Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taking the "Work" Out of Workboxes

rolling cart workboxes Sue Patrick homeschool organization
Workboxes in a rolling cart between the kids' desks.
When I first came across the idea of Sue Patrick's Workbox System, I was immediately intrigued.  The more I researched, the more I liked the concept.  Anything that helps this very disorganized momma get her act together is much appreciated!  So, I decided to incorporate it into our schooling.

Workboxes are a system developed to organize a homeschooler's day by separating their work into different boxes.  The boxes are worked in order.  This encourages kids to work on the more difficult, less enjoyable stuff, in order to get to the fun stuff in other workboxes.  It also allows kids to see what they need to work on next, helping them become more independent workers (no more asking, "What do I do next?").

I knew from the beginning that I was going to have to tweak it to fit our lives.  The most obvious way is that we just don't have room for one, much less two, shoe racks filled with plastic bins that Sue suggests using in our tiny school room.  I honestly don't know anyone who does!  But, there are plenty of examples of alternative workboxes online.  I finally decided on a rolling cart for us.  It didn't take up too much room, yet there was plenty of space for our books and supplies in the drawers.  I only got one since my kids are working at the same level.  I just put two of each worksheet/supply in the drawers
The other tweaks have been changes that I've made along the way as I've seen what works best for us.  If I've learned anything as a homeschooling mom, it's that it is important to be flexible!  Take what works and run with it.  But, if something doesn't work, don't be afraid to change it, try something different, or drop it completely.  Now, obviously I'm not talking about completely giving up on math.  But, rather the method or curriculum you are using.  Not all curricula and systems work for all kids and families.

The Problem
The one issue that I kept coming across is the schedule strip and the cards that go on it.  Every night, I would have go into the classroom to set them up for the next day.  I would have to find the right cards and place them in the right position on the schedule.  I would also have to place the "Work with Mom" and  "Help" cards in the correct place.  The whole process ended up taking about 30 minutes every night.  The cards were cute and fun, but so much work!  And, if you've read my blog at all, you know that if I means more work, I'm likely to just not do it.

Workbox cards sue patrick homeschool organization schedule strips
Workbox schedule cards.  I had them better organized than in the picture, but they still took so much time to work with!

The Solution
This year, I think I have finally found what works for us.  Instead of the cute cards and schedule strips, I've opted for a printed weekly schedule that the kids can check off as they go.  This allows me to plan a week in advance (saving all the nightly organization of the schedule strips) and it allows me to save a basic schedule template that I can adjust based on what is happening that week.

Sue Patrick workboxes printed schedule clipboard homeschool organization
Bub's Schedule for the Week.
I then put that printed schedule on a clipboard that hangs on the wall in front of their desks.  As they finish the task they get to check it off and move on to the next thing on the schedule.  Another benefit of this printed system is that I can keep the schedules as part of our records.

If something changes during the week and we won't be able to do an item on the list, I just cross it out.  It may not look very pretty, but the kids are learning that it is okay to be flexible and make changes as needed.  This is a hard lesson for Sis who takes after her mother and is a bit of a perfectionist (you might need to read the post in the link to believe me about that).  Not so much for my go-with-the-flow son.

Sue Patrick workboxes printed schedule clipboard homeschool organization
This week's schedule in easy reach so Bub can see what he needs to do next.
We have been using this new system since August and I am really happy with it.  Eventually, I might work to make the schedules and clipboards a little prettier (I do enjoy pretty stuff), but for now function is much more important than form!

Do you have a great idea for simplifying a task?  I'd love to hear about it!

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