Unless you homeschool in a cave (do you homeschool in a cave?), you have probably heard of Sue Patrick’s Workbox System – a structured method for parceling out the school day in plastic shoeboxes. Actually, that’s just a small part of it, but it is at the core of the system. It’s as hot as Cabbage Patch Kids circa 1986, but with less dolls and more math and science.
Patrick asked the TOS Crew to review her e-book which details the process. I was skeptical because I thought the system was for young and/or special needs children, but it really has helped our school day run smoother. I can only speak to how this works in my situation – one child, who can work fairly independently – but the system was developed to help Patrick’s son who is on the autism spectrum. As such, it implements several techniques used in therapies for kids with autism spectrum disorders. However, those techniques can apply quite handily to other children as well.
Patrick is fairly adamant that her system of plastic shoeboxes on a rack works best. I don’t know many homeschoolers who use anything straight out of the box (no pun intended) without tweaking it to suit their family. We’re crazy rebels that way, you know. Obviously, the system Patrick details in her book works best for her family and many others who follow it precisely. We use our own method based on Patrick’s system which works beautifully for us. I encourage you to read the book and not just rely on the information available online – but after doing so, you may find that some elements of the system are adaptable depending upon your needs. Some elements (clocking in and out of the school day, for instance) have been entirely unnecessary for us. (Our homeschool is more home-like than school-like, but it works well for us.) But dividing the day into manageable chunks? For that, Patrick has my thanks. The system has given us more organization and has given my son personal satisfaction and encouragement.
This system can be used with any curriculum choice and any grade level. Patrick sells the book alone, supplies or complete starter kits. For details about the system, this presentation says it best – in Patrick’s own words. Sample pages are available here. The books itself is a quick read, but really does explain Patrick’s methods and the reasoning behind them. Patrick’s site also includes pictures that will give you a good idea of the physical structure she recommends. A terrific interview with Patrick is online at Love to Know.
If you choose to buy Patrick’s book and give the system a try, there are many online communities that offer “workboxing” suggestions, including units adapted to the system. If you need more organization in your school day, I encourage you to give it a try. As with most everything else in our homeschool, we have implemented the parts that work best for us and chosen not to use other elements, but I am pleased with the results.
If you’re curious, here’s a look at part of our workbox corner which sits atop a bookshelf. (We use a combination of plastic drawers and boxes to accommodate materials of various sizes. And we use Star Wars box numbers courtesy of the workboxes Yahoo group. Awesomeness.) My son brings completed materials to a plastic tub near my desk. He is free to work at a desk, on the floor, on the couch, at the computer, etc. It works for us. :)