Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review- Raising Bilingual Children: A Practical Guide

A coule of weeks ago, I shared with you a review of Maritere Rondriguez Bellas' book, Arroz con pollo and Apple Pie - Raising Bicultural Children.

Today, I 'm reviewing her other excellent book, Raising Bilingual Children: A Practical Guide (aff link). It is an easy guidebook for parents who are committed to raising bilingual kids. Divided up into six chapters, the book starts with how to get started and ends with suggestions for non-native language speakers. You'll read about how after-school language learning programs get creative and the pros and cons of immersion schools. And you can read five case studies of children who move from school into the world.

It covers common questions parents have, such as what to do when your child refuses to speak Spanish at home, how to proceed when one parent doesn't speak the target language, and should you be concerned if your 2 year old isn't speaking in either language.

There is practical advice for busy parents, as well as testimonies from real parents who have successfully raised bilingual kids. I love that I can read about parents who have been there and done that, so they know what I'm going through. And you can even read interviews with some of their bilingual children.

In addition, Mari has included articles and advice from the experts, too, such as Delfin Carbonell Bassett, PhD, who debunks the five most prevalent myths associated with raising bilingual kids. Have you heard that a bilingual kid's brain will get confused with so many different words in different languages? That they'll get confused and suffer language delays? Maybe you've heard that a child must start learning a second language from birth or they'll be unsuccessful. Learn the truth to these and other misconceptions in chapter one.

I think you'll also enjoy the 100+ tips you'll find scattered throughout the book. You could even make it a daily goal to write one on a dry-erase board and post it somewhere you and your family will see it to boost your commitment.

While this book emphasizes immigrant parents, I love that the last chapter is for monolingual parents who are raising bilingual children. What a selfless act those parents are making and how awesome is it to have a resource to help them in their commitment!

Overall, this book is a must-have for every bilingual family's home library. Or if you know a family that fits this description or a couple expecting their first child, then this would be an excellent gift!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Women in World History Activity Pack

Did you know that March is Women's History Month? And I'm super excited to announce a new activity packet that I helped create for Multicultural Kid Blogs! I had such a great time working on this Women in World History Activity Pack together with my friend Annabelle from the Piri-Piri Lexicon.

If you've used my Famous Afro-Latinos or 10 Latinas in History packets, I know you'll really enjoy this new activity pack.

Designed for children ages 8 – 12 (or 3rd through 6th grade), our educational, no-prep packet includes:

• one-page reading passages featuring 20 women in world history, including Hispanic figures such as Sor Juana de la Cruz, Queen Isabella I, Celia Cruz, and others.

• a reading comprehension quiz for each reading passage

• additional comprehension worksheets that boost vocabulary, writing, and critical thinking skills

• and a recommended reading list for further research

The packet also includes answer keys for all the worksheets.

This packet highlights the following women:

• Isabel Allende
• Joan of Arc
• Cleopatra
• Coco Chanel
• Celia Cruz
• Sor Juana de la Cruz
• Marie Curie
• Amelia Earhart
• Anne Frank
• Indira Gandhi
• Jane Goodall
• Queen Isabella I
• Frida Kahlo
• Florence Nightingale
• Ellen Ochoa
• Pocahontas
• Eleanor Roosevelt
• Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
• Harriet Tubman
• Malala Yousafzai

You might also be interested in MKB's new Women's History Month Research Packet. This month-long unit for Women’s History Month incorporates the study of 20 women, five in each of four categories: Human Rights, Politics, Science and The Arts. (The two packets do not focus on the same 20 women, though there is some overlap.)

With an individual research project, oral presentation, creation of a unit-long lapbook-style packet, and a classroom timeline display, this fun and colorful product is designed to target 20+ Common Core Language Arts Standards for grades 2, 3 and 4.

You can find both of these educational packets on the MKB website or on their TpT store. They'll both be on sale today and tomorrow!

Friday, February 24, 2017

DIY Dino Bones Activity

I'm delighted to partner with Education.com to bring you this fun DIY dinosaur bones activity. If you've never visited their site, you don't know what you're missing. The ad-free, online learning program is for students in Pre-K through the 5th grade. It's designed to help boost your child's math and reading skills. Today's activity is for those of you with young dinosaur lovers at home.


