Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Subscription Gifts for Kids that Last All Year

You know what I love? Gifts that last the WHOLE YEAR LONG. That's why I've loved giving my kids subscriptions to magazines. But in recent years, a whole new breed of subscription services has developed: Monthly activity boxes.

These are insanely awesome because most contain activities that can be done throughout the month. So I thought that today's theme of gifts for children should be subscription boxes. There are many others available, but the ones below are my favorite picks for MommyMaestra readers (and my own kids).

This post contains affiliate links. 

$25 - $37/mo

Booklandia is a monthly service of bilingual and Spanish children's books delivered directly to your mailbox. The book boxes are designed for families with children ages 2 to 12 years old.

Each month, your child will receive 2 carefully selected titles. You can see examples of the book titles here.

First, you need to choose which type of box you're interested in. There are five options: 
  • Board books ($25/mo)
  • Spanish Picture books ($27/mo)
  • Spanish chapter books ($27/mo)
  • Bilingual picture books ($27/mo)

Then, you have to select the frequency from the following options: 
  • monthly
  • 3-month ($3 off)
  • 6-month ($14-18 off)
  • 12-month (1 month free)

Then, you just pick up the book, sit back, and read! This seems like the perfect gift for a bilingual family. And there's even a gifting option so you can purchase a subscription for your grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or godchildren.

Little Passports
$11.95 - 17.95/mo

Are you raising a global citizen like I am? If so, then be sure to check out Little Passports! This awesome company offers four different monthly subscriptions to help your child go on a global adventure and learn about the world around them. My kids had so much fun with this program. We did the World Edition. But now that they are older, I'm looking into the new Science Expeditions program to strengthen their STEM skills. To see what each program comes with each month, click on the "Little Passports" title above for a complete list.

Early Explorers (3-5 yo)

Preschoolers explore a new world theme each month like Music, World Landmarks, and Dinosaurs. Each monthly package includes a 20-page activity booklet, fun souvenirs, trading cards, letters, photos, stickers and more.

World Edition (6-10 yo)

Discover a new country each month with pen pals Sam & Sofia! Packages include letters, fun souvenirs, activity sheets, stickers, photos and more, plus access to the Boarding Zone for more online games!

USA Edition (7-12 yo)

Discover the USA with monthly activities, games, science experiments & more! Two new states are featured each month in our 32-page activity-packed State Journal, along with stickers, postcards, pop-out models and access to more facts and activities online.

Science Expeditions (9+ yo)

Every month, your child will receive a package full of science experiments and STEM-related activities with themes like rockets, forensics, caves and crystals, northern lights and magnetism, hydrology, and so much more!

Green Kid Crafts
$17.95 - 19.95/mo

Green Kid designs and delivers hands-on, award-winning, and eco-friendly Discovery Boxes, Creativity Kits, and STEAM Kits (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).

What I like is that you can choose from four options:
  • monthly ($19.95)
  • 3-month ($19.95)
  • 6-month ($18.95)
  • 12-month ($17.95)

Each month, your Discovery Box will have a new theme and earth-friendly materials to complete 5 to 8 different projects.

Magic School Bus Science Club
$119/year (PSST!! This is 50% OFF for 2 more days!!)

Grab this incredibly fun 12-month subscription of Ms. Frizzle-approved, wacky experiments delivered to your doorstep for award-winning science FUN! It's 50% off and you get FREE shipping in the US. Ships to Canada for $2/month and all other countries for $4/month. Receive a Magic School Bus science experiment shipped to you during the middle of each month for 12 months and include them into your science curriculum.

It's created for kids ages 5 -12.

Each kit includes:

  • Detailed, large 12-page colorful manual that is full of experiments and topic information 
  • Each manual is based on the popular Magic School Bus books and TV series 
  • Includes an adult section so that adults with no science background will find the kits easy to use 
  • Materials and information necessary for a range of interactive experiments
  • Online Clubhouse for further exploration on each kit topic 
  • Certificate of Completion

Monday, November 28, 2016

Educational & Bilingual Toys for Children 4 & Under

Last week, I avoided the Black Friday sales and all of the commercialism that goes with it. I really wanted to just focus on family and actually be grateful on Thanksgiving.

