Fun and Educational Sites for Elementary School Students

If your school age child loves to play on the Internet, but you want to explore the world beyond Webkinz, try there fun and educational sites for school age kids:

Wonderopolis,org – What’s Today’s Wonder?
From the National Center for Family Literacy

IXl.com Math Practice Site
Math questions neatly organized by grade level.

FunBrain.com
Flash games for math, reading and more.

Cool Math Games
Lots more than just math. Spelling, Alphabetizing games and more.

Time For Kids Games
This Time Magazine site is built especially for kids. If your son or daughter likes to stay on top of the latest news, this is the site for him or her. There are online games – plus printable quizzes, worksheets and video resources.

Dino Dictionary

If your kids love dinosaurs, this site really delivers! It’s an encyclopedia of facts about and drawings of dinosaurs. If your child ever wondered what Spinosaurus sounds like, he or she will enjoy the “if dinos could talk” section featuring 12 different dinosaurs “talking about themselves.”

Bill Nye
This site is chock full of science experiments and concepts from his show explained in greater detail. All of the content is delivered with the same witty humor from the network television show. You’ll need to download the latest version of flash to gain access to the site.

History for Kids
This site has a vast amount of information on history from around the world. Kids can access interactive encyclopedia like entries from the world map on the home page or by clicking a few of the different links. The topics cover everything from Mesopotamian culture to electricity.

International Children’s Digital Library
After a quick registration, you can have access to thousands of children’s books that can be viewed from your web browser. Your child can read all of their favorites and discover new ones with this handy resource.

HowStuffWorks
Although this isn’t specifically a kids’ site, kids can get a lot out of reading the entries here. This site is also helpful for parents who want to answer those ever present “why” questions that pop up. There’s even an answer for “why is the sky blue?”

Questacon Science Islands
This site is sponsored by Australia’s National Science & Technology Centre and is full of games, puzzles and other activities that will have kids forgetting that they are actually learning. There’s a special section for parents and teachers as well. Most of the games on the site require the newest version of Flash.



Preschool Sites: Fun and Educational Websites for Preschoolers

Here is a list of educational and fun websites for preschoolers, featuring concepts and lessons that are perfect for growing little minds and keeping them entertained for a while.

Printable Preschool Worksheets
Fun, easy to use, printable worksheets, from Education.com. This site also has a variety of great printable worksheets for grades k-5, as well as middle school and high school.

Dance Mat Typing
If you thought learning to type was boring, think again. This website sponsored by the BBC teaches small children to type in a way that is fun and engaging. Your child may need some help with the basic principles of the site, but once they find home row they’ll be barreling through the lessons with a lightening pace.

Everything Preschool
This site is perfect for getting activities related to the basic concepts that your child is learning at preschool, or what you are teaching at home. From EZ Playdough to zoo animal printables, there are thousands of hours of fun that can be inspired by the resources at this website.

Picadome Elementary
This site is a one stop shop resource for a variety of games and online activities that are hosted on other websites. If your preschooler can use a mouse, he or she will have a lot of fun with the puzzles, games and other digital activities that are linked to from this site.

Starfall
This site is dedicated to reading and learning letters. The online storybooks are great because they highlight each word as your preschooler reads them. There are also terrific ABC games and learning tools to help your little one master the alphabet. Original stories, artwork and fun characters will make this a site that your preschooler will want to return to again and again.

Funschool
The games at Funschool manage to be educational, simple and lots of fun for the whole family. While some of the games may be a bit out of your preschoolers reach, you can easily sit with him or her and enjoy the experience together. There are sports games, arts and music games, history games, language games and math games to choose from.

Sprout
Sprout is one of the most popular television channels for the preschool set, and it’s website carries the same PBS spirit of education and fun to the Internet. The Sprout website has plenty of activities that feature the characters from PBS Sprout shows, like Barney, Angelina Ballerina and Kipper the Dog. There are videos that you can watch with your child as well as printable activities. In the gallery, you can submit artwork and drawings that can be seen on special segments throughout the day on the network. Recipes, games and an online coloring book round out this popular preschool resource.

