The Workbox System

9 Aug

This has been my first year of homeschooling all my children.  I briefly attempted to homeschool my oldest daughter in the second grade, but I only lasted four months and declared defeat.  I burned myself out trying to reach perfection.  I spent months preparing daily lessons plans, recording every single minute and page to be completed.  Flexible wasn’t in my vocabulary.  Perfectionism and inflexibility equals one thing: DISASTER!

Fast forward to January 2010.  I heeded Jesus’ call to withdraw my nine-year-old from the public elementary school and my younger two daughters from the private preschool and kindergarten.  I admit, we floundered!  Many days, the classroom was a wreck and we had to hunt for supplies.  Often, the question became, “What are we doing now?”  or “What’s next?”  I’d find myself scratching my head and scurrying to find another activity to keep everyone’s interest and attention.  Not an easy task with multiple ages and skill levels.

Then, one day on Facebook, a mother posted the link to my now favorite blog: Confessions of a Homeschooler.  This woman had her act together!  And she mentioned a new concept to me, The Workbox System by Sue Patrick.  What in the world were the workboxes that she kept referring to in her posts?  Luckily, Erica a.k.a. Confessions of a Homeschooler, provided a link to Sue Patrick’s web site.  I ordered Ms. Patrick’s ebook and my eyes were opened to wonderful ideas!  Most importantly, Ms. Patrick brought focus, stability and structure into our classroom.  To say that her system saved me is an understatement!  Children thrive on routine and my girls were no different.

I copied Erica’s classroom set-up.  Rather than use big plastic shoe containers, as recommended by Ms. Patrick, I used 10-drawer rolling carts.

The rolling carts are NOT cheap.  I purchased ours from an art site on-line.  I suggest trying to find the carts with a free shipping offer, if you can.  Initially, we had an old kitchen table in our room, but it wasn’t working for us.  The girls preferred their own spaces so I ordered these individual (and adjustable) desks.  I found these from Hertz  Furniture – a wonderful company to deal with.

Fortunately, I have a very large space in the basement for our classroom.  No, it isn’t always this neat and tidy!  We have a guest coming into town so it was the perfect motivator to clean up the mess.  Ultimately, the clean workspace will benefit me when I begin planning for our next grade levels in September.

Each student is assigned a different color (see neon squares on the left-hand side of each drawer).  These are numbered 1-10.  This is a slight deviation from Sue Patrick’s Workbox System as she advises the assignment of 12 boxes.  On the right-hand side are velcroed check marks.  I decided to create these so as the girls complete each box (or drawer), she can place a check mark onto the front.  It’s easy to see what is completed and what work is left to do.  As Ms. Patrick says, it is also an accomplishment in the student’s eyes.

The drawers are large enough to accommodate workbooks.  Each drawer contains all of the necessary supplies for that particular task (i.e. scissors, pencil and paper, glue stick, etc.)  No time is wasted searching for lost tools.  No questions for mom on what is next or what is to be done.  You’d be amazed how quiet the classroom becomes when each student knows exactly what is expected of them!  Even my five-year-old sits obediently at her desk and works from drawer 1 to 10!  No magic, just an orderly routine.

This year, I hope to offer more centers.  I have a small area behind our classroom (we call “the pink room” because it is a neon shade) with a children’s table and chairs.  Every now and then, I’ll put an activity in the pink room.  Eventually I want this to include a new microscope and slides for a fun science center.  The girls are tickled whenever they spy a center label velcroed to the front of one of their drawers!  And it makes me happy to see their excitement.

If you need a bit more order (and sanity) to your homeschool, I highly recommend Sue Patrick’s Workbox System.  It truly has been a Godsend for our family.  Yes, the initial investment was expensive, and no I didn’t look too hard to find better deals, but the system is in place and it’ll last us through high school.

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