How We Workbox ~ Part 2 (Change is Good)

If you missed Part 1 of this series you can find it here

Don’t know what workboxes are?  Check out this link.

The schedule strips do exactly that.  They are laminated strips of paper with velcro dots on them.  To the dots the teacher applies schedule tags in the order she wants the tasks completed.  Schedule tags could be a box number, a learning center task, some sort of chore (like “feed the dog”) or even a random exercise (do 10 jumping jacks)  (examples here and here) The idea is that they allow you to order much more than just your school day and that the tasks you schedule break up the monotony of only doing boxes.   Great concept so I made a set of strips for each child along with all the appropriate tags I could think of.  In the beginning, they did help order the day.  The children faithfully moved tags from strip to workbox to a “completed” pile for about three weeks.  Then I noticed that only about half of the tags were being moved each day and then a couple and then none at all.  Having acclimated to the new system the children, of their own accord, dropped what was no longer useful.  I started to be upset.  I had spent a lot of time cutting out those little tags. Besides the system said you should use them.  Leaving them out wasn’t “right”, was it?  Then I took a reality check and realized the answer was, “Yes.  It was right, for us.”  Change #1 ~ complete.


Change #2 ~ The end of my perfectly perfect school room.

You can actually do workboxes just about anywhere (Nowadays we sometimes even take ours outside.)  But in her e-book Sue Patrick does place some emphasis on providing a particular work space for each child.  Because all the materials are readily available, the child should not stray from that work space and that will help him/her remain focused on the task at hand.  In theory, a good idea.


His space.


Her space.

In reality, these pictures show our school room in the cleanest, most uncluttered state it has ever been or ever will be because each day after school time was over this room reverted back to its original purpose(s): toy playing/game playing/tv watching room. This meant that in addition to refilling boxes each evening I had to do a massive cleanup of the space to prepare for the next day OR motivate the children to do a massive cleanup OR have school the following day in a pit of chaos.  More often than not the lot fell to choice #3 and let me tell you a pit of chaos does NOT promote focus on the task at hand.  So I let go of my notion that school should have a room and we moved downstairs to the very sparse, uncluttered and generally clean dining room table.  An unexpected and delightful side effect of this move was that now I could complete simple tasks like throwing in a load of laundry or preheating the stove for lunch without going “all the way” downstairs.  A good thing since any mother knows leaving a room for more than 5 minutes is an open invitation to bicker with your sibling.


The new space ~ Love the light!

The last change happened after the first of the year.  Baby Z arrived at the end of November.  Then there was Christmas and sometime in January it became obvious that school needed to get back in gear or we’d never finish.  Unfortunately, as I had predicted, there was even less time to plan than before.  There was no way I could come up with material for 12 boxes …for two children … every night.  So I didn’t.  We dropped down to 6 boxes most days and only 3 or 4 on others.  In those boxes I placed workbooks that the kids could do on their own with consistently simple instructions (like complete 1 page per day), or a book they could read on their own with consistently simple instructions (like read 1 chapter per day), or direction to use a computer program on their own with consistently simple instructions (like visit 1 lesson per day).  I’m guessing you’ll have picked up on the pattern by now.  In this manner, nightly planning went from 1 hour plus to 10 minutes and we finished out our year (making up for lost months) about mid-July.  It wasn’t pretty.  There were far more worksheets than I liked but they did the work … daily.  They did it well and without complaint.  Even with all these tweaks the workbox system still worked.  The next question was how to take this knowledge and add back in some fun.


to be continued …