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Monday, July 18, 2011

Revisiting the 'WHY' and 'HOW TO' of work boxes

When I first discovered work boxes, I was so excited that I rambled on and on in a series of earlier posts on this blog...after having now used them for several months and revisiting my original posts; I decided it best to write a new HOW TO blog for work boxes.

If you are interested in how work boxes first came about go to Sue Patrick's website, and purchase her ebook.  However, there are lots of variations of the system all over the web.  Here are a few sites that I found very helpful when deciding to use and learning about work boxes:
Heart of wisdom blog
Working the work boxes

Why use work boxes?
Predictability:  In the past when we would do school days (just preschool) my oldest was always asking me when we would be done, and how much more he had to do, etc...  Work boxes have solved that problem.  He now can SEE how much more he has to do, and can get an idea of how much longer it will take.  Children (especially small children) have no concept of time, not being able to see an end in sight makes it seem like FOREVER (in his own words).
Routine:  Children thrive on routines.  Doing the same things in the same order gives children security.  By the same things, I don't mean the same activities.  But my children know that they get up in the morning, they get dressed, they have breakfast, we do scriptures, we do calendar and then we do our work boxes.  On days we don't do these things in this order, there is chaos amongst us!
Organization: I don't find myself on a daily basis digging for what it is we need to do, or hunting for a certain object needed to complete a task, I've planned it all earlier in the week, and set it all up the night before!  Sure, this is some what time consuming, but how much time is wasted during what should be study time when we aren't properly prepared?  Kids can tell when we aren't properly prepared, as well, and then enters more chaos!
Independence:  If you have more than one child you are schooling, work boxes help divvy up your one-on-one time.  By putting work in the boxes, children can be more self-guided, but you can assist when needed (ie they need help, or the work box assignment is labeled 'do with mom').  If one child needs help while you are busy with another child, they can move on to another box while they wait.

Now, if you are not struggling in these areas,  you may not need work boxes, but if you ARE....I strongly suggest you give them a try!

What should I use for workboxes?
If you search the web you will find that everyone uses something different, some use folders, some use carts with drawers, some use shelves with plastic containers, WHAT you use isn't really that important, as long as it meets your needs.  Since I have little children and we use a lot of manipulatives and bulky items, I needed something that could hold these larger items.  I happened to have just the thing already, 2 storage towers from IKEA.  Since taking this picture I have added more green trays to each side (for 10 drawers total:  8 shallow, 2 deep); my mom mailed them to me because we do not have an IKEA here on the island (it's a sad, sad thing!).

Now What?
So you have your containers, now what?  The first and most important thing is to number your boxes.  I used Velcro to attach mind, it makes reordering them easy.   I printed my tags from Homeschool Creations in a Toy Story theme

*The original system is a bit more involved, I printed a lot of things off (you can read more about them at the links I provided or at my original work box posts), but I found that we don't use them...maybe we will later.

For now the method we use is this:  1.) Pull the boxes down in order (though my 2 yo just pulls them down in whatever order he pleases), 2.) Complete the activity and 3.)  stack them in the designated spot.  EASY PEASY!

What do I put IN the work boxes?
For my oldest this was easy, I just put the curriculum items I had planned for him that day.  For my 2yo I had to get a bit more creative and do a bit more research, there are tons of ideas on the web, and I make Workbox Wednesday posts every week showing some of our new ideas, it's part of a weekly link up at Adventures in Home Education blog.  The possibilities are endless!  You can also check out any of the blogs I have listed on the left hand side and my affiliates on the right hand side for even more ideas!

How do I get organized?
I'll admit I am still working out some kinks on this one!  But I tweaked a worksheet from Heart of Wisdom Blog.  I make a plan for each week (typically on Sat or Sun) that lays out a basic outline of what each box will contain.  (I am working on a file box to hold the items for each week in, to make the nightly organization a bit simpler.)  Then each weeknight (Su-Th) I prep the boxes for the next school day.  As long as I have planned my outline, and have the items prepared (anything that needs cutting out, laminating, etc..) this is a rather quick process.  Those are the kinks I'm trying to work out, to be more prepared ahead of time.

I bought some milk crate type boxes at Wal-Mart at the back to school sale, and some hanging files at Costco, I plan to organize this way.  I want to have one folder for each letter of the week for my 2yo, and then a file for each day of the week, with the paper materials already printed, laminated, etc for my K.  I have read other blogs that have them organized for the whole school year, with one folder for each week, but...I find that I am constantly making adjustments, I want to have more flexibility.  I have a rough plan for the year typed up using Home School Tracker (the free version), I use this as a guideline for planning my boxes.

Other Extras:
Some other things I use for work boxes are 3 HELP buttons, these are on the desk for my child to use to ask for help on NON-ASSISTED assignments.  We don't use them much now, since most items are assisted, but I know they will come in handy later.  We also have a TRAMPOLINE button, they can use this when they start to get the fidgets and need a break (we have a small indoor trampoline), amazingly enough our days go so smoothly since using work boxes, they have not asked to use it once!  I also have DO WITH MOM, and GROUP BOX tags.

Feel free to comment or ask questions about my system!  It really is simple, and I am so grateful I met another homeschool mom who mentioned work boxes to me.  It has truly CHANGED the way we homeschool!

UPDATED POST - We made some changes

Join our Homeschooling with Workboxes FACEBOOK Group



  1. we love our workboxes and im so thankful we found them this year!! they have helped my children and me make this the best school year yet!

  2. Wow, it all looks so organized!

  3. You have a great system:) I don't have the room for the bins so we use a folder system which works pretty well.:) Thanks for linking up to the NOBH:)

  4. I think you might be inspiring me to do workboxes. I love the way you have everything simply laid out in the post. Thank you!

  5. So glad you shared. Because we used unit studies a lot, I am always trying to tweak our system to fit. I also want to start with homeschool tracker- do you have a post on your experience with it?

  6. Wow - what a great post! We tried the folder type organization system with my oldest but it didn't really work out for her. I have been wanting to try workboxes with my middle and your post is wonderful! I'm a new follower, so glad I found you through the NOBH. Can't wait to read more.


  7. Thank you so much for explaining how to set this up and how it works. It gives me a much better idea. I feel like I "get it" now. I really appreciate you taking the time to map it out. I think it might be the solution for what to do with my two youngest while I work on more difficult things with my older ones.

  8. Great information for everyone! You are so organized. I am a former public school teacher and educational consultant. I know everyone really apprecieates all of the details. Wonderful. :)

    Thanks for stopping in at waddleeahchaa.com

    Each week we highlight and giveaway great children's literature. Our goal is to get books into the hands of children! :)

    jeannine: http://waddleeahchaa.com/

  9. Thanks for linking up to Workbox Wednesday! :)

  10. What a wonderful informative post about workboxes. I had been debating continuing workboxes, but I think I will continue. Just wish I could afford something other than my cereal boxes.
    Just wanted to let you know this post was randomly selected as this week's Featured post on Throwback Thursday.
    Thanks so much for continuing to link up.


Thank you for leaving a comment, I love to hear from my readers!


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