Category Archives: workboxes

From Workboxes to Working Squares – And I’m writing a book?

It’s been a while since I last blogged and I hope that will soon be changing.  There are many new and exciting things that I’d like to share, but first let me update about the workboxes system at my house.

When I found out about workboxes, I was completely obsessed with finding out more and more.  I am sure that I read every blog out there that had anything to do with workboxes.  I bought the ebook from Sue Patrick’s website and read it through.  I went right out and got the boxes and the shoe rack thing to hold them.  I loved the system!  I made a few alterations to the system to make it work for me and my 2 children…but they were awesome!  I told all my friends about it and even posted a few things here on my blog about them.  Oh..and I joined some yahoo groups.

My son (9) loved the workboxes.  It was because of him that I was even looking for something to help us. He had such a distaste for school and I knew I had to make some changes.  The workbox system allowed him to see his whole day at a glance.  He instantly knew what was expected of him and when the school day would be over.  It also forced me to make sure that I was including some fun learning parts to our day and not make things so dry.

My daughter (5) also loved it.  She would go through her boxes like a pro! And boy did she love all the fun independent activities I would find for her boxes. She was very good at following the system and marking her chart and stacking up the “done” boxes.

There were so many aspects to the system that I loved, that some are surprised that I stopped using them.  I think all things are here for a season and my season was just over I guess.  I learned so much from the system that will always be with me as a homeschool mom though.  In the end, space was a big factor.  I needed more bookshelves and it just wouldn’t all fit! But also, no matter how many times I tried to figure something out, the planning was just taking up too much time.  I had to find a better way.

The “better way” for me became something that for now I will call “working squares”.  It spawned from the idea of workboxes but it doesn’t take up any space and it cuts planning down to almost none!

This is how it happened:

While I had the workboxes, I would plan each weekend for the upcoming week.  I would think about how much of each subject needed to be done and what days and what lessons and so on.  Then each weekday night, I would fill the boxes, making changes as needed.  If I hadn’t done my weekend planning, then the school nights were very long as I planned out the lessons and gathered the supplies.  And if I didn’t do it the night before….school just never started started late. I tried the file system to hold all the upcoming work and workbooks, which really helped.  But I would still end up not planning falling behind in my planning and do it a day at a time.  I felt like I was just repeating the same task over and over.

I ended up creating an excel sheet with my master schedule for the year.  Not a detailed day-by-day type of thing…just an overview of what a typical week would look like.  It was the start of something new.  The workboxes were moved out of the room to make way for my new bookcases.  (they make great toy organizers by the way).  Instead of boxes to look at, the kids had binders with schedules.  They could still see the whole day and were able to mark off the items as they did them.  No more laminating or velcro to stick. Just good ‘ol paper and pencils.  Instead of having all their items in individual workboxes to pull from, they had ONE bin with all their school books and notebooks.  On their desks were their pencils, crayons, markers, etc… and extra paper.

Through the year, I started to realize that, again, I was just repeating the same task each night….writing out their schedule in their notebook each night.  The only thing that was better was that I wasn’t filling boxes anymore.  So I kept thinking….

I started calling my friends and asking them what they do.  Most of them were in the same place I was…with some sort of plan of action, but not really happy with it.  Why?  Why was it so hard to find a way that would be good for the kids and EASY for us? It’s not that I want it easy all the time, but a little break would be appreciated!

I am now in the process of writing.  (Do I dare say I’m writing a book?) Maybe I’m writing a book…can we just call it a guide or something?  That seems less daunting. I’ve always wanted to write a book guide, so maybe this will be it? It’s been in my head for awhile but kinda of in a jumbled up sort of way.  I try to explain what I want to say or write about, but it never seemed to have a clear direction.  Until last night.  I started writing.

I couldn’t stop.  I wrote for 3 hours straight.  And it was making sense! It ended up taking on a different direction than I had previously thought…but now I know it’s in the right direction…or at least the right direction for now.  

I’m writing a book guide for fellow homeschool moms  like me who feel frustrated about the state of their homeschool.  I hope that it will offer advice, support and even some laughter along the way.  The “working squares” system is still being developed, but it will be in the book guide too…along with other great ways to organize, plan, and attack your homeschool year!

So here is to a new adventure of writing and a new system of organization…oh and a brand new printer (but that’s another story!)


