Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Audible Gift Memberships

When I'm looking for bilingual gifts to give this holiday season, I ask the members of my Hispanic & Bilingual Homeschoolers Facebook group for advice. This year, I asked them what they thought about Audible and their response was SOO positive! Why? Because Audible has a section called Audible Latino that features thousands of books in Spanish or by Latino authors. So giving Audible Gift Memberships sounds like a great option for families and friends. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Spanish and Bilingual Audiobooks

Audible's Spanish-language book section includes tons of children's books. And they aren't just lousy Spanish translations of English books. Many of them are originally written in Spanish. 

For example, some of the titles that jumped out at me are:
  • Esperanza renace by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Cuentos para entender el mundo by Eloy Moreno
  • Devolver al Remitente by Julia Alvarez
  • La Edad de Oro by José Martí
  • Cuentos de la Selva by Horacio Quiroga
  • El Quijote Contado A Los Niños by Rosa Navarro Durán

Native Spanish Speakers as Narrators

It's always great when the narrators are native Spanish speakers. You might enjoy this interview with Puerto Rican actor, Carlos Ponce, who is the narrator for the Harry Potter series in Spanish. The Spanish audiobook series is exceptionally well done.

A Valuable Tool for Bilingual Homeschoolers

Several of the homeschooling members of our Facebook group enjoy Audible and find it to be an invaluable tool in their bilingual homeschooling. For example, these audiobooks can be listened to during car rides, in waiting rooms, before bed, or as part of daily lessons. 

Not only does it help tune a child's ear to Spanish language, but it's a great way to teach Spanish or introduce new vocabulary. And it is a way to supplement or ensure regular exposure the language.

Audible Gift Membership Options

The excellent part is that gift memberships are available in 1, 3, 6 and 12-month membership options. This is great if you are on a budget but still want to give your family and friends something meaningful. And then they can decide if they love it and want to continue their membership throughout the year. 

AND Amazon will send your gift recipient an email on the day you choose along with redemption instructions, or allow you to print and give it directly based on the option you select.

If you're ready to purchase gift memberships for your loved ones, then head over to Amazon to select the Audible Gift Membership option that best works for you!

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Monday, November 14, 2022

7 Alphabet Learning Toys

It's the time of year when I shift my attention to gift buying in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. I start thinking about what my kids want and what they need. And where they're concerned, I'm always thinking about fun educational products that will help them learn and grow. Over the past year, I have focused on alphabet toys for preschoolers and kindergartners to help my youngest. And I wanted to share some of the ones that we've used, and a few others that I think would be great tools in a child's pre-literacy journey.

Educational Insights and Learning Resources are my two go-to brands for this type of resource. They have so many excellent educational toys to help teach and reinforce basic skills. But there are a few other smaller, but wonderful companies creating learning magic. I've tried to list the resources below in order of complexity, beginning with uppercase letter recognition and ending with beginning sounds.

The following post contains affiliate links.

Peaceable Kingdom Alphabet Bingo!

Alphabet Bingo

We began with this game and still play it today, even though my son knows his alphabet letters. This bingo game comes with six double-sided game boards, a bunch of counters, and 26 letter tokens with the capital on one side and an image on the other. Each image begins with the letter on the other side of the token. 

When we first started playing this game, my son always wanted to look for the picture which was easier, but I would always say the letter out loud instead of the name of the image. Or I would say, "R for rocket," emphasizing the r sound at the beginning of the word. This is a great first game for alphabet recognition.

This game is from Peaceable Kingdom.

Frida's Fruit Fiesta Alphabet Game

Frida's Fruit Fiesta Alphabet Game

This is, hands down, my favorite alphabet toy. Technically, it's a 2- (or more) player game. But it's one that even I don't mind playing regularly with my 5 year old. He's old enough now to recognize all the letters, but we still play the game because it's fun and a good way to reinforce his letter recognition.

This game comes with four player boards, three (connected) spinners, 26 game pieces (fruit bowls with a letter), and Frida (a toucan-shaped tweezer tool). Instructions are also included, of course. 

The objective of the game is to get four in a row on your player board in a manner similar to bingo (left-right, up-down, or diagonally). You spin all three spinners and choose the letter of the alphabet you want to place on your player board. Then your child uses Frida to "collect" the fruit bowl that has the letter in question.

It's super fun for littles and great for helping them identify upper case letters. The only thing I would change about this game would be to add lowercase letters as well.

This game is by Educational Insights.

