account so you can go back and see how they did, print extra copies, or compare how your child is doing in each subject from year to year.

The reason I like it so much is that it breaks each subject down and tells me at what grade level my kids really are in that particular subject. So for example, last year my son who was finishing up 3rd grade, was reading at a 10.9 grade level, but in math he was at a 4.3 grade level.

Let me be clear: I don't teach to the test.

And I don't care if my kids get answers wrong (as long as they honestly don't know the answer and not just because they are being careless). For me, the test are just another tool to help me see what areas my kids need help with and what concepts I need to be covering or exploring more in depth.

For example, I learned that my son was an ace at word problems, but when it comes to computation, he is really struggling because of his dysgraphia. He refuses to work out the problems on paper, but when he does he gets them right. So I'll be focusing on this over the summer and in the coming school year. If I hadn't given him the Complete Battery Survey Plus, I would not have discovered this because he aced the basic math portion at the beginning, which is mostly set up as word problems and not simple adding or subtracting of number problems. The latter is what Mathematics Computation is all about. Twenty number problems of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The tests are also fun for my kids. Sounds crazy, right? But I supposed that since I don't give them tests the rest of the year, they think it is fun to sit and be timed to answer questions. Maybe it's also because I sit them at our dining room table for a distraction-free environment (we normally have our main school lessons in our school room).

I also learned to stop checking their answers in front of them because my daughter, who is super competitive, would be such a mess if she got any wrong. Obviously, we're still working on the whole it's-okay-to-make-mistakes-that's-how-scientists-make-great-discoveries concept. So now, I just grade them later, when I'm alone, making notes about which areas I need to concentrate one in future lessons.

The problem with tests in traditional schools is that this doesn't happen. No one figures out which specific concepts kids need help with and no one sends a note to the parents saying "Your child needs help understanding about the American Revolution, division, and grammar." Instead, parents just get a report card that says Math: D or Social Studies/History - Unsatisfactory. So how are parents supposed to know what it is exactly their children are not understanding?

Anyway, the point is that test taking is all about perspective. Once I changed mine and stopped thinking that it was in some way an indicator of how smart they are (I know they're smart), if I'm a good teacher (I know I am), or what other people will think (who cares?), we were ALL so much better off. Now I know that these tests are just another tool at my disposal for helping pinpoint what areas I need to focus on with my kids.

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. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reading Challenge Pura Belpré

Summer vacation is less than two weeks away for my family. And with it comes some much-needed relaxation and some serious playtime. We'll be hitting the pool two or three times a week, and my kids are already deep in the planning stages of fun crafts and activities they want to accomplish when they aren't swimming.

Although school will officially be over for us, that doesn't mean the learning stops. Summer provides its own unique learning opportunities. And I am alway careful to plan projects or activities that help my kids maintain what they've learned in school.

I'm also fortunate to be raising some avid readers. And I carefully nurture their love of books. So yes, we do participate in Summer Reading Programs, both online and at our local library. And of course, the L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program starts on June 1st - you can sign up for free!

But here's something that caught my eye yesterday: La Clase de Sra. Dufault has issued a Reading Challenge of Pura Belpré Award books! The challenge is simple. All you have to do is read all of the books that have received the Pura Belpré Award.

Pura Belpré was the first Latina librarian of New York City. If you don't know about her, there is a must excellent book written by Lucia Gonzalez and illustrated by Lulu Delacre titled, "The Storyteller's Candle." It shares her story of how she reached out to the Latino (mostly Puerto Rican) families in her community and made the library an important resource for all of them.

In 1996, the Pura Belpré Award was established to recognize Latino authors and illustrators for an outstanding children's book that reflects the Latino culture and experience. Next month, the award is celebrating its 20 anniversary at the annual ALA conference in Florida. (Anyone of you attending?)

Anyhoo, back to the Reading Challenge! So, La Clase de Sra. Dufault has issued this wonderful challenge, and she even has a free printable reading list you can download over on her blog. And her rules couldn't be simpler:

  • There is no start or end date
  • There is no stress!
  • You don't have to read them in order. Just grab one and start reading!