Find the Dino Bones!

Does your child love learning about dinosaurs? Does he like digging around in search of hidden treasures? This fun activity combines these two popular pastimes. Even better, it will give your young dino lover math practice measuring and creating a record of events at the same time.

What You Need:

  • Old newspaper
  • Clay or cardboard
  • Soil
  • Large pail
  • Spoon
  • Paper (several sheets)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
What You Do: 
  1. Cover your work space with old newspaper to keep the area clean.
  2. Remove the clay from its container or packaging and divide the material into several smaller pieces.
  3. Form each of the pieces of clay into bone shapes of varying lengths then allow them to dry until the material is hard. Check the instructions on the packaging for the optimal drying time.
  4. If you do not have clay you can use cardboard instead. Use a pencil to draw out several bones in varying lengths on the cardboard. Carefully cut the shapes out using the scissors.
  5. Complete this step without your child watching: Spoon your soil into the large pail, burying each of the bones as you fill the container. Ensure that all of the bones are completely hidden.
  6. Have your child use the spoon (or his bare hands!) to dig through the soil to find each of the hidden bones.
  7. As each bone is removed, have your child place it carefully on a sheet of paper just like an anthropologist would.
  8. Once all of the bones have been found and placed on the paper, have your child measure each of them and then record the results on a separate piece of paper.
  9. Finally, have him place all of the bones in order from largest to smallest.
  10. Be sure to take pictures as you go so you have a record of the "dig." Show them to your child once the activity is complete.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Afraid of Homeschooling? 5 Reasons to Kick those Fears to the Curb

I regularly hear from Latino parents who are struggling with the idea of homeschooling their kids. They really want to try it, but they have so many fears and doubts that they just can't convince themselves to make the decision to give it a go.

I totally understand. Because the reality is that I NEVER had any intention of homeschooling my children. I worried that I wasn't qualified. And I thought that I wouldn't be able to put up with having my kids around all day long every day. I worried that we wouldn't be able to afford the curriculum. And I worried that they would wind up socially awkward because they wouldn't be interacting with other kids every day. Actually, it came down to my oldest's first day of kindergarten before I finally committed to giving it a try. That was eight years ago and I have never regretted that decision.

Here are the top five myths or fears I hear from parents.

#1 You do not have to have a teaching degree to homeschool your kids.

There are over 2 million families homeschooling in the United States today, and the vast majority of them are parents who have never taught a lick of school or even gone to college for an education degree. No state requires you to have a teaching certificate to homeschool your kids, with the possible exception of Washington (which requires you to meet one of four requirements: "1) be supervised by a “certified” person. 2) have achieved a minimum number of college credits. 3) have taken a course in home-based instruction. 4) be deemed qualified by local school board." Dude. What's up with you, Washington??)

And no, you do NOT have to understand all those tricky math/science/grammar concepts your kids will learn. It's okay if you don't like a particular subject. There are SO MANY resources available now for homeschoolers, including (free!) online sites like Khan Academy or in-person tutoring companies such as Sylvan Learning. You can find tons of support if you need it.

#2 Your kids will not fall behind their classroom counterparts.

According to Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America, a study by the National Home School Research Institute, “Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, parent education level, teacher certification, or the degree of government regulation, the academic achievement scores of home educated students significantly exceed those of public school students.” In fact, the study revealed that on average, homeschoolers outperform their public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points—across ALL subjects.

Let me share something: I have two kids that I homeschool. One is in 7th grade and the other in 5th. I DO NOT teach to the test. That is to say, I don't even know what is on the tests that are given to students these days. (And to be honest, I don't care.) But I am required in my state of North Carolina to administer an end of the year test starting in 2nd grade. I've done so each year. I order a test online, it arrives, I give it to my kids, and I send it back in to be graded. Every year, the results come back with high achievements. This is in comparison to their public school counterparts. I'm not saying my kids are exceptionally gifted. I think the one-on-one instruction and the fact that we take the time to make sure they understand each concept before moving on to the next makes all the difference in the world.

