Our Workbox System

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I’ve decided to try workboxes again.  We haven’t been homeschooling long, still in our first year, but I keep thinking there has to be a better way to get organized.  I feel like I’m all over the place, looking for the math book and Firefly’s handwriting workbook every day, and even if he puts them back where they belong, nothing seems to be located in the same place.  This will be our third major re-organization, but each time it gets better and makes things easier.   As always, the first requirement is that our new system must be toddler-proof.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.  We’ll see how it goes for a while and I’ll update my blog and let you all know how it’s going in the future.

In Target stores, this is the R.E. (Room Essentials) Organize brand Large ShowOffs Box by Sterlite. Holds letter-size hanging files.

We have a new, hanging file type of workbox system in portable file  boxes.  The file boxes fit easily on our already existing shelves (Expedit from Ikea), they have handles on top so the kids can easily carry them to wherever they are working, and if Love Bug just can’t keep his cute, pudgy hands off of them, I can easily move them to a secret, undisclosed location.

It also enables me to easily carry them to my desk in another room where I fill them prior to the next school day.

Here is our former, short-lived workbox system.

Old workbox system. A bargain, the rack and boxes were purchased at a yardsale for $10. Unfortunately, they didn't work out as workboxes but are great toy bins for small cars, action figures, and apparently, rocks, as I discovered the other day.

The problem with this workbox rack and boxes were that (a) we had angled boxes, which did not fit some of our books, abacus, etc. and (b) Love Bug kept dumping them so we had to keep them behind the gate that was at the bottom of our stairs. Not terribly convenient. And I was carrying the whole heavy rack back and forth every night from my home office to refill the boxes, and then back to it’s place behind the baby gate. Yeah, that got old kinda fast.

So anyway, back to the NEW system (click on the images to make them larger).

Next to the workboxes, there are activities containers, which hold educational toys and games for each child.  This is their go-to place when I am working one on one with a sibling.  They can also choose to pull things out of their workboxes and make a go of it independently or use the computer for educational sites during these times.

If you’re reading about workboxes, you’re probably familiar with how they started.  Sue Patrick is the creator of the original Workbox system and author of the book by the same name.  If you ever get an opportunity to attend one of her workshops, I recommend it, because Sue has a lot of really great ideas not only about workboxes, but lots of other creative educational ways to make learning activities for kids.  And she has a great deal on Velcro dots on her website (and, no, I am not getting anything for saying that).

If you do a search on workboxes, you’ll find as many variations of workbox systems as there are homeschool blogs out there. Here’s how the rest of our system works. We’ve actually been using these task discs for some time now and they’ve worked well.

My master sheet of discs. Easy to find, so I don't have to sort through a pile. These attach to the front of each file folder. Tasks that don't involve paperwork, books or supplies are attached directly to the front of the workbox. Discs made with Microsoft clip art, then laminated, and cut with a 1.5 inch circle punch from the scrapbooking section at a craft store (Another addictive tool. I've worn out one and am on my second. Oh, the many uses of the circle punch.).

Coordinating supplies boxes hold pencils, scissors, glue stick, crayons, etc. They fit inside the front of the workbox when not in use. Available in Target stores.

I went ahead and made a workbox, an activity bin and a supplies case for my two year old, too because (a) I wanted all the workboxes to match and even though he isn’t doing school stuff yet, it would bother me if, a couple years down the road, Target stopped selling these boxes or changed the design or color. I’m OCD like that; and (b) When Love Bug starts digging through one his siblings’ stuff, I direct him to his own boxes, etc.

Supplies box, file folder and lid to workbox all fit with plenty of space for more. Larger books and other items go on the shelf next to the workbox.

Each child has their own colored name labels, which coordinate their workbox and supplies box and whatever else I can stick a laminated piece of cardstock with velcro dots to. (Have I mentioned that I am kinda crazy about my laminator and my velcro dots?)

I was inspired to re-organize and try the workboxes again by a couple of other blogs I’ve read lately. Check them out, they have some great information.

Peace Creek on the Prairie I got the idea for the “Look What I Did Today!” page and also putting some discs on the outside of the workbox here.  Thank you, Peace Creek Mom!

Heather at Blog, She Wrote.   Heather’s blog has a great update on how workboxes have worked for their family after using them for some time.  The comments that readers are left are interesting as well.  One thing that is mentioned here and other places over and over again is that workboxes can often be used to fill with busy work and seem to be more of a “school at home” approach rather than a flexible, meet-the-learning-needs-of-your-particular-child approach.

I can see how it would be easy to fill workboxes with busy work.  But who says you have to fill all the boxes/folders every day?  I only put the number of folders in the box that need to be done that day. If we are doing reading, math, science, handwriting and art on Monday, that’s what goes in the workbox.  On Tuesday, if we are only doing reading, math and Five in a Row, there’s only 3 folders that day.

So there you have it.  Workboxes, take two.  I’ll keep you posted.

***An update on our workboxes can be found here.  This includes a video of how our workbox system is organized.