Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Space-challenged Workboxes

I have read a lot of posts about Sue Patrick's Workbox system. I love the idea yet haven't been able to justify the cost or the space requirements when I know I am dealing with 3 kids, possibly 4, with anything I set up.

Now, I will be the first to admit I haven't read her book (can't justify postage to Australia, do you get the idea I am careful with my money?!). If you have and my ideas here don't suit her system I apologise. I am just a mum trying to do my best to help my little school work better.

First of all, a note on scheduling. I have scheduled my day into 3 blocks of school, hopefully about an hour each, but some days are shorter, others longer. The idea of 3 blocks is also so that I can change it up a bit. For instance, if block 3 keeps getting missed then I just make it the first block for a couple of days.

Next, I use Homeschool Tracker Plus to keep track of lesson plans and daily tasks. I love how it has become easier and easier to use as I have child 2 and 3 use lesson plans I have already created and used for child 1. It takes a while to get in your groove with it but it has been worth its purchase price and the discussion group is priceless for help.

Now, down to the workbox system. I am using tote bags from LL Bean for each boy.

In front is a small binder with memory work that I work on each morning individually before we all sit down for school together.  I then add a set of school block checklists and their plastic envelopes to each tote with a number on the front. Each boy has a different colour envelope set up and different little race cars to match.

This is how the school block checklists look.

The first column has either a race car with a number to match the folder number or a picture for an activity like snack, game, play outside etc. If Science, Art, History or Music don't need a folder for any paperwork then I put a little card in the appropriate spot so they know what is coming. If there is a colouring page or mapwork etc to be done then I just use a folder number race car.   The final column is where the little car or other card ends up when the folder is completed.

The little race cars, one colour per child
Cards for breaks, reading and computer time
Cards for subjects not likely to have anything in folder

The folders are see-through and expand out so I am able to fit in their heftier books and they can see what is coming.  If a book is used for several children I just include a photocopy of its cover/s.

To be more true to Sue Patrick's system the boys then put their completed folder into a "Done" box for me to empty out, correct and refill. This is an important part of the visual aspect of Sue's system, seeing the amount of work needing to be done diminishing as folders disappear. The goal for each day is to empty out their tote bag.

Each child has an appropriate number of folders for the level of work they do. This is a variation on Sue's system. Also my sheets for the school blocks have much more detail than her system of just cards. I fill these in with a permanent marker from my HST report of daily tasks for each child and just leave the workbooks in their folders.  Each day I just erase and rewrite the details.  It is not often I need to change the books in each folder as we try to work in the same order each day.

I think there are a great number of good ideas out there on how to organise your workboxes.  Please don't feel you need to do any of them exactly as written, even mine.  Always adapt anything to suit you and yours.

Best wishes

PS This post has been updated and better photos added since its original posting in 2010.  I am also linking up with Workbox Wednesday at Adventures in Homeschooling and Heart of Wisdom.


  1. I will look forward to you posting the photos of your new system. The work box system is really interesting but at the moment I dont have the space (or the!) to impliment it into our school system. I saw a lady use carboard magazine holders and label them with the childrens subjects which I thought was a great idea.

  2. Thank you for linking-up! I love seeing all the variations of the workbox system. Your tote idea is could just pick it up and go if you needed too! Love it!


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