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.  🙂


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Organization Oops.

At a friend’s house one day, I noticed how nicely organized her front closet was. She had one of those closet shoe organizers things- the kind that hangs from the bar and holds the shoes in little cubbies. She stored her kids’ smaller games, puzzles, decks of cards, etc in that organizer. I thought it was a great idea, and knew our front closet, aka the toy-time-out closet, was in dire need of organization.

About a year later, I finally got around to doing it.

And, I decided, if the shoe organizer works for smaller puzzles, I bet the sweater organizer works for larger puzzles and games!

I’ll tell you right now: it doesn’t.

It looks all nice and pretty at first. But soon, soon, the hooks will strain under the weight of the boxes and boxes of puzzles and games you crammed into the shelves meant to hold items like sweaters, that don’t weigh nearly as much.

Soon, your great plans of toy closet organization will be hanging by threads.

Here’s the before and after.

See that metal cart on the right? The problem may have been accelerated when I tried to shove it in the closet, not knowing it was stuck on one of the puzzles. Sigh. I might be able to save it yet, but I’ll need to figure out a way to reinforce the top. I really, really hope I can make it work, the puzzles fit perfectly! In the meantime, I had to take a bunch of the puzzles out, pretty much defeating the purpose of it in the first place. Maybe I should think about downsizing our puzzle collection.

Here’s a close-up of the rip that’s started at the top:

The good news is that the smaller organizer is still going strong- I’m calling that one a success!