**If you’re here to see how we use our workbox system, click here to see how our system has evolved and how we use it now.**

I am SO excited that I can finally show you our workbox system! Not only because I finally completed Princess’ workbox this week and can show you but also because I’m very excited to put this into use. VERY. EXCITED.

If you haven’t heard of the Workbox Sytem, Google “workbox system” and browse all the results. You’ll find more about the creator of the workbox system and her book, Sue Patrick’s Workbox System A User’s Guide. You’ll also be able to see how other homeschooling parents have adapted the system to fit their own needs.

The basic idea is that you divide the student’s workday into twelve manageable pieces, organize them into containers with removeable labels, and set up a completion chart to hold the labels as they complete each container. This allows the student a measure of control and allows them to see their progress as they work. If haven’t seen it before, quick, go do a google search first and check it out – then come back here to see how we’ve done ours.

You back? GREAT!

Our Workbox System:

Now to the FUN part! Needless to say, I don’t have the room to set up 3 shelf systems with 12 bins each! So how did I modify this to fit our needs?

This year I wanted to develop a very inexpensive plan. I feel like I need to use the system and prove that it’s going to help as much as I think it will AND that we’re going to stick with it for more than a month before asking hubs if I can go plop a hundred (or two) dollars on a good permanent setup. Can’t you just imagine the look I’d get? “Oh, yeah, hun, I’d like to go spend a couple hundred dollars on a new system that I’ve heard of that I *think* will be good for us and I’d like to try it out.” RIGHT. If we stick with this, I’d like to ultimately end up with a bookcase for our system, in which we use plastic magazine files for the workboxes, a plastic file box for graded papers and records and other plastic bins for storage of craft supplies. But this year I did all my shopping at Walmart and the Dollar General. Check it out:

Princess’ Workbox:

Using banker’s boxes, cheap wrapping paper, manila folders and file folder jackets:

Color Coding: Princess' color for the school year is blue. It was WAY harder to wrap the boxes and especially the lids than what I had expected!
One file box will take up less space than 12 bins. I'll really like eventually switching to a system that takes up even less space, though.

The completion chart was made with a foam sheet, a printed chart, self laminating pouches and velcro dots. It will be hole-punched at the top and hung on a peg or hook. Of course, AFTER I finished making it, Princess pointed out I could have printed it in landscape and attached it to the front of the box. These smart children – oy!

The number cards are made out of index cards (cut into squares), wrapping paper, ribbon, numbers printed in a neat font, one laminating pouch (laid them all on one, then cut around each) and velcro dots.

Princess got to place the velcro dots. I wasn't really sure what to put at the top of the chart, maybe you can come up with something better for yours. 😉
Each number attaches to a manila folder.
Each number attaches to a manila folder.
Once the task is completed the number is moved to the completion chart.
Once the task is completed the number is moved to the completion chart.
Don't forget to buy extra velcro dots! Don't buy just one set for each like I orginally did. Ahem.
Don't forget to buy extra velcro dots! Don't buy just one set for each like I orginally did. Ahem.
Once all the tasks are completed, school is out for the day! Yay!
Once all the tasks are completed, school is out for the day! Yay!

Inside the box, I “popped” out the sides of the file jackets so they stay open. 7 file jackets fit inside the box so I can use each onto to contain 1-3 folders at a time, depending on how thick they are. Some of the manila folders has also been creased at the bottom, using the pre-marked crease lines, so they are wider at the bottom and can hold thicker items.

Side-view of the file jacket.
Side-view of the file jacket.

Momma’s “Workbox”

Since the banker’s boxes came in sets of two, I used one to create a storage box for myself. I can use this to hold the workbooks that I tear additional practice pages from, file folder games, flashcards and the like. I can also use this to store completed assignments throughout the year.

I've even given myself a color code - yellow. My box is wrapped opposite of their, since the lid was already yellow, I wrapped the body of the box in the polka dot paper which I adore.
I've even given myself a color code - yellow. My box is wrapped opposite of their, since the lid was already yellow, I wrapped the body of the box in the polka dot paper which I adore.
I know, inside the box is so glamorous.
I know, inside the box is so glamorous.

Right now there are some craft supplies in the back but they aren’t staying there. I can finally utilize all the downloadables, ebook resources and what not that I’ve been collecting or have links to in an organized and manageable way. Working a few weeks out at a time, I can print and prep things in advance and store them in my workbox until such a time that I need to place it in one of the kids’ workboxes. Some of the file folder games I can laminate and re-use with successive children. (I am SO buying a laminator for next year! Maybe even THIS year!)

