my truth about homeschooling {& the workbox system}

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!

Comments

  1. 1

    That seems like a wonderful system!

  2. 2

    i love this system. i am considering homeschooling my little ones and this gives me great insight. i will bookmark and come back!

    thanks!

  3. 3

    This mixture of home school and in school sounds like a great idea. How great that you found a method that works for you and your children!

  4. 4

    I am sad that our year of homeschooling here is now over:( I’ll be returning to a school setting in the fall but Im thankful because its the (very) small private school that my older daughter has attended since Kindergarten. They use a homeschooling curriculum there(and I used that same curriculum for my kindergartener this year so she’d transition easily into 1st grade). Since my class will be small Im thinking of putting this system into effect in some way shape or form so thanks for sharing!
    And I was pretty sure you were talking about my two girls when you described your girls’ learning styles. Seriously, they sounds just like my two! Isnt it funny how God created each one of our kids so differently? Its fun to watch them learn, grow, and finally “get it” in their own way. Yet its very challenging all at the same time.
    Have a great day lindsey! Im glad you guys found a system that works so well to cut down on your day:)

  5. 5

    We have something similar to the school you go to but it is private here and quite expensive even though the kids only go 1/2 the time. Hubs and I loved it but putting 3 there was out of our budget. I know with the baby and our 4 year old homeschooling my rising 1st grader would be stressful and she would probably suffer for it. You are so lucky to have that opportunity with your kiddos even on the stressful days.

  6. 6

    I am so impressed, Lindsey. I’ve met very few homeschooling mothers, personally, and all of them made it sound like such a breeze… so much so that I have doubted if I would ever be up to the task if it were to present itself… then getting down on myself, as a mother, for thinking that I wouldn’t be able to handle it at all. I appreciate your honesty in pointing out that it can be frustrating and how this system has helped (what a great system it looks to be!). Thanks for being real; it’s nice to see that other mother’s are human, like me. :-)

  7. 7

    Great system! I love it when you find something that works for your family and your children’s learning styles!!! Very exciting1

  8. 8

    I have 2 girls that I homeschool and they are EXACTLY like how you describe your girls … one is self motivated and learns quickly and easily and the 2nd one {is very smart} but I am constantly on top of her to stay focused – I get weary of constantly nagging her about her work. I wonder at times if I’m not doing her justice by homeschooling her, but I also think she’d get swallowed up in ‘real’ school and would fall behind b/c of her lack of focus. So in a way, even though it’s tough, I’m glad that I get to be the one to work with her and keep her going. And I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one! =)

  9. 9

    That is awesome!! Wish I could use the workbox system with my 21 third graders I teach! :) Kuddos for you for keeping it new and fresh…and having the patience to teach your own kids. I could not teach my own….

    :)
    paige

  10. 10

    Thank you SO much for sharing this. My little Levi is onlly 8 months but I am already going back and forth about our schooling options. I am a former high school English teacher and I certainly see the benefits and drawbacks to both homeschooling and a traditional, classroom education. You make this seem do-able (while keepin’ it real. teaching is TOUGH!).

  11. 11

    Wow!!! I had no idea that this hybrid schooling existed. I was just talking to my husband about how great it would be for the kids to have BOTH, days in school with other children getting a social education AND days at home with us. I am very hesitant to send my children to school after the experiences that I had (and others I know). If we have to send them, we want it to be a private school, but we will see how it goes. We have a few years.
    What kind of school do your children attend? Is it a private school or a new initiative in your public school system? I would be really interested to find out if this is something we can do here in PA.

  12. 12
    Jennifer C says:

    Thanks for sharing! We are going to start homeschooling soon – I want to look more into this workbox system! Very cool!

  13. 13

    Wow Lindsey! So cute, and so organized. I have a teaching blog and contribute to another with tons of great ideas for homeschooling and the regular classroom setting. I hope you don’t mind if I share this. Feel free to look around there is you ever need ideas.
    mine is:
    http://www.ohthelessonslearned.blogspot.com

    and the other is:
    http://www.teachingblogaddict.blogspot.com

    Have a great day!
    Sydney

  14. 14
    Cassie Petersen says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this!! I am a homeschooling mother of 4, and it is really HARD, and it seems that most homeschooling mothers will never say this. I loved the letter from your director- my girls memorized that little poem last year, and it is so true- homeschooling, mothering, being a wife, etc. are all both hard and beautiful at the same time. This is my first time commenting as I just recently found your site, but I love it!! I also ordered a few things from your shop, and I just love everything I got. Thanks again for sharing!

