Stone Soup: K/1 Kids Come Together to Foster Community

This week our caring and curious “Pod” students (K/1) came together to create a delicious and hearty soup. Inspired by the classic story, Stone Soup, our little ones, across five different classrooms, brought vegetables to share for our community soup. Stone Soup is a folktale about three monks who come across a village where everyone has lost the meaning of giving. This retold story and illustrations are by Jon J. Muth. The story tells how a simple thing as stone soup can change the way you view the world.

In preparation for this community gathering, students read the story and discussed the importance of this classic tale. Some classrooms even went on a field trip to Underwood Family Farm and got to pick the vegetables they were going to include in our Stone Soup! We also discussed how gratitude and sharing has a positive domino effect not only in our hearts and minds, but in our community in general.

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The morning of, teachers got huge pots, crock pots and prepped ingredients for the soup. The cubed vegetables were mixed together with vegetable broth and simmered throughout the day. Students also decorated a placemat that was later given to another student in another pod classroom as a gift. At last, our little ones gathered together on the benches with their cup of Stone Soup and new placemat. The direction was they had to sit with a student from another pod who they didn’t know, and that they needed to ask questions to get to know each other.

It was a very special gathering for our pod community. When we came back to our classroom students shared:

I didn’t want to taste the soup but I did and it wasn’t bad.

I made a new friend. We both like the Dodgers.

My placemat is so cool! I can’t wait to take it home.

Our school is like a family.


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.    -Melody Beattie 


K/1 Students Make Connections Between Books, Libraries & Literacy

As part of our year long Social Studies theme, Friendships & Schools, we have been reading (fiction) picture books where libraries are a central part of the story. Before reading the books we posed the question, How are books our friends? We also introduced the concept of literacy: a person who can read, write and understand. As we talked more about literacy, our K/1 students made the connection that in order to be a literate person, you need to go to school. Moreover, books were important to have not only at school, but at home in order to practice reading. I also shared that through books we gain multiple perspectives which is part of understanding someone else’s viewpoint or culture who is different than ourselves. A little one keenly added, “Like finding common ground.”

A parent shared this heartwarming story about Ronald Clark, who as a boy lived in a New York Public Library. As we learned, many years ago library custodians often lived in the same building. Our class listened to NPR’s StoryCorps, How Living In A Library Gave One Man ‘The Thirst Of Learning’. I noticed that my little ones were listening intently. When I saw that hands were going up I would pause and answer their questions. While the segment is only 2:52 minutes long, with all the wonderings – this exercise in listening was closer to 7 minutes. After, I finally charted their answers to the question, How are books our friends?  

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I love that a little one used the expression “temples of knowledge” as was stated by Ronald Clark in describing his father as the keeper of the temple of knowledge. They also understood that Ronald Clark was the first to not only graduate from high school, but college and then beyond. A student said, “It’s because he lived in the library and he read so much that his brain got big and he kept learning every day.”

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. -Lady Bird Johnson





Student Made Alphabet Cards – via School Systems

Literacy is…the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential. -Kofi Annan

We are beginning our year long social studies unit of study, Friendships & Schools. Our K/1 students will explore the various school systems in our own community, as well as schools around the world. Students will investigate the impact of literacy on their self-development, how it impacts socio-economic levels, and overall well-being in their communities. Moreover, I hope that my little ones will come to deeply understand the power of literacy and books, and how being an informed citizen gives them the tools to make their community a better place.


Essential Questions:

1. How do systems at school help us become good friends and community members?

2. Why is literacy important?

3. What are the benefits of literacy?

4. How can literacy benefit one’s personal development?

5. How do literacy rates affect socio-economic levels in a community?

6. How does literacy impact the well-being of a community?

7. How do libraries support literacy?


To begin with, we brainstormed some of the systems at school and used them to create student made Alphabet Cards. They are posted on the wall as a literacy resource, as well as conversation starters as we delve into our unit of study, Friendships & Schools. I love the drawings, coloring and painting used to express their ideas. I’m truly excited about this project and I look forward to sharing our learnings as the year goes on.

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My Escuelita’s Grand Re-Opening


Yesterday, September 9, 2017 Irma Vázquez (founder and director) celebrated the grand re-opening of My Escuelita: Spanish for Kids, LLC. Live Spanish kids music by Nathalia and storytelling entertained the groves of families that came to celebrate. My Escuelita’s space has more than tripled in size to accommodate the growing classes of children attending this bilingual school.


Credentialed teachers provide quality Spanish instruction, using best practices in second language acquisition and world language instruction. Spanish is taught through a myriad of approaches including music, dance, storytelling, crafts, movement and traditional methods.

We also got a treat by listening to Dr. Ma. Alma González Pérez read her bilingual children’s book, ¡Todos a Comer! – A Mexican Food Alphabet BookThis is a fun ABC book that I look forward to sharing in my K/1 classroom.


If you are in the South Bay area, be sure to check out My Escuelita. They also provide various types of enrichment classes.

