Monday, June 29, 2020

Summer Reading Book Packs Available

Like so many others, I've been cleaning the house during our self-imposed quarantine. It's allowing me time to reorganize and purge in preparation for the next school year.

And while I was cleaning the bookshelves next to my desk, I realized that I have accrued a LOT of books to review for MommyMaestra or other sites over the years. Most of them are like new. And I did buy specific titles to sell in my online shop simply because I enjoy them and think they're great for kids.

So instead of hauling them off to my local used bookstore or selling them on Amazon, I thought that I would give MommyMaestra readers first pick. I have clumped them into packs. I will not sell individual books. I honestly don't have time to make a million trips to the post office to mail them. So I have put some of the ones from my shelves into summer reading packs that are grouped by reading age.

If you are interested, click on the link for each pack.

Enjoy the summer reading! (Or use them next school year?)

Summer Reading Pack #1

For preschool & early elementary

Includes the following books:

  1. The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote by Tony Johnston, illust. by Tomie dePaola
  2. The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucía González, illust. by Lulu Delacre
  3. Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers, illust by Julie Maren
  4. The Park Our Town Built / El parque que nuestro pueblo construyó by Diane Gonzalez Bertrand
  5. Oh No, Gotta Go! by Susan Middleton Elya, illust. by G. Brian Karas (not shown)

Summer Reading Pack #2

For kids ages 8 - 12

Includes the following books:

  1. From Farmworker to Astronaut/De campesino a astronauta by José M. Hernández (Bilingual)
  2. The Shameless Shenanigans of Mister Malo/Las terríbles travesuras de Mister Malo by Alidis Vicente (Bilingual)
  3. The Taco Magician and Other Poems for Kids/El mago de los tacos y otros poemas para niños by Diane Gonzalez Bertrand (Bilingual)
  4. Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Witch Owl/Vincent Ventura y el misterio de la bruja lechuza by Xavier Garza (Bilingual)
  5. Ghost Fever/Mal de fantasma by Joe Hayes (Bilingual)
  6. Hammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski (English only)

Summer Reading Pack #3

For TEENS or YOUNG ADULTS (or ADULTS!) only. These two books are in SPANISH ONLY. They're hardbacks that are harder to find in bookstores.

This pack features two Spanish titles by the wonderful Isabel Allende:

  1. El bosque de los pigmeos
  2. El reino del dragón de oro

Summer Reading Pack #4

For teens and young adults.

Includes the following books:

  1. Drawn to You by Janel Rodriguez Ferrer
  2. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
  3. All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
  4. Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Summer Reading Pack #5

For teens and young adults.

These contain adult themes, so keep that in mind. Includes the following books:

  1. On the Other Side by Ray Villareal
  2. Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez
  3. Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Thursday, June 25, 2020

It's National Pollinator Week!

© Can Stock Photo - artjazz

National Pollinator Week? What's that?

This week, all across the U.S., states are celebrating National Pollinator Week. This is the time for celebrating these remarkable creatures by creating friendly outdoor environments for them and spreading the word about the important role they play.

2020 has been THE year of the garden. Everyone I know seems to be growing their own vegetables or spending more time landscaping their yards thanks to the pandemic and (self) quarantine. We are no exception, though we typically garden throughout the year. So a lot of people are looking at making their gardens pollinator friendly... for the benefit of their gardens.

Pollinators help plants reproduce by transferring pollen between flowers and sometimes between plants. Pollen is produced by the male parts of a flower. When it transfers to the female part of a plant, fertilization happens and seeds are produced. For those of us growing vegetable gardens, this results in beautiful fruits and vegetables.

There are many types of pollinators, but the most common ones are bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats. (Honey bees alone are an essential part of our commercial crops. They're responsible for more than 15 billion dollars worth of fruits, nuts, and vegetables!)

Plants go to a lot of effort to attract pollinators. They produce flowers of different shapes, colors, and fragrances. For example, long tubular red and purple flowers are preferred by hummingbirds who use their long bills to drink the nectar deep inside.

Ah, the nectar! That's the plant's most precious lure and reward for pollinators who cannot resist the sweet liquid.

Some pollinators are very specialized. The squash bee, for instance, only feeds on squash, pumpkin, and gourd flowers.

But pollinators, in general, are endangered. Pesticides, especially, have had a harmful effect on pollinator populations.

Which is why we celebrate National Pollinator Week.

And as part of my way of celebrating, I've created a printable information sheet and coloring page that the kids can color while learning which type of flowers attract different pollinators. Click here to download them.

And don't forget that I have a free board game you can download and print, too. It's a sample activity from my larger Bees of the World Packet.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Homeschooling vs. Distance Learning: What's the Difference?

I can't tell you how many times I saw people complaining on Facebook toward the end of the school year about how much they hated homeschooling. But upon further reading, they talked about how stressful the zoom meetings were or how they didn't understand what the teacher was expecting or couldn't figure out the assignments.

