Thursday, July 12, 2012

All About Workboxes

In June of 2009, I wrote a blog post about WORKBOXES.
Willa was thinking that it would be a good idea to repost it case anyone could use the inspiration as they plan for the next homeschool year. I bet I could use it, too! :)
At this moment in time........I am just going to post it below, as is.....because I do not have the time to check every link......and there are a lot of them.
If you follow a link....and it is dead......could you please let us know in the comments?
The article is as follows..........


Monday, June 22, 2009

Welcome to Workboxes!

I cannot stop thinking about.....
homeschool workboxes
........I cannot stop thinking about the possibilities. I am simply giddy about a "new" approach in homeschooling, for the first time in a loooong time........I can't wait to get started......but I have been simply too crazy busy to start!

I think my life is still too busy to start, but I have been looking around my home, seeing what I could use or tweak to work, without much investment. I have been perusing the storage bin aisles at the stores and have hit the dollar store, too. I need to make this inexpensive. I simply must.

I really need to get this written up in one place, so I can share it with all of my friends. I know so many who would find this a very useful idea. And, as this is NOW the prime time for homeschool planning for the next year.......I need to be in a hurry!

I particularly think my friends Frances, Maria, Willa could make good use of this idea......for various reasons. I think Shawna & Stacey would like it, too!

I first heard about this idea on Brigid's blog. I remember thinking how clever it sounded........and the usual thought: "I wish I had known about this when my kids were younger." I always forget that I still have a couple of young kids. :)

Then it was brought up on the 4 Real homeschool message boards in March. I skimmed the first messages and treated it like everything else new: I" do not have time to look into anything new......besides, nothing really feels new anymore, after all of my years of homeschooling."

Then, in May, the same thread got going again, ladies wondering how those using the workbox system were doing after a few weeks.

Comments were consistently coming up, there and in other places on the Internet:





Well, of course those concepts caught my eye!

I want that for ME!

I want that for MY homeschool!

At first, I thought, hmmm, Malachy (7yrs) could really go for this......he loves doing stuff........any stuff.........and he loves being creative and this would give him a chance to do that more often.

Then, I thought how well Garrett would do with more structure (we always need more structure here!).

And I thought about the days when I am at work or just unavailable.......which I hope will be less once we move Anne & Matthew out. The workboxes would be just the thing to give them for those days.

Eventually my thoughts turned to my two high schoolers........

Sarah, 10th grade, could probably benefit from a more specific plan each day. I think she would accomplish more.

And Maddelyn, soon to be 9th grade, who thrives on structure and prefers to have most decisions made for her, would probably do well with this idea......once she gets over the balking....she does not like change. Wonder where she gets that from.... :)

So, I have spent much time in researching the WORKBOXES IDEA.

I have found a yahoo groupwhich is good for early questions and inspiration.

I have found many blog posts about this topic.

One mom made a great list about WHY WORKBOXES? I like it!

But before we go explore the 'net, let me tell you where this all got started......

There was a woman named Susan Patrick who had an autistic son, and she did a lot of research about educating him and eventually developed this idea for her son. You can find her website here and read her story here.

She wrote a book called:

Sue Patrick's Workbox System A User's Guide

Many people have started using the system without reading the book. I was planning to do that, too, but I have seen so many moms say that while it could be done without reading the book, they were so glad to have read it. I would assume with any special needs children in the family, it would be even more important to read the book. I am sure if you do it without the book, it would work just fine. I have decided to order the book as I rarely have anything I need to buy for school I can justify this small purchase. I will share it with my friends, too. You know who you are. In fact, I just ordered it Sunday night from Amazon, along with some other good stuff. I want to have it here in time before I go to Willa's house next week. I hope it gets here. (It didn't...only part of the order arrived.....:( )

The basic premise is to have 12 boxes for each kid, and place in each box, each school day, what they need to do, from the first to the last. When they finish one box, they go to the next numbered box.

Now, that is a very basic description. But, then...this is a pretty basic idea. Checking out the links below will give you a much better overview.........since I have not actually done this. In the past we have done similar workings.....but this is more fine-tuned.

And, keep in mind: KEEP IT SIMPLE! That is always a good rule for homeschooling moms to follow! So, while you explore this idea, do not give it up right it more and spend time thinking about the possibilities.......asking God if this is a good fit for you. I can't help but think it is a good fit for so many I know!

In the meantime, I have discovered a bookshelf in the schoolroom that can be put into the boys' room for this project. And, I have purchased some bins I have used in the past.........for $1 each at the dollar store. Now, I just need to clean out the spot in the boys' room for it....and figure out where to put the stuff on those shelves. I have posted to Freecycle, looking for bookshelves. So far, no nibbles....

......since I wrote friend Patty just happened to have some metal shelves I can use to replace the ones in the schoolroom. Thanks, Patty!