But I do realize that the holidays are quickly approaching, and I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the great, educational products that are now available for children. You may have already purchased gifts, or you may still be looking for ideas of things to help boost your child's vocabulary and basic skills. So here are a few of my favorites this year.

Today's theme is "Bilingual Tots!" I know many of you who follow MommyMaestra are working hard to raise bilingual children. So I want to be sure and share these excellent toys that promote multilingualism. Most have English and Spanish options, one also includes French, and a couple don't have any language associated with them so you can use whichever language you prefer.

Either way, I hope you enjoy this collection of educational gifts that help develop important skills in a fun way.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure in the sidebar.

Counting Chameleon, $21

This puzzle teaches numbers 1 to 15 on one side and spells out the number names in both English and Spanish on the reverse. Made from sustainably harvested rubber wood with non-toxic, child safe stains, the puzzle includes a 7"x10" wood tray for storage and display. Available in English & Spanish.

Magnutto Make a Mood
Marbles: The Brain Store, $25

Children learn to understand, express, identify, and appropriately respond to emotions and to feelings as they create facial expressions. This set includes a list of emotions, examples of facial expressions, and sample role-play questions contained on tri-lingual (English, Spanish, French) activity cards.

Amazon, $25

Made from eco-friendly rubber wood with non-toxic, child safe stains, this 26-piece puzzle features one animal for every letter. Uppercase on one side and lowercase on the other teaches alphabet letters while developing fine motor and problem- solving skills.

Colored Cups & Balls
Amazon, $25

This puzzle teaches numbers 1 to 15 on one side and spells out the number names in both English and Spanish on the reverse. Made from sustainable wood, this sturdy set is perfect for little hands.

Baby Einstein Octoplush
Amazon, $16

The Baby Einstein Octoplush is a soft, multi textured, developmental plush toy. Young babies can hug Octoplush to hear a Baby Einstein melody and explore the textures for tactile development. As baby grows, colorful stitched satin patches on velour legs invite baby to learn color names through repetition. Squeeze each leg to hear color names in English, Spanish and French. Patterns of the color names are also printed on the underside of each leg in multiple languages.

VTech Count and Learn Turtle
Amazon, $13

Encourage early math skills with the Count and Learn Turtle by VTech. Press the light-up number buttons to hear the friendly turtle count and say each number. Choose the addition activity, and the turtle will help your child add two numbers and light up the correct number of buttons. The turtle also features two rollers that introduce shapes, colors and instruments and will add fun sounds into the melodies and sing-along songs in the music activity. For even more learning fun, switch to Spanish mode and the turtle will teach numbers, counting, colors, shapes and instruments in Spanish.

Arriba Abajo
Amazon, $9

ARRIBA ABAJO is a fantastic compilation of songs in Spanish and English that teach children basic concepts such as syllables, vowels, and more. It is an explosion of creativity, rhythm, and learning. This CD has 20 songs; 10 in Spanish and 10 in English. What absolutely amazes me is how Andrés is able to create these songs in both English and Spanish and stay true to the lyrics.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#RespectEachOther: A FREE Download for Parents & Teachers

If you are actively combatting bullying in your school or other children's program, here's a free anti-bullying download for parents and teachers

These resources (in English and Spanish) were created to help you teach your students and children how to not be bullies and how to deal with bullying.

So I have created a packet for parents and educators to use with their children and students. It focuses on bullying and it isn't just for children of color. It's for all children. It not only deals with what to do if you are being bullied, but also what to do if you SEE someone who is being bullied. And it gives advice to parents who have children that are being bullied.

The people who are on the frontlines of stopping racism and bullying are parents and teachers. We are the one who are teaching our children right from wrong, love from fear, and kindness from cruelty. This packet includes:

  • posters to be placed as visual reminders
  • an educator's guide
  • discussion questions & guide
  • resources for parents
  • phrases parents can use when talking to school officials about their child being bullied
  • plans for students on how to deal with a bully
  • writing prompts
  • writing pages
  • and a recommended reading list

This packet is free to download and you may share it with everyone you know. If you are a blogger or have your own website, please message me directly for images to post on your site.

