Thursday, February 25, 2021

Chile's New Observatory

image source: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

While studying articles this week about various space topics, I quite happily learned about the Vera C. Rubin Observatory that has been built on Cerro Pachón in Chile. It is expected to become fully functional by 2022.
This revolutionary observatory is more than just a powerful telescope. The innovative technology includes a "camera (3200 megapixels, the world’s largest digital camera), telescope (simultaneous casting of the primary and tertiary mirrors; two aspherical optical surfaces on one substrate), and data management (20 terabytes of data nightly, nearly instant alerts issued for objects that change in position or brightness)."

This image was taken in Spain, just before the disassembly began in preparation for shipping it to Chile.
Image credit: Asturfeito

Rubin will be able to image the entire visible sky every few nights and the powerful telescope will be able to see farther than most currently on Earth. It is predicted that in its first year, it will see more of the universe than ALL previous telescopes COMBINED.

Cerro Pachón was chosen from 19 other sites (10 in each hemisphere) because of the conditions surrounding the site. The location had to be in a sparsely populated area (to avoid light pollution), at high altitude and in a dry climate (to avoid cloud cover).

Now the best part and the main reason I'm sharing news about Rubin Observatory is that there will be great opportunities for educators and students! They are in the process of developing education materials such as online, data-driven classroom investigations with complete teacher guides for middle schoolers through higher education. The investigations will focus on critical thinking and science literacy techniques. The investigations will be in English AND Spanish.

Educators will also have access to the site so students can explore and analyze data.

I also find it wonderful that this observatory is being named after a womanVera Florence Cooper Rubin was an American astronomer. Rubin was a pioneer who studied the galaxy rotation problem and her work became evidence of the existence of dark matter. Dark matter will be one of the focuses of the Rubin Observatory.

Women's History Month starts on Monday. What a fantastic way to kick it off! Help your students learn about a remarkable woman who changed modern science with her hard work and discoveries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Missing 9th Planet

The Missing 9th Planet
NASA / JPL-Caltech, Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, I happened upon this article from the BBC that talks about a missing 9th planet. I paused when I saw the title - "If Planet Nine exists, why has no one seen it?"  

Because when I was growing up, I was taught that there were nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. 

I know that about 15 years ago, Pluto suddenly got the boot and was demoted to a dwarf planet. So did the article mean ANOTHER planet?

Dwarf Planets

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the official organization that promotes and safeguards the science of astronomy through international cooperation. They are also responsible for assigning official names and designations to celestial bodies. So that means they get to set the parameters or rules of what defines a planet... or any other celestial body.  

They determined that there are four things that classify a dwarf planet:

  1. it orbits the sun, 
  2. it has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, 
  3. it is not a moon, and 
  4. it has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
Pay close attention to the last rule because that is what has kicked Pluto out of its planet status and into that of a dwarf planet. By this definition, five bodies have been labeled dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea.

Lexicon, CC BY-SA 3.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

The thing is, Pluto orbits in the Kuiper Belt which is an area beyond Neptune containing many comets, asteroids, and other small bodies made largely of ice. It's like an asteroid belt, but much, much bigger. And in fact, three of the dwarf planets that have been identified are found in the Kuiper Belt: Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake.

But there's still a lot of debate about Pluto's status because when the New Horizons spacecraft passed by Pluto in 2015, it sent back photos that revealed Pluto has remarkable geographic features, including towering mountains and unique "ice-ridged terrain." So Pluto's status remains a hotly debated topic.

Sedna, Bob3Studios, CC BY-SA 4.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

Another 9th Planet?

Recently, there's been a lot of speculation that there is another 9th planet that has yet to be discovered. This hypothesis is fueled by the unusual orbits of the minor planet Sedna and 18 other objects, all of which appear to be pulled in the same direction. All 19 are tilted on their axis also in the exact same direction. The chances of this happening randomly is pretty unlikely. So scientists continue to hypothesize that there is another planet (or a black hole!) that is affecting these celestial bodies.

Why haven't we seen it?

I couldn't help but wonder, as old as astronomy is, why on earth wouldn't we have discovered this other planet years (or even centuries) ago? It all boils down to distance. 

Sedna and the other objects in question are located in the Oort Cloud in the farthest reaches of our solar system. They are so far away, only one machine is capable of seeing so far into space: the Subaru Telescope found atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii. And the astronomers who are searching for the elusive 9th Planet only get access to it three nights each year, if they're lucky. 
Robert Linsdell from St. Andrews, Canada, CC BY 2.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

Extend the Learning!

