Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Workbox System, for us that is

This is how we utilize the Sue Patrick Workbox System, as you can fully read up on at www.workboxsystem.com .  Please note that the system is tailored to my liking.

We are officially in Week 4 of our school year, and we've consistently used our workboxes almost each day.  I must say that I LOVE THIS SYSTEM!!  Aside from setting them up each day, this has been by far, the best system for our family.  The benefits far outweigh the few negative aspects that the boxes have to offer.

See numbered fish and empty Velcro.
These are the boxes after work is completed.
First off, we don't use shoe boxes like Sue Patrick recommends.  I bought these fabulous Sterelite drawers  from Amazon, that measure 13" square, and stack 3 high.  I stacked 3 of these for each of the boys, giving them 9 drawers to work through, (you can use as few or as much as you'd like, Sue Patrick says that 12 is the perfect amount).  I stacked the boxes right where the boys sit, but the drawers are completely removable.  If you wanted to put them elsewhere you could.  Just include everything your child would need to complete the assignment in the drawer.  We happen to have all of our other necessities right at our fingertips, so including pencils or crayons in the boxes just isn't needed.

Spunk's grid before his work is started.
Next, I let the boys choose a clip art picture for their number tags.  Each drawer gets a number tag permanently attached, so they always know what drawer they're currently working through.  Each drawer also gets a laminated picture attached with Velcro.  Each child has a laminated grid with Velcro in each square.  As they finish a box, they pull the Velcro tag off of the drawer, and attach it to the grid, signifying the drawer is complete.  As they work through the stack, they are producing a visual guide to let them know how much remains and how much is accomplished.  We needed this!

I'm fully aware that these aren't perfectly aligned. 
My Type A eyeballs cringe every time I
remember letting the boys help with the Velro. 
These are Spunk's little fish on his grid
after his work is completed.

I alternate the boxes between more challenging and more fun.  For example, Thoughtful strongly dislikes reading, especially if its fiction.  So, after he finishes his reading drawer, the next drawer should have something that he looks forward to, like US States study.  This keeps him moving through his work, encouraging him along the way.

This also helps me coordinate whom I'll work with.  I can give Thoughtful some independent work in his boxes 1 through 3, while I work with Spunk on his box 1 for math.  Then switch.

I insert "work with Momma" cards when needed so they know when they need to read instructions on their own, or wait patiently for yours truly.  I use these in anything which requires my assistance, for example, tests, games, or learning a new skill.

I occasionally interrupt their box time to give separate lessons, i.e. grammar, phonics, etc.  This keeps the lessons short and sweet, and the other child is never bored while he waits.

Help cards attached with more Velcro
 to their folder bins.
Here's the tricky part that I haven't had much success with YET!!  Each kiddo gets 4 "Help" cards to turn in as needed.  These are supposed to help train the child to try his work independently, and not ask for help at every little turn.  This is our downfall in homeschooling.  Mom is readily available so why try on my own?  We're working on this one, and I may just have to draw the line sometime and demand they use them or I won't help.  We shall see.

What goes in the box?  Besides our core Language and Math curricula, we have all kinds of fun learning!  Nature Study, mazes, Draw Write Now, handwriting (eventually), games, readers, play money with instructions on making change, dice for adding and subtracting games, flash cards, Atlas, piano, dictionary, fun workbooks for extra practice, etc.  Basically, whatever skills, they're learning in their core subjects, will get practiced in the boxes.  For instance, Thoughtful learned about proper nouns last week.  So, one day I gave him a book, and had him write 5 proper nouns from the book.  Another day, he had a supplemental Language Arts workbook flagged at a proper nouns page for practice.

completed work

As they finish the work in the drawers, they stack it up in a letter-sized tray on top of their boxes.  The physical act of emptying the box is rewarding in itself.  At the end of the day, when they look at all they've accomplished in a heap, they smile.  I've heard many comments such as "Look how much I did today,"  and my favorite, "It sure didn't feel like that much!"  When we get it all in, and it was so fun and smooth that it didn't feel like school...........SWEET SUCCESS, my friends!

I let the boys work through their boxes for roughly 45 minutes then I demand they take a play break.  So far, this hasn't worked out.  THEY LOVE THEIR BOXES AND HAVE ALWAYS INSISTED THEY CONTINUE UNTIL FINISHED.  I'm sure the honeymoon will wear off eventually, but for now, I'm going with it.  After workboxes, we break for a while, to include lunch and read aloud.  Afterwards we do our group subjects, History, Science, and whatever Unit Study we happen to be into at the moment. 

I would encourage all homeschooling families to try out the workbox system, especially if your children have learning dysfunctions, are easily distracted, or sensorial issues.  Tailor it to your needs.  I know of families who use a "work-file" system.  So be creative, and figure it out.  We're getting in so much learning and loving every minute of it!!

Happy workboxing!



  1. Love it! We are in love with our workboxes, too, although I am with you on the refilling part...glad to hear it's working out so well for you all!

    1. Thank you! Really, the refilling is the only negative that I have, and like I said, the benefits are too many to care.

  2. I've been weighing the option of doing somethIng similar with my guys. The trick will be finding a place for the boxes. ;)

    1. The work-file system is ideal for limited space. We tried it with Thoughtful though, and he couldn't see the end of the work. Basically, he saw a stack of papers to work on which led to overwhelming frustration. I also couldn't insert bulky items or books. He LOVES the boxes.

      Another idea is to get a hanging pocket file chart. I saw some at Michael's Craft Store recently that held 10 files vertically. I think they were $20 each, but with a half off coupon in the Sunday paper, they'd be easily affordable.

      Good luck figuring it out!

  3. I still need to jump on the workbox system...I just haven't found the time to implement it. Every time I read another great post about it, I feel like we are missing out. Thanks for all the details and pictures. One day....

    1. I'm telling you, it is THE BEST! It always keeps us on track. I've not seen this much enthusiasm about school from the boys in ...... EVER! And I love how we get so much more than just the 3 R's.