Homeschool Creations

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How We're Using Workboxes

Note: For those of you who have asked about how this worked for us during the year ~ it went well, but we did do some tweaking! See the post Our New Workbox System: Weekly Workbox Grid to read more about our updated system!

While I love the Workbox System and understand why Sue Patrick set it up the way she did {and why it works that way}, we seriously do not have room for 48 boxes, 4 shelving systems and to implement it the way she recommends. Kaleb's workboxes are very similar to Sue's system, but for our other three we modified the system to fit our family and it is working great for us.

Want to see some pictures?

Our workbox number strips and tags hang over near our school shelves in our dining room. Each of our kids is color-coded {trust me, it helps keep track of all those different school supplies}.

The strips are laminated and I punched them with a hole punch and hooked them onto a book ring. We hang them on one of the 3M adhesive hooks and the kids can take them down to put in their 'work space' when it's time for school.

Next to where our tags hang we have a set of four drawers. The drawers all hold the kids school supplies: markers, pencil boxes, our 'workfolders', mini office folders, journals, and books that are specific just to them.

Our workboxes are actually more like 'workfolders'. I saw a similar idea on one of the yahoo groups and walked into Walmart a few days later and found folders that were all our kids color codes. Each of the folders originally only had 8 pockets, so I bought a few extra folders, took the comb binding off, and added a few extra pages so they all had 12 pockets. The inside folders are clear. If something that we are doing doesn't fit into one of the folders {a puzzle, a manipulative, or a 'hands-on lesson'} the kids have a special tag on their folder that lets them know what they should be doing.

Most of the folder pages have their worksheets, journals or papers they need slid into the folder itself. When they finish the page, they remove the number from their number strip and put it next to the number on their folder. If there is another tag on that page already {see the picture tagged 'folder page for spelling' above} we have a basket in the middle of our table where the kids return the 'extra' activity cards for me to sort and store later.

Those big and bulky items need a place to be stored for the kids to find. Kaleb's shelf has 12 boxes, and 4 of the boxes are oversized. Kaleb's school things are in the top 8 boxes and if there is a puzzle or special game the older kids are going to work on, they find them in the bottom 4 boxes.

I have quite a few activity and subject cards for things that we do during our school day that don't have worksheets to go along with them {spelling, geography, language} ~ all things that the kids work 1:1 with Mommy. Kari from The Snails Trail mentioned that she had found a pocket chart in the dollar section at Target, so I ran over there quickly to grab one for myself. I have the chart stuck on the inside of my spice cabinet {yeah, my husband was thrilled to see that}. I used the removable adhesive hooks and tabs from 3M to keep it hanging up on the cabinet door.

There are cards we use daily {located on the bottom rows}, subjects and activities we only do one or two days a week (alphabetized in the top few rows}, and special cards for activities out of the house {museum, library, and outside activities}. I have them sorted so I can grab them quickly.

That is our system in a very LARGE nutshell. :) If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

You can view and download all my workbox printables that go along with our workboxes, in my post titled Workbox Tags & Cards. Also, don't forget the fun preschool workbox number cards for your little ones!.


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  • Hmmm...the wheels are turning (you know, the ones in my mind). I was looking at boxes at Walmart last night. Even though they're only $1 each, that's $48, not including any shelving, so I'm really liking your folder idea.

    I'm thinking, I'm thinking (said in my best "Thinker" voice from Night at the Museum 2). I'm sincerely hoping I get the opportunity to review this system. I could totally have some fun playing with it and I'm very excited about the extra things that don't usually get done that I can see getting done with this system.

    Thanks for posting pictures. That really helps.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2009 at 12:44 PM  

  • Hi,
    I love your wall pocket with the cards. Would you share what activities you have on the cards?
    Thank you,

    By Anonymous Heather, At August 6, 2009 at 2:08 PM  

  • Okay, um...duh! Just for the record, I *just now* -- as in, right this minute -- realized that it wouldn't cost me $48 because, well, I only have THREE kids, not four.