You can even upload the packet to your website and offer it as a free download. If you need HTML code, let me know.

Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of race-related bullying and hate crimes across our country. New York has even had to create a special police unit as a result. And from grade school to high school to college campuses, children of color or different religions are facing difficult challenges.

So yes, the threat to our children is very real. And we can't stay quiet about it otherwise, the bullies will continue to harass other kids.

I hope that this packet will serve as a useful tool to help not only those being bullied but to prevent bullies from developing. Teachers: You know you can make a difference in a child's life. We're relying on you to help us raise thoughtful children.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Printable Bilingual Thanksgiving Storybook

New! I know, I know. It's a little late for this year, but I just loved creating this Thanksgiving-themed storybook. It's all about things for which children frequently give thanks.

This printable is available with three books: 1 in English for ELLs, 1 in Spanish for Spanish learners, and 1 bilingual storybook with text in both languages for bilingual students.

They are easy to assemble; just print and cut in half, stack with the cover page on the outside, and staple in the middle. Your students can then boost their vocabulary while coloring the pages.

You can find it in my TpT shop here.

Happy Thanksgiving, Ya'll !!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Homeschool Curriculum in Spanish: Nobis Pacem

For years, people have been asking me for a complete homeschool curriculum in Spanish. And the reality has been - and still is - that there just aren't that many available or easily accessible here in the States. But there are a few out there, mainly available from other countries like Mexico.

A few months ago, I was contacted by Nobis Pacem, a homeschool curriculum company out of Monterrey, Mexico, and asked to take a look at their program.

Nobis Pacem is a complete curriculum of 3 years of preschool, 6 years of primary, and 3 years of high school (which is divided school years in Mexico, but can be adapted to each country).

I received a nearly complete 1st grade curriculum - the only thing missing were the history books that are typically included. And I have to say that I was very impressed by the materials.

Nobis Pacem follows the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. It was created by British educator, Charlotte Mason, who believed that education is a combination of three areas: Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life. She stated that children should:
  • learn from their home environment or surroundings (Atmosphere)
  • should be taught good habits of character (Discipline)
  • should be taught using living thoughts and ideas (Life)

Charlotte Mason homeschoolers rely on books written by authors who are passionate about the subject, as opposed to dry textbooks. The goal is to inspire and retain, rather than indifferent memorization.

So it will come as no surprise that Nobis Pacem is a COMPREHENSIVE curriculum, which I know many of you are looking for - it's meaty stuff, as you can see from the images. A lot of time and effort has gone into creating this program.

The sample I received covered the following subjects:
  • Art
  • Music
  • Writing, composition, & spelling
  • Math
  • Science
  • Geography
  • History
Really, most of the materials are for the parent-teacher, as the level of reading is more advanced than a 1st grader can do on their own unassisted. But again, the Charlotte Mason method expects strong parental involvement. 

The first thing you'll want to dive into is the teacher's guide, which has lots of information to prepare parents on how to use the curriculum. You'll also find extras, such as possible meal plans, school-year calendar, and plenty of forms for helping you organize and record your progress over the year. The calendar includes indicators of Sundays and holidays. And of course, there are the actual lesson plans.

I love the Apreciacion del Arte (Art Appreciation) lessons which include a biography of the artist followed by visual examples of his work. Only three artists are explored in this book, but the biographies are very thorough and each one has 10 examples of their work. In addition, there is a faint black-and-white image of each of the works that you can have your child color in staying as true to the artist's color palette as possible.

And the Compositores y Música Clásica (Composers and Classical Music) lesson book is similar with biographies for each composer. For example, you'll learn that Chopin was a composer of the Romantic Period who enjoyed acting as much as he did composing and playing the piano. He was easily inspired, but would lock himself up in his room for days to perfect his compositions.

Nobis Pacem also includes a CD with music from each of the composers for you to listen to with your kids as you learn about each composer (15 in all).

The history and geography texts are designed for reading aloud to the student. There are a few illustrations scattered about the book, but the emphasis is obvious the storyline itself. The focus for first grade is world history, beginning with the creation of the world (not bible-based) and ending with World War II.