Wonderopolis,org – What’s Today’s Wonder?
From the National Center for Family Literacy

Frugal Gardening Ideas

Gardening On A Dime
by Tawra Kellam
http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

Growing your own plants can not only save you lots of money on your grocery bill, but a nice landscape can improve the value of your home. If you’re creative, you can have a great garden with very little cost. Here are some of my favorite tips to get you started:

Tools:
Watch people who are moving. Ask if they are leaving their lawn equipment and if you can have it or buy it cheap.

Use an old mailbox out in the garden to store your clippers, plastic bags and gloves. (This is my most used item in my garden!) It is especially wonderful because the kids and Hubby don’t know where my tools are, so I don’t have to worry about them borrowing the tools!

Use wedding tulle found at fabric stores instead of shade cloth to shade plants from the sun or to keep the birds from eating your fruit. It’s much cheaper. Better yet, ask a just married bride if you can have the tulle from her wedding.

Cheap Plants:
If you see plants at a store that are in bad shape but not dead, talk to the manager. Ask him if he will give you a “deal” if you take them off his hands. Most of the time they will because the plants look bad and they don’t want to mess with them anymore.

Last year I was able to purchase over 50 large 1/2 gallon-gallon sized perennials for $50. (over $600 retail) All but about 5 of them lived and I was able to take those back and get my money back. Most home improvement and discount stores have a guarantee that if your plant dies within one year, you can bring the dead plant and the receipt and they will give you your money back or give you a new plant.

Buy seeds on sale at the end of the season. Put them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator for better storage. Seeds usually last many years beyond the “past due” date on the packet.

Mulch:
Ask a tree trimming service to give you their wood chips for mulch if they are in the area.

Some cities also have a free mulch program where the city tree trimmers dump all the wood chips. Call your local County Extension and find out if there is one in your area.

If you just need a few bags, look for torn open bags at the home improvement store. Our local store has a pile where they dump all the torn open bags of mulch and rocks. They sell the bags for $1 each, saving you up to 75% off! Most just have a few chips missing.

Use shredded paper or newspaper under mulch. This way you can use fewer wood chips.

Keep a shower curtain or tarp in your car at all times. This way if you find a good deal on mulch or plants you can take advantage of the deal right away without messing up your car.

Containers:
Use deli trays with lids to start seeds. They are mini greenhouses!

Ask the cemetery if you can have the pots they throw away after Memorial Day. (You can dry the almost dead flowers for potpourri.) Look in dumpsters. Many garden centers at the discount stores throw away the dead plants, pots and all. Ask permission first.

Use Styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of pots for drainage. You can also use small plastic six inch pots, soda cans or plastic bottles in the bottom of larger pots so you don’t have to use so much soil and to make the pots lighter in weight.

Miscellaneous Cheap Gardening Tips

Use milk jugs as drip irrigation. Poke 2 or 3 small holes in the bottom of the jugs and place next to plants. Fill with water and they will slowly water you plants all day.

Use Christmas lights around fences to add sparkle in the middle of summer. Hang them in trees or line paths with them for extra effect.

Use vinegar in a spray bottle to kill weeds. ONLY spray the weed. It will kill any grass or plants you want to keep if you get it on them.

For Kids
Have kids water the plants after they swim in the kiddy pool. Have them take buckets of water from the pool and water the plants when the pool needs to be emptied.

Buy or ask for sandbags after heavy rains. Use the sand for paths or for the kid’s sandboxes. (Only use sand from clean floodwater situations.)

Save scraps of soap when they get too small to bathe with and put them in an old nylon stocking. Knot and hang the nylon on an outdoor faucet.

Homemade Tough Hand Cleaner

1/4 Cup grated Fels Naphtha soap ends

2 Tbsp. mason’s sand or pumice

1 Cup water

Place soap and water in a saucepan. Place over low heat; stir until soap is melted. After mixture cools, add mason’s sand or pumice. Store in a cottage cheese container or margarine tub. To use, dip fingers into soap mixture and lather hands. Rinse well. This works well on greasy tools, also. Be sure to rinse and dry tools thoroughly.

Tawra Kellam is the editor of http://www.LivingOnADime.com/
Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.

