Inside: Learn about the secret weapon called homeschool workboxes that saved my sanity and can turn your homeschool into a well-oiled machine.
Even though I was organized as a school teacher, I figured I wouldn’t need that as much as a homeschool mom. I only had a few kids compared to 23, I thought. Piece of cake!
All my years of teaching didn’t prepare me for what was to come.
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It was the perfect storm. I had a tweener with Dyslexia, a Kindergartener who needed to learn EVERYTHING from scratch, and a toddler to entertain who I was sure would climb Mount Everest some day or at least be a trapeze artist.
Reality gave me a hard slap in the face. I DID need a system and had to figure it out fast.
Homeschooling without a plan is like trying to build an entertainment center without the instructions. There will be confusion, heated words exchanged, and random pieces left out that you have no idea where to put.
You may not be the kind of person who likes to be super organized or read instructions. You might even be the type of person who rips the tag off your mattress. 😲
Stay with me! Don’t close this page thinking “Nope, not for me!” It might surprise you how much your child enjoys this and you will love having a little extra time to yourself.
Other systems have come and gone, but this one has stood the test of time in our homeschool. We have modified it at times over the years, but the basics remained the same and it was just as effective.
Let me introduce you to one of the homeschool room ideas that’s my secret weapon. It’s transformed our homeschool day in ways I could have never imagined.
I’m excited for you to learn how to use them in your own homeschool!
What Are Homeschool Workboxes?
Homeschool workboxes are a simple system that organizes your children’s work and helps them become independent learners.
In a nutshell, it’s a set of boxes or drawers that contain each child’s schoolwork for the day. Each box holds one subject or activity and any other materials needed to complete it.
In between the core subjects, you will have boxes with other activities for fun and built in review. (Sneaky learning)
Mixing in two or three fun activities after so many core subjects, keeps your child excited for what is coming and he’ll continue working.
That’s it! It’s so simple, yet so profound.
The Benefits of Homeschool Workboxes
There are many benefits to using this system, but below I have highlighted some major ones.
- Simplifies your day
- Organizes school materials
- Motivates students to finish their work
- Builds anticipation for school when special activities are mixed in
- Teaches independence
- Frees up your time
- Students know exactly what to do
- Built-in review with extra boxes
- Caters to each child’s individual learning style
- Adds needed structure that lays the groundwork for success
- Gives children ownership over their learning
- Builds confidence
Who Is This System Good For?
This system works with everyone! All parents and all children!
You do not have to be a Martha Stewart who is organized or creative (I’m not!). The system is straightforward and you can easily put it together and include educational work that is fun with little effort.
This approach works with students of all abilities. Even those with autism, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. It gives them structure and routine, which is an environment they thrive in.
Depending on your child, you can start homeschool workboxes with a child as early as 18 months old (limiting the number of boxes) or as old as high school.
High schoolers may baulk at the idea and feel it’s elementary, but will soon change their tune when they see how effective it is and they complete their work in less time. I’ve seen firsthand the positive effects of workboxes carrying over into adulthood for my son. It’s impossible to walk away from this type of learning and not gain some benefits.
What to Put in Your Boxes and Why It Should Be Exciting
Workboxes can be as exciting as you make them. You want to have one box for every core subject and then a few extras to throw in some fun surprises. Kind of like mystery boxes.
While this might require a little extra homeschool planning for you, it could shave some time off your child’s day, which saves you time in the long run. Students work harder and faster to get to those mystery boxes to see what’s inside.
This is especially helpful when there’s a subject your child doesn’t like. Instead of playing around and stalling, he’ll get it over with to see what’s in the next box. If you make the games or activities something he enjoys and change them out so the novelty doesn’t wear off, you’ll be amazed at the results.
Ideas for the Mystery Boxes
- Independent Games– Tricky Triangle Game, Kanoodle, wire puzzles, or Rush Hour.
- Art Projects
- Letter Practice Activities– Ziplock bag with some paint, a tray with salt, or a tray and a can of shaving cream to practice writing their letters with their fingers
- Memory, Problem Solving, and Concentration Activities– Beyond 123 MiniLuk
- Math Games/Activities– Comic Strip Math Book
- File folder Games
- Science Experiments
- Computer Time (Use a card telling him he can go to the computer)
- Montessori Activities
- Play-Doh Activities
Incorporating Homeschool Learning Centers
One way to break up the monotony of the day is to incorporate homeschool learning centers in the daily schedule. They give your child a chance to move to a different environment and can feel like a break from their regular work. These are not in the boxes but instead a card on the schedule strip.
Each child is unique and has his own learning style. Learning centers are a wonderful way to include built-in review and present the same information in a different manner to increase the chances of him remembering it. Be sure to mix in some auditory, visual, and kinesthetic activities in your centers.
Ideas for Learning Centers
- Interactive posters- Duplicate posters that are cut apart and used to match up answers
- Computer time
- Nature Table
- Reading Area with books and audiobooks
- Music and art appreciation
- Math manipulatives and games
How to Set Up Homeschool Workboxes
While there is a little work involved in the initial setup of your workbox system, it’s not hard. Once you have the boxes ready, it’s a matter of planning what to put in the boxes each week.
I have a planning page that’s part of a guide I created to help with that! You can find out more about it at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Find a System That Works
When choosing your workboxes, be sure to find something that works for your space. If you homeschool in a small area, you’ll want to go vertical with something like the rainbow cart system or this wire cart with sliding drawers. If you’re really tight on space, some people have even used this wall pocket chart.
If you have a little extra room, you can get a shelf and use plastic shoe boxes. We found ours at The Dollar Tree. This toy organizer is another great option.