The geography book is a little different from what you might expect. It's not really about mapping, but rather about introducing children to countries around the world. If you are raising a global citizen (and I hope you are!!) then you will love this book and approach to geography. 

Following in the Charlotte Mason method, Escritura, Ortographía, y Composición is a workbook is made up of copywork. Students copy paragraphs and phrases/sentences to learn proper punctuation, grammar, and writing style. Personally, I prefer a good grammar curriculum that explains the various elements, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, as well as interrogative vs. exclamatory sentences.

One cool thing is how the copywork in this workbook is from famous poems - in Castilian Spanish! Actually, it's in OLD Castilian Spanish. So your child will learn madrigals, rhymes, sonnets, and other poetry by renown authors such as Gutierre de Cetina, Lope de Vega, Juan de Arguijo, and others.

Matemática para la familia (Mathematics for the Family) is an activity-based book. Each lesson lists the materials needed, the objective(s), and instructions. The smaller Matemáticas para primaria is a little workbook for your child to complete on their own.

Although they are based in Mexico, they ship worldwide. And they do offer a US accreditation, which is valid in Mexico as well. 

All this said, the curriculum is a bit pricey - but reasonable compared to English curricula of the same caliber. You can find out more information on their website.

So if you have decided to homeschool in Spanish and plan to use the Charlotte Mason method, then this might be the curriculum for you!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

FREE Children's Opera Debuts TOMORROW!

Psst! Here is a WONDERFUL opportunity for MommyMaestra readers in the San Francisco area. Tomorrow night, Opera Parallèle will perform “Xochitl and the Flowers” at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Third-grade students of the Alvarado Elementary School Spanish Immersion Program in San Francisco will be performing in the opera. ♥♥♥

The opera is based on the children's book (same name) by Latino poet and author, Jorge Argueta, who is a refugee from El Salvador. If you haven't read it, my latest article for NBC News features him and the amazing way he is giving back to the children in his hometown of San Salvador with the Library of Dreams.

Jorge's book, Xochitl and the Flowers is a beautiful immigration story about a young girl, Xochitl (SOH-cheel), whose family moves to the United States leaving their small flower business behind. It is all about starting a new life and prospering.

I SO wish that I could attend! But maybe you can? If so, here are all the details. Please, take some pictures and tell me all about it!!

WHAT: “Xochitl and the Flowers” opera for families

WHEN: 6 p.m. Nov. 17; 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Nov. 19

WHERE: Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission St., San Francisco

COST: FREE admission, reservations recommended

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

5 Ways to Explore the Ocean with Young Children

One of the most fascinating habitats for children to explore is the ocean. Marine life is so incredibly different from anything they might encounter in their daily lives, that it captures their imagination almost instantly.

Here are five ways to explore marine biology with your little ones.

This post contains affiliate links.

Read About the Ocean

There are literally hundreds of amazing books that have been published on the ocean. I especially love picture books with visually stunning pictures and illustrations that take your child's imagination on a trip under the sea. But don't forget to include storybooks that take place on, near, or under the ocean. They help your child connect with sea life in a more personal way.

Check out my list of 15 Children's Books about the Ocean. The list includes excellent titles in both English and Spanish. 


Hands-on activities are so much fun and promote learning. Children who do activities (coloring, crafts, art) are much more likely to remember the concepts being taught. And the activity doesn't have to be messy or complicated. A simple coloring book like Sea Creatures Coloring Book For Kids is fun for toddlers and preschoolers and easy to take on the road. Older children may enjoy this more artistic and detailed coloring book, Detailed Coloring Books For Kids.

If you're looking for activities a little more challenging, here's a post with 24+ Ocean-Themed Activities for Kids that includes crafts and other activities for a variety of ages.

For more ideas, check out my Ocean Life Activities board on Pinterest...


Seriously, nothing gets kids more excited than games. Even if the actual game itself isn't very educational, simply having an ocean theme can get kids excited about learning after the game is finished. 

Or you can use it as an incentive for more serious learning by saving it for a reward after a day of "hard" learning. ("Wow! We learned a lot today. Let's play a game to finish up!")