Here are some additional resources to learn more about dwarf planets, Pluto, and more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mars Word Search


I was a little inspired by yesterday's post on Mars and so I threw together this little activity. If you need a quick, print-and-go activity to keep your young ones busy, this is a fun page for reviewing the vocabulary associated with Mars.

It is available in full color or black-and-white (for coloring in!), as well as English and Spanish. 

This is a special treat for my blog readers and will be available as a free download for a limited time. And my newsletter subscribers will also receive it in their inbox in the next newsletter. 

I'll go ahead and list it in my TpT shop for everyone else or if you missed it here.

Click here to download


Monday, February 22, 2021

Mars Lesson Plans, Videos, Books, & More


Did you watch the Mars rover landing last week? What a phenomenal accomplishment! As a Texan who has been weathering the storm (pun intended), so many of us needed something positive to read about for a change.

So I'm dedicating this week on MommyMaestra to space. Today, I'm starting with Mars!

This post contains affiliate links.

The landing of Perseverance rover on Mars

For older students:

For younger students:
  • SpacePlace has the latest from NASA for young children.

Lesson Plans about Mars

For older students from TED-Ed:





(The following are affiliate links.)

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Monday, February 15, 2021

President's Day Resources


Happy President's Day!

Personally, I'm really tired of hearing the word president, but I realize this is still an important holiday and one that a lot of homeschoolers and educators need materials for. And as I worked on a new printable featuring the inspirational quotes of past presidents, I was reminded again that despite all of their flaws, we have had leaders who truly strive to help our citizens and our national treasures.

So today is a roundup of great resources available for celebrating and learning about President's Day!

This post contains affiliate links.

Lessons & Lists

For younger students:
For older students:
For a variety of ages:

Printables & Crafts


Check out my recommendations from Amazon. (Affiliate links are used.)

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Friday, February 12, 2021

Lunar New Year: Year of the Ox

© Can Stock Photo / Bluehousestudio

Happy New Year - Lunar New Year, that is! Today, many Asian countries are celebrating the new year which they base on the lunar calendar, so the exact date changes from year to year. It may be celebrated anytime between January 21 to February 20. This year, the holiday falls on February 12th.

For most of those who celebrate, the Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year. In China, for example, families spend a lot of time preparing for its arrival. Families gather together to cook, decorate, and buying small gifts to give each other.

Traditionally, the holiday celebration is spread out over the course of up to 16 days! So food prep is a must. Many people do not even go out until the 5th day of the celebration. 

In addition to spending time with family, there is a strong focus on leaving bad fortune behind and welcoming a new year of good health, prosperity, and happiness. A lot of symbolism surrounds this holiday, such as eating noodles to represent longevity and wearing new clothes because torn or stained clothing is considered unlucky. To attract prosperity, vegetables are cut into coin-like shapes before being eaten.

This year, we are entering the Year of the Ox. What does that mean? The Ox is one of the figures in the Chinese zodiac. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and each year is assigned one of them. Last year was the Year of the Rat and 2019 was the Year of the Pig. People are thought to have certain qualities depending on the animal year in which they are born. And each year brings certain challenges and blessings with it depending on the animal and how it affects your life.

Here is a great video for older students and educators from TED-Ed about the Chinese zodiac:

And here's a fun video for younger children about the story of Nian and the origin of the zodiac:

For great printables that are free to download, check out this post I wrote for Woo! Jr. a few years ago!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2021


Get your bird feeders ready, friends!

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count.  And with frigid temperatures gripping the country, this is the perfect time to attract birds to your backyard while helping them survive the winter weather... AND you can use it as a teachable moment as your family (or children) become citizen scientists!

For years, my family has participated in the GBBC. We started when my kids were little. It was a fabulous way to nurture their fascination with wildlife AND develop their scientific skills. Plus, we loved that we were able to participate in a citizen science project. 

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen Science Projects are projects in which scientific research is done, in whole or in part, by amateur (or nonprofessional) scientists. Sometimes it's described as "public participation in scientific research." Scientists rely on the public and its location world wide or in specific areas to observer and send in raw data that the scientists later analyze and interpret to make future predictions.

Counting birds is SO EASY!

Starting tomorrow, Friday, all you have to do is sign up to count the birds you see at your bird feeders (or you may go to a local park/zoo/outdoor area). You simply record what you see and then submit the information to the GBBC.

The GBBC runs from Friday, February 12th through Monday, February 15th.

How to identify birds

If you are a first-time birdwatcher, you can get the free Merlin ID app for your Apple or Android smartphone to help you ID the birds in your backyard. It easily helps you identify birds through a series of guided questions. The app can now identify 6,000 species found on six continents!