  15. 15

    Hi!
    I would love more information on hybrid homeschooling
    G. This sounds amazing. I am an early childhood educator who is currently teaching college level. Since I teach in the evening, I would be delighted to participate in such a program. Wonder if there is one in my small town? Thanks in advance for the info!
    Beth

  16. 16

    Looks like a great system. I like how they get the best of both schooling at home and traditional classroom. Thanks for sharing.

  17. 17

    i’ve heard about this before, but never searched into it. it looks like something that would work great! homeschooling is definately a labor of love…you love it, but it’s hard work too! thanks for the great ideas!!

  18. 18

    I’d love to that type of hybrid school around where I live! I’ve looked and there doesn’t seem to be such a thing. My son wanted to try homeschooling for the last half of this school year (my daughter did not). While there were some parts we both loved, the overwhelming sense of loneliness made it too hard for him. (yes we tried support groups, but didn’t fit in plus trying to be home at the same time my daughter got off the bus wasn’t easy!) He’s going back next year, but I would love to have a school like yours in Raleigh, NC. I think it would be great for the kids.

  19. 19

    Such an organized and fun looking learning environment! I don’t homeschool, I actually teach preschool, but think there are pros and cons to both. I bet your kids love learning in this space.

  20. 20
    Cortney Lyon says:

    This the system I use at school with my students who have severe Autism and it works wonders. I was trying to get the other teachers to integrate this model in their classrooms too, but the problem was storage and a system to hold the boxes in an organized way-you just solved my problem! I’ll be heading to Target this summer to find the shoe racks and set this up in my new classroom for the fall. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • 21

      I commented earlier but then came back & saw your comment. I’ll be teaching 3rd grade and will have a student with autism. I was already thinking this would be a perfect solution for that particular child(my class will be very small) and could therefore use it for the others too. Your comment confirmed my thoughts:)

      • 22
        Cortney Lyon says:

        Sarah@ Handbags*n*Pigtails- if you have any questions about the new student you’ll be getting I’d be more than happy to help. While students with Autism vary in their unique abilities, most students benefit from structure, structure, structure. I have all kinda of materials for visual schedules and such, feel free to e-mail me anytime.

        cortneylyon@gmail.com

  21. 23

    Thank you so much for posting this, Lindsey!! I especially THANK YOU for the honest perspective…I love the “both and” concept! My daughter goes to a gifted & talented program/standard school year and I’ve been struggling with ways to keep her going over the summer months. She’s used to doing so much in her classroom – her teachers are amazing – I’ve been feeling so inadequate to continue that learning on my own over the summer, while balancing what summer is all about: rest, relaxation, fun, family! I think this system will be perfect for us to work with her while giving us the balance of free time we crave. Thank you!!

  22. 24

    What an inspiring post. My little one is only 2 1/2, but I’ve been really thinking hard about what to do once it’s time for him to start school–I think a school experience is so important for him, but also want to take part in his early education and there are aspects of traditional classrooms (especially in the early elementary years) that I’m not too crazy about. Part time homeschooling sounds like a perfect balance! I can’t wait to read more of your posts about your experience.

  23. 25

    Hi Lindsey,
    Love all that you share here! I was poking around your school’s website looking for a curriculum map ~ there’s a place for it, but I can’t seem to see it. Would you have something like that you could share with me or know where I can find it? We homeschool in a classsical sense, but curious to see what path you guys will follow~ also how that will fit into a workbox!! I’ve tried it ~ without great success (my fault!) but the kids “got it done”!

  24. 26

    I admire you for being able to do this. I would NEVER be able to. It is not for everyone that is for sure. YOu must have 1 thing for sure that I do not have and that is patience. Really, great job Lindsey!

  25. 27

    thanks linz.

  26. 28

    I needed this!!! Thank you so much for sharing, I had never heard of this before, but it is a system that we need and I didn’t know how to create. THANK YOU!!!

