Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Workbox basics in a nutshell Part I

Well no one had any questions so I will just do an "in a nutshell" post on workboxes, just in case you are new to them, and haven't a clue as to what it is or what its purpose it or how one implements it.  If you think of something I didn't mention here-by all means ask.  If you are workboxing (especially if in another country as I would LOVE to know what type of "boxes" you use and how it is working for you) I am thinking of doing a link up so others can find you and your ideas too.  Look for that sometime soon here.

Alrighty then-the Q and A part:

What exactly is this "Workboxing" concept anyway?

Well I can tell you that is not a boxing match while at work-although some days when homeschooling your child(ren) it certainly can feel like you are in a boxing ring, with your gloves on, enduring round after round of grueling punches and hits below the belt.  But that is another post in the making. Seriously though-

Workboxing is a deliberate, organized system that provides the student with just the essential material(s) for each lesson you want them to work on that day.  It literally means their work is in a box (whether it be a drawer, a shoebox, a cardboard box, a basket, a folder and so forth).

OK, so what boxes can be used and what do you suggest?

I have used a few different systems since introducing this family to the concept.  
I used the suggested shoe rack/shoeboxes system Sue Patrick insists on in her book.  It worked just fine for my elementary-aged child and for the most part-if you have space-I do recommend it.  BUT there are some reasons for many that it will not work:

*babies and toddlers who like to dump, explore, mess up and otherwise trash shoeboxes full of such enticing goodies (oh how I love them-but sometimes they are messy little buggers aren't they?  Very curious too) .  Putting the lids on may help reduce the invasions but if they know how to pop those off-forget it.  Being strict and militant about them never touching them may work for some very obedient babies but that would probably require 24/7 observation dedication...not sure many want to live like that.  Keeping the workboxes in a room that can be locked is another idea-but not many folks have that room available.  I suggest another option if you have curious, busy babies and toddlers in your home.

*limited space.  Even tho the suggested shoe rack is about 3 ft long and about a foot and 1/2 wide-not many have that space to spare.  Especially if you have a lot of children using the system.  This can be used but you'd have to do some adjusting such as possibly having 2 kids use one shelf.  The first two shelves for one and the other two for the second child at 6 boxes each.  Or use one or two shelves [one dedicated to the younger group and the second for the upper levels] for just the combined-group activity lessons and use another individual system for the other "more specific to each child" lessons. If no space is available at all-then this obviously won't work for you.  I suggest another option then.

*hate the look of it. Yes, I have heard many claim that.  It is not exactly pretty but it is effective.  Either turn a blind eye to it or find another option that you can stand looking at.

*you live somewhere that does not have the shelving unit or shoeboxes available. Not sure where that would be since most of us can find plastic shoe boxes (although the shelf itself may be hard to come by).  I bought mine at the dollar store and when the name brand stores had sales on them.  I found the shelving unit at Target, but I know Wal-Mart and other stores will have it too. Look in the laundry and organization section of the store.  They are coated metal, have 4 shelves and are sold as "shoe racks" -but I have seen ones that are made of wood too-which is nicer looking.

IKEA Trofast shelving unit with drawers

LOVE, LOVE this one. I had to save up for them and I did not buy it until I was sure, super sure-that we would continue using this system.  I do not recommend you running out and getting this if you are new to this and have no idea if it will work for your family (unless you can use them for something else).  This is a more expensive alternative but is so much nicer-yes, much nicer!  

 the boy now uses 6 drawers of the IKEA unit
the teen uses 6 of the IKEA (and no it is not crooked-there are desks and such in the way so I had to take this on an angle  LOL)

Some reasons it may not work:

*too expensive of an option for you
*no room -again these take up precious floor space
*don't like the look
*no IKEA nearby (you can order the shelves but usually can only buy the drawers at the actual store.  That is when a special trip to a kinda local store, or having a friend get them for you is recommended. ) And yes, I understand IKEA doesn't pay taxes like our companies in the US do-but until another company makes these babies then I am supporting the purchasing of these. I will leave that conundrum up to you.
*babies or toddlers-yes, these pull out right nicely-and they do not have tops (well I didn't see that they do)
*can hold some pretty large items since the boxes are deeper.  But some large, bulky things may not fit-again the use of the holding station may cover those needs.
*if you are using the 12 box system then you would need two units per child-which can take over your house.
*may not like the color choices of the shelves or boxes
*you have to assemble these-and that is time consuming (but oh so worth it)