I guarantee you will not be disappointed by any of the books. These award-winning stories are exceptional; masterfully written, beautifully illustrated, and examples of the diversity of the Latino culture. You can find a list of this year's winners here and a list of all the previous winners from years past over here. From Carmen Lomas Garza's Magic Windows to Pam Muñoz Ryan's The Dreamer, these books are engaging for children and parents alike.

And if your local library and bookstore don't carry these books, you can order them online from The Latin Baby Book Club store (aff). That link takes you directly to the section that lists all of the Pura Belpé books.

So don't wait! Head over and download your printable reading log today!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coming Soon...Summer 2016 in Rio Packet!

Lots of projects going on over here and this one is almost finished! It will be available soon. I've had so much fun working on this project with two other fabulous multicultural content creators! Your kids are going to love it...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Better Way to Protect Your Family from Tuberculosis

I have so many memories of my grade school years. I attended a private Catholic school where half of the nuns were very strict, and the other half were funny and huggable. We wore annoying uniforms and shoes that pinched your toes. And we stood in line. A lot.

Me in my uniform. Don't I look happy?
Floating around in my head is a memory of a time we were waiting in line (again). I had no idea why, because I was a kid who usually had her nose stuck in a book and didn't listen very well. Imagine my surprise to find the nurse's office at the end of that line. And an itty, bitty needle that she stuck into the inside of my arm, just under the skin. I watched in fascinated horror as a tiny little bubble popped up under there and then just like that she said I could go. It itched like crazy. I think I was into kids' horror books at that time, so visions of alien invasions swam before my eyes. But with my next book, the itch went away and so did the memory of that visit. Until three days later I was standing in line again in front of said nurse's office. I went in, the nurse grabbed my arm and looked at it again, but there was nothing there. The bump had disappeared. 

She nodded, her pen scratched something on her list, and out the door I went.  

I didn't really know it then, but I was getting a TB test. Did you ever have to do that in school? Or at your pediatrician's office? They were checking to see if any of us had been exposed to the Tuberculosis (TB) virus and were carrying latent TB, which is not the full-blown disease, but can turn into it. 

You may or may not know that TB is caused by a highly contagious bacteria that is spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or simply speaks and another person breathes in the infected droplets in the air. TB can live in your body in an inactive state for days, weeks, months, even years before it turns into the contagious disease. Once it takes hold, it can affect your lungs or any other part of your body. 

Sadly, this disease affects 30 percent of people around the world. New infections happen every 3 seconds, and people die of this disease every 21 seconds. :(

So, yes, even though my kids are homeschooled, I worry about their health. We are pretty active and travel a lot. My kids come into contact with other people almost every day at museums, homeschool programs (see photo above!), the pool, grocery stores, parks, basketball practice, piano lessons, airports, hotels, and a gazillion other places.

The good news is that there is a new TB blood test that replaces the 110-year-old skin test. I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of DiMe Media for the TB Blood Test and learned that there is no more injecting stuff under your skin (which wasn't exactly pleasant) and then going back three days later to have it read. No more itching. Nothing is injected INTO your body. You can even take it if you've had a TB vaccine, which can create a false positive on the skin test. This new TB blood test is more accurate.

All of which is a big bonus in my book because let's face it, I'm too busy to be taking my kids back and forth to the doctor's office. Now I can just call and make one appointment, y ya! I'm good to go. I don't have to go back. I can just call for the results or check the results online via their patient portal. 

And here's more good news: there is a treatment. If you have the inactive bacteria in your body, you can take medicine to get rid of it before it becomes active and attacks your body.

My kids trust me to take care of them. It's my responsibility to make sure they stay healthy. So I feed them healthy foods, make them get exercise, take them to the doctor when they are sick...and when they need check ups. The TB blood test is just one small way of making sure their little bodies are safe.