If you don’t live in the South Bay area and are eager for your children to experience the joys of language learning, Irma has personally curated My Mochila: Spanish on the Go!, a multi-cultural Spanish lesson subscription box for kids.



For more information please visit:

My Escuelita: Spanish for Kids, LLC

1603 Aviation Blvd Suite #7,

Redondo Beach, Ca. 90278




I Support DACA : Proud to be an immigrant & grateful for the opportunities that I have been given.

In April of 2017, I attended the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) conference. The conference was a buzz of energy, dialogue, collaboration and dreaming. I was interviewed and asked about my most recent bilingual book,  A Charmed Life / Una vida con suerte, illustrated by Lisa Fields and published by Arte Público Press. This book is inspired by my hard-working immigrant mother who cleaned houses with the hope and promise that through my education, my sister and I would have a better life, A Charmed Life.

I am a the proud daughter of immigrant parents. I am a product of an immigrant community where day in and day out we see our community members work tirelessly cleaning houses, gardening, painting, taking odd jobs, sewing, babysitting. And because of the opportunities given to my peers, we are doctors, lawyers, architects, social workers, educators and much more. We do our jobs well and we do it with pride. This is the true story of immigrants. We are not criminals. We are hard-working individuals who make great contributions to this country. We are a community where family and faith inspire our sometimes difficult journey. Our parents left their countries with big dreams for the future, and the hope that America would be the place where their children would have the opportunity to prosper.

As I said in the interview, “My hope is that multilingual children, and all children, recognize their value and realize that they matter. And that they are all born with gifts and our purpose here is to share those gifts.”

I am proud to be an immigrant and grateful for the opportunities given. I have been afforded an education, I get to write and share my story and as educator, I am privileged to inspire our little ones. But I urge you to please not forget that we must come together as a community to continue the good fight, so that all immigrant children get the opportunity to live out their dreams.


For more information please visit:



Book Review: How To Raise An Adult

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Prior to summer break, teachers and administrators at my school were given a copy of How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Successwritten by Julie Lythcott-Haims. I have taken this book to the beach, pool parties, and family gatherings, eagerly sharing what I considered to be outrageous stories about “helicopter parents”. I personally found the book to be a bit on the long side. Nevertheless, the overall message of the book is important as parents balance being supportive, and develop habits in children so they are equipped with the necessary life skills for a successful life.

My personal takeaway from this book is that kids are not given the opportunities to figure things out, struggle, fail and keep working at something without immediate parent intervention. Here are some of the points discussed in the book:

  • Not enough unstructured play. Let kids figure it out on the playground!
  • Parents getting upset with teachers and school administrators when their children have broken a rule and are getting reprimanded.
  • Parents helping write/edit their child’s essays and research papers in high school and college.
  • Parents trying to manage and control every aspect of their child’s life: play dates, music lessons, sports, school, which courses to take, which college to attend, and what to study in college.

Colonel Leon Robert, professor and head of the Department of Chemistry and Life Science at West Point said, “The great majority are great men and women doing the right thing. But there are a creeping number who have parents that overmanage them, such as by driving them to their first assignment….That’s totally inappropriate. You don’t need your mother to show up at the front gate of Fort Bragg with you, or help you find an apartment. You’re twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three years old. You need to deal with the landlord yourself. That’s part of learning to act as an adult. Our graduates are mature leaders of character well prepared to lead America’s sons and daughters and with all the right tools to be successful at the tasks the army will require of them. However, there are a small percentage of parents that will not, or cannot, “let go” and continue to hover over their adult children” (p. 47).

In discussing this book with friends and family members, one of the sentiments shared is that parents feel overstretched with their children’s activities and homework assignments. So because time is of essence, it becomes easier to pack their lunches for them rather than having their children make their own lunch. I reminded my family and friends that we too had schoolwork, and we still helped out with household chores (and no we were not paid for them). We cleaned bathrooms, kitchens, prepared meals, dusted, mopped, washed our own laundry and did other errands that were asked of us. We also had a full school load taking AP and Honors courses. We were expected to do well, be kind and respectful humans, and our parents were not hovering over us. They trusted us to get it done and we knew we were capable of doing so. I have to add that we did not have pressure from our parents to attend the “right” or “top” college.

Our parents also didn’t have the time nor the resources to micromanage our whereabouts. However, we are in better financial situations than our parents and I wonder if we too will lose sight of the old-fashioned values that made us the hard-working individuals we are today. In discussing this book with my high school educator friends who work in urban communities, they cannot believe parents meddle in their high school or college age kids to that degree. Overparenting seems to be an issue in mostly middle class and affluent communities. Interestingly, my elementary school teachers in urban communities say they have noticed an increase in the last few years where parents are beginning to become “helicopter parents” and students are having a sense of entitlement when it comes to schoolwork. My big question is, regardless of socio-economic level, how will children develop a strong work ethic if their parents get them out of doing it?

I am including a checklist from the book (pp. 167-169) taken from a 2012 article by Lindsey Hutton, associate editor at the Family Education Network. It is a guide of life skills children should acquire based on age and ability.