    Do you see how much influence you have over people? After talking with you yesterday, I had 48 on the brain. I literally stood in Walmart last night counting to see if they had 48 boxes (not that I was even going to buy them at the time, but that's beside the point).

    Oh, my goodness. I need some sleep. And, maybe a lesson in counting. Sheesh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 6, 2009 at 2:11 PM  

  • I LOVE the way you organized this! Thanks so much for sharing it. I am going to use Sue's system at some point and this has given me such great ideas!!

    By Blogger Willow, At August 6, 2009 at 2:25 PM  

  • How recently did you find a pocket chart at Target in $1 section? I would love to find something like that but haven't seen it there lately :0

    heatherlbrandt (at) verizon (dot) net

    By Blogger Heather Brandt, At August 6, 2009 at 2:41 PM  

  • Too--unbelievable--I am using the same exact shelf/bin unit for all of Jack's Tot School toys (just my bins are different colors) and rotating them throughout the week!

    Did you see my worbox post that I put up last night--I just couldn't wait-read that book in the same night I downloaded it:-)!

    By Blogger Susana, At August 6, 2009 at 2:53 PM  

  • That looks wonderful! I'm not a "workboxer", but if I was...I would love to do it that way. You are very creative!

    By Blogger really.truly, At August 6, 2009 at 3:12 PM  

  • Thank you for this post!! My daughter is 3 and my son is 1, so I'm still in the mode of trying to envision how I will do homeschool rather than actively doing it! This really helps me think about how to organize our life! :) perhaps I'll start working it in to our "unofficial" preschool stuff this year!

    By Anonymous Kristi_runwatch, At August 6, 2009 at 3:19 PM  

  • where did you find those folders? We have the boxes, I got both my shelves for free and set them up at different times since my younger daughter has just started. I could imagine lots of different uses for those folders!

    By Blogger DairyQueen, At August 6, 2009 at 3:31 PM  

  • Great post, love how you're using the system, and all of your home-made pretties ;).


    By Blogger Carisa, At August 6, 2009 at 3:44 PM  

  • love it just as much as i loved it when i got the tour the other day - you rock!!!!
    i did copy the pocket chart thing becuase i already knew i needed to make my extra crads smaller so i did and i am using my pocket chart to store them!!!
    we use magazine fileboxes and i needed to be able to get 2 cards on the front of each!
    thanks for sharing all your goodies!!!

    By Blogger Julie, At August 6, 2009 at 4:30 PM  

  • Wow, you are so incredibly organized! I still have a lot of questions on the system, and one of the main ones is this - how do you keep your young preschooler from just ripping through all those boxes and folders looking for "something else" to do. Every time I try any kind of workbook with my daughter, that's exactly what happens. She just puts a couple of squiggles on one page, declares it done and then moves on to something else. I did like your folder idea - I can see how I could put together a couple of days of small printables and mini-projects to do. Thanks for encouragement and inspiration.

    By Blogger Natalie PlanetSmarty, At August 6, 2009 at 4:33 PM  

  • I love seeing (pictures) how everyone is taking their own approach to the workbox system. My family is in the process of setting up and figuring out what will work best for our family. I love the idea of the pocket chart.

    Would you be willing to share your subject cards?

    Thank you again. I love your blogs.

    By Blogger CLEM, At August 6, 2009 at 5:18 PM  

  • I love your ideas! I am using the workbox system with 3-drawer stackable bins but I only have one child.

    I noticed you also use a lot of the same curriculum as we do!

    Love your site!

    By Blogger Our Homeschool Reviews, At August 6, 2009 at 6:32 PM  

  • Great Job! I love the way you did these. I had to alter the workbox system too. I love the folder idea. Would you mind sharing your subject cards?

    I really love your site. We use some of the same curriculum as you!

    By Anonymous vansant6pac, At August 6, 2009 at 6:39 PM  

  • I plan on starting tot school in a few weeks and have had a difficult time figuring out how to make the workboxes fit into my house. Thanks for all of your ideas.

