Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We Love Workboxes!

As soon as I heard about Sue Patrick's Workbox System A User's Guide, I knew I had to give it a try. When we first started homeschooling for Kindergarten this summer, I had a tough time keeping myself and my son on track with our daily schoolwork and activities. I had a daily schedule, but I never seemed to be prepared enough for each day. The workbox system is such a simple solution that many other homeschooling moms are probably thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?" But don't let its simplicity fool you, it is a highly effective way to plan and organize your homeschooling day.
Our method of using workboxes is a little different than how Sue Patrick suggests, so I would recommend reading the book first and then deciding the best way for your family to implement the system. In our variation, each child has a stand with 12 shoebox-sized clear containers. The boxes have laminated numbers attached with double stick velcro circles. The general idea is to divide up your homeschooling day by filling each box with a lesson or activity that needs to be completed. The child can see all the boxes from the start and knows what he gets to do that day. When the child finishes one box, he removes the velcroed number and places it in a clear baggie I have taped to the side of the stand. All of his completed work is to be placed in a "Done Box" sitting on the floor next to the stand. This allows the child to see what he has accomplished at any point in the day and how much he has left to do. Here are some pictures for a visual.

Joshua's workbox stand is ready for the day and his "Done Box" is on the floor next to it. I taped a clear ziploc baggie to the right side of the stand for him to put the velcroed numbers in when he completes a box.

Ella is 3 so she only gets 6 boxes for now of fun learning activities. Some of her boxes she does independently, which is a great way to keep her occupied when I need to spend one-on-one time with Joshua. Others we do together. Her "Done Box" is also on the floor next to her stand.

This is how the workbox stands are set up in our school room (dining room). They really take up less space than I expected.
Ok, down to logistics. I've heard many questions about the workbox system, some of which I'll try to do my best to answer.

What's in the boxes?
For Joshua, I separate his Sonlight lessons into most of the boxes and the others are for other fun learning activities or breaks. Each box contains all the materials needed for that particular lesson.
Here is the breakdown of his workboxes today:

Box 1 - Bible Lesson, Scripture memory verse of the week
Box 2 - Saxon Math Lesson
Box 3 - Sonlight Reader - short story he reads to me
Box 4 - Sports Activity-20 minutes (He likes to go outside and play sports.)
Box 5 - Sonlight Language Arts Lesson and Activity
Box 6 - Handwriting Without Tears
Box 7 - Sonlight Read Alouds - Nursery Rhymes, Poetry
Box 8 - Free time - 20 minutes
Box 9 - Sonlight History/Geography
Box 10 - Sonlight Science
Box 11 - Hooked on Phonics reading game
Box 12 - Computer Time - 20 minutes

Now this seems like alot, but most of the activities take only 10-15 minutes. I try to schedule the longer activities earlier so he has more energy. I also schedule the lessons that I really want him to complete earlier just in case we don't get to the later ones. Sometimes we might get busy and miss a few days of History and Science, so I put them in the earlier boxes later in the week to make sure they get done. The only box that never changes is #1 - Bible Lesson. I want my kids to know that no matter what, God's Word is the first and most important thing for us to learn. Everything else can come after.

Here is the breakdown for Ella's boxes (3 year old):

Box 1 - Preschool Bible Devotional
Box 2 - Educational coloring sheet - letters, shapes, numbers, etc
Box 3 - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Box 4 - Different colored foam shapes to string onto pipe cleaners to practice patterns and make pretty bracelets
Box 5 - Puzzle
Box 6 - Book for Mommy to read to her

Ella loves to do "school" like Joshua and I love that I can now plan specific activities for her to do with me or independently.

What if I have a large family?
The stands don't take up too much room for 1 or 2 children, but when your family keeps growing, it could seem like the workboxes are taking over your house. I've seen some great variations for larger families on other homeschool blogs, which I will most likely implement when my children are older and hopefully our family is bigger. One I like in particular is using the vertical plastic drawer storage stands that stand alone or can stack on top of each other. Each child would get a stand and each drawer is numbered and contains a lesson for that day. Another reason many people like the drawer stands is that the books and papers lay flat instead of diagonal as they do in the plastic boxes.

Where can I get ideas for what to put in each box?
Sue Patrick gives great ideas in her book and you can find a ton more on other homeschool blogs by doing a search for "workbox activities" or any variation of that phrase. I also received alot of information from the Yahoo workbox groups online. I'll also try to post ideas for workbox activities as I do them and learn new ones.

Please comment if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer or try to find the answers to them.


  1. Wow! I love your organization and classroom! I am so inspired now!

  2. This was so helpful! I just heard about the workbox system a few days ago and would love to try it out for my 3 children. This post explained things so well! And I really appreciated the layout of what you put into the workboxes! Thanks alot!