If you are a follower of homeschool blogs or message boards, then you have surely heard about the latest big trend in homeschooling—workboxes! While there are many descriptions and variations of the Workbox System, Sue Patrick is the originator of this concept. As a member of the TOS Crew, I was able to read her book and implement her system in our homeschool as it was originally designed.
Sue Patrick’s Workbox System is described as:
An effective teaching system to reduce your organizational time and increase your child's self-control, independence and learning. Specialized for: Autism, ADD ADHD, and Large Home School Families. This system will compliment your existing curriculum!
The Workbox System basically consists of 12 “workboxes” on a shelf. The student’s daily work is sorted into these boxes and the student methodically works through the boxes. Number cards are velcroed onto the scheduling card as each box is completed. This gives the child a concrete visual of how much work he or she has to do and how much he has finished, improving motivation and focus. The organization reduces the distraction provided by looking for pencils or books or waiting for direction on what to do next. In addition, fun activities are spread throughout the boxes, keeping the child eager to keep working.
I attempted to follow Sue Patrick’s system as closely as possible. She is emphatic that her exact method is the “best way.” As a free-thinking homeschooler who is used to customizing and tweaking anything to fit my kids’ needs, I balked at this! But I decided to follow the “system” as written first and to make adjustments later. My one initial variation to the system was to purchase and use a rolling drawer cart from Costco as pictured above. Mrs. Patrick advocates using 12 plastic shoeboxes on a wire rack. I prefer the cart that I found because it takes up less space and the individual drawers are larger, so books will fit inside neatly. It is also a less cluttered look.
Emily’s first response at seeing the new setup was, “Wow! This is awesome!” Every day, she eagerly peeks to see what is in each box, then settles down to work. I have been very impressed at the improvement in her work habits since we began “workboxing” a few weeks ago. She is actually accomplishing more in less time and with fewer distractions. One of the major advantages for me is that, as I look for items to fill the boxes, I am using the fun activities that we often didn’t have time for, or that I would forget about—educational games, quick exercise activities, magazines, etc.
We are enjoying the Workbox system and plan to use it indefinitely. I’m sure I will be making modifications as time goes on in order to meet our needs. It has taken a bit more planning and preparation on my part, but the results have been worth it!
Sue Patrick’s Workbox System User Guide also includes several chapters of tips, homeschool philosophy, and information that might be helpful to new homeschoolers. I personally didn’t agree with all of her views, finding that her homeschooling philosophy is a bit more regimented and formal than mine.
She also describes the use of file folder activities and “centers” as part of the school day. We haven’t implemented these yet. While they might be fun and productive, for the most part they would be a lot of work for ME and overkill for homeschooling one child. My idea of a perfect homeschooling day is an hour or two of seatwork, a hands on activity, and LOTs of time cuddled up on the couch reading together!
Sue Patrick’s Workbox System User’s Guide sells for $19.95 ($19 for e-book). The purchase of the book includes access to printable pages for schedule strips, workbox numbers, “work with Mom” cards as well as some activities and worksheets that can be used in the workboxes. The printable activities are nice, but there wasn’t much there. If I had purchased the book, expecting there to be LOTS of resources in the “member’s only area,” I would have been disappointed. The site also offers pre-printed and laminated schedule strips, cards, etc. for the busy mom who would like to jump right in with minimal preparation. I would suggest to Sue Patrick that, perhaps, selling her e-book at a much lower price to spread the information about the system, then producing and marketing more pre-made accessories and workbox activities would be a lucrative business move.
Overall, I love “workboxes.” Sue Patrick’s book and website were helpful, but not as clearly written or descriptive as they could have been. Still, she deserves credit for designing the system and I am glad that I had the opportunity to learn the hows and whys of the Workbox System from the creator.