We have used this Trofast System from IKEA before.
Step 2: Label Your Boxes
Make workbox number labels for however many boxes you have and attach them in the center on the front of each box with Velcro. These numbers correspond with a schedule card at the child’s seat, which is used to guide him through his day.
Add an extra piece of Velcro toward the bottom right corner of each number label for your child to attach the matching number he pulls from his schedule card.
Your child will know what box to get when he looks at his schedule. He pulls the number from his schedule card (which is Velcroed on) and attaches it to the number label of the matching box before he takes it to his seat.
You will also want to create a few “Work with Mom” cards. This card allows your child to glance at a box and know if he can do it independently or not.
You need to attach another piece of Velcro in the top or bottom right corner of every box for this card.
If you would like labels and cards that are already done for you and ready to print, I have included those in my Homeschool Workbox Guide at the bottom of this post.
Step 3: Create Your Schedule
Creating a homeschool schedule your child follows is the backbone of this system. Think of it as the yin to your yang. Without it, your child won’t know what to do and all your efforts have been for nothing.
You can create a schedule strip or card. It’s a personal preference. The card is a little easier for younger kids to handle because they have fewer cards to deal with. We’ve done it both ways and they both work just fine.
You can attach a metal ring in the corner of either one and hang it up for storage each day.
**Another option I used for my oldest child is a homeschool assignment sheet. This is in place of the schedule card. I fill it out daily and they refer to it and check off the work as it’s completed.
With the assignment sheet, there are no numbers or cards to remove from a schedule and attach to boxes. They just look at the number on the sheet and go grab the box that’s the same. For a high schooler, this may feel a little less babyish. I still recommend the labels for younger children and even middle schoolers if working independently is new to them.
Step 4: Plan Your Week
Setting aside some time during the weekend to plan will make filling your boxes a breeze during the week.
I use a chart which I fill in every subject and extra activities for each box for the entire week. I use a separate one for each child. You can color code them by using a different colored pen or print them on different colored paper.
These sheets can be saved and put in a binder for a portfolio review at the end of the year.
Step 5: Fill Your Boxes
Once you finish the planning, all you do is glance at your chart each morning, grab what you need, and load up. It shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes.
Be sure to include everything your child needs to complete the lesson. If you don’t have supplies within arms reach where he works, be sure to put a pencil in each box he’ll need one. This keeps your child on task and reduces lost time searching for one.
To make these boxes as independent as possible, write out the directions on a Post-It Note and stick it to the front of the workbook or papers. For example: “Do pages 6-7” or “Answer questions 1-5 after reading chapter 2”.
When training your child to use this system, teach him to look for a note telling him what to do instead of calling for you right away.
Step 6: Train Your Child
When you’ve set everything up and loaded your boxes, it’s time to train your child how to use them. Walk him through the process of looking at his schedule, taking the first card off, and attaching it to the matching box. Then he will take the box to his seat, read the directions, and complete the work. When he’s finished, he’ll put the box in a pile on the floor by the workbox station (or you can use a bin to hold the finished boxes) and repeat everything.
If your child doesn’t need to see the workload getting smaller, he can put the box back on the shelf. I recommend trying it both ways to see which is best.
For cards on the schedule that don’t go on boxes (Centers, Gym, Break, etc.), you can make a duplicate of the schedule card and attach velcro in each section to place these when they’re pulled off the schedule. This lets the child remove them from his schedule and keep them from getting lost.
I am so thankful I found homeschool workboxes all those years ago. I went from surviving to thriving in a short amount of time. The impact it had on my kids would have been enough, but it also saved my sanity and freed up my time to get other things done like a load of laundry or sneaking off for a piece of chocolate. (What they don’t know won’t hurt them!)
Whether you are a go with the flow kind of girl or need every minute of the day accounted for, these will work for you! Stop trying to do it all and start letting the kids take some responsibility for their work. You will be glad you did!
How to Use Homeschool Workboxes- A Step-By-Step Guide to Stopping the Overwhelm and Getting Organized!
Stop feeling like there’s never enough of you to go around and take back your day!
This is a detailed guide on how to set up workboxes in your homeschool with all the printables you’ll need.
- Your child could do all or most of his schoolwork by himself.
- You didn’t feel overwhelmed all the time.
- Your child could start school without having to be told.
- You didn’t have to sit by your student to get him to work.
- Your child could review essential skills in a fun way.
- You had some free time to get some things done around the house.
- Your child was motivated to get his work completed.
- Your child could learn valuable skills that carry over into adulthood.
All of that is possible when you use homeschool workboxes!
Perhaps you want to set up your own workboxes, but you don’t have the time to create your own number labels, schedule strip, activity cards, and planning page.
If you want to save time and get help to set up your own workboxes, you’ll love this guide.
- Step-by-step detailed instructions with pictures to help you get set up quickly
- Number labels for your boxes- Two different colors filled in or outlined, girl and boy themes, blank labels to add your own pictures, and black and white options
- Schedule strip or card options
- Activity cards- Including: Break, Center, Poster Time, and many more used in a daily schedule
- Extra cards like “Work with Mom” and “I Need Help” to make things run smoothly
- Homeschool workbox planning page to make filling the boxes quicker and easier
I’ve done all the hard. You won’t have to spend hours figuring out what size to make things and searching for clip art. All you need to do is print, laminate, and Velcro.
Remember: You don’t have to have your own homeschool room or a large space to do this. There are plenty of options to make it work in any area.
Homeschool workboxes work with students of all ages and is great for kids with autism, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.
Grab the How to Use Homeschool Workboxes- A Step-by-Step Guide to Stopping the Overwhelm and Getting Organized and get started today!
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