I don't have to give them the complete test with all the different subjects, but I do it because crazily my kids love being timed and filling in those little bubbles, and because I want to know which areas they are weak in and that I need to concentrate on. For me, the test is just a way for me to see where we are and where we need to go.

#3 It is not illegal.

Each state has its own laws regarding homeschool. Some states are more relaxed and have little to no regulation, while others are more restrictive. For example, I have to officially declare my intent to homeschool my kids if they are 7 years old or older. I have to give them an end-of-the-year test. And I have to keep attendance records, vaccination records (many states don't require this), and their test scores in case anyone from the Dept of Education wants to verify that we're homeschooling (no one has ever contacted me). For me, all of this is easy. I declared our homeschool twice: once when each child was old enough. I keep records of attendance anyway since I keep notes of what each child does each day. And I give them the test and keep the test scores. No. Big. Deal.

To find out the laws in your state, you can visit ResponsibleHomeschooling.org or this page on ProPublica. Both have an easy interactive map to help you.

#4 Your kids will not be social misfits.

Seriously. This cracks me up because it implies that my kids just sit around in a box all day not interacting with anyone, including each other. Homeschoolers come into contact with so many different people of all ages. Our kids are probably better socialized than traditional school children who spend all day interacting only with other unsocialized kids their age. Haha! Really, homeschool families are usually involved in so many activities (museum classes, sports, 4H, homeschool co-ops, music lessons, STEM classes, ballet, volunteer work...the list goes on and on), that they get tons of exposure and interaction with other people. Homeschool co-ops frequently do monthly field trips and programs such as science fairs, lego clubs, and talent shows.

Remember: data shows that “on average, [homeschool] children are engaged in 5.2 activities outside the home, with 98% involved in two or more.” So stop worrying about that!!

#5 It doesn't have to be expensive.

Yes, some curricula are expensive. But I'd prefer to invest that money in an annual curriculum rather than in spaghetti suppers, the latest fashion trends, or the lunch money, or whatever. And you can also find a lot of these curricula for sale on eBay (gently used or otherwise) or homeschool trade sites. You can even piece together your own curriculum for practically nothing using free internet materials and your local library.

(The average homeschooling family spends around $546 per student each year and yields an average 85th percentile ranking on test scores. By comparison, the average annual expenditure of $5,325 per public school student yields on average a 50th percentile ranking.)

If you have concerns that I haven't addressed here, leave a comment below or contact me! I promise that if you are considering homeschooling your kids, you're halfway there and it is worth a try. If it turns out that it isn't the best fit for your family, big deal. You just put your kid back in school, no?

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, February 21, 2017

2 Books that Teach Kids about People Who Changed the World

Are you looking for books to inspire and empower your kids to do great things? Two of my go-to sources these days are the new books of heroes and heroines from National Geographic Kids.

The Book of Heroes (aff link) features more than 100 heroes in history. From action heroes to peaceful protesters, this book tells you about ordinary men from around the world who did extraordinary things to save others. From Nelson Mandela to Pancho Villa to Chiune Sugihara you'll find examples of leading men, heroes for hire, peace heroes, inspiring minds and more.

The Book of Heroines (aff link) is similar with gritty girls, legendary ladies, daring dames, and others. You'll learn about Agustina de Aragón and how she saved her town from Napoleon's army. And then there's Itzpapalotl, the legendary Aztec warrior goddess who rules over paradise. Your kids will be impressed by Buffalo Calf Road Woman, the Cheyenne woman who charged into danger to rescue her brother, and by Khutulun, the Mongol princess who agreed to marry any suitor who beat her in a wrestling match (she won 1,000 horses).

What I love best about these books is that they don't overwhelm kids with dry information. Children are given manageable chunks of information that highlight each person(s) accomplishments. The layout is bold and engaging, capturing m10-year-old and 12-year-old's attention. My son says it is almost like a graphic novel/comic.

