In a homeschooling house full of 7 kids & 3 guniea pigs....there is never a dull moment! A lot of people show genuine concern for us and want to know how we are doing, as the road we've left behind was not a pleasant one. So, here I am, to tell some of our stories...share some of our days...and open up a part of our world to you! Come join us on our journey so you won't miss the moments that take our breath away!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our improved Workbox System!

I have (not faithfully) used the workbox system for about 2 years now.  This system takes a lot of preparation time and for me, it is not always easy for me to keep up with.   However, when has been a life saver and I'm ready to push myself to use it again.  We started this system when I had problems getting my boys to be more independent.  I also found that it helped my Aspie do much better, by knowing what to expect (how much more work he had, when he would get a break and even when his break was over).  The "workbox system" was created by Sue Patrick.  I did not purchase her book, but yet I researced 100's of blogs about how different people use the system and I created my own system.  Since I've never seen the book, I truly do not know how the "true" system really works.

Since our system worked so well for us, I recommended it to a lot of my friends.  I've helped a lot of people by introducing them to the system and many have used it successfully!  Even though our system has proven successful not only for us, but for so many others I am forever trying to better my own system and this week, it was time for yet another update!

We haven't been using our workboxes for months now because they just weren't working as well for us.  It has taken a lot of thought for me to figure out what wasn't working and what I could do to change it.  Out of nowhere, the solution just popped into my head the other day! 

One of my biggest challenges of teaching so many children is keeping up with everything all of them do througout the day...who has done what, what does each child have left to do, who needs help with what, etc....With 6 kids things can get pretty hectic.  I simply needed a better way to know exactly where each student stands at any given moment of the day so that I'm not wasting time trying to figure out who has done what and what else needs to be done and trying to remember who needed help with what.  

I created this new system to cater to me and my own needs.  I need to know what everyone is working on, what everyone has finished, what everyone has not started and what everyone needs help on.  I don't want to help someone with a lesson right away when I have forgotten that a sibling has already been waiting for me to help them.

Here is how our new system works...
First, the boxes:

Cardinal who was not using workboxes on our old system and still is not wanting to use "workboxes" will be using a wall hanging file folder workbox system. 

Cardinal's Hanging Subject Folders
I chose this for her because we do not have room for more boxes and she is capable of getting the books and materials she needs to complete a lesson.  So, she can simply pull the folder for the course she wants to work on and gather her own materials needed to complete the lesson.  Each course folder will contain the work for the entire week.  This way, she can still work at her own pace. 

Hawk will be using workboxes.  He will have one box for each course.  This is a bit different than he is used to, as with our old system each box contained one lesson and all the materials he needed to complete each lesson.  He has become a very independent worker and he no longer needs to have his boxes set up that way.  His boxes will be set up the same way as Cardinal's folders.  All of his work for the week will be in each course box.  Since he has boxes, his books for each course will be kept in each appropriate box.  He will have one box for his supplies (scissors, pencils, glue, etc).

Eagle will also be using workboxes.  He is still learning how to work independently and he is not capable of gathering anything on his own and as an Aspie, he doesn't deal with change well anyways so, he will be using his boxes the same.  Each box will contain a lesson or activity.  All of the materials he needs for each lesson will be included in his box.  This helps cut down on distraction (just looking for a pencil can be so much of a distraction that he would be unable to do the lesson).  Some things he can work on independently and some he can not.  Lessons that need to be completed with me or Falcon will contain a red square of paper.  This is his sign that he needs a coach to complete the lesson.

