Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I am doing a short presentation for our homeschool group on workboxes and how our family uses them and thought it would be fun to put my thoughts together and post it here.

I first heard of workboxes about  a year and half ago and it seemed like a fun way to present lessons to the children as well as a great way to organize our materials and learning time.  The creator of the Workbox System is Sue Patrick and she created the system when her son was diagnosed with Autism as a way to structure his day and  promote independence.  Sue began workboxes with her own children when they were 18 months old and has since taught her system to many homeschool families with children of all ages and learning needs.  Her book is called Sue Patrick's Workbox System A User's Guide. Google her website by typing in workbox system (I could not properly link to it--sorry).

Here are a few reasons Sue cites in her book for using workboxes:
  • to provide structure
  • to provide a clear and visual presentation of the child's work
  • to present your expectations
  • to provide fun and interesting materials
  • to promote independence
Sue says that the workboxes promote natural breaks, simplify lessons and give opportunities for review and I could not agree more.  Sue is very adamant that her system by followed step by step because it is tested and it works.  That being said I think all families have to find what works for mom and children.

Our system with our morning folders in box one. 
We have been using our boxes for a year and I have adapted the system to meet our needs and wants.  But just so you know, because I forgot to say what the system is, it is a put together shoe rack from target with 12 clear shoeboxes on its shelves. This is the system that we use but I have seen many other ways of using the idea with magazine boxes, file folders or even large envelopes. Now, onward.  I like the system because it organizes our materials, uses our many resources, shows the children what to expect for lessons that day and provides a clear ending point.  I use the boxes for calendar activities, morning folders, life skills, lessons, puzzles and file folder games. Sue suggests that fun activities be intermingled with more academic activities to provide motivation to complete the more difficult lessons.  I started our mornings with a morning folder in box number one.  The morning folder usually contained the days' calendar to be traced and filled in and any "funsheets" as we call worksheets, that could be completed independently.  Then subsequent boxes included books that needed to be read, hands on activities, projects or games.  Many people include a snack time as a box activity but I rarely did that and no I did not fill up 12 boxes per child.  E usually had 6 or 7 boxes and A had 5 or 6 boxes.  So currently I have one shoe rack for 2 children.  For my other 2 children I have a different system of trays or baskets on designated shelves, but that is another post.

Preparing for this post, I re-read Sue's book (get it, it is worth it) and it refreshed me for some new planning ideas to further implement her system.  I would like to add in more review using posters and try removing the boxes from the rack as they are completed.  Last year we did not remove the boxes and I wonder if removing them would promote a since of accomplishment and mastery in the children.

On the topic of using the boxes as review, I created a lot of file folder games using Evan Moore Take It To Your Seat Centers and file folders games.  I used the following sites to make the games :
Evan-Moore books and folders I made from the books.
Also Homeschool Share has a workbox section with many materials to print or glean ideas.

Some of the file folder games we enjoy.
Now, when I first heard about file folder games,  I thought "whatever" but now I cannot say enough about there fun and practicality of use for teaching things from counting to math operations to contractions.  I usually spent one or two days a month making up the folders to correlate with the months topics.  Oh, and when gluing use spray adhesive applied to the object to be glued, I learned the hard way.  Spray adhesive seems expensive ($10) at first but I am still on the same can I bought last fall.

Here a few helpful blogs that started it all for me:
And here is a Comprehensive Review Of The Workbox System.

Happy planning and enjoy the journey!

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