In addition, each book is careful to include examples of the opposite sex. So in the Heroes book, they mention a few women who rocked history, too, and in the Heroines book, they include a few gutsy guys.

Both books also have a short section in the back that highlights amazing animals, so that rounds out the book nicely for those of you with animal lovers.

If you'd like to incorporate this book into your homeschool lessons, I've put together a free printable for you to use. Once a week (or more!) I have my kids pick up one of these books and read about three of the people inside. Then they must write one fact that they learned about each one. You can print the pages front and back and keep them in a binder.


Disclosure: I'm a National Geographic Kids Insider. I receives copies of these books for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Persistence: A to Z of Raising Bilingual Kids

Today, I'm so delighted to be participating in the PiriPiriLexicon's excellent series, "A to Z of Raising Bilingual Kids." It has been so fantastic to read through all the enlightening posts written by bloggers around the world who are working hard to raise bilingual children. There are so many tips and insights to be found on their blog posts that I would strongly encourage you to follow along with this excellent series and read ALL of their posts. You can find a complete list with links to each remarkable piece here.

My particular topic is one that always touches a cord in my heart when it comes to raising bilingual kids: Persistence.

There are SO MANY articles, blogs, books, websites, and experts who will tell you that to raise bilingual children, you have to teach them while they are really young and under a certain age. Most products are geared for babies, toddlers and young children. While this is absolutely fantastic and probably the easiest way to teach a person to learn a language, I always fear that this focus and language discourages parents with older children from attempting to teach them a second langauge. As if there is some cut-off age where they can't learn it.

I've made it no secret that teaching my kids Spanish has been hard. I didn't start when they were little because to be honest, despite the fact that my childhood was immersed in culture and language, once I hit high-school and my mom and I moved away to another city, that culture and language was largely ignored except for the few times I would go and visit my family in Spain. My mom didn't speak Spanish to me and I was the only Hispanic in my high school.

It wasn't until after I had my daughter, when I was 31 that I suddenly realized my children were going to miss out on all of those cultural experiences I had in my youth. I tried speaking Spanish to them on occasion, but not with any consistency. (Except for bilingual and Spanish children's books. I was pretty hard-core there.) Instead, I focused intently on culture; the food, the holidays, the arts and crafts.

When I started homeschooling, we often used Spanish programs as part of our curriculum. But by this point, my kids fought it. We've plugged along valiantly, though. Sometimes I'd despair that I'd ever get them to learn, even though they make really slow progress. And I became more and more pessimistic the older they got.

Then several important things happened to change my outlook.

First, we had some dear friends from Bolivia came to visit for two weeks and they brought their children. Though they are a year or two younger than my kids and they spoke no English, they all got along great. My daughter, especially, was delighted to have friends from another country. And after they left, she was motivated like never before to learn Spanish.

And while talking to my dear friend, who is their mother, I learned that she had started to learned English when she was 13. She didn't want to at the time, but of course, now she is so glad she did because it has helped her and her husband with their work. Her husband spoke no English and my husband spoke no Spanish, so together, she and I acted as interpreters.

Then, last year, my husband and I took our kids to Spain. I wrote about the experience here. It was the first time my dad had met my son. And though they still weren't fluent in Spanish, everyone got along beautifully and the entire experience provided additional motivation for my kids to learn. My daughter returned with renewed enthusiasm for her Spanish curriculum, determined to learn so that she can return as soon as possible.

My kids are now 10 and 12. When I listen to my daughter speaking Spanish, my heart swells with emotion. And I am reminded that when it comes to raising bilingual kids, the only limits are those invisible barriers that we create in our own minds. Despite setbacks and obstacles, I encourage you to PERSIST. Never give up. Because you CAN do it.

Don't listen to nay-sayers. Don't worry about how old they are. Don't worry that you didn't start with the OPOL method or the ML@H method or whatever. Don't worry that one (or two or five!) program/curriculum doesn't work for your kids. Don't give up just because your kid resists learning. Keep trying.

You may have to think outside the box to find ways to motivate them. You may have to shop around to find the right program. You may have to get extreme and travel or find other ways to engage them with native speakers.


