Archive for December, 2011

Workbox Love


Ever since our homeschool journey began, the kids and I have been in a constant state of organizational evolution. My three bigs are not the most organized or diligent, so I’m always trying to improve our system to make learning more accessible to them.  We’ve tried 3-ring binders, folders, and online programs among other things.  And then…sweet serendipity stuck. A conversation with one of my nearest and dearest fellow homeschoolers revealed that she uses workboxes.

Workboxes? Hmmm…

So, naturally, I spend hours scoring the web for information about this little gem of information. I was rewarded immeasurably for my efforts.

This system allows the kids to see what they have to do for the day, manage their time, learn independently, and watch with pride as they make their way through their assignments. I modified the system to fit our needs.

Without further ado, here are our workboxes…


our workbox shelves

There are boxes for three kiddos on this shelf. It is an Ikea BESTÅ shelf, about 4′ wide. The boxes were purchased at Walmart; the small shoebox size were $1 each, and the larger blue ones were about $3. I printed the numbers and time cards on heavy cardstock (150 lb. I think? purchased at Office Depot) I haven’t had great experience with cutting velcro strips (it gums up my scissors), so I bought the little circles to save myself the trouble.

Each kiddo has an inexpensive kitchen timer (Target, $6). On each numbered box is a tag with a generous amount of time during which they work on each assignment. Their goal is to practice focus and diligence in order to get the assignment finished. If they do, they earn the number of points equal to the number on the time card. If not, the assignment goes back onto the shelf to be worked on the next day. Second day completion is rewarded with half points. If their focus continues to be poor, the point value drops down to 5 and stays there. For the record, they are given ample time and assignments that they are fully capable of completing. Their success is based on their own choices and time management.

Once the assignment is completed, they place their work into a bin on my desk. The empty box is placed on a separate shelf next to the workbox area so that they have a clear visual representation of their diligence. It’s amazing how such a simple thing keeps them motivated. We never achieved anything even similar to that with any other system.

our reward box...points redeemed here

Here’s the purpose of the points: My kiddos are very much instant-gratification junkies. If they have to plan more than about a week ahead, they completely lose interest, and their goal no longer motivates them. They earn points for being diligent with their chores and schoolwork. I have a reward box containing all sorts of little things they love (candies, silly bands, erasers, pencils) and activity cards for things they love to do (computer time, video game time, etc.). They can save up their points for “big ticket” items or spend them on little things.

keeping things in order

Now, each kid has a chart to help them keep track of their accomplishments and activities for the day. The tags are stored in the “bank” at the bottom and moved up to the top as they are completed or used. Here’s how this breaks down…

They have three chore tags each (morning, afternoon, and evening). Splitting up their daily responsibilities really helps them to not feel overwhelmed. They also have three “break” tags that total once hour, divided into 10, 20, and 30 minute segments. It is entirely up to the kids how they use them, the only rule being that they must be in between assignments. There are also three “help” tags. Their goal is to try to figure things out on their own as much as possible rather than giving up quickly and asking for help right away. Again, they are never given any assignments that are outside of their individual abilities. They also have a snack tag and a lunch tag. For some reason, my kiddos are obsessed about when lunchtime is every day, so they like to move up a tag after they’ve eaten. It’s the little things, I guess. If we are going to be enjoying a planned activity such as a park day, I put a “playground” tag on the chart. If we have no planned activity, I put the “go outside” tag up to make sure they get out for some fresh air at some point during the day.

Each day, their core subjects and electives tags are placed on the chart, as well. Our core subjects are English and Math. The kiddos get to choose their own topic in each of five other subjects: science, reading, history, arts, and life skills. For example, one of them is currently studying the human brain, Bridge to Terabithia, North America, bird watching, and wilderness survival.

I hope these ideas help you! Please feel free to ask if you have any questions. 🙂


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