Homeschool Creations

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Workbox System {Sue Patrick}

"Learning how to learn is one of the most important things we can teach our children."

~ Sue Patrick
p. 14, Workbox System
User's Guide

If you've been reading blogs or visiting homeschool forums lately, I'm sure that you've heard the term 'workboxes' buzzing around. Sue Patrick's Workbox SystemSM is one of the newest ways to organize your homeschool day, helping you structure your time more efficiently and present curriculum in a way that helps children learn more independently.

If you know me at all, I'm sure you realize that I thrive on order. Love it. When I first heard about the Workbox SystemSM, I was immediately intrigued. Finding out I had the chance to review it for the Homeschool Crew was icing on the cake. Sue Patrick was at my local homeschool convention and I was able to see the workboxes set up as she recommends, hear her story, and gain an understanding of how {and why} the system works.

How did the Workbox SystemSM start?

Sue Patrick developed the system to help her son with special needs grow and develop academically. Her success in teaching her son encouraged her to help other families with children of ALL abilities achieve success in their homeschooling.

How does the system work?

This quick slideshow, put together by Sue, does a GREAT job summarizing how the system is set up and works in a homeschool setting.

The system is set up with 12 workboxes {or an amount that works for your child's age} that are filled with your core subjects as well as fun manipulatives: file folder games, puzzles, or other learning games. Your child works through the boxes in numerical order, with help as needed. There are other cards added in throughout their day for things like snack, lunch, or different activities {exercise, centers, etc...}.

The system encourages your child to work more independently on their schoolwork, although your child is given several 'help' cards to use as needed throughout their day. Some boxes may have a 'work with mom' card, letting your child know that they need to do that subject with your assistance. Everything that your child needs for the activities is contained in the workbox, so that they do not need to wander off in search of the activity...and forget to wander back!

Are workboxes for me {and you}?

While I already have a fairly organized school day, I knew that this would help our school day in several ways:
  • I would be more accountable to actually plan and use curriculum on our shelves {i.e. many of my 'unused' manipulatives would finally see the light of our homeschool day}. The boxes need to be filled with activities and it helps me chunk out our school time.
  • It would encourage me to be more consistent in our school days. While I already have an overall idea of how I want our day to go, this gives me a bit more consistency in working through the day {read ~ I am easily distracted...}
  • Our kids would be able to literally 'see' what was happening each school day, because there is a definite order to each day. This doesn't only apply to the kids either - I can also see what they have finished and still need to do!
  • My kids would be encouraged to work more independently ~ and work towards definite goals during their school day. The kids have fun things to look forward too, encouraging them to work toward those goals.
  • It would encourage me to add more 'fun' into our school day: learning games, nature walks, learning centers, trips to the museum...
  • It has given me a renewed excitement for our school time {and our kids too}. I've gone through our supplies and on-hand activities and have lists of all the things that we have on hand to do. Each day their boxes have fun 'new' things in them to do and they look forward to seeing what is planned!
If you are not {by nature} a structured or organized person and need help in this area for your schoolday, the Workbox SystemSM would be a great addition to your day. Sue's book offers step-by-step instructions and suggestions on how to better plan your school day. In addition to explaining the physical structure of the Workbox SystemSM, she also shares her tips and tricks and philosophy of education.

If you already are structured and organized, well....let's just say that it didn't stop me! :) I have been so excited about the Workbox SystemSM and couldn't wait to share more about it with you all! Putting the system together for our family has been a lot of fun for me and our kids love how it has come together and enjoy using it!

Setting up Your System

You will need to purchase more than the book to set up your workboxes at home, but you can find the supplies at your local Walmart or Target {Sue shows an example of her system set-up in slides 5 & 6 above}. Additional supplies include a wire shelving system, clear shoe boxes, velcro, number cards and strips, and other optional supplies.

Note: Sue does not recommend altering the system until you have tried her method as it is written and then alter it to fit your needs. It is important that you read through her book to fully understand her thoughts and the heart behind the system.

We had a wooden shelf that was similar to the one Sue Patrick recommends in her book and that is working great with Kaleb. He only has 6 boxes a day and they are filled with fun and educational toys for him {lacing beads, stacking blocks, color matching bears}, coloring sheets, and other fun age-appropriate toys.

I was worried about all the velcro and finding numbers all over the house with Kaleb, but he has been great with it. Zachary recently turned all of the numbers upside-down on Kaleb's boxes and when Kaleb noticed it, he carefully turned all the numbers right-side-up {the velcro numbers themselves can be educational!}.

Because we started in the summer, we haven't done it in full force yet {using all 12}, but it has already made a difference in how the kids approach what we are doing for the day because they can see what is planned right up front. We have limited space in our house, so the three oldest kids are still using the number/sequencing format and a similar set-up, but I have altered how we implement the workboxes a little bit. At this point it is much more efficient for us and works well for our family.