Have your little ones seen the PBS KIDS series Splash and Bubbles? It's from The Jim Henson Company. It's designed to encourage kids (ages 4 - 7) to explore the natural undersea world. Developed with top marine biologists, you can be reassured that the content is accurate, educational, and super fun! For example, in the first episode, your child will learn about bioluminescence and the ocean depths. (PSST! Four 11-minute stories are available NOW in the free PBS KIDS Video App and on

Field Trip!

There's nothing like first-hand experience, so if you happen to live not too far from the coast, pack up your kids for the weekend and head to the beach. If it's too far away, or a little out of your budget, look for an aquarium or zoo near you. Even museums of natural sciences often have an exhibit dedicated to the deep.

Other Posts You May Enjoy

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5 Ways to Explore the Ocean with Young Children

Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with PBS KIDS. All opinions are the writer's.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bilingual Avenue's Facebook Live Event: Raising Bilingual Children

I get lots of questions from MommyMaestra readers about how to start homeschooling, how to raise bilingual children, what bilingual homeschool materials are available and so on and so on. I certainly don't claim to know all the answers, but I do try my absolute best to GET the answers that my readers are looking for.

So when Marianna Du Bosque of Bilingual Avenue asked me if I would consider sharing my own journey as a mom trying to raise bilingual children, I told her right off the bat that my kids weren't poster children for being bilingual. Because the truth is, I certainly have my own struggles trying to raise kids who can speak Spanish when I am honestly the ONLY one around who can speak Spanish. But Marianna was gracious and still enthusiastic, so TONIGHT at 8:30 pm ET, I'll be on a Facebook Live Event with her (and will try to share it on the MommyMaestra FB page, too!) talking about our bilingual journey.

In addition, I'll be talking about homeschooling - how to start and where to find support - as well as bilingual homeschooling. You'll hear which programs I really love for teaching children Spanish, too.

So if you've been thinking about homeschooling your children (especially now with all the upheaval in our country), or if you are struggling to raise bilingual kids, or if you just want to chat with me, I hope you'll join us!

The coolest part, I think, is that Marianna has created a free reflection guide that you can download and keep notes or write down questions.

Oh, and you can send in your questions, too, before (or during??) the event and we'll do our best to answer them. Or just stop by and say "hola" and share one of your struggles or successes! They inspire us, too.

So sign up here to download your free reflection guide and even have a reminder sent to you.

I'm looking forward to connecting with all of you!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bilingual Children's Books for the Holidays

Bilingual Children's Books for the Holidays

It's hard to believe that we are in the final stretch of the year with only a few days left until Thanksgiving and a little more than a month away from Christmas. I've had quite a few books sitting by my computer awaiting review, so I've decided to put together a small collection of bilingual books that celebrate the holidays. As usual, the links used are Amazon affiliate links and when you purchase one through them, I get a small portion of the sale on a gift card that I use to buy books and holiday gifts for my children. I only share books that I would read to my own children. 

Happy reading!

Books for Thanksgiving

Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner? No Thanks!/Pavo para la Cena de Gracias?¡No, gracias!

by Alma Flor Ada

In this super cute little tale, a spider helps a turkey find a unique way to avoid being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. It's told from the point of view of the turkey, so it's a pretty fun read for children!


by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra

There are so many things to be thankful for.

For one young boy, it’s
   flying ladybugs,
      splashing ocean waves,
      a best friend,
   Dad’s thick chocolate syrup,
      and much more.

Straight from the heart of a child flows this lighthearted bilingual celebration of family, friendship, and fun. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, "¡Gracias! Thanks!"

Celebrate Thanksgiving Day with Beto and Gaby

by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy

Beto and Gaby anxiously wait for their relatives to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. One by one, they call to inform the family they will not be able to attend because of a great snowstorm. Suddenly, their grandmother appears with a group of elder friends who have nowhere to have dinner, and the celebration becomes really special. contains an informative section on Thanksgiving day.

Gracias The Thanksgiving Turkey

by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text.