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Settling in with Workboxes

Okay so it’s been 3 or 4 months since I started using workboxes in our homeschool. I have to say that I still LOVE them! At first the planning seemed overwhelming, but now that I’ve taken the advise of so many others out there and organized my supplies better, it’s very easy to plan the day/week in no time at all! I’m still working on making everything even more effecient, but it’s all much easier to handle already!

The biggest help I got from other blogs was a crate that held all my curriculum/resources by subject.  I have 2 kids and so far I can keep it in one crate (but it’s overflowing and I really need 2 crates).  You could also accomplish this with file drawers or other storage areas…but the crate is great (a little rhyming) because I can see it without having to open a drawer!  Plus I have the kids pile up their books when they are finished right on top of the crate! Easy for me to file again.

Supply_Curriculum Crate

Curriculum Storage Crate

I have separate folders for each child. So I have mine labeled “J-Math” and another file “D-Math”.  When it’s time to plan the week, or fill the boxes, I just look through the folders and pull out assignments from the subjects.  These folders in my crate hold our core subject curriculum and other resources that fit…like file folder game, worksheets, workbooks, etc.   Then I fill in the empty boxes with resources that are stored in other areas….like games, puzzles, computer time, memory work, lego activity cards (I have the download on the right of my blog), etc..

Today I found some great file folder game ideas for skip counting and other math related skills!  I am on a yahoo group for workboxes and I am just loving all the great ideas that people email out!! Here is a great link with free printables: I will be assembling these tonight and adding a couple to our workboxes for tomorrow!

Here are a few pictures of our day today!

Learning Presidents

Learning the Presidents: used placemat, flashcards, and a song from Classical Conversations.


New Puzzle: Putting it together without a picture to look at!

History Pockets

Learning about Ancient History with History Pockets

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Redefining “School” in our House

When I first started homeschooling, our days would include loads of hands-on fun activities. Of course when you’re with a preschooler, it’s all hands on and fun! 🙂 We would color, cut and paste, make art projects, use manipulatives, read together, act out stories, etc…. My son was learning while enjoying the process!

Over the years, we have gotten away from the FUN part of school. We have somehow gotten to the point where “school” is our math lesson, reading and grammar lesson, etc…. and anything that is hands on, fun, creative, is to be done AFTER we finish “school”. It’s not like we never do those fun things, it’s just that they haven’t been part of the definition of “school” in our house.  We have several educational computer games like Math Blaster…but I find myself saying “No, you can’t play that until after we are done with SCHOOL.”  Or “No, put the geo blocks away.  We need to finish SCHOOL first.”

Needless to say, my son (8 years old) has developed a bad attitude toward “school”. I blame it on the way that I have labeled school for him. I’ve told him that the parts that are hardwork (lessons) are school and the parts that are fun and engagging are for AFTER school. No wonder he doesn’t leap for joy at the word SCHOOL.

That’s where workboxes come in. This whole problem with our definition of school was the primary reason I wanted to try the workboxes. It allows me to define our school day in a much more well-rounded way. Now “school” consists of our lessons (the part that isn’t always so fun) with review games/activities, hands-on stuff, and more. When I fill up the boxes for the next day, I can sit back and really SEE what the day will be. Would I look forward to that day if I were my kids? Does it provide a balance of challenging work with enjoyable learning and even some FUN?

So far so good! I can see that although it’s easy for me to create a wonderful day for my 4.5 year old, it’s harder to create a balanced day for my 8 year old. Cutting and pasting isn’t going to “cut it” for him (pardon the pun). So it has challenged me to be a better mom and teacher….to really think about what interests him, to think about how he learns and what gets his attention. It also allows me to see that I have been spending lots of one-on-one time with him as his “teacher” but not enough as his mom. I have started to include more reading together for fun books into our day. He won’t want to cuddle up with me as much as he gets older….so I’m trying to soak up all the cuddle time I can! 🙂

And it’s working. Just finishing up the week and my son’s attitude toward school is totally different. Alhtough he will still balk at certain tasks, he sees that it’s just a small part of the day and there are still many other boxes full of interesting things to do and learn! I haven’t changed any of our curriculum (same math, grammar, spelling, history, science) but he says “this school is WAY better that the other school.” So we will continue to use the workboxes and see where it takes us!