    By Blogger Cindy, At August 6, 2009 at 8:27 PM  

  • Ooo! I love all the pretty colors, fonts and graphics! Very nice to see how you are using it! I like the hanging pocket chart - very nice. Looking forward to seeing what goodies you come up with!

    By Blogger Michelle Gibson, At August 6, 2009 at 8:29 PM  

  • Oh wow!!! Cool idea!! I love the workfolder idea! I may do that for my oldest next year. We are using storage totes with hanging file folders right now, but I can see the workfolder working better for my oldest.

    By Blogger Christie, At August 6, 2009 at 8:31 PM  

  • It looks beautiful. I had to smile about your comment regarding your husband not being thrilled...homeschooling takes over your house and life doesn't it?

    By Blogger Karin Katherine, At August 6, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

  • Thank you for blogging! I absolutely love your site. We started our first year of homeschooling with our not quite 5 and 3.5 year olds this week. I'm so grateful for your site and all of the ideas and printables!!! I listened to Sue Patrick yesterday at the HOTM conference. Love her ideas as well. At the moment our family of 5 is living in a cozy townhome and not to much extra room. THANK YOU for the workfolder idea. A couple of questions...First, did you get the blue pocket organizer from Target this year? (We live about an hour and 15 minutes away from the nearest Target and thought it, along with other school supplies, would be a good excuse for the "teacher" to take a field trip this weekend :) Second, did you get the folders from WalMart this year? I wasn't looking for them, but don't remember seeing them in the school supply aisle? Thanks again! I look forward to the upcoming posts!!!

    By Blogger Suzanne, At August 6, 2009 at 10:19 PM  

  • I just gave you an award!!

    By Blogger Susana, At August 6, 2009 at 11:58 PM  

  • Ok, I can see a lot of other people have questions about the folders too. Did you find these folders already bound together, or did you do that yourself? Thanks! Love your site.

    By Blogger Jackie, At August 7, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

  • Hey all -

    I try to respond to you via email or through your blogs, but many of you do not have your email or blog accessible, so I can't respond.

    Most of the questions that have been asked are in the post itself:

    - I found the pocket folder (just like you see them) at Walmart. Each folder only had 8 folders, so I bought a few extra folder and took off the binding so I could add extra pockets in.

    - The folders were in the office supply section of Walmart - I can't guarantee that your Walmart will have them.

    - The blue pocket chart is from the Dollar section at Target right now.

    - If you have questions, please feel free to email me directly by hitting the 'contact me' button up at the top of the page. If I don't have your email, I can't reply to you!

    By Blogger Jolanthe, At August 7, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

  • OK, so I stare at this and drool...but this isn't a year for me to have the time it would take to get that going. At least not before Christmas break.

    ironically, we are doing a similar thing, but not so organized. I have those same folders from Walmart - and have a day on of the week on each page - and the worksheets for the day are in the right folder.

    Love all this. Might incorporate some of it.

    How will you use the "library" card? on each of their tags that day?

    By Blogger Mary@notbefore7, At August 9, 2009 at 6:17 PM  

  • I am so loving this idea!!! Plus everything is just so darn cute!!! I am a sucker for cute, homeshooling stuff.

    By Blogger Mama Jenn, At August 9, 2009 at 6:39 PM  

  • What a fabulous idea! My daughter is still using a lot of actual books, so folders wouldn't be very efficient for us right now, but I'm thinking your method might work really well for us in a couple of years. (It might also be a really good way for us to sort of "wean" her from workboxes to totally independent planning.)

