Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Workbooks: Parental Relief for Hurricanes and Other Emergency No School Days

This is a big chunk of our collection.  Sometimes it's great to use a book instead of printing free sheets from the internet because I am not as smart as those mothers that know all the good free websites.  Keep forgetting to bookmark them!

Workbooks from School Zone, Flash Kids, Scholastic
DOES: provides some much needed structure on emergency-no school days
INVEST:  $3 or $4 and above  (varies depending on retailer)
TOOLS:  Family Fix-it, Work Experience (you can still play but workbooks give them time to collect themselves and strangely prevents boredom and appreciate any kind of recreation more - including board games!
AGES: 3+ (depending on workbook)

Not long ago, I had a rare opportunity to wander the aisles of Barnes and Nobles (sans children).  How great it was to just browse alone!!!  I originally went because do sell toys there but this store didn't have that many and so I went to their workbook section and found a really great book.

Sometimes We Just Need to Work

I like to have workbooks around for my kids because I find that I need them on odd occasions. Hurricane Sandy was one such occasion. Emergency snow days also fit into this category. This time around, we figured that we would miss school on Monday but we had pretty much locked ourselves in at home starting Saturday afternoon.  By Monday, we were not only suffering from cabin fever but also boredom and probably some anxiety as well.

Math for the Gifted Child - GR. 3    I have no idea how this is a book for gifted kids.  I just know that it's not boring. 

You might be thinking that of all households, mine would be the most boredom-proof.  It's true that my kids do have lots of toys and games however, people are different during hurricanes and other huge occurrences like this.  They are stuck in the house for days and depending on where you live, the noise from the wind could start freaking you out.  Dads like to leave on the news ALL DAY LONG, and Mom's anxiety grows because her week's plans are slowly falling apart... Oh and let's not forget, the power can go out at any minute, right?   What can I say... no one is in a game-playing mood.  Toys are great but they are also the prime agitators of sibling fights.

See! I told you it is not boring.  (Math for the Gifted Child  gr 3)

One good part of giving them a worksheet different from what they might be doing in school: you get to know your child more.   I like how he is able to use his logical reasoning skills here.  (Math for the Gifted Child  gr 3)

I recognized this behavior during that short time period between the end of the school year and the beginning of their summer program.  They are so used to having a schedule that they themselves don't have any clue why they aren't enjoying their newfound freedom as much as they could.

Morning Meeting Provides Structure

Thus every morning I sat them down for a family meeting and we discussed the schedule of the day.   I made sure that I included some form of academic work in there.  I planned for that to take place    They could whine all they wanted but they were going to "earn" their playtime.  

This might seem really mean to do but I think some children might need it. Already they are not used to not having a morning routine that helps most people mentally prepare for the rest of the day. I also don't believe that only kids with behavioral challenges have this issue either.  It is very human to not know how to handle sudden disruptions in one's schedule, even if it means you don't have to go to work or school that day.

My oldest loves mazes.  It can't be too hard and it can't be too easy.    (School Zone)

This maze is for pre-writing skills.  See the graphics?  It's like that on every page.  That's a treat.  This is School Zone too.  

For me, I not only managed to get my house somewhat quiet by morning but I also had a chance to see how far they've come with material that I've chosen for them because I generally only help with homework.  (This year, I'm trying my best not to help with that either since we got our gadgets that I'm putting to the test!)

Work is Work but Doesn't Have to Be Boring

Since workbooks are generally not too expensive, I try to buy some fun ones that the kids will like but will still treat as "work."   At my trip to Barnes and Nobles, I found a really interesting workbook, Math for the Gifted Child (grade 3).  At first I thought that it would be too hard but upon opening it, I saw that it wasn't necessarily 4th grade Math in a 3rd grade Math book.  Rather, the questions were just very interesting and really showed that math was beyond computation drills and standard word problems.  I wasn't sure if my son would like it.  Some of the drills required more reading that he would have to suffer through but for some reason, the word problems were were quite stimulating.  It was much better than asking him how many pictures you could take with 4 rolls of film that can print up to 36 pictures each.  (True story: Mom, what's a roll of film?)

But there are other fun workbooks that I like- especially from my long time favorite School Zone.  I even saw their booth at the Toy Fair this year and they were kind enough to hand me a bunch of workbooks to try out.  Truth be told I had so many anyway, but you can always have more School Zone workbooks!  I really like the quality of the paper that can withstand crazy erasing and how everything is so colorful. (I'm sorry but the newsprintish paper makes me crazy) 

I also like School Zone's collection.  They have Time, Money and Fractions which my son enjoyed doing.  They also have a bunch of maze books starting from age 3-5 and even for kids 6-8.  There is a CD-Rom that go with some of them too.  My kids loved the Math 1-2 Workbook and CD-Rom.   That was one video game that I never minded them playing too much.  

Some School Zone books have completion certificates in the back. 

Easy perforation is really helpful with thicker School Zone books.  I also rip out the pages.  Folding workbooks are a total pain. 

I also don't feel bad if my kids don't finish a book.  We are not homeschooling but I think even if we were, workbooks that look different from schoolwork but still have that "I'm doing work" -feel to it, can be very useful in bringing a little balance and order to a day when the schedule isn't wholly clear.   Additionally, I do expect my kids to be able to work with different materials and in different settings.  

Don't Sell it as Punishment

I also never say that doing worksheets is punishment.  I can give them lots of reasons (calm down, get mind in order, shape up for school, periodic parental diagnostic test... whatever).   It can't be punishment.  Work is work, not punishment (well some days it is but that's for when they are old like us)  Sometimes all play and no work makes Jack a directionless pup.  

MAPS by Scholastic was challenging because of the reading portion but he does like maps a lot.

I didn't know that School Zone made word searches for older kids.   I am grateful for this.   Lots of word searches are on newsprint-like paper and I can't stand that.   The extra colors and graphics helps it be less intimidating.

Besides, if you look around, you might be able to find subject matter that your child is really interested in such as science, map skills, logic games, art, hidden pictures, mazes, word searches, etc....  The point is not really to teach them something new, it's just to bring a little order into the day.  If anyone is going to learn something new, it might be you.  

School is canceled in New York City AGAIN today!  But now that we got through Monday and Tuesday with a few of my favorite workbooks, I am not as stressed as I was earlier this week.  I tried my best to de-stress myself as well.  I begged/yelled at my husband to turn off the television and I also turned off my computer and started sewing and playing with my kids' puzzles.  I also did play a bunch of board games with them and that turned out great.  So in a sense,  I guess I was able to get some work done after all.  I did a lot of testing this week and though it wasn't part of the plan, I figure I can start teaching my kids to be more flexible.  A glass of wine always helps me but for them a piece of candy should suffice.   We've eaten a lot of candy this week and they haven't even gone trick or treating yet!  Argh!  

Wishing all families a very safe and comfortable week in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy! Hope you have a good workbook around!  And even better games too. 

Happy Halloween!!!!!

Here are some of our favorite workbooks that can be found on Amazon.  If you are going to make a purchase, put it in your Amazon cart before logging out - thanks for supporting Toys are Tools!

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any way by the manufacturer of these product.  Some School Zone products were given to the Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Many of the other workbooks were purchased by Jenn.  Either way, as always, reviews are never promised.  

1 comment:

  1. I would love to hear what are your favorite workbooks if you have any. Or any other Emergency-No-School-Day activities!