Baking Your Own Bread: Useful Tips and Recipes

Bread Baking Basics
by Jill Cooper
http://www.LivingOnADime.com

We get so many questions about how to make homemade bread, so I thought I would try to answer just a few of them today. Don’t let all this information make it seem too involved and scare you away from making bread. Once you get used to it, it really isn’t a whole lot harder than baking a cake. Just read the information and then follow the recipe step by step.I once read a book by an older woman on how to bake a pie. She said bake one everyday for 2 weeks and at the end of that time you will know how to bake a pie. That rule applies for many things, including bread baking. Things may seem a little awkward or difficult at first, but after you have made it 14 times you will have learned what not to do and will get comfortable with it. There really was a lot of wisdom in what that older woman said.

We didn’t put my favorite recipe for homemade bread in Dining on a Dime because it isn’t quite as frugal as others, but I thought some of you might like it now. Also, I will give you my grandmother-in-law’s very frugal recipe.

Before I share the recipe, here are some useful tips on baking bread:

  • Unless the recipe states otherwise in the recipe, heat about 1/4-1/2 cup of the water to 120-130° or until it is hot when you put your finger in it. It can’t be too hot or too cold. This is one of the most important parts of making the bread. With practice and time, you will start being able to tell when you have the correct temperature.When the water is hot enough, add part of the sugar (about 2 Tbsp.) to the water and then the yeast. You add sugar because yeast feeds on sugar. This process is called proofing. The yeast should start foaming, which tells you it’s good and also that you haven’t gotten the water too hot. If nothing happens, your yeast is dead for one reason or another so you need to get some new yeast or try it again with a different water temperature.It is also good to do this because proofing the yeast gives the bread a better start. So you don’t get confused, there are some recipes where you add the yeast with the flour and other ingredients and can’t proof. That’s OK because those recipes make up for it by calling for you to mix the ingredients with a mixer.
  • When you can, add a 1/2-1 cup of mashed potatoes to your bread recipe or, in place of regular water, use water you have used to cook your potatoes. Yeast loves potatoes and the more it eats, the bigger it grows, making the bread lighter and fluffier.
  • Never add salt with your yeast and water because the salt will kill it.
  • Have all ingredients at room temperature. Don’t forget to take the eggs out and let them warm up.
  • If the recipe says to add enough flour to make a stiff dough, just add the flour until it is slightly sticky, taking that last 1/2 cup or so of flour and putting it on your kneading surface. Then knead the last of the flour into the bread. If you get to much flour in the recipe, it makes the bread tough. Beginners sometimes put in all the flour that the recipe calls for and then add more flour on the board to knead, it causing the dough to get too stiff.
  • You can’t knead bread too much. Knead until it is very smooth and elastic, usually about 10-15 minutes. I know that is a long time. That is why I don’t make bread as often since I have had CFS. I made my best bread on the days my husband would come into the kitchen, spy my dough and start pounding on it. He had more strength than I and always did a better job of kneading.
  • I always roll my dough into a 14×9 rectangle then roll it jelly roll style and put it in the pan. This helps to get rid of any large air bubbles you might have in the dough that can leave large pockets and holes in your bread.
  • I have tried many methods to raise bread, from putting it in a covered bowl on the stove to putting it in the car on a warm day. What I found works best for me is to heat my oven on the lowest temperature while I am mixing my dough. After about 5 minutes of heating, I turn the oven off, turn my oven light on and place the dough in my oven (not covering). It works great every time. The heat from the light seems to give it the right amount of warmth.I also do this when I put the bread in the pans to rise. I place the dough in the oven to rise using the method I described above (reheating the oven and turning it off). Then, when it is almost double in size, I leave it where it is and turn the oven on to the temperature that the bread is supposed to bake and bake it.
  • Most recipes say to let bread double in size and, to see if it is ready, press your finger into it. If the dent stays, it is ready. After you have made several loaves, you can pretty much tell when it is ready. When I use the method for raising dough I describe above, I skip this test because my bread finishes rising the last little bit while the oven is preheating.
  • Most bread doughs can be frozen. Mix and knead. Shape into loaves, mini loaves or rolls, not letting it rise. Wrap very well and freeze. When you want to use it, thaw and let it rise. It will keep in the freezer about 4 weeks, but after that the yeast starts going bad.
  • When you freeze or in store home baked breads, be sure to wrap them well. Bread can lose its moisture. If you don’t think you will use it quickly, freeze part of the already baked bread, because it can dry out and get moldy faster than store bought bread. This is the reason our great-grandmothers came up with recipes like bread pudding and French toast.
  • If your bread isn’t quite done but is getting too brown, you can tent with foil. To test whether or not it is done, thump it with your fingers and it should sound hollow.
Here’s my favorite bread recipe. It is a cinnamon bread but when I want to make regular bread, I just make it into loaves without spreading the cinnamon and sugar on it. This makes 2 loaves of bread.

