growing up good

mothering, homeschooling, and me

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Intro to Workboxes!

Before I begin, I feel the need to disclose that this is not my original idea. I first heard about the workbox system from Carissa at 1+1+1=1 (an amazing blog that I love love LOVE).  She goes over her son’s workbox system here.  When I read that, I was intrigued. At the time I was getting overwhelmed with the vast amount of planning that was required to prep lessons every day. As I dug further into her site, I also found her adaptation for preschooler here. Hey, this might work, I thought.  That was several months ago.

What kept me from starting this system right away was:

1) The organization of it. What if I set it all up and it didn’t work after I bought all the supplies and everything? Should I use plastic shoeboxes or the Trofast system from Ikea? Or the cart with all the drawers?

2) I felt like it was too structured. I want flexibility in our school day, to be able to do things together, to play. I wasn’t sure how I could make both work.

3) The holidays happened, travel happened, and the next thing I knew it was January.

So then one day in mid-January, I was on Pinterest, the time-suck of the century (besides facebook, of course), and I came across several variations of workboxes.  I read a little bit on the creator of this system, Sue Patrick. She has a book and e-book describing the process and philosphy behind it, she originally developed this method for her Autistic son, to help him reach a higher level of achievement (after being told by teachers and “experts” that he’d never learn certain things).  You can read her story and find out more information on her book here. I haven’t read it yet, but I fully intend to once we get moved and settled in.

I decided, on a weeknight, that I was going to do workboxes the very next day.

Here’s what we do, as of our life right now, less than 2 months before we move (I am certain our system will be tweaked and expanded once we’re in our new space).

The workbox system is essentially this:

Every single lesson gets it’s own “box”.  The boxes are numbered, the student works through the boxes in numerical order. Some boxes are independent work, some are “work with Mommy.”

Here’s my set-up so far. I scrounged together enough for El and Mary to each have 8 boxes, plus an “All Done” box for each.

Elliot's Workboxes

Elliot’s Workboxes

The All-Done box was an afterthought. Wow, I am so glad that I threw that in! They LOVE it! The enjoy putting everything in it when they complete a box! And you know what? I find it helpful too! At the end of the day, I can just take the bin to my desk, take out the work they completed and look it over if I need to (I usually know how they did because they still require a lot of help from me), and put the supplies away.

Mary's All Done Box

Mary’s All Done Box

What goes into the workboxes?


Here’s an example of what Elliot will find in his boxes:

1) Read Mommy a Story (he’s currently reading the “Very First Reading” series from Usborne (a set I LOVE LOVE LVOE). 2) Handwriting (ABC practice pages) 3) MCP Math pages (our supplement to the Saxon Math curriculum)  4) Listen to a story (they get to go to the playroom, sit in the big rocker, and listen to a story on CD). 5) Learning Palette, 2 puzzles. 6) MCP Phonics pages (our phonics curriculum) 7) Ee sensory page (we’re working on different letters each week, a couple days on a letter. Today they’ll use bingo dotters to make Ees). 8) Do a couple pages in the ISpy Sticker book.

Mary will find:

1) Listen to a story! 2) Learning Palette (Matching identical alphabet letters) 3) Magnet Letters on dry erase board (she’ll choose letters and then write them) 4) Mazes (from a preschool workbook, just more practice holding a pencil) 5) Writing in her Dry-Erase book (from Lakeshore) 6) Preschool Pages With MOMMY! (from another workbook, today we’ll be talking about less/more, same/different. 7) Ee Sensory Page 8) I Spy Sticker book.

The Verdict: So far, I LOVE THEM. Why?

1) We’re getting more work done in less time.

2) Less whining. No more Are we done? When are we finished? What is next?  They KNOW what to expect, and how much they have to do.

3) They’re working on their own more.

4) They’re developing pride in their work.

5) They’re *excited* (yeah, I know we’re in a bit of a honeymoon phase with the system, but they’re back to asking if we “get” to do school today).