So please, protect your family. It's important to get your children between the ages of 5 and 18 tested. You can read more about TB and the new blood test in English or in Spanish via their websites.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

NACHO Lectura Inicial: A Spanish Reading Workbook

One of the requests that I get on a regular basis is for materials that teach children how to read in Spanish. I always refer parents to my FAQ page located in the top menu of this website. But I also have a page dedicated to Resources for Parents of Children Learning to Read in Spanish. And now, I have another wonderful resource to add to that list!

Last month, Sra. Jackie Amaya-García sent me a workbook that she says, "¡Es el libro con el que aprendimos todos en latinoamerica a leer!" And after looking through it, I believe her!

Take a look:

What are Nacho Books?

NACHO: Libro Inicial de Lectura is an awesome workbook printed in Colombia by SUSAETA ediciones. They publish a collection of (Spanish) reading and writing books for kids ages 4 - 13. This particular book is the first in the series, and helps beginning readers to master writing and reading by learning syllable combinations. The book is colorful and I love how even the text is in different colors to stress syllable learning, as well as individual letter sounds. (It sort of reminds me of Dick & Jane titles from my own childhood...but in Spanish!) Each page has a section at the bottom for copying sentences or to practice new reading skills.

I went to SUSAETA's website and gave a big whistle. I think some of you would let out a little "WEPA!" if you could see everything they have available.

BUT, you say, these are all the way in Colombia! How am I supposed to get my hands on these little tesoros?

Well, lucky for you, Cultural Bytes, a foreign language enrichment program out of Burbank, CA, is the rep for the US & Canada for this book and all titles from Susaeta. So you can purchase NACHO Inicial for only $16 + shipping.

But I wouldn't stop there. You can also find handwriting and spelling workbooks on Cultural Bytes' site.

And hey, if you live in California in or around the Burbank area, check out Cultural Bytes' summer Spanish camps. You can also find Sra. Jackie doing Spanish story time at a few Barnes & Nobles. Just visit their website for more information.

Other Posts You May Enjoy

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

5 Things To Do at the End of the Homeschool Year

The end of the homeschool year is in sight! Or maybe your family has already completed the year and you have dived into summer? We'll be focused on the end of the year testing this coming week. Then we'll have a little over one week left in order to get in our 180 days as required by our state, even though we've completed almost all of our work for this year.

But my own work isn't quite completed. You'll see below what I have left. And if this was your first year of homeschooling, here are five things to be sure and do as your homeschool year comes to an end.

1. Reorganize Your Materials

You will be absolutely amazed at the amount of material your family has covered over the last year. And if you're like me, you won't believe the mess you have in your school room! That's okay. It just means your children have been very busy learning and creating all year long. So I roll up my sleeves and start clearing out the materials and tools that my kids won't be needing next year. All the used materials - i.e., workbooks, notebooks, worksheets - are sorted and filed away in their grade binder should they ever want to reference what they've learned (or should I ever need to show it to our state if they ask to see our homeschool work). The materials we can use next year are stored. And the tools and products that are in good condition go into a clear tote so that I can...

2. Sell Your Gently Used Curricula

Now is the best time to sell! Most homeschool coops/groups have a curriculum sale where families go and set up tables to trade or sell the materials they've used (or not used because they weren't a good fit). And if you don't have a local curriculum sale near you, look online.
  • Facebook has several homeschool groups for selling tools and products
  • Amazon is a great way to sell books and manipulatives
  • Ebay is a gold mine for finding curricula and even themed materials. (It's great when you can go on there and find a complete set of materials that some other awesome parent has collected, used, and is now selling for studying castles/pirates/space/American Revolution/WHATEVER!)