  27. 29

    thanks so much for sharing this! i’ve heard of it before but nobody ever really explained it and it really piques my interest! i’ll have to look into it more :) we just finished our first year homeschooling, kindergarten, with a 3 year old and 1 year old (Silas!) and this would be great for next year for my older two! Blessings!

  28. 30

    Thank you for sharing your experience. My oldest girls just finished 2nd & kinder too at our university-model school. I could really relate to your year. We love our school and I love having time with my 3 daughters! I have found a lot of helpful info here – http://homeschoolcreations.blogspot.com/search/label/Workboxes. I got some really good advice from another mom this year…that when I plan I should plan a break about every 3 activities. It makes sense because that is what the school does (with snack, recess, lunch, centers, etc). It’s helped us stay motivated. Love your blog!

  29. 31

    Lindsey:

    I commend you for taking on such a huge responsibility! You are obviously very organized and creative. I can’t help but think your kids have the best of all worlds with their schooling!

    Here’s to you and your supportive husband!

  30. 32

    That is such a great system! thanks for explaining. I may be homeschooling our son in a couple of years, so I love reading info for this. I think this would also work for older children who have a hard time paying attention, as well.

  31. 33

    and, I’ve never heard of that hybrid type of school before, so interesting!

  32. 34

    I have been following your fascinating blog for a while now – it brings inspiration and colour to my day! We have just recently decided to home school our son who is has Asperger’s syndrome and I am looking for any helpful ideas to help me to organize his and my day! Thanks so much for featuring another great idea!

    • 35

      Hi Debbie,
      I’ll have a student in the fall with Asperger’s and thought this system would be wonderful for him! Good luck in your decision to homeschool. I homeschooled my kindergartener this past year and it was a wonderful experience for both of us:)

  33. 36

    What an awesome concept. I love the 2 days at school 2days at home. I have been toying with the idea of home schooling but don’t think could do it everyday. What a great blend of the two. I give you HUGE KUDOS- it’s not easy. It’s harder than sending them to school. I don’t know how you do all you do, btw home, children your business and stay sane. :) But WTG! Deana

  34. 37

    Love it. I will be homeschooling for the first time this coming fall and this seems like an awesome system. I also have a 3 year old who will need to be “entertained” while I am teaching my older children and this looks like a great option for him as well. Thanks for sharing, Lindsey! :) P.S. Also LOVE the painted shoe rack and clear boxes idea…this kind of pretty organization is right up my alley! XO

  35. 38
    Trina Miner says:

    I love that Susie used a line from April Rain Song by Langston Hughes in her letter (it is one of my favorite poems…I use it in my poetry unit every year). That was very inspiring. And while I am a teacher in a traditional public school, I think that the system you are using looks very productive! Keep up the good work!
    ~Trina

    April Rain Song

    Let the rain kiss you
    Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
    Let the rain sing you a lullaby
    The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
    The rain makes running pools in the gutter
    The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
    And I love the rain.

  36. 39

    I love that idea! It’s kind of the way I ran the literacy portion of my 2nd grade classroom. It’s so great when you don’t have to be the task master all the time and I love the 10 minute recess when they finish a row- awesome.

  37. 40

    I love this idea, and used to do something very similar, but just don’t have the room to set all this up anymore. We have 4 kids, 6, 7, 11 and 13 and as they get older there just wasn’t enough room for all the books and stuff in the little tubs…So, I used a plastic file box and gave each child a different colored set of hanging folders. Each subject has a color, math is blue, science is green…Each child has their folders in their colored hanging files. Each child has a “Helps” file (daily journal, book list, calendars, helpful websites, multiplication charts, HWT reference pages, whatever pertains to each child). Then we have math, language arts, science, history/social studies, art, music, health, portfolio…Each of their blue math files go first in the hanging folder and have the tabs on the left, each of their science files go secong and have their tabs in the middle and so on for each subject…Then in each subject there are 2 files. One for work to be done and one for completed work. I labeled all the folders with each child’s name in permanent marker in the color of each child’s hanging files, Each folder is labeled with the first letter of their first name, the subject and do or done. So they read “K Math Do” and “K Math Done”. It took a bit of doing to figure it out and get it all set up just right. It is so completely simple and takes up no space at all. I can pick it up and move it from room to room if I want. Super easy if we are going to go to the park and take some work I just grab every ones math file and we go, super easy to put away when we get home. Books are all stored on one shelf divided up by child and can easily be slipped into the hanging folders. It has worked so easily for us for 2 years now. I LOVE having a portfolio file right there for special work I want to keep, but don’t have time to go file away in the big file cabinet at the moment. Also, not sure how you do it, we decorated paperclips and made them fancy (for the girls) that say start and stop so they know which pages to do, the boys just put the paperclip on the last page they did to mark their spot.

