Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back to work with workboxes

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out more products and giving you my honest opinion.

Okay, I have to give it to you straight. If you are a homeschooler and have not yet heard about workboxes, than surely you've been hiding under a rock somewhere.

The workbox craze is sweeping the nation and being talked about on homeschool forums, Yahoo groups, and blogs everywhere. I first heard about them last summer from a friend and quickly began some online research.

Sue Patrick is the creator of this system and the author of Sue Patrick's Workbox System User Guide Ebook. I immediately bought and read through this ebook not knowing that I would have the opportunity to review it this fall.

For an explanation of Sue Patrick's Workbox System, check out this video.

I liked and implemented many of the suggestions in the book, but was initially overwhelmed by setting up the system for each of my four school aged children. I had two main concerns:

1. It would be quite costly to buy a shoerack and 12 plastic totes for each of the kids.

2. It seemed it would also be rather time consuming to prepare for the next day's lessons each day.

However, when I was asked to review the ebook, I decided it was time to really give it a try.

Once again, I read through the ebook. I like that it is a quick, but informative read with only 13 short chapters. In addition to how to set up and use her Workbox System, Sue Patrick also offers other topics in her book such as The Benefits of Homeschooling and Family Dynamics and Homeschooling.

Sue Patrick says that she has "fine tuned this system over many years" in this online interview and suggests that one will not receive the full benefits of her system if they tweak it. I took this into full consideration, but still decided some tweaking was necessary for our family.

Some of you may remember that we got a 10 week headstart on the school year this summer so that we could break once Baby L arrived. Well, we've finally started back to work this week. I set up four workbox systems using crates and file folders for G8 (3rd), A7 (2nd), E6 (1st), and H4 (Pre-K).

I also set up a more traditional Workbox system for E2.

Personally, I liked both the traditional version and the "tweaked" version, but I will admit that it is much easier to store materials and games in the tubs. If you have the money and the room, I'd definitely suggest going by Sue Patrick's guidelines. Plus, the tubs are a necessity for your littlest ones...file folders would never work for E2.

So do I like it? That question is still up in the air. Most of my kids like it because it ensures that they will have more game time and hands-on lessons each day. My oldest was not as thrilled. He said, "Well, actually it just seemed like there was more to do." I sort of agree.

The idea is that children will be able to work through their lessons faster and more independently. Our kids were already working through the lessons that I wanted them to work independently and so far, workboxes have not sped up our homeschool day. In fact, the additional work has made it longer.

One benefit I have seen with this system is that two of my children who are more kinesthetic learners have reduced the amount of complaining and whining during homeschool to almost nonexistent. That's certainly a big plus! Plus, my H4 who loves to homeschool is finally satisfied that I am giving her more work to do. I also have less interruption from E2 who happily plays with his workboxes (though out of order) while I am working with the others.

The biggest drawback is the prep time. Before I was spending about hour and half each Sunday afternoon preparing homeschool lessons and daily assignment sheets for the week. With the workbox system, I have to plan lessons daily, putting work into each folder/box. On average, this takes me an hour to prepare 5 workbox systems EACH DAY. That's a lot of prep time for this busy mom of seven.

Nevertheless, we're keeping up the workboxes for now.

If you're interested in setting up a workbox system for your homeschool, I would definitely recommend purchasing Sue Patrick's Workbox System User Guide ebook. It's only $19 and you can download it immediately from her website complete with access to additional online printables.

And don't forget, I'm not the only one with an opinion...check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more reviews of this book.

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  1. I have been using my version of Workboxes for about 2 weeks now and love it! What I decided to use was these sterlite 12x12 drawers (mostly b/c I already had 6 of them) I am only using 9 drawers not 12 and sometimes one or 2 are empty. BUT... it's working for me. My other concern was planning it out for EACH day so I went to filling out drawers for the entire week in one sitting. So... it's done by subject and then anything we will use for math that week is already in the drawers, or anything we are using for science for the week is in there -scissors glue markers etc etc. NOW this is working well for US but I am only schooling one so that makes a difference. I am able to dig more in them and make sure he is doing what I want him to do. I DO like that i have a place to put those random sheets I print or a special book I need to use that week OR I actually pull out manipulatives and games etc that I was forgetting I had. We are not going any longer than we used to - probably faster b/c everything we need is already there. I did all the leg work over the weekend so it's really working well for us. I'm sure it will take some tweaking once Corynn starts school but for now it's great!

  2. Nice-you made it clear what is working and what isn't. You may want to check out Ginger Snaps idea of laying out the schedule cards for a week at a time-that way, you just have to refer to it and fill in a snap (also-by having all things copied off, pre-sorted in a tub for the week ahead, you can shave off time. When the day comes, just pull the file with the materials and fill away)...her post on it is here:


    FM Sheri

  3. This is pretty much my review as well. I stopped using with my big kids, as they were already pretty independent, and this system just added a lot of "busy work" that they rapidly grew weary of. It does work well with my littles though. I now have guaranteed one-on-one time with each one as the other does their stuff on their own.
    I also agree with the prep work. It does take more time. On the trade, I'm using a wider variety of activities. Because I can count on them getting most of their core done alone, I was also able to add some stuff that kept getting pushed to the side, for us, art and lapbooking. I even put lapbook pieces they can do alone into their files!



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