Jill’s Favorite (Cinnamon) Bread

6 1/2 – 7 cups unsifted flour
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 pkg. yeast
1 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup margarine
3 eggs (room temp.)

Filling:

Margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix 2 cups flour with sugar, salt and yeast. Put the milk, water and margarine in a large mixing cup and heat in the microwave to 120° or until it feels really hot when you put your finger in it. (The margarine doesn’t need to be melted.) Gradually add to the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and 1/2 cup more of flour. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Turn on to a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (or you can knead it in the bowl). Place in a greased bowl (It sounds strange, but I use bacon grease), turning to grease the top. Put in warm place (like I mentioned above) and let rise until double; about 35 minutes.

Punch down and divide into 2 halves. Roll into a 14×9 rectangle. If you are making regular bread then, beginning at the 9 inch end, roll as you would a jelly roll, gently making it into a loaf. Divide and place in 2 greased 9×5 bread pans. Let rise again for about 35 minutes until double. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. To see if it’s done, thump with your fingers. If it sounds hollow, it is done.

For Cinnamon Bread:

After you have rolled the dough out, spread it with a thick layer of margarine. Then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and roll as above. Be sure to tuck the ends under so the goodies won’t ooze out.

Grandma Suhler’s White Bread

This is a great frugal recipe or one to use when you are short on ingredients because it doesn’t call for things like milk or eggs.

This recipe was written the way we did it years ago, with just the ingredients and minimal instructions, so I hope you can figure it out OK. As you will see this, recipe breaks most of the rules I explained above, but her bread was always great.

You might also notice she did most of her kneading and working the bread in her bowl instead of dirtying a counter. One of our readers mentioned doing the same thing on the blog a few days ago.

1 pkg. yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. shortening or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water, very warm
Flour (about 6-7 cups)

Shift flour into the above mixture, stirring until it is too thick to stir. Then work with hands, adding flour as needed until it becomes a very stiff dough and won’t stick to your hands. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat top and set in a warm, draft free place about 1 1/2 hours. (This is why I like my oven method for rising.)

Punch down and let rise 1/2 hour more. Make into loaves or rolls. Makes 2 loaves. Bake at 325° for 1 hour for loaves and 35 minutes for rolls. (I found 375° for 25 minutes also works for the rolls.)

Last Note:

You don’t always have to use as much yeast as the recipe calls for. For example, my original bread recipe called for 2 packages of yeast and it made 2 loaves. I have used just one package for years and it works fine. Grandma’s original recipe was doubled and made 4 loaves but still only used 1 package of yeast.

If a recipe calls for 2 packages of yeast and it makes 2 loaves of regular bread, you can usually just use 1 package to save a little. If you plan on making bread on a regular basis, you might want to buy yeast in bulk or in the jars because it is much less expensive. You can find bulk yeast in warehouse stores or larger grocery stores. Just take some out and freeze the rest. The yeast will stay fresh for up to 3 years this way.

About the Author:
Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt, by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit http://www.LivingOnADime.com

Finding Your Life Purpose: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are three questions to ask yourself on the road to discovering your life purpose:

The Link Between Fulfillment and Life Purpose
By Lori Radun

Fifteen years into my business career, I began to feel unfulfilled.
Deep in my soul, I had a desire to make a difference in the lives of
other people.  Some people would argue that I was making a
difference.  I contributed to the success of an organization; I
managed people and helped them grow professionally.  The fact is
I was a successful businesswoman, but I wasn’t happy.  I was not
making a difference in the world in a way that was meaningful to
me.