This isn't homeschooling. It's distance learning. And the two are VERY different.

Distance learning is any form of remote learning where the student is not present at school but is being taught through communication with the school/teacher. Correspondence courses are a typical form of distance learning. They typically grade the assignments and keep track of all their grades.

Homeschooling is when a parent or other caregiver is physically present in the home and actively teaching the student. It is HOME education and the biggest difference is that the caregiver (usually a parent) is the primary educator.

Oh, sure, homeschoolers can take online courses or even attend classes outside the home (in a co-op, or at a museum/zoo/gallery, etc.). In fact, most homeschoolers have very active schedules outside the home. For example, last year, in addition to his school work at home, my homeschooled 14 yo had Civil Air Patrol meetings on Tuesday nights, taekwondo classes on Wednesday mornings, and we attended a homeschool co-op on Fridays where he took Texas History, World Geography, Drawing, and Spanish. When it was closed because of COVID, he finished the first two classes on Zoom.

But the difference is that I remained his primary teacher, overseeing all of his classes, teaching the majority, making sure that he completed assignments for all of his classes, and keeping track of all his grades. His main schooling was done at home.

Many of you are thinking about keeping your kids home this fall. And you are thinking about how your kids are going to learn.

If you enroll your child in an online program (a public school course that teaches everything), then you'll be doing distance learning.

If you yourself, buy a curriculum that you will teach or help teach and you are keeping track of your child's assignments and grades, then you will be homeschooling.

To be clear, even if you have a high schooler, who can pretty much do most of the work on their own, you'll still be homeschooling if you are keeping track of grades and assignments and oversee their transcript (even if you have someone else put it together).

I hope this clears everything up!

Friday, June 19, 2020

3 Things to Do to Start Homeschooling

© Can Stock Photo / jolopes

It's time to talk about beginning homeschool. So many people are looking ahead to the fall and realizing that given the current state of things with the pandemic, there's a good chance that schools may not reopen and many don't feel safe sending their child to school.

If this sounds like you, then it is time to start preparing to homeschool. Here are the steps that I recommend you take to get started.

This post may contain affiliate links.

1) Research

Once you have decided to take the leap and homeschool your kid(s), then the first thing you need to do is a little research so that you can make some decisions. 

The most important thing to do first, is find out what the laws are in your state regarding homeschooling.

Buy my book

My newly revised and updated book, The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling, is FULL of information on homeschooling. You can find everything quickly at your fingertips. 

Or, if you have the time to do a LOT of searching on, you can find many of the chapters from my book in blog posts. Here's a list of the posts I wrote right after I started MommyMaestra. These all reflect the things I thought about or learned when we were starting. And there are also some posts from guests who contributed their perspective and tips for navigating homeschool as Latino parents.

So if you are thinking about homeschooling your child, these are all good posts to read to prepare yourself. 

2) Decide on a Homeschool Method

Or a combination of methods. Don't worry. It isn't set in stone. You may discover that what you thought you would enjoy most isn't actually what works best for you and/or your child. But we all have to start somewhere, no? So carefully review my post with a brief description of homeschooling methods. Think about what your child enjoys and see if you can find one that appeals to you. You might even ask your kids what they think and include them in the decision.

3) Look for a Curriculum

Honestly, THE BEST ADVICE I got when I first started was to get a complete curriculum. I can't remember if I bought one gently used on eBay or if a homeschooling friend lent me theirs after they were done. But either way, this absolutely 100% helped ME understand my child better and made teaching so much easier. I learned what was a realistic amount of time was for my child to spend on any one subject - it was WAY shorter than what I was trying to make her do! I also learned how to teach and what to teach. 

If you pick a particular homeschool method, you can easily Google it plus the word curriculum. The one thing I want to recommend is that you ALWAYS download the sample pages that the program offers so that you can see what it is like before you buy it. Even if you buy it on eBay, go first to the publisher's website and download the samples.

For a complete curriculum, here are some of the more popular ones with curricula for PreK - 12th grade:

Again, these complete NEW curricula can be very expensive. But homeschoolers often take good care of their curricula so that they can resell it as soon as they are done. So look for gently used ones available on eBay or also on Facebook homeschool buy/sell/trade groups.

4) Familiarize Yourself

I know. I know. I said three things. I'm sneaking in a fourth, but really it could be part of #3. 

This is actually just a reminder. After you've purchased your first curriculum and received it in the mail, go ahead and open it and look through it yourself BEFORE you start teaching. Don't be surprised. Read through the first few lessons in their entirety so you can get an idea of what will be happening.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Taking Time for Your Kid's Mental Health

Creative Commons / Kristina Alexanderson - Flickr

Hey, Friends. 

Normally, every year about this time, I'm raving about avoiding the summer slide and sneaking in a bunch of learning with your kids.

But I'm not doing that just yet this year because I honestly have not been doing that with my kids. This year has been rough on all of us and I think our kids need a break. They need time to just be with you without pressure or stress. I know, I know... easier said than done. But I do think it is critical for us to spend a few weeks focusing on our kids' emotional health. 