So enjoy the weekend, stay warm, and keep your kids busy bird watching!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Valentine's Day Resources

Valentine's Day is less than a week away! Are you getting ready to celebrate it? 

If you subscribe to the MommyMaestra newsletter, be sure to check your inbox. This month's newsletter went out over the weekend and includes a couple of Valentine's freebies: themed counting mats for little learners and bookmarks for older readers. 

If you're looking for additional materials, check out my printable activity packs below. And here are some other awesome ways to celebrate the holiday!

Recipes for kids

Games for Spanish Learners

MommyMaestra sponsor Spanish for You! has shared a lot of games to boost vocabulary related to Valentine's day. Check out the following freebies:


PreK Activity Pack (PreK - 1st)

There are 15 pages total with activities that focus on the following concepts and skills: counting, spot the difference, puzzles, vocabulary, math, sequencing, tracing, maze, featured letter, beginning letter, sounds, and writing papers.

Book of Words (PreK - 2nd)

Introduce your young students to the vocabulary associated with Valentine's Day. This little booklet lets them color in the picture, then read and write the words.

Storybook (PreK - 2nd)

Boost your child's vocabulary and reading skills with this Valentine's Day storybook. This story lists things that children often enjoy on this holiday, so the student will enjoy coloring while learning the words for "balloons/globos," "candy/dulces," "hugs/abrazos" and more.

Teach your students about famous couples in world history with this growing set of reading passages and comprehension questions. This file currently features five couples who impacted world history.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Famous Couples in History & TpT Sale

 Famous Couples in History: Reading Passages

Time for an update on printable education materials!

Famous Couples in History: A Growing Set

With Valentine's Day coming up I was inspired to start a set of reading passages that features famous couples in history. Each couple comes with a one-page reading passage and a comprehension question quiz. Answer keys are included.

This set currently features five couples:

  • Cleopatra & Marc Antony
  • Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera
  • Coretta Scott & Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Queen Isabella I & King Ferdinand II
  • Jacqueline Bouvier & John F. Kennedy
This is a growing set and more couples will be added in the coming months. 

All of the pages are available in English and Spanish. 

The TpT Sale

The TpT sale starts TOMORROW

Take advantage of these sales when TpT has them. Go through your wish lists and stock up for the coming month or two. Think ahead to what your teaching subjects will be. Off the top of my head, I think of 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Free Download: Valentine Bingo Activity in Spanish

Are you getting ready for Valentine's Day? MommyMaestra sponsor, Spanish for You!, is here to help! Why not incorporate some Spanish-learning into your Valentine's celebrations? 

This month's freebie focuses on words associated with this holiday all about love and friendship. The 4-page download includes picture cards, activity sheets, and instructions to help your young Spanish learner master the new vocabulary. It comes with an audio file which is great for those of you who may not speak Spanish yourself, but are raising bilingual children.

Click here to download this file

Bilingual & Spanish Books About Love!

(The following links are affiliate links.)

Find more Spanish for You! resources!

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!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Bardsy Creative Writing Program

The following is a sponsored post in collaboration with Bardsy Homeschool and MommyMaestra. All opinions are my own.

Creative writing. It's one of those subjects that homeschool parents either love to teach...or don't. The latter is because many parents aren't comfortable teaching the subject or just don't know where to begin. Fortunately, Bardsy Homeschool is here to help!

Some wonder why creative writing is even necessary. But there are numerous benefits to developing your skill for creative writing! It's not just about literacy. Creative writing improves your child's grades in other subjects, too, such as math and science. Sounds crazy? Read more about it and the other benefits on Bardsy's website.

Quick Overview

ProgramBardsy Homeschool
Religious Perspective: Secular
Format: Online - (Self-Paced) Recorded
Grades: 5 and higher
Price: $8.99/month

Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Flexibility. That's the word that I would use to describe this awesome creative writing program for students. Really, I think it is a young writer's dream program because there are so many tools and more than one way to use the program in a homeschool creative writing course.

Once you've signed up for Bardsy, you just login on their home page and are then taken to your dashboard (see above). Here, you'll find everything laid out for you in a nicely organized manner. There are three main sections to the dashboard:

  1. Writing
  2. Courses
  3. Inspiration
Each section has three tools for your child to use. 

If you have a prolific writer in your home, they can jump right in and begin their next great story by going to "New Story" in the "Writing" section. There they'll find a simple writing editor that allows them focus completely on their new story. There's no fluff here. Just a basic writing program similar to Word. 