Well, since I started this post, someone has written an online article about workboxes.....and there are lots of links and a few photos. I think I will give you a link to it, so you can look around. Before you start clicking on the links on that page...I have highlighted the useful ones below........

Also, while Willa and I were looking for the above article, she found another good blog post with lots of links. I have also highlighted the good ones below.......

Here is a great idea for using cereal boxes for holders...great photos. I will be considering this idea because I WANT magazine holders, but cannot find any less than $5 anywhere...and some were as a high as $14

Leslie, who also has six kids (aged 2.5-15yrs) has a nice post on workboxes, with good details of what's in them. Her blog is so lovely, that I added it to my google reader. :)

A good example of one mom who tweaked the system to work for her family, using three different methods of storage.

Oh, wow! I love how this looks here! Now I see I CAN use only what I have around and have it still look good visually and make sense. I needed this visual permission. Check this out if you do not want to get a bunch of new stuff or spend money. It works! Plus, you will all chuckle at her first photo. :)

Same mom has an excellent suggestion for the "art-handicapped" mom...ideas for art in the workboxes.

Here is Candace's blog and how she is doing the system.

Tina has a wonderful testimonial to offer after the end of her first week......She also has two posts about their Do-It Door...which someone may find helpful. It is a clever idea. Post one and post two. Especially helpful to those with young elementary kids.

This mom did it exactly as recommended in the book. In fact, you can find all of her posts about the workbox system here, which includes her first few days. Be sure to read from the bottom up. A nice look into someone's home and first week using the system.

Here you can find a lovely blog and description of using with a 2nd, 1st and preschooler. She has great photos of her system. This specific post here covers what to do with the "together" activities. I like her idea.

I like Lynn's little chat about the attitude to take when approaching this system, when you cannot or will not do it exactly as the book states. She also has another approach on the numbering.

Laura has seven kids and six boxes and no room to do the full system. You can see the alternative she is using here. She is using plastic bags...and her children loved the test run so much, they want to do it for the summer! :)

This post is useful to think about what to put into the boxes: the "must haves" the "want to haves" and the "fun" extra stuff.

I like the use of these ice cube trays.......check them out for another way to organize your workboxes. She let me know that you can find them at the Dollar store, Wal-mart, Freds...where she paid 1.50 for each.

Several posts of this small family's experience....a 5yo and a 3yo. Cute kids!

The mom above interviewed her kids' reaction to workboxes.

This mom wrote a "day-in-the-life" post for the days of her 8yo and 6 yo. You get to look in each drawer.

I really like this blog. It is sweet & classy....and she has an alternative way to use the idea, when you have a family that would require 96 boxes!!!! And, based on the little bit of research I am doing, and I could be mistaken, but Leslie may have been the one who got the whole workbox discussion going online. If you scroll down her homeschool posts, you can find some are about the workboxes...and photos of her girls using the boxes.

Another nice blog by Kendra......again, start at the bottom and read each post above. These are all of her workbox posts. She has a nice sense of humor. The one at the bottom reviews the original book a bit. I have a feeling she is describing what MY reaction will be when I get a chance to read it.

A nice post.

Heather has a collection of posts...the most telling ones are at the bottom of the page. Start there and then read each post above the last. She has many photos of her kids actually doing the work. I like how she described the workboxes: "A LIVING CHECKLIST" I believe this verbalizes what I LOVE about this idea: it "livingness!" Is that a real word??? :) Spellcheck says: no way!

Cute number idea for numbering the boxes! She will even make them for YOU....for ten bucks!

List of ideas at for putting in the boxes....expect this list to grow! I had already printed out the animal classification page for Malachy before I found this link. Our little collection of animals will go to good use!

WHAT'S IN THE BOX? The description: Suggestions, Ideas & Discussions regarding the workbox system. Could be a nice one to follow.......I think I will add it to my Google reader.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX has lots of info....and the other parts of her blog are inspiring for the preschooling moms.

Good stuff for tots!

Want a resource for LOTS of worksheets? Try! I have not used lots of worksheets in the past...but Malachy loves them...and this website looks like good filler. Oh, I found alphabetizing, maps, fractions, clocks, money, calendars, states & capitals, California puzzles, and lots more!

So, what are the kids saying about the workboxes? Find out here!

A message board about sharing workboxes, by Homeschool Share. By the way......this is a good place to find ideas for filling your workboxes. Explore if you have not been here before.

Other ways to apply the workbox idea:

How about vacation boxes? Clever!

There are lots of blog posts on workboxes for preschoolers. Since I sadly do not have any preschoolers, anymore, I mostly ignored those resources. The yahoo group above has quite a few including their preschoolers, so it is a good resource.

And, as last thought on these workboxes............

Something to think about (a dead link.......eventually took me to this link, which is interesting, but not related to workboxes, that I can see....) ......I like this quote Heather wrote: "Nearly every homeschooling board is humming with thoughts and questions related to this approach, which is, in essence, a structure for outlining a school day with minimal distractions. Is there more to it? Of course. But at its very heart, the Workbox System is about optimal organization. And, as we all know, organization is one of the major themes in homeschooling." Read more for an interesting take......she writes well...I like her vocabulary and way with words.