A few things to consider before selling your goods:

  • Get a notepad and a pen or pencil, then sit down with all your possible sales products.
  • Carefully look through (work)books for forgotten slips of paper, art drawings, etc., and make a note if there are any tears, missing pages, writing on the inside, and so on.
  • Research online to get an idea of what similar products are selling for so you'll know how to price yours
  • Choose a sales venue and upload your products and be sure to disclose any defects to the product (this is where your notes come in handy)
  • Be sure to take clear, up-close pictures of the materials, including pictures of any writing or tears

3. Stock Up for the Summer...and Next Year!

Since everyone is selling right now, it's a great time to stock up on book and curricula for next year! Also, many of the online homeschool sites are having sales, so take advantage of them if you can. I know that all you want to do is start your summer plans, but if you go ahead and get this over with, then that's one less thing for you to worry about over the summer and you'll be excited to start the new year with your new materials. Hold off, though, on buying consumable materials like pencils, glue, paper, notebooks, etc until all the really great sales happen at the end of the summer at places like Target and Walmart.

But you should also be thinking about this summer. Don't let your kids waste it sitting on the couch for three months watching TV or playing apps. While there is time for this, make sure they're using their noggins, too. This requires a little bit of planning on your part, so go ahead and stock up now on arts and crafts supplies or activity kits!

4. Make a Yearbook

Just because you homeschool doesn't mean your kids can't have a yearbook to celebrate their year of learning. I have no doubt that you've taken loads of pictures this year on field trips, special artwork, science projects, and more. So take the time to go through them and organize them into a yearbook. If you've never made one before, read how to do so here.

5. Celebrate!

Um. Need I say more? The end of the school year is a big deal. Make sure you celebrate with a party, or take your children somewhere special to mark the last day of school (the zoo, a museum, fancy dinner, the arcade - whatever!)

Stay tuned for fun ways to keep kids learning over the summer without overwhelming them!

photo courtesy of blackboard1965

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, May 13, 2016

Nurtured and Nuzzled, Criados y Acariciados

Before we hit the weekend I want to share a new resource. Nurtured and Nuzzled, Criados y Acariciados is an early childhood science book that models healthy choices for new parents, as well as children in preschool through 1st grade (and younger). I think that educators and maternal health providers will especially like this book, too, because it is a great tool for helping new, first-time parents.

We know that all babies should be nurtured and nuzzled, right? This book is full of beautiful images of babies of human and animal families and teaches the importance of attachment parenting, breastfeeding, and caretaking. While parents are busy learning the value of nurturing their babies, children will be learning new words, increasing their vocabulary to combat the Word Gap, as well as important scientific concepts.

I especially love that this is a bilingual book. And do you know what the best part is? It even comes with a HUGE Teacher's Guide in both English AND Spanish! Inside you'll find lots of lesson plans and activities for using the printable flashcards that are included in the guide,

You can download it for free from the publisher's website.

I love this book so much, not just for the beautiful illustrations and theme, but also for all the wonderful resources that Platypus Media has provided parents and educators with ways to use this book to get the most out of it.

You can purchase the book here. And while you're at it, take the time to explore their website because this is just one book that they carry. There are many others in English and Spanish geared for helping parents.

Disclosure: I was a sent a copy of this book and Teacher's Guides for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

5 Ways to Deal with All Your Child's School Paperwork

The other day, one of my friends on Facebook put out a cry for help. She was overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork that her child's school was sending home. Pretty much everything they completed in school was sent home at the end of each week. I remember this being the case when my own children were in preschool. Each week, their little backpacks came home full of artwork, worksheets, and more. Pretty soon, our house was floating in a sea of papers because I was so proud of all that they were learning, I didn't want to throw anything out. I felt guilty for even considering it.

If you are experiencing this same crisis, let me give you a few ideas on how to handle this situation without the stress!

1. Throw Out the Guilt

As Latinas, we're often awash in guilt because no one is better than Mami or Abuelita in giving us guilt trips. (At least, that's been my experience.) Instead, I take pride and comfort in knowing that my kids are so smart and creative that there is simply no way I could hold on to everything they do.

First, I focus on artwork and crafts. Worksheets go straight to the recycling bin. There are occasional exceptions, such as the first time they signed their name in cursive, or a test/essay they are especially proud of.

What To Do If Your Child Sees You Throwing Out Their Work:
My son once found some of his worksheets in the recycling can. I told him exactly what I wrote above: "This is really hard, but I have to try and pick your best work to save because you're simply so smart and creative that we'd drown in papers if I kept everything!" I reminded both my kids that all the work they did is incredibly valuable because the skills they learn are ones they can use the rest of their lives. Then I invited them to help me choose which pieces to keep and which ones to let go.