I know you can.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: Arroz con pollo and Apple Pie - Raising Bicultural Children

There is SO much talk centered around raising bilingual kids. In fact, that is the main focus of many of my readers. But for me, something equally - if not more important - is raising bicultural children. It has certainly been a goal of mine (and a challenge!) ever since we started a family to provide my children with a childhood that somehow merges both my Hispanic culture and my husband's white American one. Just as I grew up immersed in my heritage while experiencing uniquely American traditions, so I wanted the same for my kids.

But raising bicultural children isn't as easy as it seems. Especially if you are like I am: far removed from family and surrounded by non-Latinos who speak only English and are clueless about Spanish and Mexican traditions. So when Maritere Rodriguez Bellas reached out to me and asked me to take a look at her books, I agreed.

Today, I'm going to focus on her excellent book, Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie (aff link). It is a guide for for parents who want to raise bicultural children in our modern society. Maritere wrote the book to be the resource that she wished she'd had available to her when she was a new immigrant mother years ago. Technicially, she wasn't an actual immigrant, since she was originally from Puerto Rico, but as a new mother in California, she often wished she had family nearby to help guide her.

Determined to help others with tips and resources, Maritere began writing a parenting column for Latino immigrant parents in La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country. It ran for 11 years. A few years later, Maritere published this book.

It is a remarkable compilation of interviews and testimonies from immigrant parents or their children from all over Latin America, including Nicaragua, Cuba, Guatemala, D.R., Mexico, and more. There's even advice from well-known figures such as Jorge Ramos, Tony Plana, and Milly Quezada.

Each chapter focuses on a different issue with suggestions, tips, and stories about how immigrant parents dealt with the issues. Maritere also encourages parents to start a parenting journal where they can write down questions they might have and, eventually, the solutions. She also provides tips, resources, and thought-provoking questions.

Although this book focuses on Latino immigrants, really, ANY immigrant parent will benefit from reading it. And I would even say that parents like me, who are not immigrants, but who are trying to pass on their heritage to their children will find this book to be a treasure trove of information.

Did you know that there are actual stages of immigrant adjustment? Chapter one describes all four in depth. And the next chapter discusses how to help your KIDS adjust.

I especially love that the author also addresses how to balance and blend two cultures in your home and your childrearing practices.

Are you struggling with how to discipline your children? The American way can certainly differ from other countries. Learn how SIX other parents have handled this in chapter six.

Overall, this book is has been thoroughly researched. The number of stories shared by such a variety of parents and children show the effort and careful thought that the author put into her work. It is well written and Maritere is obviously passionate about the subject and determined to help other parents out there find support and resources.

If you are a Latino parent or an immigrant parent, this book is a must-get. Or if you know of a parent, then this would make a great gift!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Free Download: Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera Reading Passage

My family and I just got back from a relaxing trip to visit my husband's family. So when I sat down this morning to write a post for MommyMaestra, all my creative juices were flowing and instead I wound up working on a new printable. Inspired by Valentine's Day, I decided it was time to highlight a famous Latino in history: Frida y Diego!

It's almost done, but I decided to go ahead and give you a free sample of the activity pack. This little reading passage is best suited for children in 2nd through 4th grade. They can even color in Diego and Frida.

The complete pack contains a reading comprehension page with multiple choice questions, another reading passage on Frida's artwork, an activity sheet for students to create their own self-portrait based on what they learned, a short reading passage about Diego's art, and another activity sheet for sketching out their own mural to go on the side of a school house. There's also a reading list to explore these artists more thoroughly. It will be available in the next day or two.

In the meantime, download this child-friendly reading passage about Frida and Diego!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2017


February is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) month! And as the mother of a girl who LOVES science, I'm all about finding her materials, toys, and opportunities that nurture her interest. Given the fact that women make up only 24% of the workers in STEM fields, I believe parents and educators really need to encourage their female students who are passionate about these subjects. 

SO, I was super excited to find out about this exclusive GoldieBlox Sale that starts TODAY on Educents! I'm sure you've heard about this company that focuses on creating STEM toys for girls. Below is just one of the excellent kits you'll find up to 30% off now through Wednesday, Feb 15th. 