Our main workshelf (and workboxes)

Macaw has used "activity boxes" for preschool so this won't be completely foreign to her, but now she is halfway through Kindergarten so it's time to train her on the true workbox system, as next year she will advance to using the system the same as Eagle uses it now.  Since we are making a change to our system, I figured now would be a good time to start switching her over to a new system.  She will be learning how to use the system so that she can learn the routine and she is definately old enough to do some lessons independently.  She will be using a crate with hanging file folders.  Each folder will contain a lesson.  She will learn how to distinguish a lesson that can be done independently from a lesson she needs to work with me on (folders which contain a red square of paper need to be completed with a coach).  Her supplies (scissors, glue, pencils, etc.) will be kept in her handy crate on her school shelf.  Her crate will contain her lesson folders and any games or other materials we will need for the week.

Macaw's workbox crate

Emu and Duckling will be using their activity boxes during their independent work time.  They have 6 boxes to work from.  Each box will contain an activity which they can work on independently.  Each week, the activities will change.  I will post more about these boxes and what they contain very soon!  In addition to their boxes, they will also have their structured lessons.

On to the Status Board...

This is where our big change comes in.  I have never seen this idea or one similar in all the blogs I frequent.  This idea was a solution I came up with for our family and our circumstances...but I can see how many would love this board! :) Instead of completed assignment stips (where a velcro number is removed from the workbox and put onto a strip), we have a board for Cardinal, Hawk & Eagle.  I will explain how this works the best I can :/

 Instead of velcro numbers that would be switched from a box to a strip or assignment students will use this board.  Each student has a pocket for each subject.  The top row belongs to Cardinal.  Her pockets are multicolored because they cordinate to the matching colors of her workfolders.  The second row is Eagles row.  His pockets are all green because usually all of their folders, pencils, scissors, etc are color coded (one color for each student).  Eagle's color has always been green.  The third row is Hawk's.  His "color" is blue :)  The fourth row has 3 red pockets and 3 yellow pockets each with their names.  Next the red pockets is an orange pocket.  This orange pocket contains index cards numbered 1, 2 and 3.  The red pockets are the "help" pockets.  When they need help, they will draw the first available number card from the orange pocket and put the numbered card in their red "help" pocket.  This way, I know who has been waiting the longest for help!  The yellow pockets also have each of their names.  These pockets serve a dual purpose...first...they hold their "status cards" and they serve as their "chore" pocket.  The orange pocket next to these has an index card labled "done".  When they are finished with their chores, they place a "done" card into their yellow pocket. 

They will begin their day with their first box or folder.  They will take their "working" status card from their yellow pocket and place it in the appropriate subject pocket.  Then I will know what subject they are each working on.  When they complete a subject, they will place a green status card into that subjects pocket.  If they need help with  subject, they will place a red status card into that subjects pocket.  Each time they finish or move past a subject they need help with, they will move their "working" status card to the next subject they are working on.  If they are not scheduled for a subject for that day, they may find a fun activity, message or treat in their folder or box along with a note that instructs them to put their status to done for that subject.

Status Cards...
Sorry, the pic won't turn

At just a quick glance of the status board, I can see who needs help (and who asked for it first), I can see exactly what subjects they need help with, what subjects they are working on, what subjects are done and what subjects they have left.  Not only do I get the information that I need to make our day much more organized, but the kids have a visual on how their day is going as well.  Falcon teaches all of the Algerbra and when needed will pitch in on teaching other subjects as well.  This is a great communication tool, as he will not even have to ask what needs to be done when he comes home!

Subject pockets with status cards (red = help, yellow=working, green=done)
I am confident that we found a solution that I have been dreaming of!  I am so glad this idea came to me and I hope it helps a few others run their day a bit more efficiently!
Please comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Love it! So awesome you adapted and found a system that works for you! I love your pockets idea. We do something similar...the original workbox system is SO much work! Merry Christmas!

  2. I like your status cards. I have used a similar system in the classroom during a reading intervention program called Read Naturally. Your method is not intrusive but allows you to get the basic info you need when you need it. Great idea!

  3. I love your Status Board! I may have to "borrow" it as my little ones get a little older! Thanks for linking up with Workbox Wednesday! Merry Christmas!

  4. Great idea thank you for posting it.