2. Buy a Paper Tray

The tough part is that when kids are little, they want to keep everything, especially if they've just recently worked on it. So the best thing to do is give them time. I bought a paper tray and all the papers that came home from school went straight into that tray. Once a month or every few months, we would sit down and decide which ones to keep and which ones to give away. It's important to set limits. So I'd say, "Okay, we can only save 4 (or 8 or whatever number you think is reasonable). Let's find the best ones!" Typically, I would allow one piece per week of school to keep things under control.

This process allowed my kids to learn how to judge their own work and learn that it is okay to let things go, which is an important quality to develop in kids!!

3. Set Up a Display Board

After we had selected the work they wanted to keep, it went up on a display board in our school room. There are so many fun and creative ways to display kid's artwork in the home. We used a simple corkboard and pinned their favorite pieces to it.

4. Buy a Binder

When new pieces went up on the corkboard, old ones had to come down. I have one of those great, big, 2-inch binders for each child and each grade. As things came off the display board, they went into the binder. They are a fun reminder of all the learning and creativity my kids have done over the years. I also add important papers from that year like tests, certificates, field trip memorabilia, etc.

5. Use Apps

Now there are also tons of apps available to help you keep a digital scrapbook of your kids' artwork! It's pretty amazing what you can do now with your smartphone. Some of these apps even allow you to organize and categorize the work, so you could put all their 1st-grade art in one file, their 2nd-grade work in another, and so on. A few also let you share their work with friends and relatives, so Abuelita doesn't have to miss out on a single piece your little Picasso creates. Some apps are free, and others cost a bit more. Obviously, the ones you have to pay for have a few extra features. Here are some of the ones available for iOS and Android:

  • Art My Kid Made - FREE for iOS. Save and print photos, share with family and friends
  • Keepy - FREE for iOS, Android, and Kindle. Save photos & videos, add voice and video if you want to share the story behind the picture, share with family and friends, read/listen to/watch the comments they leave 
  • Canvasly - FREE for iOS and Android; Save and print photos; organize; share with family and friends; PRINT for gift giving on mugs, prints, cards, etc.  
  • Artkive -  $4.99 for iOS and Android. Save photos; organize your photos OR have Artkive organize them for you; tag, title, and share; turn your kids' art into a hardback, keepsake book or other products.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Over in the Meadow Sing-Along Book for Science

When my children were little, we checked out a book from the library by Olive A. Wadsworth. "Over in the Meadow" quickly became one of their favorite bedtime stories. I enjoyed the classic nursery rhyme, too, and the sweet, gentle way in which it taught them to count using animal mothers and their babies.

Since that rhyme was published back in the late 19th century, there have been numerous authors who have written their own stories based on the format of Wadsworth's famous poem. I recently had the opportunity to review a new book by author Najla Ahmad, who wrote her own version.

Asha Loves Science - Over in the Meadow is a book geared for young children, i.e., preschool, as it teaches them about animals and their habitats. It's very cleverly written; Ahmad rhymes both English and Urdu words, which I assume isn't easy to do!

I'm not as fond of the illustrations, which I find to look very flat and computer generated. I prefer old fashioned art that is painted or drawn, but I suppose most kids would enjoy the story just as much either way.

One thing I especially like, however, is the fact that the main character is a young girl named Asha. I like seeing science materials with female leads! I think it is encouraging for our girls. And I also like that Asha goes on her adventures with her animal friends; Panja (a Snow Leopard), Soond (an Asian Elephant), and Moor (an Indian peacock).

Check out the YouTube video of this book!

Asha Loves Science is a series of YouTube videos and children's books featuring science and South Asian-American culture and language. Asha Loves Science has its own YouTube channel with videos that teach children both science concepts and Urdu-Hindi words.

