Monday, October 26, 2009

Sue Patrick's Workbox System: A Review

When I purchased Sue Patrick's Workbox System this past spring, I had no idea that I would have the chance to review it as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Crew. Now that I've been using this system for a few months, I'm happy to report that we are still reaping the benefits of it, which I highlighted in my original workbox post.

The Workbox System schedules your student's school day and organizes your materials at the same time with the use of numbered, clear plastic containers. Each activity, subject, or assignment that your student will be doing in a given day is to be distributed among these plastic boxes - one activity per box. Whether the activity is a worksheet to complete independently, a science experiment to do with the rest of the family, a book to read to Mom, or an educational game to play with a sibling, it goes into one of the boxes. The student completes the activities in the boxes, and when they are all empty, then his school day is finished.


•My children can see what needs to be accomplished on a given day. No more of the age-old question, "Are we done with school yet?"

•I have been motivated to pull out all of the fun educational games and materials that we never had time for in the past.

•Excitement! My children enjoy seeing what fun activities are interspersed throughout their day, and it motivates them to perservere through the not-so-fun stuff.

•Using this system has helped me to be more intentional about planning activities specifically for my preschoolers and setting aside special individual and group time with them.

•All of my materials for the day are organized and ready to go. No more running to another room to grab a book or something else we need.

•We get much more accomplished in a lesser amount of time.

•I am motivated to stay on top of filling the boxes before the next day starts because I see how smoothly our day goes when the boxes are in use.

•My children are becoming more independent and responsible for their learning.

Possible Drawbacks

•Because we are a Charlotte Mason family, and also somewhat relaxed, I really want learning to be a lifestyle in our home - not a regimented list of tasks or assignments to be checked off. I have tweaked the boxes to fit our needs and maintain an atmosphere of gentle learning. For example, if we're doing a science experiment together as a family that inspires us to run off on a rabbit trail, causing us to have to leave some boxes undone, that's fine. I do not push to just "make it through" all of each child's boxes everyday. My goal is to ignite and fuel my children's love of learning - not to finish everything in those containers everyday.

•I am naturally a rule follower, a by-the-book sort of girl, so I have had to be careful not to let the workboxes rule me. I don't want to fill them with busy work or anything unmeaningful just for the sake of filling them up. Mrs. Patrick's system suggests using eight to twelve boxes, and I have never needed to fill more than six. I imagine that as my children grow older, if I continue to use this system, I will fill more of the boxes. But for now, six is plenty.

•In her book, Mrs. Patrick mentions her opinion that there is too much talking in some homeschools. This does not fit well with my philosophy of home education. I know that every family's homeschool looks different, but I've always felt that one advantage to having my children at home was to encourage their questions and curiosity. In our home, less learning would take place if we had a quiet, classroom atmosphere. Yes, there is definitely a need for respect and a certain amount of order, which I'd like to think we have in our homeschool. But...I also love to hear my children's chatter, questions, ideas, and conversation as we work and learn together.

I think there are some wonderful idea's in Mrs. Patrick's book that could benefit many home educators. If you are interested in finding out more about her system, I encourage you to visit the Workbox website where you can view sample pages, purchase the e-book that retails for $19.00 or the hard-copy version for $19.95. Either purchase includes access to downloads which will be helpful in setting up your system and getting started.

To see more reviews of this product, visit the Crew Blog.

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