February 4, 2011

Organizing our school day with Workboxes...or what we call our School Boxes

As much as I would love to fly by the seat of my pants and NOT structure our school days....I have to! More and more I'm seeing the benefit of providing a list of expectations for the day. Now, I say this with two things in mind....I reserve the right to alter these said "plans" at any given moment should I come up against a brick wall or utter chaos in the midst of our day, which does happen often. And God may change my plan. So, I do plan and structure our days, but loosely, knowing that not only are our guys still very young, but MY plan may not be what God had intended for that day.

Now, even though I like to be spontaneous, I am also finding that I LOVE the process of organizing, gathering resources and perusing other homeschool blogs and educational websites for ideas and lesson plans. But, I have to be very careful because I can get sucked in rather quickly when online because there is just a plethora of amazing stuff out there. So, I've really had to try and figure out what will work for our family during this season and just go with it instead of continuing to "wonder" if there's another idea that might be better.

Last year while visiting one of my favorite blogs, Homeschool Creations, I read about the Workbox System. Instantly, I was hooked. I love the visual aspect of the system. It's not a curriculum, but a way to organize your homeschool day so that everyone knows what to expect and what's expected of them. I also find that there are so many resources that I've gathered that just tend to sit on our shelves going unused, educational games that never get played, curriculum that I forget we even have and books that somehow get passed over simply because we just haven't found a way to fit it all in. So, not only is this system keeping the kids accountable and will teach them how to begin working a little more independently, it's definitely keeping me accountable to using what we have and staying more on top of planning our days ahead of time.

I will admit, there was quite a bit of work initially in getting this system set up, BUT, it has totally been worth it. The Workbox System was started by a woman named Sue Patrick. She recommends not altering the method of putting her system together, but because we are limited on space....I had to. Jolanthe, over at Homeschool Creations, also has four children and I love the way she altered the system to fit her needs. You can read about how she uses workboxes here. She graciously makes available all of her printables and ideas for families wanting to do the same thing.

Here is what we have set up...

First, I printed all of the activities and subjects I could think of that we would ever cover right now. Many of the ideas and printables came from Homeschool Creations. Anything more specific to us, I was easily able to create on my own using free clipart.

modified workbox system, workbox system, workbox clipart

These are just some of the Workbox cards I've made. After printing them, I laminated them and used Velcro dots on the backs of each one.

Then, I bought a set of four drawers that are large and sturdy. For now, mine is the top one. In it, I keep the things I use daily, like dry erase pens, paper, readers we're working on, workbox supplies, current unit study supplies etc. Once our youngest is ready to join his brothers for school time, I'll need to give up my drawer and probably buy another set at that point. Each drawer now has each one of our sons' names on them. I used large name tag labels for this. 

workbox system, clipart for workboxes
I tried many different methods to display our school cards, but finally settled on this. I bought small dry erase boards, added velcro dots to them and they turned out great. The thing I like the most is the ability to write out a couple of words to detail the activities and school subjects. Once each activity is completed, the kids can erase the words and add a check mark to show they are done and can move on. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and shows them what's left.
With the traditional Workbox System, you would have 12 boxes set up for each child with one thing (workbook, game, book, activity etc) in each box. Each card on their charts would represent that particular thing within the corresponding box. I've seen this system modified in so many different ways. For us, having all of our things in one box for each child works well for us. The boys really like having their own school boxes (drawers) too. And I have fun putting little surprises and things special to each child in their drawers. It's really easy to keep this going and not let it get boring or predictable.

All I have to do is spend a bit of time at night gathering the supplies for our lesson plans and activities for the next day, put them into the boys' drawers and then put the corresponding Workbox cards on their clipboards. This has made my life so much easier when it comes to planning. On the days when I don't spend the little time at night it takes to plan for the next day, I'm left trying to gather supplies and resources as we go. And by the time I've done this DURING OUR SCHOOL DAY, everyone is frustrated and wanting to move on to something else, including me. There is such an accountability with this system for me and actually, the boys all seem to thrive on knowing what the plan for the day is. It helps them to see it all laid out for them and to know that most or all of what they need, school-wise, is already in their drawers waiting for them. It saves us a lot of time.

As time goes on, I know I will modify things even more. Eventually, I'd like to use a 3 ring binder for each one of the boys with a section for each day of the week so that I can plan more efficiently and they can work ahead if they'd like to. This is later though.

If anyone is interested in using the printables we have for our school boxes, let me know. We have lots of them and adding to them as needed. Happy to share!


  1. I like your version of the workboxes. I have been considering using the system all summer, but with a small house, I just can't get it to work for us (and a toddler who would unload every box).

    As a possible solution, I bought some "lap desk" sort of containers at Walmart last month and have been stocking them with the worksheets, readers, and craft supplies my little ones (ages 3-7) need each day. Then I have one with the alphabet book we are making together(plus all the supplies), and another with our current lapbook's stuff. When it is time to get to work, we all can sit together and get busy.

    It has helped immensely, but I hadn't progressed past the planning stage on how to make a schedule to incorporate using the manipulatives we have, as well as their online work (I have a huge chart sort of set up, but couldn't bring myself to finish it as it was just too much...too much to do a week at a time).

    In any case, your solution sounds wonderful! I had tried using a small dry erase board and writing their schedule on it, but it erased too easily (with a two-year-old's help!). If you could send me your printables, I think I will try your idea. Thanks for sharing.

    blessingfarm at cox dot net

  2. Hi Heather, I love your lap desk solution for doing lap books and such. What a great idea. We're all for anything portable and anything that takes up as little space as possible.

    Thanks so much for your kind comments and for visiting my blog. We do love our work system. Having 1 set of 4 drawers (one for each child) makes things much easier and more doable for us. And the dry erase boards help A LOT too.

    I'll be emailing you the picture cards today.



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