Part of raising global citizens is introducing them to cultures and languages from around the world. I firmly believe that our children should be ready to learn something about all cultures and peoples. If you agree, and are looking for some resources to teach your child about Asian or Asian-American culture, check out this fun series.

Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Multicultural Kid Blogs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Free Download: Pronunciation Mini-Lesson

One of the things Spanish-learners struggle with the most is pronunciation, especially if no one in the family is a native speaker. Luckily, this month's freebie from our sponsor - Spanish for You! - has families like you in mind and they've put together an awesome mini-lesson to help you.

This activity comes with both printables and four audio files. It teaches the sounds of the Spanish alphabet, as well as 45 words to help students learn how to pronounce letter combinations. 

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!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Download: Making Words in Spanish

Teacher Appreciation Week is almost over! And I have a free download that our sponsor, Lectura para niños, wants to give you.

You may remember that Lectura para niño's creator, Leah, is a teacher herself, so she knows how valuable teachers are to our children. If you are a professional educator, homeschool parent, librarian, or simply a parent who loves to get involved in your child's education, and you have a child/student who is learning to read and write in Spanish, then this freebie is for you!

Haciendo palabras is a beginning level set of worksheets to help children begin writing words. This sample packet contains six activity pages.

The whole book comes with 217 pages (wow!). Here's a short description of it:

This homework book has 5 parts. In each mini book, there are 1-2 pages of homework for each theme you are working with. If you are working in Theme 2, you will be working with words containing the letters m, p, s and the vowels. After working for at least a week with in any theme, you can send home pages from each of the following pages.
  1. Leyendo Palabras: Whole word reading (32 pages) The student reads the words in the box above and writes the word below the corresponding picture.
  2. Busca Palabras: Word Searches (32 pages) Find the hidden words from each theme.
  3. Escribe palabras correctamente: Unscramble the words (32 pages) Unscramble the words from each theme.
  4. Escribe las palabras en cajas: Writing words in Boxes (32 pages)
  5. Corta y pega dibujos con las palabras: Cut and paste pictures to match the corresponding word (82 pages)
If you love these sample pages and would like to get the whole book, you can find it here.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My First Holy Communion Keepsake Journal in English and Spanish

My Facebook feed has been blowing up with photos of my friends' children who are having their First Communion. I remember that LONG ago day when I had my own. Surrounded by family, it was a special day. At school, we had rehearsed and studied in preparation. At home, my mom and I shopped for a special dress and looked for just the right shoes. Although my school gave me a rosary, it was the one that my 'Buelita gave me that I still cherish today.

So when Avril O'Reilly reached out to me and shared her books, I thought it might possibly be a good gift idea for some of you. My First Holy Communion Keepsake Journal would make a lovely regalito for a young girl about to experience (or who has recently experienced) her first communion. Avril published this little keepsake journal through Lulu, a self-publishing company.

The book is sweetly illustrated and contains lots of activity pages to help your child record her favorite memories. There are pages to color, draw, and write. There's even a spot where your child can add photos from that special day. I did find the font choice a little difficult to read, but it was likely chosen for its "cutesy" feel.

This particular book is available in two version: one in English and the other in Spanish.

Here's a blurb about the Spanish version:
Este Diario de recuerdos de tu Primera Comunión es el mejor lugar para guardar todos los recuerdos y todas las cosas que pasaron en este día tan importante para ti. En el día de tu primera comunión te unes a Jesús de una manera especial y querrás recordar todo acerca del día en que recibiste por primera vez el sacramento de la Santa Comunión. Un libro es un lugar genial para guardar seguros tus recuerdos. ¡Lo más bonito de este libro es que es creado por TI! Tú llenas los espacios en blanco y añades tus propias imágenes y palabras para crear un libro de recuerdos personales de tu primera comunión. Consigue algunos lápices de colores y tal vez un poco de brillo y diviértete llenando tu libro. No hay prisa. Tómate tu tiempo y disfrútalo.
Yes, this book was created for little girls. Now, from what I can see, Avril has another book that is geared more for boys called My First Holy Communion Keepsake Activity Book, but it appears to only be available in English.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cinco de Mayo Interactive Notebook or Lapbook

I'm pretty excited about my newest download in honor of Cinco de Mayo. My newest activity is designed to be used with an interactive notebook or lapbook. If you've been homeschooling for any time, you are no doubt familiar with lapbooks. If you are a new homeschooler, or a parent with children in a traditional school setting, then let me briefly explain both.