Each of us is uniquely made by God.  We all have special strengths
and talents, and we are all passionate about different things.  We
were gifted with these talents and passions for a reason – to use
them to serve other people.  When you discover what makes you
special, and you tap into the desires of your heart, you are halfway
to fulfilling your life purpose.  When you begin using these gifts
and passions to positively impact other people, then you are living
a life of purpose.  The reward for you is an indescribable feeling of
fulfillment.

It’s not always easy discovering your life purpose.  It takes a lot of
honest self-reflection and a commitment to discovering who you
are and what’s important to you.  It can be a rather elusive
process, especially if soul searching is not something you’re
accustomed to doing.  In order to simplify the discovery, I have
identified three important questions to ask yourself.

What are your gifts and talents?
Take a look at all your strengths.  Some talents you have been
naturally blessed with.  You may be an excellent communicator or
perhaps you’re a gifted musician.  Some of us have the ability to
teach while others are really good at fixing things.  Not only do you
have inborn gifts and talents, but you’ve also developed skills over
the years.  While working for a small company in the business
world, I gained a tremendous amount of experience in how to run
a business.  This was not a skill I was born with; it was something
I learned.  In addition to your natural and learned skills and
talents, you have a set of personality characteristics that serve
you well.  Perhaps you’re caring or funny, persistent or objective.
All of these things make up your package of unique gifts and
talents.

What are you passionate about?
From the time I was 21 years old, I have been passionate about
personal growth.  As a matter of fact, when I look back on my Girl
Scout days, I was even passionate about growing as an individual
then.  I spent a great deal of time and energy filling up my sash
with Girl Scout badges.  It was fun for me to master a new skill.  I
have always loved learning and growing, so it’s not a surprise that
I help others do that today.  I recently met a woman that runs a
doggy day camp.  Her passion is dogs.  My mother’s passion is
beauty.  She loves to make spaces, meals, parties and people
beautiful.  What is your passion?  What can you get lost in for
hours?  What would you be willing to do for free?

What changes would you like to see take place in your family,
community, the nation or the world?

If it wasn’t for all the people using their gifts, talents and passions
to make changes, our world would be a very different place.
Mother Teresa wanted to help the poor.  Martin Luther King Jr.
wanted to see equality between the races.  Danielle Steele wants
women to believe in love.  There are a lot of people out there
making negative changes to our world because it’s done so out of
selfish desire.  What positive changes would you like to see take
place while you’re still alive?  How can you contribute to making
these changes?

Living a life of purpose is about making a positive difference in the
lives of other people.  It’s about using our gifts, talents and
passions to serve other people.  There is not fulfillment in serving
ourselves.  When we give unconditionally, we receive.  The gift we
receive is personal fulfillment.  All of us want to know that who we
are is needed by someone in a meaningful way.  This world needs
you to be you.

About the Author:
Lori Radun is a certified life coach for moms.  To receive her FREE
report “155 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Great Children”, visit her
website at www.momnificent.com

New article: The Dangers of Over Parenting

The Dangers of Over Parenting
By Carl Pickhardt

It’s a risk parents run particularly with a first child, an only child, a last child at home, a child in crisis, or a child with special needs: becoming so absorbed in, preoccupied by, and invested in that single child that they over parent to formative effect.

What is Over-Parenting?
Over parenting occurs when parents carry some concern or care-taking behavior to such an extreme degree that the child reacts with an extremely troublesome response. For example: parents who treat their child as especially fragile may raise a child who is unduly risk-averse.  What’s called for in this case, of course, is for parents to moderate their absorption and preoccupation so that the child learns to remain responsibly aware of her condition, but not so frightened by it that fear prevents safe and normal growth.

Common Examples of Over Parenting:
·       In response to over solicitous parents, a child can become extremely sensitive and easily upset. “I get treated so carefully by my parents that I get easily hurt when not treated with that degree of consideration by other people.”

·       In response to over critical parents, a child can become extremely judgmental and self-critical. “I can never do well enough to satisfy my parents, am really hard on myself and other people say that I am too hard on them.”

·       In response to over giving parents who keep setting their own self-interest aside for their son’s or daughter’s sake, a child can become extremely exploitive: “I expect other people to do more for me than I should do for them.”

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