    By Blogger Rachel R., At August 13, 2009 at 10:10 AM  

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!! I want to post a link on my blog but both links you have create the same "Preschool Corner" button. I would also like your other "button"

    By Anonymous Stephanie, At September 12, 2009 at 2:48 AM  

  • I've been thinking more and more along the lines of workboxes lately and am trying to set it all up in my head first:-) I think it will help us to get in some of the activities that get pushed off most days. I'm wondering about your activity cards--for instance I saw "take a walk". Do you put that on everyone's for that day at the same number--what if everyone isn't at that number at the same time--I could see us getting sidetracked that way. Also, if one of the kids comes to a 1:1 activity and you're tied up with another child, do they move on to the next one a while or get sidetracked to something "non-school"?

    By Anonymous Christy, At October 26, 2009 at 9:44 PM  

  • Your daughter Laurianna is so pretty!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 10, 2010 at 9:08 AM  

  • Thanks for the great photos of your system. I am mulling over many ideas for my limited space as well since I have 4 children and only 1 coat closet to work with for everything. (and a basement but who wants to go up and down a basement 12 times a day?). Anywho...your kids are beautiful!!! You are a blessed momma.
    -Dawn C from Ladybugsandfrogs

    By Blogger Dawn, At May 12, 2010 at 8:07 AM  

  • I know that I'm coming in way late but I've been trying to find the pocket folders bound like shown on your post. I can't find anything like that, is there a brand name and item number anywhere on it?

    By Blogger Marni, At July 14, 2010 at 10:04 AM  

  • Any idea where I can find the comb bound poly folders? I've looked at Target and Walmart with no luck. It there a brand name and item number on yours?

    By Blogger Marni, At July 14, 2010 at 1:07 PM  

  • Okay, it's been almost a year since you posted about this system. How did it work out for you in the long term? Did you use it consistently throughout the school year? Will you be using it for this new year as well?

    I found this post while searching for workbox ideas for a smallish area and lots of kids (we have 5 kids and do school in our family/dining room). I am really, really intrigued by the "workfolder" idea, but things that sound great at the beginning of a school year have a way of showing all their difficulties as the weeks roll on. Please do a new blog post updating us on how your system has worked in practice, what changes you had to make or are considering making, and any advice you would have for someone considering adopting it.

    Lastly, thank you very, very much for your workbox printables. These will save me a lot of time making my own. Oh, and I completely understand color coding your children. I do the same.

    By Blogger Robin E., At July 14, 2010 at 6:06 PM  

  • I've been dropping in a lot the last couple of weeks to print and such. Also recommended this page several times. Thanks for your work on this!

    By Anonymous Megan, At August 24, 2010 at 10:23 AM  

  • Hi there-
    I am wondering if you can show a bit more about your work folders and how you use them. I am truly tired of gathering everything to put everything in and out of the boxes (we actually use the 4-5 drawer bins)and having each subject in a different drawer seems like a waist sometimes for one worksheet. Do you put everything for the whole week into the folder? Does each subject have it's own folder? If they are going to play a game, type, cook, play legos, etc, do you gather everything ahead of time or just have them go to where the item is?
    I have an 8yo, 5 yo and 3 yo and am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the boxes and the whole system! Thanks so much for your site! I LOVE it!

    By Anonymous Tammie, At November 2, 2010 at 5:31 PM  

  • HI there, This is Tammie from the previous comment on 11/2/10. forgot to leave my email for a reply

    By Anonymous Tammie, At November 4, 2010 at 10:07 PM  

  • Tammie ~

    This link gives you another peek into our workbox system for this year:

    I do put all of their worksheets in the folder pocket for the entire all of the language worksheets, writing pages, math, etc... For items that are bigger/bulkier, we have a bin where the item is ~ unless it is something that doesn't go in a box {like a nature walk, etc...}. I have workbox tags that can go on some of the folders too if it is something that wouldn't fit in the box {like the Spanish program, since more than one kiddo is using the program, they know to go to the computer}. On that pocket there is a Spanish tag that has any additional materials they may need for the week {scratch paper, etc...}.

    Does that help any more? I only put things in their folders once a week and then take all the papers out at the end of the week when I am restocking for the upcoming week. :)


    By Blogger Jolanthe, At November 5, 2010 at 7:49 AM  

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