Alphabet Learning Locks

Alphabet Learning Locks

This is another great toy that we have. I noticed a long time ago that my son was fascinated by keys and locks. So whoever invented this was pretty brilliant. Kids have to find the right key to unlock the padlock - and the "key" is that they have to match the upper- and lowercase letters! 

This is a really fun toy set by Dinhon.

Alphabet Acorns Activity Se

Alphabet Acorns Activity Set

I bought this set a few years ago for my son and he still plays with them. Alphabet Acorns comes with 78 pieces: 26 acorn bases, 26 acorn "caps" and 26 color-coded counters/figures. 

Each acorn has a capital letter displayed on the front, it's lowercase partner on the inside of the lid, and a surprise hidden inside that begins with the letter on the acorn. What a great way to help teach the alphabet! I really highly recommend this set. 

But parents be warned: It can be a challenge to keep up with the small figures inside the acorns if you don't keep an eye on your child while they are playing with the set.

This set is by Learning Resources.

ABC Cookies

ABC Cookies

This set is also on my list to purchase because it is the next level up. ABC Cookies comes with four different games that you can play to learn different concepts: 

  • letter recognition
  • upper and lowercase matching
  • letter sequencing
  • beginning sounds
Letter sequencing is, I think, often overlooked especially in homeschooling. So I really like this set from Learning Resources.

Learning Resources Smart Snacks Alpha Pops

Alpha Pops

The focus of this set is to learn upper and lowercase letters. It comes with 26 double-sided pops, that are also color coded to help children learn which letters go together. All the popsicles will connect with each other, so they may also be used to build simple two-letter words, such as "go," "at," "me," etc.

This set is also by Learning Resources.

Alphabet Island

I haven't actually bought Alphabet Island, but it is on my list of games to get this year. It caught my eye because players are required to match upper and lowercase letters or beginning sounds with the corresponding pictures. My 5 yo definitely loves playing games, so this is high on my list this year for Christmas. And it's a treasure hunt theme, which I know he will enjoy. 

This game is by Learning Resources.

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Saturday, November 5, 2022

New Bilingual Explore with Animals Series for PreK

New Bilingual Explore with Animals Series for PreK

The following is a sponsored book post with NicaGal.com. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

One of the most frequent requests I get is for elementary teaching materials in Spanish. So many parents  are looking for the materials that will support their children's bilingualism, especially those starting their homeschool journey. Today's post highlights the new bilingual Explore with Animals series from NicaGal.com.

Several years ago, there was the most excellent Spanish-language magazine available for children ages 8 to 12 called Iguana Magazine. The force behind that magazine was the talented Christianne Meneses Jacobs. She created that wonderful resource from scratch and eventually it was purchased by Cricket Magazines. (That's a story for another day.)

Since then, Christianne has been developing her NicaGal line which includes her podcast, Latino Book Chat, and now her bilingual book series for preschoolers.

Bilingual Preschool Skills Books

There is a list of fundamental skills and specific concepts that every preschooler should learn before entering kindergarten. Among these concepts are the ability to recognize numbers 1 through 10 or higher and to identify colors. Many preschoolers also begin learning alphabet recognition in preparation for learning to read in kindergarten. 

NicaGal's new bilingual and Spanish animal-themed books focus on these three concepts and are a wonderful addition to any home library. 

Bilingual & Spanish Book of Colors

Los colores / Colors by Christianne Meneses Jacobs

These books are absolutely fabulous. Los colores / Colors includes vibrant images that really help to teach young children their colors. And using animals is a great way to engage preschoolers who are fascinated by them. I love the simplicity and focus of the text which directs children to learn.

Parents and children can ask each other additional questions about the images, or point out things that they notice or like. In addition, the back of the book includes a few ideas for easy activities that parents can do with their children that reinforces color recognition. 

This book is available in a bilingual format (shown above), as well as Spanish-only. 

Spanish or English Book of Numbers

123 Animals by Christianne Meneses Jacobs

123 Animales or 123 Animals is another sweet counting book that helps children learn numbers 1 though 20. Again, they are colorful and simple with two opportunities for children to count: on one page, count the shapes under the text box, and on the other page count the animals. 

This book is available in two formats: English-only and Spanish-only.

Spanish Alphabet Book

ABC Animales por Christianne Meneses Jacobs

And finally, the book ABC Animales, is a fun way to learn the alphabet. Each letter is associated with a type of animal and includes text with a brief description of the animal and some interesting facts about it.  Again, great pictures and a section at the back for additional activities. This particular abecedario is only available in Spanish. 

