How We Workbox ~ Part 1 (The Way We Started)

We’ve been homeschooling for about 4 years now.  At first it was just Sister then, last year Brother joined the mix.  At that time we had a one year old in the house and were expecting a fourth.  Life was crazy!  Homeschooling was hard and inconsistent at best.  When we did “do school” it wasn’t the fun stuff like science experiments, PE games or art: it was worksheets because worksheets are easy to plan.  Unfortunately, they do not inspire a love of learning.  I knew that something had to be done so I went on a quest; reading about all sorts of methods and systems and that’s when I stumbled upon Sue Patrick.

Sue had developed this system that could be used with any curriculum and any age.  She claimed that it made the day flow better, that it made planning easier and that it allowed kids to be mostly independent during school time.  I bought the e-book and read dozens of blogs on the subject and then jumped on board.

The idea is that each child has 12 numbered boxes.  Divided among each of the boxes are their assignments for the day AND all the supplies needed to complete those assignments.  For example, a young child’s box might contain a color by number sheet.  It would also contain a box of crayons.  Or a box with cut and paste work would contain scissors and glue as well as the necessary papers.

This is what Sister’s filled workboxes looked like when we started.


And Brother’s



In addition to the simple rule of always providing the correct supplies. There are other important nuances. 

**The boxes are numbered because it is expected that the child will work them IN ORDER.  This allows you as the teacher to follow a not so favorite subject with a favorite one and by so doing keep your child motivated.

**There must be some visual cue so the child can easily look and see which boxes are complete and which are left.  The original system calls for removing completed boxes from the shelf altogether. We have tweaked this a bit and use removable tags.

**Boxes are meant to be worked independently UNLESS otherwise specified by a “work with mom” tag.

Sue’s original system incorporates more than just seat work for the day.  She adds in learning centers, games, chores etc. so she also uses what she calls “schedule strips”.



(in this photo you can see Brother’s yellow schedule strip hanging from the wall.)


Following the system to the letter worked great! …. at first.  The kids had a clear understanding of what was expected each day.  The whining and complaining became magically almost non-existent.   They could continue working  even when I was distracted by my littlest and consequently we were typically finished with seatwork by noon and often much earlier.  I loved it.  They loved it.  But oh, the planning time it required. 

I spent about an hour each night filling boxes for the next day, printing out or writing instruction sheets and resetting the schedule strips.  This time was significantly increased if I wanted to add in any special activities or make/change the learning centers.



Sister at our “Sign Language Learning Center”


The system was great but for me it was not sustainable.  I had another little on the way. Sleep was already a precious commodity. I needed something that didn’t require so much daily care and feeding.  In addition, while I wanted my kids to be able to work independently, I also wanted to work with them when I was not changing diapers or picking up toddler messes.  So we started making changes.


to be continued ….


7 thoughts on “How We Workbox ~ Part 1 (The Way We Started)

  1. Pingback: This Simple Life » Blog Archive » How We Workbox ~ Part 2 (Change is Good)

  2. Pingback: This Simple Life » Blog Archive » How We Workbox ~ Part 3 (Ditching the Plan)

  3. Pingback: This Simple Life » Blog Archive » How We Workbox ~ Part 4 (A New Framework Finally Emerges)

  4. Pingback: This Simple Life » Blog Archive » How We Workbox Part 5 ~ (Stepping Through)

  5. Pingback: This Simple Life » Blog Archive » How We Workbox ~ Part 6 (Inside the Box)

  6. Pingback: This Simple Life » Blog Archive » How We Workbox ~ Part 7 (The Change Up)

  7. Toni, It was so good to see you and the kids at the piano recital! Sadie was amazing! Very talented. Miss talking. Hope all it well. You have just been in my heart and I wanted to say hey!

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