Having heard all about the workbox craze, I was anxious to try it myself. I received the e-Book, Sue Patrick’s Workbox System right about the time we went on vacation. Since we were headed out on vacation, I wasn’t able to implement the system right away, but we have enjoyed using it the last few weeks.
If you’ve been living under the proverbial rock and don’t know anything about the workbox system, it’s an organizational system that was developed in the autism community and has been tweaked by author Sue Patrick for use in homeschools with kids off all ages and abilities, including those with ADHD and autism-spectrum disorders.
It is important to note that Ms. Patrick is rather adamant that you first try the system exactly as she has designed it before making any adjustments so that you can get the full effect and see how the system works for your family. That being said, those who know me know that I rarely use anything exactly as it’s “supposed” to be used in our homeschool.
While I can fully appreciate how the system was designed to work and why Ms. Patrick strongly encourages families to use it that way, there are three reasons why I knew I had to adapt it for our family:
1. We don’t have a separate school room and my husband is not about having three wire shoe racks filled with a total of 36 plastic shoe boxes in our dining room, nor is there room to do so.
2. The system, as written, seemed very rigid to this rather relaxed, eclectic homeschool mom. I’m not about pointing to a “be quiet” sign on a Popsicle stick when my kids are talking. We tend to take the home part of homeschool pretty seriously, which can include relevant rabbit trails or telling somebody to save that thought for a more appropriate time, as the situation warrants. And, I don’t mind my kids asking for help when they need it, so the three “ask for help” cards coupled with the “use ’em and they’re gone” philosophy did not fit with my parenting style.
3. We do history, science, art and music together — everybody — and I typically do grammar on the white board with Josh and Megan, so setting up the entire system for the handful of subjects that the kids do independently seemed a bit much.
As I was considering the best way to set up our modified system, I began to feel a bit like I was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. However, after using it for the last few weeks, I’m liking it pretty well. It does encourage independence and the kids like the portability. Are you dying to know what we’ve done?
Milk crates and hanging file folders, baby!
I found milk crates — the kind designed for home offices, with a lip to hold hanging file folders — for $3.50 each at Big Lots. I got a set of colored hanging file folders — because, let’s face it, bright and cheery is a better way to greet a school day than green and drab — and Velcro dots. I printed off the number strips and we were good to go.
Instead of cutting the schedule strips into strips, I taped the whole grid on the front of the kids milk crates workboxes. I then put the numbers on the file folders. As they finish the work inside each folder, they move the number from that folder to the schedule grid. They are not to move the number until the work in that folder is finished, not when they start on it…because, um, yeah, we have a couple of kids who get halfway through something then ‘forget’ to finish it.
One of my favorite things about the workbox system is the fact that Josh and Megan’s music folders and recorders fit in one of the file folders — no more nagging about doing music homework!
Almost immediately, Josh asked me if he had to do the work in his box in numerical order. Honestly, I’ve always been an “I don’t care when, where, or in what order you get your work done as long as it gets done” kind of homeschool mom because I think that teaches independence and time management, so, of course, I told him no. However, I did tell him to put the numbers in the right order on the “completed work” grid so that he could easily see if he’d missed something.
Oh, and for the record that “when it gets done” comment is mostly for my oldest who sometimes likes to do the next day’s schoolwork at night before she goes to bed. I guess, technically, I do care when it gets done as I have two who would put off their work indefinitely, if I’d let them.
The kids are to put their completed work back in their boxes and stack them up (I love that the milk crates are stackable!) in the dining room when they’re done, so that I can check their schoolwork. A surprising benefit I’ve found is that this method makes checking school seem easier. I’m still checking the same amount, but since I’m now checking each child’s full day’s work together, it seems easier. I guess that’s because I used to check all the easy stuff first and leave the more time-consuming work until the end, whereas now, it’s spread out. Yes, I know that’s all psychological, but I can deal with that.
So, while our modified workbox system hasn’t totally streamlined our day, it has made certain aspects of it easier, such as:
- The kids like the portability of being able to take their entire box of work to their preferred study spots.
- It is encouraging greater independence in my younger two since one of the things I put in their boxes, Daily Grams, is something we had been doing together. Josh still likes to have my help, but Megan likes to take her box and at least attempt the Daily Grams on her own.
- As previously mentioned, no nagging about music homework and easier schoolwork checking time for me.
So, overall, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to read through Sue Patrick’s Workbox System and implement the ideas that work best for our family. In addition to explaining the workbox system, Ms. Patrick’s book offers many practical and idea-sparking suggestions for ways to present schoolwork in a more kid-friendly way, such as making games from posters, creating file folder games, and setting up fun learning centers.
Sue Patrick’s Workbox System is available as an e-Book download for $19 or a print book for $19.95. Ms. Patrick also offers, on her website, a consulting service and supplies for setting up your workbox system and/or learning centers.