Bilingual Books for Christmas

also available in Spanish: ¡Qué montón de Tamales!
by Gary Soto

Christmas Eve started out so perfectly for Maria. Snow had fallen and the streets glittered. Maria's favorite cousins were coming over and she got to help make the tamales for Christmas dinner. It was almost too good to be true when her mother left the kitchen for a moment and Maria got to try on her beautiful diamond ring . . .

This is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales; of a desperate and funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble; and the warm way a family pulls together to make it a perfect Christmas after all.

Uno, Dos, Tres, Posada!

by Virginia Kroll

A posada is an important Latino holiday tradition that happens all over the world on each of the nine nights before Christmas. There's a lot to do every night before the party can begin, and here a little girl guides us through each step—from putting out poinsettias to hanging the piñata—as she counts to ten in English and Spanish. Young readers can follow along by counting the different items mentioned. An author's note at the end of the story further explains the origins of the posada. Sprinkled with Spanish vocabulary and filled with lively illustrations, this is a posada no one should miss!

Celebrate Las Posadas - Celebramos Las Posadas

by Marisa Boan

Celebrate Las Posadas - Celebramos Las Posadas! In Mexico, Guatemala, and even in some parts of the United States, the time between December 16 and December 24 is called Las Posadas. For nine nights, families re-enact Mary and Joseph's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the birth of baby Jesus. The holiday season is full of wonderful festivities!

(Not!) Home for Christmas/Navidad lejos de casa

by Mariana Llanos

The Wanting Monster rears its ugly head again in the latest book by author, Mariana Llanos. This time, Tito's little brother Andy is the victim and turns into the Wanting Monster every Christmas. This year it's worse because the family will be traveling to Peru to visit family and he's worried that Santa won't be able to find them. But their trip to Peru helps both Andy and Tito discover the true meaning of Christmas. 

I love that the author has included a list of reading comprehension questions at the back of the book to help your child process the story and think about the messages it presents.

Merry Navidad! Christmas Carols in Spanish and English

by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy

In this warm and vibrant collection of traditional Spanish Christmas carols, or villancicos, the authors bring to life the holiday traditions of Latin America and Spain. The creative English adaptations by Rosalma Zubizarreta both capture the spirit of the originals and add a new dimension to the songs. And Spanish illustrator Viví Escrivá's spirited illustrations are perfect backdrops for the lyrics, adding rich holiday flavor.

Come sing along! ¡Feliz Navidad! and Merry Christmas!

The Santero's Miracle

by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by Amy Córdova

In The Santero's Miracle, don Jacobo has a dream that, in the end, is a reminder that miracles do happen.

Don Jacobo is teaching his visiting grandson Andrés how to become a santero. Christmas is coming, snow is falling in the village and the two are working on a carving of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers.

The half-finished carving stands in the living room beside the two oxen and the angel that don Jacobo carved earlier in the month. The snow-covered mountains are beautiful, but the road to the village is impassable. Andrés' parents will not be able to get to the house for the holiday, and don Jacobo's neighbor, don Leopoldo, is desperately ill and cannot get to the hospital.

Then comes don Jacobo's dream; San Isidro is plowing with the two oxen and the angel is helping. "But we don't plow 'til April," don Jacobo muses upon awakening. "What does it mean?"

The Santero's Miracle covers themes of home, family, tradition, imagination, culture, and community. It reminds us of much that is special about New Mexico: our rural villages, beautiful mountains, centuries-old traditions, strong families, diverse population, and welcoming communities united in history and culture.

The Farolitos of Christmas

by Rudolfo Anaya

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Open Letter to Latino Parents

I started this article over a week ago, but wasn’t sure I’d publish it. Now, on the night of Election Day, as I sit and watch the results coming in, I know that this letter to my readers and Latino parents throughout the U.S. needs to go live.

By the time you read this, in theory, it will finally be over; the circus that we call a presidential election will come to an end.

But you and I both know the challenges and threats to our families and children may just be beginning.