  38. 41

    Wow!!! You are a great mom.

  39. 42

    I’m excited to read about this. We’ll be diving into a similar school, classical, they go Monday and Wednesday and I teach them at home Tuesday and Thursday starting this fall. I’m overwhelmed at the thought! I might have to look more into this system!

  40. 43

    Back when I lived in So Cal, before I became a hair stylist, I was actually a teacher at a school similar to yours. Our students were home-schooled on Monday and Tuesday and came to school the rest of the week. Friday afternoon were enrichment time where they had elective type classes, or other such things. Anyway, I wish I had known of this workbox system back when I was teaching because I think that the kids and parents in my class would have really benefitted from it! I’m glad to hear that this has helped make the home-schooling process go a little more smoothly for you!

  41. 44

    As a fellow homeschooling mom, I hear ya! These precious souls we have the pleasure of molding require an exhausting amount of effort and energy. Thanks for sharing your struggles and this lovely idea. I’m going to give it a try next year and see if it helps my daughter, Gracie, who struggles with staying on task.

  42. 45

    I teach kindergarten – and last school year, I was so wanting to use some sort of WorkBox system like this. But, with 14 students I did not have enough space to store tons of boxes. But! What I did “come up with” (if you even want to call it a big idea), is a simple to-do-list system. Oh my, it is so cute — the kids LOVE it and it really helps the flow of the day go by smooth. Each day, I wrote a list of all the things we were going to be doing on the chalkboard (not just work, but also playground time, snack/lunch, music class, art class, P.E., Spanish class, Computer class, library, science experiment time, chapel, etc.) I also had a typed list for each child, with a box next to each item for them to check-off. It was easy for me to create these lists because I simply took it from the lesson plans I had typed. Of course, at the beginning of the year – they were just now starting to learn to read, so I would draw a little symbol or picture next to each “task.” But, they quickly started to know what was written, simply by seeing them over & over. (double duty! sight words!!) As each task was completed – they checked it off on their list that they kept either in their cubby or at their table spot (their choice). At the end of the day, everyone turned in their list to me & I would give them either a stamp or sticker on it and send it home in their homework folders that day. (I could make notes on the list next to areas that I felt a child needed extra practice that night, a quick note about something sweet I noticed a child do, etc.) This really helped the parents keep up with what their child was learning too.

    I plan to continue doing this this coming school year – the kids were so proud to check things off their list, telling me that they feel “grown up” having a to-do-list. And, it helped them not be overwhelmed with the day – they can read/see exactly how many things were going to happen that day.

  43. 46

    i have a self motivated and one who can’t seem to focus and the third well we shall see when she starts more school this fall. implementing the workbox system for us was a LIFE SAVER!!! it has been awesome. when we started we were still doing school at our kitchen table so i didn’t have room for the school racks but when i moved our school stuff to our office in december i now have more room. we have used file boxes but my summer project is to create the shoe rack boxes. i love the idea of a timer at the end of each row… that will definitely help my unfocused one know that there will be time for snack and play.

    • 47

      This is really great! I would like to use these racks in my classroom. Do they seem pretty strong? It looks like each unit is holding a number of books, so I imagine they are. Thank you so much for sharing this, your blog is incredible!
      Kristen
      Ladybug’s Teacher Files

  44. 48

    Thank you for sharing! I love to hear how other moms do it! Teaching our children is so important but I think the most important part is we find what works for us moms!!! I homeschool full-time with a one day co-op so we are using Horizons for math and phonics and LOTS of living books throughout the day. We get the work done but now that it’s hot the kids get restless and roughty during these long summer days. These work boxes might just be the perfect solution!!!

