#TeachHerTuesday: Free Educational Games

The Frog Princess is headed to Kindergarten. Holy time travel, batman! Is it me or didn't we just celebrate her 3rd birthday?! She's been home for a few weeks as we relax and enjoy the summer prior to the intensity that awaits her. Montessori kindergarten is no joke, my friends.

But it doesn't mean that we are not doing some "work". I have the sight words, I have my BOB books and now, I have some pretty awesome apps that I downloaded for free. Yes, you read that right. F.R.E.E.

CelleC Games is a local gaming company that's here for me and my math woes. Where were they when I was growing up (yes, I'm bitter)?!

Free educational games for kids!

Here's what's currently on the educational game rotation at my house: Decoration of Independence: because a little American History never hurt nobody! I may or may not be playing this game while the Frog Princess takes a writing break. Don't judge me!

Math Swatter: If you do not like bugs, I suggest you don't get this game because obstacles include spiders and hornets. Cool for some, creepy for others but hey, it's a fun way to introduce math to the kiddos.

Speaking of math, I dig Math Racer. We love to play it because half the time she doesn't realize it's work. Race your car along and as the math problems come up, pick the lane that has the correct answer and race through the correct response. How cool is that?

Math Stack is another app that I like. I think at this age, the fun part of my job as a parent/teacher is figuring out how my girl learns. So, exposing her to different ways of learning is paramount. In this game, you combine mobility, touch control and puzzle.

The Frog Princess likes Ant Path Learning and is patiently waiting to get a look at Dig 4 Dino coming out this Saturday!

I love this gaming company because they present me with different ways to teach some of the same concepts. As a Mami of a Montessori child, I've learned to embrace and love this approach and I'm glad I can find apps to help me teach her the way that she learns.

And if you kid is in high school or college, CelleC has a few tricks up their sleeves that you might like. I, on my part, am waiting with baited breath to see what they come up with in the reading category (hint hint).

Do you have a favorite educational app for your child?


Teacher Tuesday: Schooling with Stilettos

Now, I'm sure you're thinking about a fabulous little story of someone in stilettos motivating me. Well, that's only partly true.

Today's teacher was Ms. Dollz. She was a sassy Cuban blonde and was my music teacher throughout elementary school. Ms. Dollz was in charge of putting on the shows, the musicals, the pizzaz. To say that she had attitude was an understatement. To think that she did not command respect was a mistake.

You see, Ms. Dollz was old school. She believed in discipline. She believed that when she was speaking, kids should be quiet. And when that didn't happen, well, you got the heel. No, literally! While rehearsing shows she was notorious for flinging her shoe to get your attention! I remember my poor brother got the shoe once and he was shocked by it. But, he never tried to cut the fool with her again.

While the stiletto was definitely her signature move, it was obvious that she loved children and loved instilling her love of music and performance in all of us.  I adored her because she was fun and to me, funny.

Ms. Dollz reminded us all that teachers deserved (and in her case, demanded) respect. We all had fun in her class, I can assure you. We learned about music in different cultures, about dance and about the power of laughter.

Did you have a teacher that seemed stern but that you learned something from?

Teacher Tuesday: Mr. Banks Believed In Me

I didn't have many male teachers growing up. When I got to junior high, that changed. My science and technology teacher was Mr. Banks (yes, kids, way back when in the olden days, they used to actually have a class called "technology" and in it we had commodore 64's. Google it!). Mr. Banks was a tall cat. I always thought that he could be an ex-basketball player. Maybe he played for the Knicks? He had this laid back "don't f**k with me" attitude that made all the kids love him and respect him all at once. And in that neighborhood, with those kids, that wasn't always something that everyone could accomplish.

I loved Mr. Banks because he listened to me. I was good in his science class. I remember him letting me go to the classroom during lunch period so that I could dissect a kidney.

The biggest impact he had on me though, was in his technology class. That's the class where we learned all about computers. I remember that the other kids used to like to play video games. I don't recall what the general purpose of the class was or what we did as far as assignments were concerned. I suppose it was to introduce us to the wonderful world of computers. Well, I didn't much get to play Nerm the Worm or Karatika like the other kids. Why, you ask? Mr. Banks had another game for me. One that I played for nearly the 2 years of junior high. I'll never forget the name: Science Island. The gist of the game was simple. There was a storm coming and in order to get off the island and survive you had to answer all sorts of questions.

I remember asking him if I could play another game. And in his very laid back sort of way that he spoke, he simply told me no, to go back to playing my game. By the time May of my 8th grade year rolled around, I knew all the answers to the game. But more than that, Mr. Banks expected more of me. Because I played the educational game, I was also allowed to use this dream creation of a program called PrintShop! With it I did all kinds of banners including: "Live to Love!" Complete with butterflies and hearts at the end. Ah, good ol' dot matrix. You could print those out and then use your own markers to make it color (which is exactly what I used to do thankyouverymuch). I remember that when the gym teacher was retiring, I was asked by the faculty to make him a banner. I got to stay late and print it all out for his retirement party. I was very proud to have been given such an important job!

Mr. Banks introduced me to technology. Opened my eyes to the possibilities. He also instilled in me the desire to do and be better. To not care about what was popular but to focus on what was important. While I initially envied the kids that were playing Nerm the Worm, I eventually got to play it and found that though it was fun, I got very little out of it from a learning perspective. I guess that makes me a nerd. So what? That was alright by Mr. Banks and it was alright by me.

Teacher Thursday: Ms. Villanueva

In my quest to highlight a teacher, I wanted to share this one. Ms. Villanueva was my 2nd grade teacher in the NYC public school I attended. She was an artist. And, she loved me. How do I know? I'm sure she told me. I remember being giddy about going to class and I remember her hugs. Ms. Villanueva introduced me to storytelling. To books. To performing. She is the one that fought for me to get into the track of classes that led me to experience Harlem School of the Arts and that eventually won me a scholarship for dance there. I am not going to lie, I'm sure I was the teacher's pet. But I didn't care.

She opened up the world to me by casting me in roles that she'd take from books. I still remember that I was the keeper of the rainbow once. I don't recall the name of the book but, I've searched high and low for it to no avail. There was nothing I could not do as far as Ms. Villanueva was concerned. My confidence level was so high after crossing paths with her. I have nothing but good feelings from my year with her.

I don't remember anything curriculum related, though! But, she taught me to dream. She taught me the joy of dancing on stage. My most proud moment that year was when, during the performance where I was the keeper of the rainbow, she, dressed as mother nature danced on stage with me. I will never forget that. I believe I might have a picture somewhere and will update this post with it if I find it.

I don't know where she's at. I don't remember her first name. But if I were to run into her today I would hug her and say thank you! For teaching me about creativity. For letting my imagination run wild. For seeing something inside of me and fighting to make sure it was nurtured. For loving her job and her students. For teaching me so much that wasn't in the curriculum that year and introducing me to my first love: dance.

Do you remember your 2nd grade teacher?