Here’s what I’m expecting to get out of The Workbox System:

  • It will help me as a parent and teacher, to:
    • be more structured in teaching and during the school day (since it will all be laid out at the beginning of the school day)
    • keep me accountable to organize and plan in advance (since a minimum amount of organizing and planning will be necessary to prepare the workboxes ahead of time)
    • make it easy for me to record grades and time (since everything will be kept together and I can grade and record items before “re-stocking” the workboxes.)
    • allow me to focus on teaching a new concept to one child with less interruption (since they will each be able to move on to the next item in the box without my assistance)
    • easily provide more practice for concepts they struggle with (since there aren’t 12 subjects and it will be easy to slip in some extra math fact practice, spelling word review, etc.)
  • It will allow my 4th grader to:
    • Work independently with less interruption from her siblings (as they will be equally occupied for most of her school time.)
    • Work through the material more quickly (with less downtime between tasks and with the motivation and encouragement of the completion chart.)
    • Feel less discouraged and distracted (since between her being able to move through the workbox more quickly and their being more occupied for longer, there will be less time that they are free to play before she is finished.)
  • It will allow my 1st grader to:
    • Not feel overwhelmed by the amount of work before her (since it will be broken into many, smaller tasks.)
    • Build confidence as she progresses from task to task without assistance (she’s often a self-starter who doesn’t wait for instructions and ends up in trouble, but this will provide a ‘safe’ environment for her to move at her own fast pace without consequences.)
    • Learn and practice many things without realizing she’s learning (since I can slip in many ‘sneaky’ learning games and she sometimes resists learning under traditional methods.)
    • Have the opportunity to stand up and move around frequently (as she gets up to place a number on the chart and get the next file folder.)
  • It will allow my Pre-Schooler to:
    • Be involved IN and occupied BY learning (as opposed to occupying him elsewhere so the girls can get their school done.)
    • Begin learning at the same age as his sisters (since I will be able to pay better attention to him while they are independently working and since he will have plenty of things to learn with independently while I work with them.)
    • Learn to self-start and progress through the workbox system on his own (I really don’t think it will take long for him to catch on, though at this age, he’ll be allowed to do as much work as he wants to do and move on when he wants to move on.)
  • It will allow all of my children to:
    • work independently
    • gain an element of control in the progression of their school day
    • see their progress as they complete tasks
    • self-start, practice assertiveness
    • make decisions with confidence
    • practice diligence, time-management and develop a good work ethic
    • work/learn at their own pace
    • hopefully finish a little earlier in the day, leaving room for naps and/or quiet time!

As you can see, I’m really expecting a lot out of this system for our new school year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that (like anything else) you get out of it what you put into it, but it really seems like it’s going to be a good fit for us for all the reasons I mentioned above.

The Plan:

The plan as it stands right now, is to pencil out a rough plan for a few weeks in advance and then write out a more specific lesson plan at the beginning of each week.

As the kids work on their workboxes each day, I’ll track their time and make corrections as I can using a homemade spreadsheet. Some assignments will be graded and re-worked before moving on to the next task (such as math). When a child finishes all of her workbox (this doesn’t really apply to the preschooler) I’ll review all of the items in their box to make sure that everything is completed and something doesn’t need to be re-done before dismissing them from the table.

After the kids go to bed each night (I stay up for several hours after their bedtime anyway) I can record all of the grades into www.myhomeschoolplan.com, file away the graded assignments that need to be kept, and “re-stock” everybody’s boxes. Some things (such as Princess’ math book) will always stay in the workbox. Consumables, such as new writing paper for handwriting, will get refilled. Extra practice items such as flash cards, file folder games and other manipulatives will get rotated out and in.

We take every fourth week of the month off (provided we got all our work done) to a.) get a break, b.) catch up on some of the finer points of house cleaning and c.) celebrate holidays and birthdays. I can use this time to pencil out the next block of 3 weeks and make sure that all of my record-keeping is up to date.

Ready, Set, Go!

I’m feeling very hopeful and excited and ready to start our new system! Our 1st official school day will be September 7th. I’m sure there will be some things that we’ll tweak or adjust once we get into it, but there always is. The kids are also very excited about getting to use all the new stuff I’ve been buying, and the older two are looking forward to the new system as well. They look forward to “being in charge” of their work, so to speak. (Nevermind that mom is the one who puts the things in the boxes! It doesn’t seem to matter.) =P

If you have any other suggestions, by all means throw them at me – I want to make this as streamlined and efficient as one possibly can – you know, while schooling three energetic children at different age levels in one tiny dining room. Am I asking too much you think? 😉


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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!