So…this weekend I’m off to the Teacher Supply Store to get inspired some more! 🙂

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Today’s Workboxes

Okay so I took some pictures of my shelves and what I put in each box. I know that I got so many ideas from those who posted pictures of the contents of their boxes….so maybe this will help you too.

2nd Grader:

1. CC Review (this is our review time for our Classical Conversations work)

2. Art – Learn to Draw book with Drawing Paper

3. Math – Timed Multiplication worksheets

4. Science – Apologia Astronomy (read section on Sun) Draw picture and write in journal

5. Bible Story Reading – Choice of books available

6. Writing – Write 1 Thank You Note (he just had a birthday)

7. Spelling – All About Spelling #19

8. Review – Take it to your Seat – Phonics

9. Grammar Review – white board with words that need to be changed into contractions

10. Biblioplan – Our History program- with a word search

11. History Pockets – Pilgrims (for month of Nov.) Pocket #1

12. Science Experiment (had this for about 2 years! Time to use it!)

Workboxes for 4.5 year old:

1. CC Review

2. Explode the Code – Book A

3. Puzzle Game – Beginning Sounds Match

4. Math u See- Primer

5. Magnet Letters and Word Cards

6. Science (but then I changed it to a book to read together)

7. The Foot Book

8. Scissor Practice Sheets, glue, paper…make a book

9. 100 Easy Lessons…learning to read

10. Science – Eye dropper, food coloring, water!

11. History Pockets — Pilgrims

12. Cook with Mom – Chocolate/Pumpkin Muffins

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Workbox Crazy!

Okay so I had seen postings about workboxes on several blogs but purposely didn’t look at them! I knew if I did, I’d go crazy researching and learning about them! After a while, I finally decided I’d look into it! WOW!  I was up till 3am a couple nights in a row just pouring over all the wonderful blogs about the workboxes!  I have NOT read the book about the system. I have, however, spent hours learning from all the great homeschool moms out there who have used the system and changed it to work for them!  I’ve had some great ideas and I finally started it here at home!  Here is an explaination of how I started and how we are using them.  Let me say that I start a lot of things only to find out that it doesn’t work for us later on…so I will update as we continue and see if this will be a long-term addition to our homeschool story!

Workboxes for 2nd grader

Workboxes for 2nd grader

Workboxes - Schedule Card

Schedule Card

I created a checkoff card (or schedule card) based on ideas I got from the numerous blogs out there. Like most of you, I like to tweak things to fit our needs….so I tried something a little different .  I added an extra line of squares so that I could add in cards for things like snack, lunch, computer time, outside play, etc… I put extra velcro over to the right to put those extra things that he can do in one day. Through the day, he can stop working on the boxes and use one of those cards.  For example, just now, he finished working on box 6 and decided he wanted a bit of a break, so he took his computer card (which says 20 min) and put it in the box after the number 6 card.  I set the timer for 20 min and he is playing on the computer. After 20 min. he will come back and pick up on box #7.


I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy the cart/shelf thing that was recommended for the boxes. They seemed like they would be big and take up too much room in our very small school room.  I have 2 kids, so I’d need 2 of them! I went to Target and found them (after searching for awhile….they are on the same isle as the hangers…not with the shoe racks!) I brought them home and I was so glad I got them! They are actually much smaller than they look in the photos… they are only 3 boxes wide…so if you line up 3 shoe boxes, that’s how wide the shelves are!

Our first few days of boxes included:

2nd Grader:

1. CC Review (We do Classical Conversations and we review all our memory work once a day)

2. Math U See – Gamma

3. Jim Weiss CD – Old Testament Stories w/ coloring sheet

4. Biblioplan

5. Take It To Your Seat – Phonics Center

6. Read Aloud (Stories About God’s People)

7. Uno & Snack

8. Grammar

9. Read Silently (any book)

10. Computer Time

11. Constellation Dot-to-Dot and Info Sheet

12. Science – Apologia Astronomy


Day 1 for 4.5 year old:

1. CC Review

2. File Folder Game – Counting

3. Math U See – Primer (building 0-99 numbers with blocks)

4. Explode the Code (book A)

5. Sorting buttons – by number, by shape, by color

6. Painting with Water Colors

7. Snack & Uno

8. Cut & Paste Goats and Troll (on Popsicle sticks for puppets)

9. Read & Act Out Three Billy Goats Gruff




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