  45. 49

    I think the workbox system looks stinkin’ awesome! I can see it being difficult for a mom who has procrastination tendencies or is does not excel in the area of organization. It looks like the hardest part is getting it set up prior to each day. But if the mom can find a way to master that part of it, it looks like it would be extremely helpful in getting multiple kids through their school day. Thanks for sharing!

  46. 50

    I would love to hear more ideas about what you put in Silas boxes. I have a 3 year old that needs a very structured day with me prompting her on what to do with every ounce of her time, and I can see this being helpful for her, in a somewhat more relaxed manner. I just need activity ideas for her in general!

  47. 51

    Your homeschooling organization is impressive!! It sounds as if you have come up with the perfect mix that enables you to be an essential part of the education of your kids. What kind of school do the kids go to on the three days that they are in a classroom? I am a Grade 2 teacher and after twenty years of teaching am looking for something a little different than teaching in a traditional setting. How does your set up work?

  48. 52

    We are considering homeschooling our son who has high functioning autism. I would do it through a charter school and the workbox system has been on my mind for years. I think it is great for someone like my son. I have 4 other kids though and i think I can only homeschool one!

    Thanks for showing how you are doing it!

  49. 53

    Hello! I just stumbled across your blog. Love it! I have been summer schooling my stepkids, and starting homeschool for my PK daughter this year. I used a modified (both size and budget concerns) workbox system… I love the idea, but my ADHD makes it hard for me to restock the boxes everyday, and we currently only use 8! (Hey, it’s summer.) I need more work on it, but I truly see the value behind it. I’d love to see you around my blog sometime! confessionsofslackermom.blogspot.com

  50. 54

    I’m in the process of reworking our workboxes again, so I’m glad I happened upon your way of doing things. I especially like how you just turn the box to be DONE…makes perfect sense and equals less steps (much appreciated from this mama of 7!)
    I can’t make the traditional workboxes work for us, but the concept is wonderful. Thanks for sharing! :)

  51. 55

    We are doing this same type of schooling–2 days at “school” and 3 days at home. We’re only on day 2, so I don’t know much yet. But I love seeing how you work it out.

    Thanks for the peek into your day!
    a

  52. 56

    I love your labels. So cute! Would you be willing to share the file?

  53. 57

    So I read the piece from your friend and it brought tears to my eyes..I have just started homeschooling and am feelings afraid..this put everything in my life into perspective. Thank you for sharing!

  54. 58

    I have homeschooled 3 of my 4 daughters on and off for 8+ years now. The BIGGEST thing I’ve learned is FLEXIBILITY is the key to homeschool success. What works great today, may not be a good solution tomorrow – and that’s OK! Because it WS JUST what your family needed today!

    That said, I wish I had heard of the box system BEFORE I sent my youngest back into school full time this year. We thought she needed the 100% teacher attention of a brick & mortar school, that I couldn’t give her due to me having 2 of them at different levels and my own medical needs. However, this seems like a BRILLIANT solution. There is a schedule, an expected and consistent routine!!

  55. 59

    I will be homeschooling this fall and I have had mixed feelings about it. Mainly about my own insecurities, you know like will I completely screw up my kids education? ; )
    This post has so encouraged me and I will definitely be trying the workbox thing!

  56. 60
    Stormy :-) says:

    Hi Lindsey! I was just trekking by to see what the workbox system was when I found my way to your site. If I may, I would love to share an insight that I have encountered that may shed some valuable light. Visual Spatial Learners are unique learners, and the daughter mentioned having difficulty with focus and learning issues might be a VSL! Here are two excellent sites to “start” an awesome new journey. Hope this is helpful for the many brilliant VSLs and their teachers! ~Stormy

    It Takes One to Know One
    http://www.visualspatial.org/files/michael.pdf · PDF file

    http://www.visualspatial.org/teachers.php

  57. 61

    Hello

    Forte schools offer a FREE trial lessons for classes and some offer Learn Piano, Guitar, Singing, Saxophone, Flute, Violin, Drums and More a Free Trial private lesson.

    Thanks

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