If they need to take a break and come back the next day, they can then click on "Latest Story" in order to pick up where they left off. Or maybe your kid writes several stories at a time because their head is so full of ideas! 

But really, the best tool in the "Writing" section is the "PROSPERO Story Wizard" that guides your child through the steps of creating a new story. Your student can click on the elements he wants to work on and then develop them before sending all of the information to the story editor. 

If you are looking for lessons, instead, then the section on "Courses" is what you'll need. These classes are set up more like a class and involve your child watching a short video about a specific topic related to writing, and then has them complete specific activities to create their own story. For example, as you can see from the image above, the "Writing Warmup" course has a story map that guides your child through the process from start to finish.

The final section - "Inspiration" - is a collection of tools, such as printable graphic organizers and videos, to help your student in the creation process. 

But perhaps my favorite part of this section is the "Story Spinner" which provides your child with a set of writing prompts by listing a character, a world, and a theme about which your child must then write a story. My oldest child, who is 16 and the story writer in our family, actually thinks this is absolutely brilliant.


The dashboard also has a Google Books search engine that allows your child to search for a particular title. Then they can purchase it or read excerpts, if they are available. Many books are actually available for free on Google Books. And then - this is the really awesome part - they can write down notes about the book AND/OR write a review of the book. They can also add titles to their wish list.

Also, if your child is serious about writing, the "Hot Tray" link at the top will take them to their personal "desk" where they can find places to write down Notes, a To Do list, write a Journal entry, or quickly pull up a calendar. 

Students can also personalize their account by clicking the "My Stuff" link at the top of the page.

Can you believe that you get access to all of this for only 8.99 a month!?!

If this sounds like the program you've been looking for to help your young writers develop their skills, visit their site today to sign up!

Free Downloadable Character Development Toolkit

Bardsy has SO MANY tools for your family to use as they plunge into creative writing... and one of those is FREE! The downloadable Character Development Toolkit is a mini course that guides your child through the process of creating super characters for their stories. Their multimedia approach and graphic style make the experience super fun. 

I do think that my favorite part of it is the list of printable character archetypes, which come with descriptions. But my 14 yo loves the video. Lots of goodness here for you to access!

I love how overall, the program breaks down all of the parts of writing an amazing story into manageable step-by-step activities. The online format is engaging for kids and makes the process more enjoyable. And the self-paced format is great for taking the stress out of writing - especially with reluctant writers.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Prejudice or Racism? Understanding the Difference


When Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was in 5th grade, his teacher told him that black people had no history, nor heroes, nor any achievements. That moment stayed with him his entire life and is perhaps why he dedicated his life to researching and collecting literature, art, and artifacts related to Africans and the African diaspora.

"Cancel culture" is a term thrown about a lot lately. Although it mainly refers to ostracism on social media or other social circles, cancel culture actually goes back hundreds of years and has existed since the birth of the United States. Traditionally, the history and stories of people of color have been left out of history textbooks and lesson plans. 

This doesn't just affect the perspectives of whites toward people of color, but also how marginalized groups - specifically children - feel about themselves. Studies by researchers at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill have shown that "Latino adolescents in the U.S. who maintain ties to their culture of origin are more likely to develop healthy behaviors than their peers who do not. Latino adolescents with strong awareness of their family’s culture reported higher self esteem, fewer social problems and less hopelessness, aggression, and substance abuse." 

This is certainly true for children of any race or culture. 

American author Ray Bradbury once said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." 

And one way to stop people from reading about different cultures is by not publishing books about them or limiting access to them. (In today's society, it's also about not sharing stories online.)

What's the difference between prejudice and racism?

What is the end result of erasing or omitting information about a race or culture? Prejudice and racism. But what's the difference between the two?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of prejudice is "a feeling of unfair dislike directed against an individual or a group because of some characteristic (as race or religion)"

Racism, on the other hand, is defined as "prejudice PLUS power." It's the actual ACT of marginalizing or oppressing people based on prejudice. And most social justice organizations attribute racism to one group of people who control social norms and policy.

Diversity in Children's Books: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19)

3 Ways to fight prejudice and racism at home

Schomburg once said, "Pride of race is the antidote to racism." 

What do you think that means? Why did he say that? Well, we only give antidotes to victims. And if you've been the victim of racism, which leaves you feeling poisoned and "less than" - you need a treatment or antidote to help you recover. Pride of race (or culture) - as I mentioned above - helps to rebuild your self-confidence and your pride in who you are and where you came from.

So it's up to parents and educators to put a stop to the nonsense. There are many actions we can take. In fact, I wrote about 15 ways to raise non-racist children back in 2016. But today, I've chosen three immediate ways to do so at home with children...