If you have a bilingual elementary student who is learning many of these concepts or needs some materials to reinforce their learning, consider adding this series from NicaGal to your child's lessons. 

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Friday, November 4, 2022

Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason Way

I hope you enjoy this post in a series on homeschool methods. Each post is written by bilingual and/or Latina moms who have chosen a particular style in which to homeschool their children. If you are new to homeschooling and are looking to find the right teaching/learning path for your family, perhaps this post on homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way will appeal to you. For a look at other teaching styles, take a look a my Brief Description of Homeschooling Methods, or scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to the other posts in this series.

The following is a guest post by Lauren Stengele, a bilingual homeschooling mom. She shares her journey on BilingualTogether.comThis post contains affiliate links.

The Charlotte Mason Method

Although I have been homeschooling for seven years now, I have come slowly into the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. I was introduced to her sometime in our second year of homeschool, and dismissed her whole philosophy as “just reading books and looking at nature.”

In Vital Harmony by Karen Glass

However, the following year, I picked up Karen Glass’ book, In Vital Harmony, and was blown away with the pursuit of beauty and integration of all learning that characterizes the Charlotte Mason philosophy. If you are looking into Charlotte Mason, I highly recommend starting with this book.

Who was Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason was an educator in England during the late 1800s and early 1900s. She held to radical notions (for the time) that children are persons, and not just empty sponges to be filled with information. She believed that all children can learn, that all children want to learn, and an educator’s job is to spread a feast of ideas for their students.

This feast includes a deep and meaningful study of nature, starting with your local fauna and flora. The feast includes reading good books by great thinkers, “living books” as they are called in Charlotte Mason circles. She believed that “education is the science of relations,” which means that if a child is brought to this feast of education, the child cannot help but draw connections for themselves. They discover how history and math connect in Galileo. Or how geography impacts mythology, when they recognize similar threads throughout the stories of the Americas, but very different threads throughout the stories of Europe.

Other cornerstones of a Charlotte Mason education are narration, habit formation, practical life skills, and handicrafts. And yes, math and grammar are included, too. For time's sake, I won’t get into all of this here. If you are still curious, do pick up In Vital Harmony for an easy but thorough introduction into Mason’s philosophy.

Charlotte Mason Methodology

This sounds great, but what does this look like day-to-day?

As I came to realize the richness and depth of the Charlotte Mason philosophy, I began implementing it more and more in our homeschool. We have always had a literature-based homeschool, but Mason’s philosophy has freed me up more and more to focus on the quality of what we read, rather than the quantity.

In our homeschool, we spend a lot of time reading together, re-telling the stories we have heard, and discussing them. (My children are 10, 8, and 6, for reference). We start with Morning Time, during which time we sing, read poetry, and study composers. 

We move on to our read-alouds which cover history, literature, and science. For example, this year we are studying Medieval History. Since we began school this year, we have read Beowulf, and are currently reading The Twelfth Night by Shakespeare (both a picture book retelling, and the original). In Spanish, we are reading El Cid by Rosa Navarro Duran. We are also reading about birds and bats.

After read-alouds, we move into math and language studies which are one-on-one with each child. When I am working with one child, the other children have independent work. We usually finish our academic work around lunch time.

This leaves lots of time each day for free play and pursuit of their interests. However, it also leaves time for them to join me in the regular running of a household: dishes, laundry, cleaning, and cooking dinner. These life skills are just as essential in the whole education of a child as the academic work is.

Charlotte Mason in a Bilingual Homeschool 

One unexpected blessing of following this philosophy has been the freedom to stop searching for the perfect Spanish curriculum for our homeschool, and simply focus on finding beautiful books in Spanish to read with my children.

Yes, I still love to look at bilingual units and Spanish language resources, but I no longer feel the burden to find (or make) the perfect Spanish-language unit for my child’s interests, or our current history track. Instead, I now search for living books in Spanish on the subject. And we read…

This simple change has made homeschooling in two languages easier and more delightful than I thought possible!

Want to learn more?

Charlotte Mason herself wrote six large books on her educational philosophy. They are slow reading, but well worth it. If you want to start with one, I suggest Home Education. However, I will say again, the best introduction to Charlotte Mason is In Vital Harmony by Karen Glass. Also of note, there is a vibrant Mason community in the Spanish-speaking world, and a great place to start is A Living Education En Español website.

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Written by:

Lauren Stengele is a non-native Spanish speaker, language teacher, and bilingual homeschooling mom. Her blog, BilingualTogether.com, shares homeschooling resources for bilingual families, including free Morning Time plans.


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