We’ve seen it steadily building over the last year. You may have read about the “build-a-wall” banner hung in an Oregon high school. Or maybe heard about the Muslim and Latino students attacked in Kansas by a man shouting, “Trump will take our country from you guys!” while calling them “brown trash.” Or perhaps you’ve read about the Latino students in North Carolina who carry around their birth certificates and Social Security cards out of fear they will be deported - the “Trump Effect” has already begun and continues to grow into a voracious monster.

And his vitriolic rhetoric is unlikely to stop on November 8th.

Add to this the problem that all of his hateful speech has given new life to every bigot, racist, and supremacist within our country who has until now been more or less restrained by the popular demand for human decency. Unfortunately, he has with his own disgusting words and actions validated their outlook leading to open, unapologetic declarations of hate and even worse, turning their words into actions.

So what do we do? We prepare. It’s time to tighten our cinturones and brace ourselves. I want us to be realistic.

The time to protect our families is here. We need to give our children the tools they need to defend themselves. Those tools include Caution, Strength, and a Voice. To avoid violence, we must talk openly with our children about the possible dangers they may encounter and prepare them to think quickly and act accordingly. We must urge them to be ever vigilant, aware of their surroundings, and mindful of who is nearby.

We must encourage them to be brave and to stand together. We must help them understand the importance of speaking up to identify those who do wrong in order to protect ourselves - and others - from future injustice. No longer do we suffer alone in silence.

Now is the time to create change together. But in order to improve our country and help it to see diversity as beautiful and beneficial, we have to be that change. We have to be kind to everyone. We have to feel compassion and be supportive. Most importantly, we have to set the example for our children, so they will be strong and proud of who they are, unafraid to share their culture. For it is ignorance that leads to stereotypes, and ignorance that causes fear and hatred.

I have faith in the American people. I know that there are more of us who want to do what is right, than there are those who choose to embrace selfish ignorance. But I also realize that change doesn’t happen overnight.

First, we have to reassure our children that they are safe and that we are here to help and protect them. We need to explain our democratic government and teach them that disagreeing with others is not an excuse for violence and hatred. Then we discuss some ways to help your children avoid bullies inside and outside of school.

Be informed

Take the time to read about bullying so that you can identify the signs.

Someone who hurts you physically, mentally, or emotionally once, unintentionally is simply foolish, rude, or ignorant.

Someone who knowingly hurts you once on purpose is mean.

Someone who knowingly hurts you repeatedly despite you asking them to stop is a bully.

Download this flyer from Edutopia for more information about what bullying is, how to identify it, and how to deal with it.

Talk with your child’s teachers

This is one of the most important steps you can take. Teachers may have a good idea of what is happening in their classroom. They see first-hand the social dynamics between students. And if they don’t see it, and your child tells you they are being bullied, then your child’s teacher and school need to be made aware of it ASAP so that they can implement strategies and tools to reduce bullying behaviors before they escalate.

Monitor your child’s tech devices and social media

In this advanced day and age, cyberbullying has become a very real problem. It’s important for parents to take it seriously. In addition to monitoring your child’s tech devices, it’s critical that you take time to talk with them about cyberbullying and discuss with them what they should do if they become victims. Check out this article to learn what steps you can take.

Teach your child how to respond

It’s critical to empower your child. Bullies are less likely to pick on strong, confident people. Either way, it’s important to arm your child with words and actions that will help them diffuse hostile situations or avoid them altogether.

Talk with your children about how to deal with insults. There are several ways a person can respond to a bully. Here are a few:

Walk away. Remember, bullies are all about control. They want to know they are hurting you. If you ignore them and walk away, you are taking that power away from them.

Laugh at them. Bullies want to be feared. If you refuse to fear them, you are taking away their sense of control. If they make fun of you for a mistake you made, and you laugh at yourself, it shows that you are confident enough in yourself to do so.

Report it. Immediately. It’s critical that you report bullying behavior to an adult. And it is important that it be an adult who will do something. If a teacher doesn’t respond, then the principal. And definitely tell your parents.

Take Precautions

The reality is that bullying can escalate. And it is up to us to keep our kids safe. If you have contacted your child’s teachers and school, and they aren’t doing anything, or if the situation is getting worse, then here are some important precautions...

Walk in groups. Teach your kids to walk together in groups with their friends and other students. There is safety in numbers.