First, we need to actively seek out those books, videos, websites, lesson plans, and more that share the stories of ALL people, but especially people of color and marginalized groups. Then we need to teach them to our children. While it is important for our kids to read about Latinos in history, it's also important for them to read about Blacks, Asians, and Indigenous people. They should learn about the contributions of Jews, Muslims, and others.

As homeschoolers, we are in an excellent situation because we are not bound by the rules or limitations of a school district or curriculum. World Cultures or Ethnic Studies or Heritage Studies are subjects that we can easily add to our curricula.

Second, we need to purchase, promote, and otherwise support the publishers and companies that are publishing these stories. Most books, for example, about the Latino experience are published by small independent publishers or small imprints. We need these companies to stay open, grow, and invest in the history and stories of people of color. 

And third, we need to encourage our children to write their stories and the stories of their families. According to an inventory made two years ago by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, only 5% of the children's books published each year are by or about Latinos (see image above). That needs to change. So let's get our kids writing. And inspire them by writing down your family's history yourself!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Online Flamenco Dance Classes for Kids

Online Flamenco Dance Classes for Kids

The following post is in collaboration with Mr. D Math. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I'm pretty excited to share today's new resource! 

After I graduated from college, I spent time traveling abroad. One of my stops was in Spain where I spent months with my family in Sevilla. While I was there, I took flamenco lessons and it was fabulous. But they were over before I could learn as much as I wanted. 

Still, the experience was just wonderful and flamenco remains close to my heart. In fact, I have a post dedicated to flamenco lesson plans, crafts, videos, books, and more here. 

So when I discovered that there is a self-paced flamenco class available online for students, I was crazy delighted to test it out and see if it was a good fit for MommyMaestra readers. It TOTALLY is!

It's a little confusing because the lessons are housed on the Mr. D Math website. But this site isn't just about math classes (although there are a LOT of great ones!) - it also has dance, music, sports, sign language, and more. The company is based in Spain, so it's no surprise that flamenco dance and guitar classes are included!

Quick Overview

Program: Mr. D Math Flamenco Dance
Religious Perspective: Secular
Format: (Self-Paced) Recorded
Grades: 5 and higher
Price: $97

Self-Paced Flamenco Lessons

I love that these classes are recorded and that students can follow along at their own pace. When you register for a class, you'll gain access to your own student dashboard. From there, you can click on your class and begin lesson 1. 

The flamenco dance lessons are taught by the remarkable Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer, Marta Fernández. She's a fantastic teacher. Super personable, she shares her own story with the student and then launches into the lessons.

Each lesson has several short videos that focus on a different aspect of the dance. And then there is assigned homework. For example in lesson 1, students are asked to investigate the different palos of flamenco. (Palos are the traditional musical forms of the dance.) And then they are assigned to practice the foot and hand movements they were shown in the video for a specific amount of time.

There are 10 lessons in total. The first also discusses what equipment you need (flamenco shoes) and includes links on where to purchase them in the U. S. (Alternatives are mentioned.)

Then you will be taught beginning footwork, hand movements, and body posturing. You'll also learn specific terminology such as zapateados, marcaje, and more. Marta gives instructions for both male and female students as they sometimes have different movements, hand positions, etc.

Marta demonstrates all of the dance moves herself in the videos. And she does them slowly for you to see and replicate. You can then practice them over and over to get comfortable and faster. 

By the end, you will have learned all the elements necessary to perform the choreography for basic tangos. And they encourage you to film yourself and submit your performance directly to Marta - but it's not required. 

These lessons are in English

Although Marta teaches the lessons in Spanish, these classes are designed for English-speaking students and the lessons have subtitles or are dubbed over in some sections.

I realize that there are many of you who are looking for a Spanish-immersive experience. So if this sounds like something your child would enjoy doing, I encourage you to reach out to the company and ask them if they have any plans to offer Marta's classes without dubbing or subtitles.

The BEST part!

As a homeschooling family with one income in the middle of COVID, I'm not able to send my kid(s) to Spain to study flamenco. I'm guessing that the majority of you can relate. So the fact that I can have my kids do these self-paced lessons online for only $97 (that's less than $10 per lesson!) from an actual professional flamenco dancer and choreographer who has lived and breathed it her whole life - that's UNBELIEVABLE! What an incredible opportunity this is. It's like having private lessons in your own home from an actual artist and expert in the field.

Homeschoolers, this should also count as a P.E. credit! Seriously, it's win-win all around.

If this sounds like something that would be perfect for your family, go and sign up for a class today.

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