So, that's it. I tried to use it.......I set it up very nicely, but never really started it. I just was too tired, busy and distracted to do the follow-up. I may try to set it up again for my 10 year old because I will need to be away from him several days a week. Either way, it has been a very useful place to stash all of the homeschool stuff we are currently using. It sort of looks like this:

.....some of the time. These are not the first boxes I bought.......but these bins are more useful for us most of the time.

God bless,
PS I cannot believe I am blogging at a mall! The teens and young adults need to shop.....we need to wait over two more hours to go pick up my oldest at the airport who is returning from a visit to her best friend's home in Virginia. We are so delighted to have her return to us! We have missed her!........too bad that after we pick her up at 10:45pm......we will still have a 1.5 hour drive home. Ugh.


  1. This is fun! I Have been homeschooling 14 years and yes I need something new, especially because we are sending 2 children off to college and only have 2 left, neither of which are in high school.
    Workboxes sound interesting. I like the idea of having NON-see-through boxes so it is a surprise for the kids. I expect to put into the box notes that say, take 30 minutes of outside play time, etc. I am not sure how storage will work? hummmmm? Child cubbies are kind of small and I don't want my house overrun with workboxes.

    1. Anne, I spent weeks studying my house and outbuildings while I thought about the worboxes. I imagined many differnt ideas......I visited the dollar store, Walmart & office depot to see all of the different types of workboxes I could use.

      That eventually led to a few ideas.....and the dollar store provided just what I was looking for.

      If I had unlimited funds......I would have probably used pretty baskets on pretty wooden bookshelves in my perfectly suited schoolroom in my perfactly large home. ;)

      Putting those kind of notes in there is a great idea.

      I would never do the workboxes as the author has set them up....the system is too complicated. I have enjoyed having them set up......even if I did not follow through.

      I think Willa has some thoughts on workboxes.....she just re-read the book while she was at my house a few weeks ago.

      Your house should not be overrun with workboxes....if they put them away before they do the next one!

      Oh, look in closets or pantries for other places to place them.

      Thanks for reading, Anne!

  2. This was a fun post. I liked visiting all the different blogs and links. Some of them don't seem to work anymore. But I have to say I am so unattracted to work boxes. I think it is all the ugly plastic containers and just the visual clutter. And the idea of having to separate everything out into so many different drawers. It just doesn't suit my style. But it is fascinating to see how other homeschoolers work. And I can always glean an idea or two.

    1. Hmmmm. I am sure that I responded to your comment, Faith! I hate when my writng disappears.....double charting is such a burden.

      Anyway......I agree about the plastic and clutter, but if they are returned to their proper spot at the end of each use, it could actually ease the clutter in some people's lives.

      Like I said in the comment above, if I had unlimited funds, I would go pretty. Ha! I might even hire someone to free me up for getting it all together. :)

      I rarely do anything as presented....but it IS easy to glean those ideas. It is amazing how even one small change can make such a difference in our lives!

      Thanks for coming by, Faith!

  3. I read about work boxes a year or two ago and was rather fascinated by the idea. Now I'm even more intrigued as an idea for how to get through our first official year of homeschooling-- my oldest will be in first grade this fall-- while I'm pregnant and then with a new baby coming in December/January. The biggest problem for me is having a very small house with already a dearth of storage space. But I can see that having a system in place for giving my kids a bunch of stuff to work on at their own pace and to have them prompt me on when they are ready to do something interactive would give all of us a better structure to our days and would help both my motivation and my oldest's. The other problem I can foresee is that anything which takes too much time to set up and plan is bound to fail. I'd have to be able to do a ten minute set up or I'm just too tired in the evenings. I can see that I'd be very much in danger of being very excited about this system for a couple of weeks and then letting it fall by the wayside once the newness has worn off. Especially if the newness wears off for my girls as well and they aren't demanding that I fill their boxes every day. Finally, my oldest has never been good at putting things back when she's done with them. I could see this system teaching her good habits or I could see it as a potential disaster. I suppose nothing ventured nothing gained. It might be worth trying just to see if it would motivate her to pick up her messes in order to be able to move on to the next task. Especially if I seeded enough creative projects and time for art, creative play and outdoor activities along with the more schoolish stuff.

    Thank you so much for this post I do think it is very timely for me and has given me some ideas about a different approach to a dilemma I've been rather stuck on.

    I didn't try to click on many of the links but I did notice the one in this paragraph didn't work: "Oh, wow! I love how this looks here! Now I see I CAN use only what I have around and have it still look good visually and make sense. I needed this visual permission. Check this out if you do not want to get a bunch of new stuff or spend money. It works! Plus, you will all chuckle at her first photo."


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