Once upon a time.. there was a fairy princess.

No, it was a homeschool mom.

And she found a magic wishing rock that would make all her dreams come true.

No, that’s not true either. It was a new homeschool system that was going to fix all of her problems. And it did. Sorta. Well, some of them.

The system worked, it did what it was supposed to do. But you see, systems are designed to produce certain outcomes, with specific goals in mind. The problem wasn’t the system, it was that the homeschool mom’s goals changed so the system no longer met the homeschool mom’s needs.

So the homeschool mom set the system aside for a while. And she considered it. And she thought. And after settling into her new goals for a while, she brought it back out, made a few changes and she liked what she saw. The new system made the homeschool mom very, very happy!

Yes, that homeschool mom was me. And yes, that system was the Workbox system. Two school years ago, I fell in love with the idea of my children working independently, and being able to move on with their lessons while I was working with one sibling. And the organization of the system pulled at my WannaBe Organized Inner Self. It was beautiful! But before spending a boatload of money on racks and bins that we didn’t have room for anyway, I wanted to try it out first in a way that took up less space. And we set up our workbox system with banker’s boxes.

And it worked. Sorta. The file jackets wouldn’t stay in the banker’s boxes when you pulled the file folders out unless you made an effort to keep them there – but the younger two never did, they pulled the whole thing out. They weren’t always great at putting them back, either. But they used it, it worked. Over the course of the year the file jackets and the banker’s boxes began to show wear, quicker than I’d hoped, and that was a little disappointing. But again, it worked.

The real crux of the problem hit last year when I saw the light of “Group Learning.” How was I going to fit group learning with the independent workbox system?? Compounded with the dilapidated boxes, needing to find our groove with group learning and wanting to spend more time together…I faltered. I reorganized the workboxes into file crates and gave it a weak try, but I quickly abandoned it and set it aside for a while. Sometime during the second semester though, I got an idea and I pulled their numbered charts back out. I used them with a dry erase marker to assign lessons for the day in a way that they could visually see, and have some independence and incorporate our group learning. It worked well, so this year I created new charts, new tags, and we’re using our new and improved WorkCHART system.

See for yourself:

Workcharts in picture frames with velcro on the glass. I copied picture from our "Who is God?" coloring book to create pictures to uncover.

The workchart system is basically a backwards workbox system. Instead of going to a box, doing an assigment and plugging the number on a chart.. in this system you go to the chart, see the assignment, go to the “box,” get the assignment and do it, and put the tag away. Instead of trying to fill your chart up, you’re trying to clear it off. I can use this with group lessons because I put them all at the top of the workchart and after we all do, say, Bible, they all can go to their charts and remove the tags. Once our group lessons are done, they have a variety of individual tasks to complete individually (with assistance from mom as needed.)

The extras are kept in a pencil box and the used ones returned here after completion.

I made tags for everything I could think of possibly wanting to do at some point — and I still thought of a couple I forgot! Fortunately I was smart enough to make a few blank ones I can write on with dry erase marker. ; ) Also I decided to use pictures of their textbooks when I could find them, and for most of the others I found free coloring pages I could print and use for my own purposes that I reduced and used (like Minnie Mouse writing  a letter for the “Write a letter” tag – which we use to write letters to pen pals and family members.)

Close your eyes and pretend it's a black cube bookcase. For now, it's a pink file crate "bookcase."

Another benefit to doing it this way is that it takes up less space. I don’t have to have a separate system – bins, banker boxes, magazine files – to organize today’s work in. It all stays on the shelf. Right now our “shelf” is just our file-crates-turned-workbox-turned-bookcase stacked into a square shaped shelf. I want to replace it with an actual wood 4-cube shelf. Just like this, but permanent. In the meantime, this works well. Everyone’s work is in their own box (and one for me.) Everyone can find their own things and return them to their own shelves and it doesn’t take up too much room. In addition to the supply cabinet in the corner of the dining room, it all works and fits nicely. And though it’s always slightly messy.. it’s a lot less cluttered without all the file folders in there, too.

So that’s our new WorkChart system and how we’re using it to organize our school day and get our work done. The kids enjoy it, even the 5 year old can use it. Momma likes it. It’s a win/win.

This is a part of the ABC’s of Homeschooling series by Dawn @ 5 Kids and a Dog. You can see the rest of my ABC posts here:


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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!