Ages 2-3: Small Chores and Basic Grooming

This is the age when your child will start to learn basic life skills. By the age of three, your child should be able to:

  • Help put his toys away.
  • Dress himself (with some help from you).
  • Put his clothes in the hamper when he undresses.
  • Clear his plate after meals.
  • Assist in setting the table.
  • Brush his teeth and wash his face with assistance.

Ages 4-5: Important Names and Numbers

When your child reaches this age, safety skills are high on the list. She should know:

  • Her full name, address, and phone number.
  • How to make an emergency call.

Your child should also learn how to:

  • Perform simple cleaning chores such as dusting in easy-to-reach places and clearing the table after meals.
  • Feed pets.
  • Identify monetary denominations, and understand the very basic concept of how money is used.
  • Brush her teeth, comb her hair, and wash her face without assistance.
  • Help with basic laundry chores, such as putting her clothes away, and bringing her dirty clothes to the laundry area.
  • Choose her own clothes to wear.

Ages 6-7: Basic Cooking Techniques

Kids at this age can start to help with cooking meals, and can learn to:

  • Mix, stir, and cut with a dull knife.
  • Make a basic meal, such as a sandwich.
  • Help put the groceries away.
  • Wash the dishes.

Your child should also learn how to:

  • Use basic household cleaners safely.
  • Straighten up the bathroom after using it.
  • Make his bed without assistance.
  • Bathe unsupervised.

Ages 8-9: Pride in Personal Belongings

By this time, your child should take pride in her personal belongings and take care of them properly. This includes being able to:

  • Fold her clothes.
  • Learn simple sewing.
  • Care for outdoor toys such as her bike or roller skates.

Your child should also learn how to:

  • Take care of personal hygiene without being told to do so.
  • Use a broom and dustpan properly.
  • Read a recipe and prepare a simple meal.
  • Help create a grocery list.
  • Count and make change.
  • Take written phone messages.
  • Help with simple lawn duties such as watering and weeding flower beds.
  • Take out the trash.

Whatever your parenting style, I recommend How To Raise An Adult to begin perhaps difficult conversations about overparenting. Hopefully you will find some useful tools to better equip your children for a life of success, happiness and overall well-being.



Twitter: @RaiseAnAdult




A Sense of Home: A community based solution to empower youths who have aged out of the foster system.

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Our year long social studies unit of study has been Families & Homes. As we finish the school year, we have been reflecting on the many things we have learned. Through our Maslow study, our little ones are well aware of how their family structures positively impact them. They have shared that families support you, encourage you, keep you safe, and most importantly love you. We asked our students, “What about the children who don’t have such families? Who keeps them safe? Who takes care of them? Who encourages them to be the best versions of themselves?” They were at a loss because this harsh reality is something they have not experienced.

My lovely K/1 colleague had the brilliant idea of teaming up with the non profit organization, A Sense of Home (ASOH) to provide our little ones with a meaningful service learning project. ASOH gets donated furniture and home supplies, and helps out of age foster youth create their first real home. After many class discussions we posed the questions:

  1. How can we advocate for those who don’t have a voice? 
  2. How can we improve the belonging system for youth who have aged out of the foster system?


Our little ones made lists of the basic household items they use on a daily basis. Eventually they became two lists: bathroom and kitchen items. Then we decided that the first graders would bring gift baskets with bathroom items and the kinders would bring kitchen items – because as a little one said, “K is for kitchen and for kindergarten!” Students were instructed that their parents were not to pay for these items. They had to earn them by doing various chores at home. Many of them groaned at the thought, but as time went by, their sense of pride and community spirit deepened. To earn money they had lemonade stands, sold their art work and washed windows. My favorite was a little one who held dance performances for their parents after dinner


We also got lots of great feedback from parents:

I took my son to pick out the items for his basket this afternoon. In the back of the car holding his jar of money he said to himself, “This is when it all pays off.” He was so excited. And he feels such ownership of the project. We went over budget vs. what he had in the jar, and he has been working off the balance all afternoon because he wants to “pay for it all”. It’s an awesome project.

It was so lovely for me to witness my daughter really getting into working on assembling this Sense of Home basket for a kid in need. I could see that she truly empathized with these kids and her heart went out to them. In addition to the other things, she was particularly concerned that if the foster kid aging out is female, then she would need sanitary napkins. And she’d need deodorant if she wanted to try to get a job to earn income. And she’d need encouragement and something to brighten her days because she wouldn’t have parents to encourage her. She and her brother made a framed picture and included some silk hydrangeas in a vase for encouragement…

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On Friday, our K/1 students brought their baskets and walked them to the bus. They were full of pride as they saw all of the things that they were able to donate as a result of their hard work, compassion and want to support their community. All of the K/1 classes participated in this service learning project. Some classes made candles, others made books and sold them at school to raise funds. With the funds collected they went to IKEA as a class to purchase household items (brave teachers). It was truly inspiring to see our school community collaborate together to support such an amazing organization that empowers our youth to hold tight to their hopes and dreams.

It takes a village to raise a child. – African Proverb


If you would like to donate and support A Sense of Home, please visit: