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Working the Workboxes
What's a Workbox System and Do I Need One?
Several years ago I started seeing the phrase "workboxes" pop up on homeschooling messageboards and blogs. I had no idea what they were, so I started investigating. Since then, this organizational system has become very well-known and used in many home classrooms. In a nut-shell, workboxes are an organizational system used with any curriculum that helps develop independent work habits and a well-structured school day.
Since there is so much out there (on the web) regarding workboxes, I thought I'd share what I've found and what our personal experience is using the workbox system..
This system was developed by Sue Patrick, a homeschool mom from North Carolina. In her book she states that this system was started to help her autistic child achieve his highest educational potential. What she found was that all types of learners benefit from using this system. Not only are the children benefiting, but the family as well, because their homeschool day is running smoother and they accomplish more in their day. Her book explains the reasoning behind the system, how to set-up the system in your household, and gives practical ideas and activities to implement along with your workbox system.
The basis of the system is to have 12 workboxes for each student. Each box (or drawer, envelope, however you choose to organize) holds one activity that the child is to do that day.These boxes are stored on shelves or on a shoe rack. Since each box is numbered, the child knows what needs to be completed and in which order. For more detailed information, see Sue's book.
Many homeschoolers have tweeked this set-up using other containers as workboxes (see A Peek Into the School Room for examples).
-- Repurposed Cereal Boxes
-- Sterlite plastic drawer carts
-- Hanging file folders
-- Magazine holders
-- Wall Pockets
Besides seeing the workboxes, each child has a schedule strip. The schedule strip reinforces the workbox order, and also allows the teacher to place additional schedule cards for activities that won't fit in the boxes on the strip (ie. take a 15min. break, jump-rope for 10min.) The child matches the number on the schedule strip to the box and by the end of the day, all the tags should be removed from the schedule strip and all the boxes empty.
When you order the book you will have access to all the printables you need to get started. Sometimes though, you might need a specific type of card or just want something different. Here are a few free printables for the schedule cards and the number cards that I have come across while learning more about workboxes:
Looking around the web, many homeschoolers are sharing what this system looks like in their home. Some use the system as-is, and others have modified it to work with their family's specific needs.
Sterlite Rolling Carts/Drawers:
Banker's Boxes/Milk Crates:
Sheri from What's in the Box created a bound version of the workbox schedule
Each box contains an assignment or activity that your child needs to complete during the day plus everything they need to complete that assignment. So yes, throw that pencil/eraser/crayon in there too so that there is never any excuses for not getting started. What I like is that I can easily see what type of work my child has to do for the day. If the day is a little heavy on written work, I might throw in a creative activity or game that goes along with a lesson.
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Here are some links from around the web that would work well with workboxes. The goal is to put meaningful learning activities that go with your curriculum along with subject assignments in the workboxes.
- Homeschool Share's Workboxable Section
There are many printable activities for various grade levels and subjects for workboxes located at Homeschool Share.
- File Folder Fun
Many free printable file folder games for various ages.
- Printables from Homeschool Creations
Many printables geared toward pre-k and K.
- Printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler
Lots of free printables for pre-k and K.
- Printables from Spell Outloud
Various printables for early elementary age students.
- Printables from 1+1+1=1
Lots of preschool-related themed printables.
- Mama Jenn Printables
Lots of preschool to early elementary printables.
Organizing Teaching Materials
Organizing and tracking all the materials that have been used with the workboxes can be challenging at times. Having a system in place makes the job of filling and tracking materials go so much smoother. Here are a couple ways to keep track of items to use and to keep track of what goes in the boxes:
- Honey from Sunflower Schoohouse organizes her materials in Rubbermaid totes.
- Another option is a file-card system. Write workbox ideas on index cards and file behind the appropriate divider. When you need ideas as what to put in the box for a particular subject or theme, glance through the cards in the index card box for ideas.
- Rhonda shares how she keeps track of what is in the workboxes by using Homeschool Tracker Software
- Homeschool Workbox Organizing and Planning
Robin from Heart of Wisdom shares how she schedules, plans and organizes her teaching materials that will be used in the Workbox System.
- Sample Excel Workbox Schedule
Erika from Confessions of a Homeschooler shares how she keeps track of materials for her children.
- Schedule Spreadsheet
Jenn shares how she plans her kids' workboxes.
- A Comprehensive Review of the Workbox System
Kari, from the The Snail's Trail has compiled websites and photos of the workbox system.
- Yahoo Workbox Groups
Several online groups that share workbox ideas.
- Ideas for the Workbox
A blog dedicated to workbox ideas.
- Fun Filled Weekly Workboxes Meme
Bloggers can post links that showcase what they are doing with their workboxes.
- TOS Crew Reviews
The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew has multiple reviews of this system by their team. This link will bring you to a link list of all the team reviews.
- Workbox Directory - Heart of Wisdom
Robin has compiled a directory of workbox users that blog.
- Blog, She Wrote: Workboxes: One Year Later
An article on how the workbox system is working (in a modified way) for this family one year later.
- They Hold My Heart: Homeschool Boxes (also titled "Stop Asking Me For Snacks")
Great description of how they use workboxes plus a video.
The workbox system is just that---a system. It is a tool to use in this educational journey.