Build Your Child’s Reading Skills This Summer!

Looking for ways to get your child to read when school’s not in session? iVillage has partnered with PBS Parents to bring you a free, four-week reading challenge that will help you make reading a fun, easy part of everyday life for your kids.  Sign up today and starting on Monday, July 5, you’ll get daily ideas to help you turn everyday activities with your kids into adventures that build reading skills.

What I really like about the site is that it also includes great reading guides:

Kid’s guide to reading fun
Great books for kids of all ages
10 ways to grow a bookworm

What are you waiting for?  Sign up and get reading!

For all BoA cardholders: Get free museum tickets in 2010

Here’s a great money-saving, family/friend bonding tip:

Bank of America cardholders can get into select museums, zoos, science centers, botanical gardens and more for free with the Museums on Us program. All you need is your Bank of America ATM, credit or debit card and a photo ID.

Get the full list of participating locations, as well as eligible weekends through September 2010, here:  http://museums.bankofamerica.com/

Education for free

My one take-away LSS from Avenue Q was Trekkie Monster’s mantra:  The internet is for porn.

While that may be true for most,  the internet has proven extremely useful for geeky SAHM moms like myself to keep up to date with the latest global issues and trends.   The internet has shrunk the world to the point where one need not travel thousands of miles to see Thomas Friedman expound on his theory that The World is Flat or learn from Kamal Meattle the exact number of plants needed to grow fresh air in an crowded office environment.

Thanks to the internet and the generosity of certain think-tanks and universities, lectures by global movers and shakers are now accessible to the public:  for FREE.

My favorite sites at the moment are the following:

1.  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

TED is a small non-profit organization which hosts annual conferences in Long Beach and Oxford,  bringing together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers  who  are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).    Videos of these talks are available online at www.ted.com.   I love their mission – to build a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.     Topics range from the environment to art to what makes us happy.

Must view video:  Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about “how we are educating our kids out of their creative capacities.

2.  FORA.TV
Hot on the heels of TED is Fora.tv whose mission is to “gather the web’s largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates going on all the time at the world’s top universities, think tanks and conferences.   We present this provocative, big-idea content for anyone to watch, interact with, and share –when, where, and how they want”  Be sure to catch George Kembel’s lecture on Awakening Creativity.

3.  Academic Earth

There is a revolution happening in campuses around the world and this is being led by the edupunks who espouse a do-it-yourself philosophy with regards to education.   MIT was the first to lead the pack — posting videotaped lectures on  ocw.mit.edu.  Other Ivy League schools such as  UC Berkeley, Carnegie Melon and Yale have followed suit.

It was just a matter of time before someone had the brilliant idea of aggregating all these videos on to one website.  Academic Earth now allows you to audit classes from various universities in the comfort of your own home.

As Thomas Friedman said,  The World IS Flat.

Planning ahead? Try using a Financial Calendar

I’m sure that we’ve all be in similar situations — plotted out our budget for the next 6-12 months —  only to wonder why it isn’t working.  Well, in my case,  I realized early on that I had forgotten to account for seasonality — big ticket expenses such as yearly insurance premiums and quarterly tuition payments.    I adjusted our budget excel sheet accordingly so we can now heave a sigh of relief ala Joseph during the time of famine.   =)

For those who would like to do the same and take a calendar-based approach to organizing personal finances,  there is a fantastic website called PocketSmith which can help you get started.  If you want to repay your debt faster,  see your savings grow, and track your expenditures against forecasts,  then PocketSmith will do the job for you.   pocketsmithUsers simply input their scheduled salary payouts,  bill payments, etc and have each of these categories repeat weekly,  fortnightly or monthly which is made relatively painless through integration with Google Calendar, iCal (for Apple users) and Outlook.  PocketSmith then calculates all incoming and outgoing transactions to generate a six or twelve month forecast.

What I particularly like about this online tool is that you can pick any given date and receive a predicted bank balance for that day.   If you see yourself being “in the red” right after Christmas,  you can adjust your scheduled ‘financial events’ and immediately see the changes reflected in the projected cashflow.    There are even dynamic, animated graphs which will give you an illustrated breakdown of your coming year’s finances.  It certainly helped us in finding ways to help us achieve our financial goals.