This post may contain affiliate links.

What is it?

GoldieBlox (aff): Construction toy featuring the world's first girl engineer character, Goldie Blox! This kit introduces the real-life STEM concept of prototyping. Designed for tinkering and creative exploration, GoldieBlox toys build spatial skills, eye-hand coordination, and confidence in problem-solving.

Why is it cool?

All GoldieBlox toys are inter-compatible with existing sets and perfect for curious and crafty kids ages 6+. The kit comes with 275+ pieces, a poster full of engineering terms and exciting build ideas, a caterpillar, bouncing robot, and a catapult! Hundreds of how-to building videos can be found online to help spark creativity in young engineers.

The Craft-Struction Box combines the best of crafting and construction for the ultimate open-ended play experience! Kids will think like Goldie to prototype and problem-solve, and with over 275 pieces the possibilities are endless!

Additional Suggestions for Use:

GoldieBox Craft-Struction naturally lends itself to following step-by-step directions included in the kit.
But, here’s how your child can extend the use of this construction toy with the STEM philosophy in mind:
  • Give your child specific directions to help solve a problem with only a select few pieces. For example, using only 50 pieces, build a bridge that can hold the weight of a medium-sized potato.
  • Have your child create a short animation of a creature they build.
  • After building a tower, have your child design the blueprint with directions for the tower. Then, have someone else follow the steps to build the tower. How accurate were the directions? The design? Talk about why it’s important to be precise with directions and designs. Have your child made revisions accordingly.
  • Have your child take photographs as they build a structure and put together a “how to” picture book for siblings.
  • Have your child find the perimeter, area, and volume of the structure they build. Talk about the 2D and 3D geometric shapes and solids they find in their creations.

Other awesome sets include:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

10 Latinas Who PERSISTED

The last few weeks have been difficult for a lot of us. We've seen a lot of changes and threats to our families and society. But there have been a few beacons of hope, the largest one being women. I have been so encouraged by the number of women who stepping up and speaking out against injustice and championing equality and peace. Women who support clean air and clean water for their families. Women who believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Women who believe that all children have the right to a good education.

This led me to thinking about all the remarkable Latinas in history who have fought against oppression or to achieve their dreams. They persisted. Some even died for their beliefs and actions. And some have only just begun their journey...

Isabel Allende

Isabel was the daughter of a Chilean diplomat and spent much of her childhood traveling. She also learned a great deal about politics and eventually opposed the dictatorship of her own beloved Chile. Her actions put her life in danger and she was forced to flee to Venezuela where she became a freelance journalist. Isabel later became a novelist, and her novels have been translated into over 30 languages and have sold more than 56 million copies. Three movies have been made based on her books.

Dolores Huerta

Dolores is a famous activist who has fought for the fair treatment of farm workers and for many civil rights issues. As an activist, she’s helped to change laws so that they help the poor and hard working. Together with Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. She also successfully negotiated a contract for the first time between farm workers and the big agricultural companies. In recognition for her work, the President has given her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Mirabal Sisters

Four Dominican sisters opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Patria, Minerva, María Teresa, and Dedé actively worked to overthrow his regime. Sadly, the first three sisters were assassinated on 25 November 1960. Trujillo thought their deaths would finally bring an end to the rebellion, but according to the New York Times, the assassinations turned the Mirabal sisters into "symbols of both popular and feminist resistance" as it rallied Dominicans in a way that nothing else had. Six months later, Trujillo was assassinated. The Mirabals' story has spread far and wide, thanks to Julia Alvarez's novel, In the Time of the Butterflies.

In honor of the sisters' memory, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Millo Castro Zaldarriaga

Millo was a Chinese-African-Cuban who had an amazing talent and love of drums. However, at the time, girls were not allowed to play the drums in Cuba - especially not in public! But in 1932, when she was only 10 years old, Millo dared to break Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers. Thanks to her courage, Millo paved the way for future generations.