Depending on the size of your family, an alternative to the racks and boxes might be necessary. For us, four kids means 48 boxes which take up a lot of room. The more children you have, the space they take up increases. There are families that have come up with alternatives {ours included} to using the racks and boxes. In essence, that is a great benefit to homeschooling ~ finding great tools like the Workbox SystemSM and being able to adjust them to meet your family's needs.

How can I find out more?

All of the workbox products are offered through Sue Patrick's Workbox SystemSM site, and her book is available with several different options:
  • E-book download ($19)
  • Book purchase ($19.95 plus s/h ~ also available through Amazon)
  • Book & consulting package ($119.95 plus s/h) - includes 4 months of email consultation with Sue regarding the system
Once you have purchased the book, Sue offers resources on her website for download, as well as starter packages that include centers, log books, and a typing program {these packages are not necessary to use the program}. Sue also offers velcro dots in sets of 300 at a great price too.

The book is a wonderful resource to keep on hand and be able to refer back to when you have questions or need a quick 'refresher'. In addition to walking you through the Workbox SystemSM, there are suggestions for hands on resources, storage ideas and learning centers. Sue is also updating her site to add additional online resources for those who purchase her book and register with her site.

For me, this was also a wonderful excuse to buy the laminator that I had been eyeing for awhile. Now, not only is our homeschool day more consistent, everything also comes with a nice shiny finish. It's pure heaven!

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews about this product.
As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was given this product to review,
and I do not have to return the product to the vendor. I was not paid for this post.
All opinions expressed in this post are mine.


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  • Thank you for sharing this! I really hope to incorporate this system in our home our next academic school year. I felt a bit intimidated trying it this year being our first year of homeschool and bringing a new baby home too.

    Who knows, maybe I'll try it halfway through the year if it keeps itching away at me:-).

    This is a great post--thanks again!

    By Blogger Susana, At August 2, 2009 at 12:13 AM  

  • I think that my kids would really enjoy this, but I just can't imagine finding anywhere in our house to put three sets of boxes.

    Plus, I wonder how this works when you do some activities together. What if not everyone gets to the same point at the same time?

    By Blogger Angie @ Many Little Blessings, At August 3, 2009 at 1:03 AM  

  • i am fascinated with the workbox system! I have a 5 yr old and a 2 1/2 year old that I plan on teaching this year--this book would be a great help!

    By Blogger kater, At August 3, 2009 at 8:30 AM  

  • This is the second post I've read recently about workboxes. I totally think this would be helpful. Thanks for your review.

    By Blogger Shannon, At August 3, 2009 at 11:25 PM  

  • I've been always curious about this system, thanks for sharing :)

    By Blogger Clemencia, At August 4, 2009 at 8:53 AM  

  • I see. I can't imagine fitting this. I am already redesigning the main level for where school will take place. We are crowded :)

    By Blogger Mary@notbefore7, At August 4, 2009 at 9:14 PM  

  • I'm not even waiting half way through the year--I ordered and downloaded the E-Book today. Look for my workbox system post soon:-). Want this established before Jesse is here!!

    I am also very, very organized and scheduled!! However, this will (as you said) inspire increased productivity, creativity and make sure that I cover and use the materials I have and often forget about even though they are written down on the weekly lesson agenda!!

    Wonderful review--thanks so much for this--I've read it 3 times:-)!!

    By Blogger Susana, At August 4, 2009 at 9:43 PM  

  • I am unable to print the workbox number cards... It keeps coming out non centered... and am also unable to create a google account... I don't have a cell that will receive an SMS text... Please reply to thankyou

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 19, 2009 at 2:18 AM  

  • Thank you for posting this. I'm trying to find a way to implement this without the boxes (6 children). I mainly want it to add structure for the youngest three. The oldest three work well independently from a list.

    I was eyeballing that laminating machine this morning, too. I almost bought it, but thought I should try the system first, so I opted for the the cheapo hand laminating sheets.

    Thanks for the post. I hope it works well for my three littlest.

    By Blogger Christy of The Travel Bags, At April 2, 2010 at 5:21 PM  

  • I've read a few of the reviews on the workbox system and I think it would be a great system to try out. I plan on homeschooling my soon to be 3 year old and definitely need direction. I am unorganized and definitely a "fly by the seat of your pants" kinda person. I need to order the book ASAP.

    By Blogger ocean, At July 20, 2010 at 6:07 PM  

  • This is such a great post! I've gotten a lot of great ideas from you. I took you workfolder idea and actually tweaked it for our family's use. I use binders and then 3 hole punch the work folder plastic inserts. It works so well for us and then I put in dividers in each folder and put in the whole weeks worth of work in each childs work binder. You can check out what I did here if you like!

    Thanks again so much!

    By Blogger Mary, At August 21, 2010 at 9:10 PM  

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