The basic version of PocketSmith is free, and subscribers can sign up for more premium versions at USD 5 and USD 12 per month.

A great idea for parents: Online Group Buying for New Parents

New parents quickly realize that with a new baby brings with it a whole slew of accessories from diapers to baby rails to car seats.   With safety concerns being raised on a fairly regular basis on various items,  we are deterred from sifting through garage sales to get bargains.  Fighting my way through the horde during sale day isn’t my cup of tea either.  I would rather sit in the comfort of my own home and click a buy button.  =)

Thanks to Springwise.com,  I discovered a wonderful site which focuses on new & expecting parents – helping them enjoy the benefits consumers can enjoy when they team up and buy baby & children’s goods as a crowd. 

CrowdSprout lets groups of consumers interested in purchasing the same item band together to get a better price.

purchase_sequence

Product categories on the site include car seats, carriers, diaper bags, furniture, high chairs and strollers; for each product included, the merchant lists a reduced price, the minimum number of buyers needed and a deadline. Consumers then spread the word about their planned purchase, with the goal of increasing that group’s size. Once enough buyers have joined the group, they then make their (reduced) payment through CrowdSprout and receive the item they wanted. If, on the other hand, the minimum number of buyers is not achieved in time, no one pays and the group disbands.  Not bad,  not bad at all!

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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From Blog to Printed Baby Book

Springwise regularly trawls through the world wide web searching for new business ideas spotted around the world.  My favorite this week is the great new offering by Kidmondo & Baby Chapters.

Here’s the Springwise entry:

Online and offline are no longer mutually exclusive realms, as we’ve already pointed out in numerous examples. The latest illustration comes from the world of online baby journals, where purveyors are increasingly beginning to offer print versions as well.

To wit: Kidmondo, which we covered this summer, has since added a print option to its offerings. Through a partnership with custom publishing platform Sharedbook, Kidmondo now gives parents a fast and easy way to turn all the content they create online into a “KidBook” in the brick-and-mortar world. Users can pick which parts of the online journal they want to include in the book as well as customizing the content, cover, titles and more. Pricing for the KidBook begins at USD 28 for a perfect-bound softcover book with 20 full-colour pages and free US shipping. Hardcover is also available, and additional pages can be added for USD 0.50 each. KidBooks are currently available only in English, but Kidmondo hopes to accommodate other languages in the future, it says.

BabyChapters, meanwhile, is another site that lets parents share their baby’s precious moments with family and friends in a safe and secure way, and also offers an online-offline combination. After creating their free online baby book, parents can select the chapters they’d like to include in a hardcover print version. Prices begin at USD 27.95 for a 24-page book, with a 20 percent discount for additional copies. Los Angeles-based BabyChapters launched in April.

These would make great gifts for doting grandparents and other family members.  =)

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Freebie picks of the week

I’ve come across some website gems which I’d like to share with everyone.

  1. Open Yale Courses – Lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses are made available to the public free of charge via the internet. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences.
  2. Finetune – In addition to its web-based player,  Finetune has a fantasic desktop application which enables Mac and PC users to listen to both Finetune and iTunes playlists, as well as search by name for favorite artists as well as get a custom radio station of their work.  I’m hooked on the David Cook radio channel.  =)
  3. Cookstr – Starting this month,  a new website will showcase the recipes of star chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, as well as those of less-well-known but highly regarded cookbook writers.  According to the NYTimes,  visitors to Cookstr can search for recipes using a wide range of parameters, from the more obvious — ingredients, season, occasion — to more specialized criteria, like lactose-free, kid-friendly or requires-only-one-pot-to-cook. The site will start with 2,500 recipes, most likely to increase to 10,000 within a year.   Go and sign up to their newsletter now. 
  4. Hulu –  Hulu offers shows from nbc, Fox, pbs and other channels, including free full episodes of SNL, The Daily Show, The Office and other hits the TiVo-less masses often miss, plus films like Ghostbusters, The Fifth Element and Lost in Translation.  Note, Hulu’s video library currently can only be streamed from within the United States.

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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