Rigoberta Menchú

Rigoberta is a political activist in Guatemala. She campaigned against the human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country's civil war, which lasted 36 years. While in exile in Mexico, she continued to organize resistance to oppression in Guatemala and the struggle for Indian rights by co-founding the United Republic of Guatemalan Opposition. She has relentlessly sought to have the war criminals in her country tried for their crimes in order to bring peace and justice to her people. She served as presidential goodwill ambassador for the 1996 peace accords and received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in Boston that same year.

One of the founders of the Nobel Women's Initiative, Rigoberta continues to travel around the world and speak in favor of a united effort for peace with justice and equality, especially for women.

USACE photo by Richard Rivera

Sylvia Mendez

The daughter of Mexican and Puerto Rican immigrants, Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist whose family played a crucial role in the Mendez v. Westminster case in 1946. It was the first case for the integration of schools won in California, and paved the way for the desegregation of schools in the United States and civil rights. In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor.


Sophie Cruz

Despite her young age (she was born in 2010) Sophie Cruz is an American activist. Her parents, Raul and Zoyla Cruz, are undocumented immigrants from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. Her fears that her parents could face deportation have made her one of the youngest voices in the American immigration reform movement of 2016–2017. She first received national recognition when she was five years old and she gave Pope Francis a letter during his visit to Washington, D.C. The letter requested his support of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), and indeed, the Pope encouraged Congress during his meeting the next day to for greater openness toward immigrants and refugees. Last year, she was invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. And last month, she was a featured speaker at the Women's March in Washington, D.C., in protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump.

To learn about more Latinas in History with your children or students, check out my downloadable packet!

Or take a look at these children's titles from my Amazon store...

Monday, February 6, 2017

National Geographic Kids: Family Field Guide

Hey, Parents! Did you know that National Geographic Kids has a new e-newsletter out? While most NGK materials are created for children, the Family Field Guide is designed specifically for parents. It gives advice and parenting tips on topics not typically covered by other outlets. So you might, for example, find a quick article on how Star Wars can inspire an interest in STEM in your young explorer...

Or you might read about how your family can help protect the environment, or how to help your kids be culturally aware. Got 5 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Some of the articles are broken down in terms of how much time you may or may not have and then give suggestions for using with your children.

Others are longer to promote ideals shared by National Geographic, such as values, how animals inspire kindness, food and family culture, or fostering family together time through food, etc.

The best part is that the newsletter comes out every other week, so your inbox isn't swamped with emails. I'm really loving it because I get quick ideas to use with my kids.

If you are a nature-loving family you can sign up for the Family Field Guide here!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Reading Comprehension Passages on Famous Afro-Latinos

Did you know that February is Black History Month? Are you looking for materials to share with your students? If so, consider my packet of Reading Comprehension Passages: Afro-Latinos. This packet introduces children to seven Afro-Latinos, including:

  • Celia Cruz
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • Soledad O'Brien
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Martina Arroyo
  • Pelé
  • Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez

The one-page reading passages are designed for advanced readers in grades 3rd - 6th grades. And there are reading comprehension-boosting worksheets that require students to carefully read the text to find the answers. Answer keys are included for busy teachers.

This no-prep packet can be completed in one week or assigned as homework. Students can read the passages, highlight important vocabulary, and make notes.

You can find it here in my TpT store!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Free Download: Spanish Valentine Numbers Game

February is here! And it brings one of my favorite holidays for children: Valentine's Day! What better way to celebrate love and friendship than by giving your family and friends a heartfelt valentine? And this month, MommyMaestra sponsor, Spanish for You! has another great download!

This month's freebie from Spanish for You! is a Spanish Valentine Number Game. 

This printable 2-page activity comes with an audio file for learning proper pronunciation. Your little Spanish learners will learn their numbers while practicing simple addition. The goal is simple; roll the dice and color the hearts. The first player to color in five hearts wins!

Spanish & Bilingual Books for Valentine's Day

(affiliate links)


Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

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!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: Sing 'n Speak Spanish

Good day, Familia! Another great Spanish learning program reached out to me, and asked me take a look at their program. So today's sponsored post is written in partnership with Sing 'n Speak Spanish. Be sure to read all the way through the end for a special deal for homeschooling families!