Avoid empty spaces and other places where you might run into the bully. Train your child to be aware of their surroundings and not put themselves in dangerous situations. They should stay in places where they can call for help...and be heard.

Give them a smartphone. Teach them to use Facebook Live quickly. It’s important to document bullies and their behavior so that you have proof. It can also help you get help quickly when you need it.

Explore self-defense classes. Do not mistake this for encouragement to fight back. On the contrary. Students who take Karate or Taekwondo learn self-control and develop self-confidence. Both are important for deterring bullies. But let's face it: If my son or daughter's life were in danger, I'd want them to know how to protect themselves.

Consider homeschooling. If you truly fear for your child’s safety, then it is imperative you remove him or her from that situation. Consider moving him or her to a new school. And if that isn’t an option, think about homeschooling. Over 2 million families in this country homeschool their kids, and I can assure you, that like me, not all of them started because they wanted to or because they knew how to teach. I was scared, but I’m so glad I made the switch. My life changed for the better.

And lastly, consider downloading my free bilingual #RespectEachOther packet to use with your children and students. Change begins with us and with our children.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

App Review: eBook Plaza

I'm raising a future writer.

My 12 year old has already written four books. I watch her each day sit down at her laptop and begin furiously typing, trying to get it all down before the ideas escape. And okay, maybe I'm a little jealous that she is so full of creativity that it appears to just flow out of her fingertips and a great wave of words.

So naturally, I'm using her love of writing to help teach her about all the skills she needs to be an effective writer. And I'm always on the lookout for tools that will help me teach her.

A few months ago, you may remember me sharing with you about the new online program - the PreK12 Plaza Summer Victory Challenge. The online program used engaging tech to get kids busy doing hands-on activities that challenged their ingenuity and their creative spirit.

Well now, PreK12 Plaza has expanded their program to include a new app your kids will love.

Name: eBook Plaza
Subject(s): Writing
Brief Description: A bilingual eBook app for students and teachers.
Price: Free
Language: Spanish, English
Ages: 6+ years
Device: iOS, Android, Kindle

eBook Plaza is an app that gives your child access to hundreds of eBooks at various reading levels in both English and Spanish. Your child can search for them by grade level.

In addition, your child/student can also create their own eBook. I love using the app to assign research projects to my kids. My daughter is working on an eBook about manatees and dugongs, which she's been learning about in science. She has to research them in books and take notes, then write her eBook from them. She also finds pictures or draws her own to supplement each page in her eBook.

Overall, she says that it is easier to create eBooks on the app than it was on the online version because:

  • It's faster. For example, if she wants to add an image to a page, she can just snap a picture with her tablet and - boom! - it's there. No searching for files all over the computer and uploading.
  • It's mobile. Now it's easy to create eBooks anywhere! So if she decides to write an eBook that documents the wildlife in our backyard, she can do it without having to go back and forth between the yard and her computer.

The app even allows your child to upload a voice/sound recording, so if you want to make the eBook available with a read aloud format, it just takes the push of a button.

My girl loves that she can see her eBooks available via the app, including the one she made at the end of the summer on the Olympics. She was especially excited to see that the latter has been viewed over 100 times. And it motivates her to write more and create new eBooks.

The end result looks great, too!

If you have a budding writer in your home, this is a great app for him or her.

And if you have a struggling writer, this is a great way to motivate them to write more. My son struggles with dysgraphia. He hates writing. But using this app is fun for him and he's started using it to write his own eBook. I love that he was enthusiastic about writing for the first time in a long while.

You can download the app here: PreK12Plaza (English) or Plaza Bilingüe (Spanish).

And here's one more cool thing: The creators of new ebooks will be entered on a contest for the opportunity to win an Amazon gift card. The contest starts today on Nov 8 and ends Nov 22. The winner(s) will be announced on Wednesday, November 23.

Please join us on Wednesday night for a Bilingual eBook Plaza App Twitter party!! Just follow the hashtags #ebookplaza #plazabilingue and/or our hosts @estilofamiliar & @prek12plaza.

And don't forget to follow PreK12Plaza on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!


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