In fact, I feel this is so important that I wrote about it for PBS SoCal. Hop over there and read about the different ways that you can focus on their mental health by helping them let their worries go and feel a sense of security.

Anxiety manifests itself differently in children. They complain about their stomach. Or they have "bad attitudes." Or if they are younger, they start crying or whining a lot more than usual. If your kids seem mad or difficult or argumentative, maybe that's their way of asking for help. They need reassurance from us. They need to know things are going to be okay. Even if you think they won't be, you need to provide that sense of love and security that your kids need from you.

So don't worry about what they're learning - or forgetting! - right now. Focus on comforting and creating as peaceful a home environment as you can. Help them learn to face difficult times and survive the storm without sacrificing their emotional well-being.

I'll be providing resources soon for summer learning. But before you worry about that, take care of this.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Brenda's Story on Homeschooling

Friends, a MM follower on Facebook reached out the other day to share her featured video on Education Today. I wanted to share it with all of you here today because for those of you who are on the fence about homeschooling your children, this may be the encouragement you need.

Brenda's story is in Spanish. Feel free to share it with your Spanish-speaking friends! She's a great example of how and why more Latinos are homeschooling their kids.

¡Gracias, Brenda!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Preschool at Home: A Guide for Caregivers

Every year, I get a few emails from people wanting to preschool their children at home and asking how to do it. But 2020 has forever changed the way parents look at education and I have so many asking for guidance. Some want to keep their preschoolers at home this fall just to be on the safe side, while others aren't even sure if the schools will open at the end of summer. I've even had a message from a grandmother who was going to be preschooling her grandchild. I can't tell you how much I loved that.

This post contains affiliate links.

So I decided that what was needed was for me to put all my posts and advice together, update them,  add printable tools (planners, checklists, and more), and put them in a simple guide that parents can purchase and have at their fingertips for referencing and making notes.

So I'm happy to announce my latest book, "Preschool at Home: A Guide for Caregivers."

And, really, this is a simple guide. It only has 52 pages. And that's because preschool shouldn't be hard. It should be fun and educational. It doesn't take all day; an hour or two, three times a week is sufficient. (You can do more or less!) Basically, this guide lists the important skills and concepts that you should be teaching your preschooler to prepare them for kindergarten...and for life!

Inside this guide, you'll learn:
  • why preschool is so important, 
  • its lifelong benefits,
  • the pros and cons of buying a curriculum,
  • what exactly your preschooler should be learning,
  • everyday activities that teach your preschooler,
  • books, toys, and online resources,
  • how to plan your lessons,
  • a special section for families wanting to preschool in Spanish,
  • reproducible planners, checklists, and more.
I should make it clear that this is NOT a curriculum. There are no day-to-day lesson plans. But there is information and examples on how to make your own and how to plan out your week/year. And there are planning pages for you to copy and use.

If you've purchased my book, The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling, then a lot of this information is already in it (minus the reproducibles). 

If you would prefer to have the planner pages (includes pages for Montessori method) and other printables in a PDF form, just email me a receipt of your purchase and I'll send you a file.

That's it! If you - or someone you know - are planning to homeschool your preschooler and are looking for a little help getting started, check out this book! I think it will help you.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Download: Racial Justice & Equity Glossary Packet

One of the ways that I deal with difficult situations is by letting my creative side work to produce something that I hope will help parents and children. 

With so much happening and all the social media and news outlets focused on the current situation, there are a lot of words being put out there that kids don't understand. So I started going through articles and social media posts and writing down those words that kids (and adults!) may not be familiar with. I did this for myself, too. I had no idea what redlining, allyship, or microaggression meant. 

So with the help of some friends, I put together this vocabulary list and then put them all into a glossary. I'm sure that there are many words I've missed, but this is still a great start for helping tweens and teens understand all the terminology being used. 

Racial Justice and Equity Glossary and Poster Set

This download dives deep into the terms associated with social and racial justice. But it also has activities to help students learn and apply these words correctly. The packet includes the following:

  • poster (full-color & black-and-white) featuring key terminology
  • 55 words or phrases plus their definitions
  • write the definition worksheets (plus answer key)
  • discussion questions
  • research and write worksheet
  • a list of types of ways to protest
  • a list of famous protesters
  • and blank writing pages.

You can download it on TPT.

I hope you find it helpful for talking with your kids about what is happening in our country.


Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Free Download: Spanish Alphabet Learning Activities

Is learning Spanish on your list of summer activities to keep your kids busy? If so, make sure you look back at all the excellent free downloads from MommyMaestra sponsor, Spanish for You! Their program is designed to help your kids learn Spanish even if you can't speak it yourself. 

This month's freebie is all about learning the alphabet. The four-page file includes an instruction page (with a discount code for future orders!). A letter worksheet, pronunciation guide, and activity sheet. There's also an audio file to help with pronunciation.

Remember! 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!


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