Name of program: Sing 'n Speak Spanish
Target age: Kindergarten through 8th grade
Amount of materials: Comprehensive
Price: $165-$695 (teacher packages); $4 - $49.95 (support materials)
MommyMaestra Rating: ♥♥♥

The Review

So it's important that you know straight up that I didn't receive one of the complete teacher packages offered by Sing 'n Speak Spanish. Instead, they sent me a sample booklet with information about the curriculum, the Scope and Sequence from year to year, and full double lesson samples from the first five levels, including the corresponding worksheet pages from the workbooks, and a few sample teaching aids.

Sing 'n Speak Spanish has a huge curriculum with 8-9 levels to cover K - 8th grade. Each level covers an entire school year. For example, a Year 1 Teacher Package includes:
  • a teacher manual
  • 2 workbooks
  • 2 music CDs
  • 2 songbooks
  • and a huge array of teaching aids, such as flash cards, game cards, and activity cards. 
The deluxe package weights around 28 pounds and comes with all the teaching aids already cut and laminated. They do offer an economy package that has all the same items, but you have to cut and laminate the teaching aids yourself. Not usually a problem for homeschoolers who may not use them year after year and therefore don't need to laminate them, and teachers who have helpers and their own laminators. 

According to the program features, the program has been in use since 1998 and has been successfully used by many teachers across the country.

I love that the lessons are well organized and easy to use. Here's a sample page of one of their lessons from their year 1 Spanish program...

You can see how you know right up front which materials you're going to need for the lesson, then you can see a quick list of all the vocabulary and phrases/grammar structures you'll be focusing on, and finally which songs/rhymes you'll be using.

The lesson plan itself is all laid out, taking you step by step through the entire class period. I enjoy that you can even find the script for using puppets to engage your young student(s). There is a strong focus on interaction to get children excited about learning. From puppets to songs to games, the lessons are playful but focused.

**NOTE: The program does offer a great set of puppets to go with the skits in the lesson plans. But you can easily substitute them out with puppets you already own. The program says that it uses the puppets to "draw attention, relieve tension, and speed interaction." I think they are a fantastic teaching tool to help draw out children, especially those who may be shy about talking with adults or their classmates.

The lessons include homework assignments. These include crafts and games to play at home, such as making a body parts wheel or mini concentration game cards, as well as simple workbook pages that review concepts and key vocabulary learned in the lesson.

As I read through the Sample Booklet, what jumped out at me was how the lessons progress in complexity. So while Year 1 is focused on basic vocabulary, Year 3 focuses on more complicated concepts such as feelings, pronouns and simple verbs, and Year 5 explores verb conjugation, indirect object pronouns, possessive adjectives and so on.

While parents don't have to be fluent to teach this course, they should have some background in Spanish in order to teach the proper pronunciation to their students.

Overall, this appears to be an excellent program for home or classroom. The comprehensive program makes teaching easy to do with minimal prep work, and it is designed to make learning Spanish fun for children.

Julia Burnier, the director of Sing 'n Speak Spanish, says that most homeschoolers purchase the economy packages, but they often only order workbooks, music CDs, and songbooks because they can't afford to buy the entire package. But she says that either way, the program is effective.

Homeschooler Discount!

Because they are awesome, Sing ' Speak Spanish would like to extend a special pricing just for homeschool parents.

Their Economy Packages retail for $395.00 and include a set of magnetic pockets valued at $45.00 which most homeschool parents do not need. Without the pockets, the Economy Teacher Package retails at $350.00.

We would like to give a special discount to homeschool parents.  For homeschooling parents only, they are willing to sell the Economy Teacher Packages (without the magnetic pockets) for $295.00. Just tell them that you that you heard about it on MommyMaestra when you order!!

Disclosure: I received the sample booklet shown above from Sing 'n Speak Spanish for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Please remember, I don't promote products that I feel are not beneficial to my readers or that are poor quality. My readers always come first. 


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