How We Workbox ~ Part 7 (The Change Up)

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

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


In baseball, a change up is a off speed pitch meant to surprise the batter and throw off his timing.  However, the pitcher doesn’t plan at the beginning of the game when he’s going to throw a change up.  Instead, he waits until he needs it to shake things up a bit.  In my workbox world the concept is similar.  When I see interest waning in a particular subject, I know it’s time to throw a change up.  I keep a list of ideas handy and whole host of supplies in standby mode for just such an occasion.

Here are some examples from the past few weeks:

Sister’s writing box usually looks like this:


but one week I could tell she needed a little boost so I replaced it with this:


The skills required to draw a detailed picture are the same ones that develop good handwriting but I didn’t tell her that.  Instead I assigned some pages to complete in lieu of her regular work and told her to have fun.  She did and she produced a great picture in the process.


Brother’s History box usually looks like this:


But he’s six and world history at six isn’t a particular priority to me.  We’d been having some trouble keeping up with our read-aloud (I usually read it at breakfast or lunch while the children eat.) so on this particular week we replaced History with Charlotte’s Web.


I can hear you now, “but won’t that put you behind schedule?”  I don’t think so.  The whole point of the skeleton plan is to allow for flex.  I know that at a chapter a week we could finish the designated portion of “A Child’s History of the World” in 36 weeks.  I also know, having skimmed the material, that there are several chapters I will probably just summarize rather than read.  As I said, he’s six.  Armed with this information I know I can probably skip a week of History and it won’t affect is ability to get into Harvard.  But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that this did put me behind schedule.  Very few school children completely finish their textbooks by the end of each year, why should I feel the pressure to make my kids finish theirs?  We’ll get as far as we get and if we need to we can always pick up there next year.

Sometimes the idea for a change up comes from a book already in the schedule.  Brother’s history includes a number of Usborne books which often have little activities in the sidebar.  If, as I read ahead the night before, I see that I have the materials available and I’m interested then I’ll add them to the box for the next day.  If I don’t or I’m not then I won’t.

Sometimes an idea starts as a change up but works so well that it sticks.  Sister doesn’t like to write very much so I relieve this stress for her where I can.  She says her spelling words out loud and only has to write the ones she misses.  In one workbook I allow her to highlight the answers within the text rather than writing them out.  Both of these adaptations started as change ups.

Sometimes change ups come from an outside source.  Aunt R gave Brother several small science experiment kits which I knew he would enjoy but which I also knew would get lost and never used in the chaos that is our lives right now.  To keep that from happening, I tucked them into my supply closet and over time, as I saw them and remembered,  they went into  his science box.

Sometimes change ups are not even about the kids.  I recently came across the Postcrossing website and thought it sounded like fun.  Since I didn’t have any extra time to devote to setting up such a project we replaced Geography this week with postcard writing.


Or what about this one?  I don’t really enjoy the book “Leading Little Ones to God”  We have it.  It’s an easy fall back and it has generated some great conversations; still I’m always on the lookout for ways to change up Brother’s Bible box.  This week his Sunday school lesson was lying on the table as I prepared for the school  week so I popped that in for discussion.

The possibilities for change are endless.  The biggest challenge is letting go of the notion that you are not “following the schedule.”  If they are learning and enjoying learning then I say you are right on track.


So there you have it.  More than you ever wanted to know about how we workbox. Certainly it’s more than I ever intended to write. Smile