work boxes

we are constantly moving things around in our school room, tweaking what we do to try to do it better, to adapt to our changing needs, to hopefully help our days run smoother.  because, Lord knows, we need it!

one thing that has helped us immensely is the use of work boxes.  this idea was created by sue patrick who even wrote a book about it.  now, i don’t follow her book to the letter, but i have gleamed a handful of helpful ideas from it.  the basic concept is to divide up work into different boxes, completing each box before moving on to the next.

we do use her idea of the plastic shoe boxes on the wire shoe rack.

i eventually spray painted each rack for each kid so there was no confusion or mixing of boxes.

i also numbered each of their boxes with scrap paper and packing tape.  i made a “done!” sign for each box so when they are done with a box they can turn it around and i can see at a quick glance how much work they’ve each done.

as cumbersome as it is, it really does help us out.  we are constantly moving the workbox stations around.  up until a few months ago, we kept the work boxes at our empty wall in the playroom (our school room), all lined up and they fit perfectly.  but then i realized that we weren’t using that wall as well as we could, that it was more of a storage space instead.

i had been wanting to do some sort of library with all of our great books, but the standard bookshelf in the living room wasn’t working all that great.  our oldest would grab books all the time from there, but our younger 2 just weren’t interested.  i have always loved the ideas of using gutters for book shelves so the book covers face out, so we decided to use the wall space for this.

pros and cons to the gutter shelves:

pro:  all our books for the trimester can be seen easily by all 3 kids

con: even though the gutters themselves were inexpensive, the clips to attach them on the wall were really pricey when you have to buy a bunch

pro:  the kids are reading so much more than before

con:  when we were installing the gutter shelves, we hit metal supports in the walls and jacked up the screws

pro:  we waste much less time looking for specific books

con:  we didn’t think about the spacing of the hooks – at each point they are used they cross the top of the gutter and make that space unusable.  the space at the end of our shelves would be unusable if we didn’t have a couple small, non-book items to put there, like the jar of white board markers under the white board.

pro:  the space feels so much more “schoolish” than it did before.  when we had the workboxes on that wall, they stuck out so much that we couldn’t reach the map or number line well.

con:  while we now have each work box station next to the kids while they work, its been hard to find a good space for them to fit when we’re not doing school.


we have very little wall space in here, so i tried to squeeze in some encouraging words where i could.  the top quote was given to me for silas’s baby shower.  the bottom print was made by a sweet friend of mine (she’s only 15!) and she has a handful of others she’s made, too.  isn’t it adorable?!

and even though our room is lined with individual desks for the kids, they most often are sitting at the little table in the center of the room or are laying on the floor doing work on their laps.  i am learning so much this year that schooling doesn’t look like i want it to, that i have to be flexible to move around and let the kids work where they are being productive.  i’m also learning that schooling my kids isn’t about me, its about them, and that is something i need to remind myself of everyday!


  1. 1

    I absolutely love the box idea. I actually think I am going to share it on my blog today! It is definitely something worth trying out…I think it would work for me! Organization is my life! Love your blog!

  2. 2

    Very inspiring! I love the way your home classroom looks! xx

  3. 3

    Thanks for sharing your pros and cons. I’m trying to figure out a way to “school” without feeling to much like the public system. I have Sue Patrick’s book, but not sure how to implement it with our space. It’s a process! Thanks for sharing as you change and grow.

  4. 4

    great ideas!! i love your new gutter shelves. thanks for all the great tips with those. also, i LOVE that “read” print. LOVE LOVE!! so sweet in a school room.

  5. 5

    Was excited to read this post, we are planning on creating an official homeschool space this summer so I’m always looking for inspiration. I love the the box idea. I also appreciate that you shared pros and cons. Pinning this so I can reference it again in the future.

  6. 6
    Cindy Farrar says:

    i have been reading your blog for about 2 years now and fell as though i know you and your kids. I ama a preschool director with 4 boys of my own and 1 grandboy who is almost 2. it takes a very special person to home school their children and every post i read sounds as though you are doing a great job. Very good momma. Thanks for letting me share in your joy.

  7. 7

    I love that idea of the boxes! We are in our fourth year of homeschool and letting go of school the way we experienced it is hard to grasp sometimes. It does get easier as time goes on. It also sounds like you have a willing heart. I learned really quickly because sx weeks into my first year I had to have major surgery and so we adjusted and had school in my bed. Those were sweet times and a lesson learned!

  8. 8

    thank you. i have been praying about homeschooling for quite awhile now. i love when you sneak in some info about your homeschooling because i always find you so encouraging. (and i have a lot of fear about this new adventure we may be taking!) again…thank you. this mama needed this post!

  9. 9

    Lindsey, I was curious what curriculum(s) do you use?

  10. 10

    I think that you are doing a great job! Home schooling is challenging. I was home schooled for one year and we realized it wasn’t for us (or maybe we should have tried a little longer. I hear the first year is the most challenging).
    I think that the arrangement that your school has is amazing. I wish we had something like it near us in Pa.

  11. 11

    I hear you loud and clear! It is so hard to break the Public School Mindset when we were raised in it and all our friends kids are in it. People ask what grade my daughter is in and I have NO clue! I can tell you what we are learning in each subject but there is no grade level attached to it. When she gets it we move on. If it takes extra long or we get off on a rabbit trail, that’s just the way it is!

    We are just officially starting our homeschool journey. I’d love to hear more about what you are doing especially with Silas.

  12. 12

    Sooooo Inspiring! Just the post I needed for today!

  13. 13

    I love the concentration on Silas’ face in that last photo. I admire you. I can barely get Mommy Preschool going with my one child.

  14. 14

    If your friend has a site where we could buy her prints, we’d love to know about it. I am all over that Read print…I have two boys but who cares? She sort of looks like me telling my boys to just do it! Read that is…

  15. 15

    Your use of space and bright colors always makes me want to revamp my entire house! I always always always enjoy looking at your newest projects!

  16. 16

    i love this!!!

  17. 17

    I love seeing how others homeschool!

    I’m jealous of your homeschool/ sewing room. All that sunshine! We homeschool in the dining room, and the books have to be moved frequently during the day to accommodate mealtimes. Our dream house (someday!) will have a homeschool room.

    The gutters look pretty great. You have a fabulous eye for decorating and organization!

  18. 19

    Thanks so much for introducing me to the idea of the boxes. We do our own version, but it has totally changed how our school days go for the 3 youngest!

  19. 20

    ohhh. so much homeschooling tips to file away for my future kiddos!

  20. 21

    Great idea!!! I have homeschooled 2 of my 3 in the past, and hope to again as soon as our baby gets a little bit bigger. LOVE the library.

  21. 22

    I wanna know where I can get a ‘Read’ print too! Adorable!

  22. 23
    Marcia says:

    I love this idea! I’m going to try to start this with my 3 and 5 year olds this summer and continue it next year when I start homeschooling the kindergartener. Do you know where I can find wire shoe racks like that?

  23. 24

    We are just starting our homeschool journey but love the workbox system. It really helps for Ava to know what is next if I am chasing my 14 month old around!

  24. 25

    Does you friend sell her prints? I would love to make a purchase if she does.

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