Last year was my first year homeschooling and I have to admit that I went about it all wrong. Having studied elementary education for a little while in college (before changing my major because I didn’t think I could teach – ha, ha) and being married to a school teacher, I thought I knew how school should be. I patterned our homeschool days after the local public schools and found myself beating my head against the wall.
Slowly, with tremendous encouragement from friends who have homeschooled for years, I loosened up. If that pattern is not working for the general public, then why would I think it would work in our home? Once I let it go and found a bit of our own groove, I felt better and Lira performed better. But, when I considered homeschooling more than one child, the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up. I was so anxious. Could I really homeschool two special needs children with two younger children underfoot? Then, God showed me THE WAY.
While I am sure that this idea has been floating around for generations in some format or another, workboxes have gained popularity thanks to Sue Patrick. We are not purists to her system but it was an excellent inspiration that has breathed fresh air into our school.
Here is how we do it
Each child has 10 bins, picked up at the Dollar Store. I have a bookcase for each child where the bins are lined up. One bin is for storing their scissors, pencils, scratch paper or other generic things they might need on a daily basis and has a work card attached with 12 spaces with a Velcro Dot and laminated number. The bins also have a Velcro Dot.
I plan twelve activities for each day, three of which do not require a bin such as a potty break, snack, or computer time. For the activities which do not need a bin, there are laminated action cards the same size as the number cards. These are placed on the work card where they will fit into the order I want the child to follow. I then take the other Velcro numbers off the work card and put them on the bins, placing the planned activities one in each bin.
The children come in for school and after sitting together for a devotion and calendar time, they start their workboxes. Workboxes must be completed in order. When the child is finished with the activity in the box, they move the number from the box to the work card. When the card is filled, they know they are finished.
If there is an activity that introduces a new concept or I think might require assistance, there is a “Work With Mom” card to place on the box instead of a number.
While using the workbox system might require a little more planning in the beginning, each week flows seamlessly and the children love school. I love that they are learning independence and are self-motivated in their learning adventures. The workboxes really help me to accomplish my goal of being a teacher who gives them the skills they need to be life-long learners.