Sue Patrick's Workbox System
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Question of the Week


Question:  I don't have room in my house for the cart and boxes for everyone.  Do you have an alternative?

My answer:  No Wink   I'm certain you can find an alternative somewhere on someone's blog, but you won't get one from me.  Honestly, having the cart with clear boxes really is important and they do not take up as much room and many people imagine.  In fact, so many people tell me it is much smaller than they thought and once they have committed to them, they do not want to give them up.  Having the work close to the child, completely visible, removable as they finish their work, and super easy for you to place their work into the boxes makes the "inconvenience" of space worth it.  To save space, you might try putting one cart and workboxes between two children--the top two rows facing one direction for the child on the left and the bottom two rows facing the the other direction for the child on the right for those working at the kitchen or dining room table.


 Question: I would also like to know some tips on making this process look appealing to a high schooler who is taking her first college course next semester.  The organization will be welcomed, but the meet-w/the-teacher cards, etc. might be tough to pull off.  Also, about all the time it takes for set-up and grading.

To be honest, because I developed this system for my first child when he was about 14 months old and have used this all the way through high school, I have nothing to compare it to for setup time.  But, that being said, I have no idea why it would take any longer than any other way.  The forms I have in place (the curriculum grid and the log grid) make it easy enough to set up school for each child in about 10-15 minutes and ensures you do not forget anything.  Sometimes we can look back and realize we have forgotten to incorporate Latin for three weeks.  Because the Workboxes are open and clear, it is easy for you to just plop their work into the boxes (as opposed to using tight manila envelopes or pulling out plastic drawers that end up sagging and not working well or fit the work well). Much of their work may be the same items day after day (such as their math book, the literature they are reading, etc).  I use Sonlight which has a great schedule.  On Mondays I write the assignment for the whole week, per subject or book, on a yellow sticky.  It includes the whole week with the day and a little square check off box per day.  So when I child is reading Treasure Island, on Monday I make a yellow sticking for the outside of the book: 
M  P 200-275 ____T   P276-300 ____

 And it goes on for the week.  They read it each day and put a check in the box at the end of the line.  That gives them a feeling of done/accomplishment and shows me they did it. 

So setting up their boxes each day, I fill  the boxes from their regular curriculum, make sure it is clear and obvious what they are to do, what they need is in the workbox, and it is clear and obvious what their finish point is.  I may fill other boxes with review materials or assessment materials so that I know they are learning what they are supposed to be learning.  Also, the keep in mind the boxes should match the focus and attention span.  If they are feeling too overwhelmed, then break up that assignment in two boxes with something else in-between so it feels like a break.

I grade all their work right when I am setting up their work for the next day.  Again, it just takes moments when done right then and each day.  Since your child is older, they may need little to no “work with mom” boxes.  If her independence is not a problem, then I wouldn’t even use them.  But yours and her benefits are that all the work is visible each day, and it is also very visible whether they do it or not.  If it is on a list or in file folder, it is amazing how much less gets done and it is easier for you to miss it or let it slide. With this system, you and she will learn to break up the work into smaller pieces when needed, learn to be very specific about what work needs to be done, and the accountability for getting it done is there every day. So with a college class, her assignments will come much quicker, be longer and the professor will not be checking her work to make sure she gets it done.  He will just expect it and her quizzes and test will show it.  Some kids fall behind in that situation.  Her week-long college assignments can then be placed on a 3 x 5 card and placed in the Workbox System to be sure they are worked on and done at the regular interval, and are broken up into manageable pieces. 

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