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Last spring I began to hear rumblings in certain homeschool communities about this new ‘trend’ of using workboxes to spread out a child’s work. I started reading some blog posts and was really drawn to learning more about this method. Hearing that Sue Patrick’s Workbox System was going to be a vendor with the TOS Crew this year had me anxiously awaiting the announcement of which Crewmates would be doing the review. I was ecstatic to be chosen so that I would get the full picture before implementing this with the boys. While the overall system as presented by the blog posts seemed easy, I suspected there was a bit more to it. And, I agree that the book presents more details that are captured by many of the blog posts.
Even though we have what many would consider a spacious house, the room we use for school has limited wall space. So, I elected to do the Workbox System as described in the book for D and a modified (file folder) system for the older boys. I figured that if the older boys seemed to work better with the layout then I’d look at doing the boxes for them on shelving. But, for an initial outlay, just the youngest would get the full system to use.
While Sue shows a set up of 12 workboxes per child, I have found that many days do not have quite that many for D. P and R do come close to 12 just with their regular schoolwork and TOS Crew review items on some days. But, I am making more of an effort to include some ‘breaks’ in the schedule along with more fun activities to reinforce learning. Going through all the files living on my desktop computer has provided several options for ‘fun’ worksheets and educational games to reinforce weak areas for the boys. Even puzzles and coloring sheets have made their way into the boxes.
Working with workboxes has had mixed results so far in our house. D is still resistant to doing certain tasks (e.g. handwriting) regardless of where I put it into the line-up of boxes. I think a lot of it is his continual adjustment to the new expectations 1st grade presents. Plus, it is our first year having to report to the county which necessitates more of a paper trail. The second day of workboxing, D absolutely refused to step to the next box (handwriting) and had to spend time sitting at mom’s heels until he was ready to work. But, by the end of that first week he was doing better at staying on track.
The older boys do like having the work separated for them rather than our previous method of using a checklist. I still print out a weekly checklist for them (and track grades plus time spent on the checklist to input at the end of each week.) But, now they can clearly see the math page to do or have the materials they need at hand.
Getting a handle on organization has been a theme for me this year. Scheduling is another area that I resisted for quite a while. My mom would constantly suggest that P might really need more structure to his day (like he had in school.) I wanted to have him work through his work with the thought that once done he’d have all this free time. Instead, he’d dawdle and drag things out and sometimes feel completely overwhelmed by the work he had. Using scheduling strips with the workboxes as presented by Sue has helped me schedule the day more for the boys without getting down to specific times like a traditional school schedule.
Another benefit for this method is that I can see what work is NOT being done as given in a timely fashion rather than waiting to grade it all at the end of the week. For D and R, I usually am grading everything and restocking the next day’s workboxes by mid-afternoon. P is the one who I am seeing a bigger difference with accountability issues this year. It is much harder to hide what you have NOT done when Mom is expecting the finished work in her stack before dinnertime. While workboxing has not completely solved the issues with finishing work on time, it is leading to more focus on deadlines and expectations.
While the Workbox System was originally used for children with learning disabilities, it can work wonders in other homeschool situations. Having the child visually see what work they have to do is fantastic. Some workboxes are to be done independently, some done with mom and some are done as a group. I do my best to lay everything out so that group work is reached at about the same time. Some days we do pick a specific time for the group work (e.g. history right after lunch) and the boys with other work left to do just return to their workboxes after we are done as a group.
You can purchase Sue’s book in either electronic ($21) or print form ($21.95 plus shipping.) Once purchased, you can register the book to access some forms mentioned in the text. She also has kits available for sale ($13.75 for one child or $26 for two) should you want the quick and easy approach to starting. While it might be a little more cost effective to make your own stuff, the time savings could be worth the additional expense. Plus, not everyone wants to get into lamination of items. The book is a relatively quick read. But, I will confess that after my power read through the material I found myself going back to the text a few times to double check on points. So, I’d label this product as a resource you may revisit more than once in your homeschooling ‘career’.
As always, you can see what other TOS Crewmates are saying about this product on the TOS Homeschool Crew page. This is one product that I am very glad to have reviewed and can see us using in our homeschool for quite a while. Even though it might seem a bit ‘young’ for a high schooler to do, seeing how P is finally starting to get more done in a timely fashion it is worth the investment of my time to stock the folders and boxes.