remember a little while back when i raved about the amazing homeschooling day we had? we had just started a new system and it had made a drastic difference to our day. but i didn’t want to tell you all about it right away because i had only just begun. i wanted to get a little more experience under my belt before i pretended to tell you all about it.
for those of you who don’t know, my kids go to a school that is a hybrid model: part time homeschool, part time at school. my kids go to school on mondays and wednesdays in a traditional classroom setting and are home with me on tuesday, thursday and friday. i have the best of both worlds: my kids get classroom experience, and i get to keep them home with me and take part in their education. but even better, i don’t have to come up with all of our curricula! each week i am guided by the teachers, letting me know what’s on tap for the week.
but, just because my hands are being held so much through this process, i still have a lot of responsibility in my lap. i have been really hesitant to blog about our homeschooling journey this year. to say it has been tough would be an understatement. this year i am schooling my 2 girls, kindergarten and 2nd grade. one of them has surprised my and is a joy to teach! she is a list maker and loves to get her work done quickly. she grasps concepts quickly and easily and truly loves learning. i am so so thankful for the successes she has had this year! if i’m honest, i am thankful for her success not only for herself, but also for me. my other daughter is not nearly as easy to teach and at the end of the day i need to feel success, too. my daughter has definite learning struggles, mostly centered around her difficulty to keep focused and pay attention. while she can draw for hours on end, her attention span on her schoolwork last literally for just seconds. this has proven to be very draining and frustrating, on both of us. i am constantly reminding “stay on track”, “focus”, “are you doing your work?” so something needed to change.
in walks the workbox system. (cue hallelujah chorus)
a handful of other moms at our school have been doing the workbox system, originally created by sue patrick, and word was getting out that it was amazing! they put on a mini seminar, explaining how the system worked for them. i was sold when a mom of 3, one of them being silas’ age, said that she was done with school most days by noon. most of our days last until 3 or 4!
so here’s how the workbox system works (for us): it is made up of a wire shoe rack ($15, target) and 12 clear shoe boxes (about $1 each, target). each box is numbered form 1 to 12, and the back of each box has a “done!” sign. since all 3 of our racks are lined up next to each other, i color coordinated them – each rack is painted a color that matches the numbers on their box so there is no confusion as to who’s box is who’s. you can buy a special numbering system from sue patrick, but this works well for us.
so what’s in the boxes? i separate each subject into a different box, and even break up the subjects into smaller, more manageable chunks. since we do about 4 different things for math each day, i use 4 boxes for math. but i spread them out a bit so they don’t get burnt out on math. since i’m working with multiple kids, i also spread out the type of work each kid is doing. for example, i don’t have all of the kids start out with box one being a “work with mom” box. one of them will be working with me and the other 2 will have independent work set up for them. each box has everything they need to do their work: books, sharpened pencil and eraser, ruler, etc… so they will each start with box 1, take it to their desk, take everything out of the box and get started. if they are working out of a book, i mark the pages the start and finish on. once they have finished the work for that box, they put everything back in the box, return it to the rack turned around so the box says “done!” the best thing about the “done!” signs is that i can look at all 3 racks and see where each child is and how much work they have left. i also put a timer at the last box in the top row. after they have finished the work in that box, they can have a 10 minute recess. once the recess is over, they move the timer down a row to the last box in that row for the next recess.
even silas has a workbox system! it has really been great, but i definitely need to get better about what i put into his boxes. so far i’ll put in matchbox cars, worksheets, white board and markers, puzzles, coloring pages, games, etc.
the first day we tried the workboxes, we cut about 2 hours off our day! a huge part of this is that it forces me to be organized ahead of time. if i don’t fill their boxes they don’t have anything to do. but filling them up actually goes really quickly. but the gloss has definitely worn off, for me and the kids. but it is still working and our days go so much smoother, even if they are still longer than we’d all like!
to finish, i want to leave you with a snippet from our school’s director and my dear friend. each week we get an update that she begins with a quite and some encouraging words to inspire us and remind us of why we do what we do. the update below was on a particularly hard week for me and was so fitting.
it is so good for me to remember that this homeschooling experience is both and. it is both just what our family needs and the hardest thing to do. it is both wonderfully beautiful to partner with my kids in their learning journey and terribly frightening.
if you want to know more about the workbox system, just google it and you will find hundreds of great ideas!