Lapbooks are a popular way of learning. Children take a manilla file folder and usually fold it in such as way as to create two flaps that open like doors. Inside are educational bits that are visually appealing. You may have maps, pockets with flash cards, drawings, graphs, minibooks, flaps, and accordion books. Facts are broken up into manageable sections for kids to learn and organize.

Interactive notebooks are similar, but instead of file folders, students use their notebooks. Inside, students paste reading passages and graphic organizers that they cut out, color in, write in, or otherwise assemble.

Because my kids really love their interactive history notebooks, I decided to create a set of instructional materials based on Cinco de Mayo. All of the ones I found on TpT, sadly focused on stereotypical images and concepts of sombreros or chips and salsa. Few actually tell the REAL and complete history of Cinco de Mayo and its impact on U. S. history.

So here's what mine includes:
  • Notebook cover page
  • Close reading passage on the history of the Battle of Puebla
  • Close reading passage highlighting the biography of General Ignacio Zaragoza
  • 4 Information templates & map
  • Discussion questions

This packet comes with all materials available in English AND Spanish. It was designed for students in 4 - 8th grades.

Here are some sample pictures of my kids adding this set of Cinco de Mayo printables to their history interactive notebooks.

If you'd like to use my Cinco de Mayo Interactive Notebook or Lapbook with your own students or children, you can find it in the MommyMaestra Shop or in my TpT store.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Celebrate May the 4th with Star Wars Books for Kids

This Wednesday we'll be celebrating May the 4th because, as you have surely figured out if you follow MommyMaestra on Facebook, my kids are Star Wars nutso. (We waited 2 years for the last movie to come out and had tickets for it a month in advance.)

Anyhoo, I was looking around my house and it occurred to me that my son's literacy skills can be partly attributed to quite a few Star Wars books.

Have you ever heard a friend or teacher say, "Oh, read the book before you see the movie. It's way better!" Well, with my son, who was a reluctant reader initially, it is the exact opposite. Once he sees a movie and falls in love with the storyline and the characters, then he can't wait to read the books. And he will read them cover to cover. This has proven to be the case for several stories: How to Train Your Dragon, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Star Wars.

So if you have a reluctant reader in your house, and he or she happens to love Star Wars, consider checking out these titles which are so much fun for little kids.

The Jedi Academy series by Jeffery Brown

My kids agree: this is the most hilarious set of Star Wars books ever. This trilogy follows Rowan, a young boy from Tatooine, who hopes to get into the fighter pilot academy, but instead is selected to attend the Jedi Academy. The series shares his typical ups and downs that any young student experiences at school. We discovered the books soon after the first one came out, and my son waited impatiently for each of the following titles to be published. The story is laid out in a graphic novel format, and the illustrations no doubt really make this book series work. I loved that the books inspired my son to practice drawing because he wanted to continue the story with his own illustrations and storyline. We also wound up buying the series journal and an assortment of notepads and notecards we found at Target.

And if your kids enjoy these books (and I know they will), then they'll also like some of Brown's other titles including Darth Vader and Friends, Good Night Darth Vader, Darth Vader and Son, and Vader's Little Princess.

The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger

The best thing about this series, in my opinion anyway, is the creativity it inspires after kids finish reading. My son has made more origami in the past year than I've seen in my entire life. From Origami Yoda to Fortune Wookie, my kids went so far as to start looking up additional origami patterns online from Angleberger's website: www.origamiyoda.com.

According to my son, this series is about a socially awkward kid who folds a magical origami Yoda. His friends are also a little strange and this paper Yoda tells them their fortune and helps them solve problems brought about by Darth Paper, a paper puppet controlled by the class bully. The series goes on from there. 

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