6) It’s actually LESS work for me.  Yes, it takes time to load the workboxes each night. BUT…it’s getting EASIER to do. Last night I prepped today’s lessons in 30 minutes- that’s 30 MINUTES total, everything planned for both kids. I know when to STOP. 8 workboxes, that’s it for now! 🙂

7) I have a HUGE collection of activities I’ve accumulated over the years. I am actually starting to USE them now! Reading Rods, Magnet Letters, Snowflake Matching, file folder games, printable packs, Learning Palette, VersaTiles… name it, I might actually have it.  I’m pulling things out I haven’t used since I found them at goodwill, bought them at Lakeshore, or printed them off thinking I’d use them (but never did).

So that’s it. That’s how we workbox.  🙂



Monster (0f a) Thursday

Today I had a plan of a fun, creative monster-themed morning.

We had a monster themed morning, alright.

We read three monster stories. The each made a monster. We did our lessons- Saxon math, phonics, fine motor skills, letter recognition, sight words, MCP math, mazes, and even watched a few Sesame Street videos on youtube. They watched part of an episode of Scooby Doo, I made leftovers for lunch, took a quick shower when Kyle came home, and then Elliot and I made 5 more monsters and then he decorated a man into “Elliot’s Electric Bug Person” and now he’s coloring a pirate scene.

Two of my children are napping, and my oldest is happily coloring next to me and appears content while I type this.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that my ideal plan for the day, and how it was carried out are 2 different things. I have this expectation that my children will listen to me the first time I tell them to do something, and will not be naughty in between activities. Is that too much to ask? (that’s a bit rhetorical). I get frustrated, and I yell. And then I get mad at myself for yelling. And then I feel guilty.

I’ve anaylized my morning, and the source of frustration stems from two incidents:

1) Putting Edison down for his nap. Apparently Elliot and Mary can not get along for 5 minutes if I’m on a different floor of the house. Will need to separate before I do this again.

2) That half-hour before lunch. I’ve got the pizza in the oven reheating, I’m reheating Edison and Mary’s spaghetti in the microwave. I’ve gotten out plates and silverware, but I’m also trying to add more info into a spreadsheet I’m working on while I’ve got a few moments before the pizza is done. Again with the sibling squabbles. Sent the older one upstairs, and that was another battle. He’s old enough to pick on his sister until she cried, but not old enough to go to his room by himself? Hmmmm.  Trying to teach him the lesson of listening the first time. Reminded (ie nagged) him of the times I asked him to do something else.

Sigh. I’ll figure this out.

We got a lot done today. We did. The lessons actually went great. I’m learning how to motivate Mary, who is VERY different from Elliot (I’ve never had to worry about motivating him).  Elliot’s decoding skills are blowing my mind. And, Elliot and I had fun creating monsters again while the other 2 were sleeping. So, I’m going to focus on the good here. I NEED to focus on the good.

So, to end on a good note, here are few pics from our morning:

Monster #1

Mary, working on tracing some letters, numbers, and words.

Elliot, working on counting and writing the number.

Mary, matching letters.

Edison, eating like a champ, sitting like a big boy up at the table!

Monster #3 (#2 was camera shy)

My 2 monsters!


Letter A

We are going to work our way through the alphabet this year, and is there a better place to start than the letter A? Actually, I’m sure there are some literacy activists out there who would argue that you shouldn’t start with a vowel…but for simplicity’s sake, we’re starting with the letter A. On Tuesday we matched upper and lower case letters, sorted our picture cards, and Elliot and I did a little lesson about Long A and Short A. Yesterday we used our special sword (a toothpick) and poked our way on the A trail through both Big A and little a, and we searched all over our big map of letters to find all the As with a do-a-dot wand (you’ll see them below).

Like the stuff I used today? You can find them at Confessions of A Homeschooler, whom I can’t believe I didn’t discover until recently!

Here are the activities we did today:

Mary’s laced-up letter A.

Then it was Elliot’s turn to do big A (they switched, but I don’t have a pic of little a being laced).

These are texture letters. The letters are a soft, almost fuzzy material. They trace the letter with the finger, following the path they’d take if writing.Special thanks to a friend of mine who gave me a set of these last month! I’ve wanted a set forever!

Mary traces the letters with her little fingers.

Then Elliot traces the letters. Seems SO simple, right? Both of my kids, Elliot especially, are very sensory-oriented kids. If I can involve their hands in some sort of tactile activity, they can sit for longer, pay attention better, and will do higher quality work.

And finally, dot-painted As.

Elliot said, “Hey look! A pyramid!”