File folders in a binder or used with a holder

I used these with my teen when we first started out. She was too old for the shoebox/rack set up and so I bought some good quality folders that opened from the top (at Office Max I believe, but you can find them at most office supply stores) and were somewhat expandable.  I then bought a table top plastic holder for files and just put velcro on the outside for her numbers and slipped in the work for the day.  Bigger item were at the holding station or on her desk for her already.  Some use folders that are in a 3 ring binder.  The only issue with a binder is that you cannot put the bulky must haves in there-so you have to stay on top of their supplies and have them readily available.  I had some room for the smaller items in her folders because they expanded and usually didn't have too many big things to worry about. This worked fine until I was able to get the IKEA shelves.  Large books or materials would not fit in these either.  So this is definitely has its drawbacks and take into consideration the lack of holding power.  A dedicated area for the bigger goodies should be created in order for this option to work for you.
file folder idea (the pocket would hold her instructions for that lesson)
Holding Station idea

Other ideas:

*I have seen people use empty cereal boxes that are covered with contact paper and cut out on the side to gain easy access to the books/materials in them-but this takes up space, so you will need a shelving unit or book shelf that can hold the larger cereal boxes nicely.  May not hold up to constant use.

*Some use cardboard boxes they had laying around of various sizes-again, these require shelf space that can accommodate their sizes. May not hold up to constant use.

*Totes with dividers [like the hanging folder totes that are plastic and have a lid that flips up or literally a tote that you make dividers for].  These usually have lids (great if you have those babies and toddlers we love) and they can hold a lot.  You can add in bulky stuff because the depth of it will allow for some of it but it may not be able to hold all your bigger items.  Good option because these can be stacked when not in use, but they too take up floor space.

*Wall hanging unit (I have a pic of an example on the side bar of this blog) that is suppose to be used for books (in a classroom or library). You will need to spend to get a good quality one that will withstand the use of pulling out and putting material back in over and over.  Great option for floor challenged folks who have a lot of wall space.  Limited to non-bulky items and such.  Will need another area for bulky item storage.

*I am sure I missed some other clever ideas for workboxes but this gives you an idea of options.

What goes into a box? And how many boxes per child?

That is up to you and what the lesson requires [for both questions].  The most important parts can be the components needed to do something-like a pencil and ruler for their math lesson.  Isn't it strange how a whole houseful of pencils can seemingly disappear moments before you ask them to start their lesson?  Well-now they cannot pull that "I have to look for a ...." anymore, because it is already provided for them in the box with the lesson (usually older students do not need to have this done-unless they tend to fall into the category mentioned above. For example: my teen does not have to have pencils put into her boxes unless they are some specialty pencils/pens that normally she wouldn't know where to go to find them).  

I have lots of posts that show some things we have done.  But for a quick idea:  say you are covering a science lesson where they need to read a particular book so you pop that book into the box possibly with a note stating what pages to they need to read [if they can read independently]. Let's also say they need to do an experiment so you add in the supplies needed (and perhaps some instructions).  It is that simple.  

As for how many boxes, well Sue says 12 but I have yet to truly need 12 boxes.  I usually do 6 for each child and then if we have some group things I just have that stuff ready on my desk.  Rarely did I ever go past 8 or 9.  The goal (in my humble opinion) is not to cram a child with unnecessary twaddle or with "just to keep em busy" activities. We do not do every subject every day (but math and reading) so I can alternate the boxes so we don't need so many.  This is a whole 'nother post...but you should get the idea.  

What about the big, bulky things that won't fit into a folder or regular sized shoebox?

There are some easy solutions for that.  Either buy a couple larger totes (I have a post somewhere showing this) and delete 2 shoeboxes on that shelf for the day, or use another area to hold them for your student.  I have some holding station cards you can print up to help with this.  Just pop the notice into their reg. box and then they go to the holding station to get it.  Others slip the bigger books and such underneath the shoebox so it won't bend.  That can work for skinny books but the thicker ones can make it so the box will hardly pull out from the shelf (this is using the original shoebox on a shoe holding rack set up).  

How long does it take to "load" these workboxes?

Again, that is a personal thing because it will depend on a few things:

*how many children you have using them
*the supplies and necessities needed for each lesson
*how organized you are
*if you are able to work uninterrupted for enough time to actually get them loaded (this is a challenge with babies, toddlers and little ones who "need" you [oddly LOL] as you are about to do this. I highly recommend dad or another older child entertains the troops so you can have your time to do this.
*what type of curriculum you are using
*how dedicated you are to the system
*how much caffeine you have had that day

I can usually get two kids' boxes filled within 15-20 minutes (usually less but sometimes it takes longer because I have to hunt down items to add or I get distracted).  It pays to pre-plan a bit (like over a break or on the weekend) so you know what you want to do and what you need (for us, we usually need a library book or some type of item for a science experiment or a movie to go along with the lesson, so I have to do some pre-work to be ready)...but usually as of late-I am winging it.  I have been coming down in the morning and loading them b4 the kids get up.  Sometimes we just do a few things and don't use the boxes-it all depends on what we have going on here and what we need to accomplish.

For those doing one shelf with boxes for just the family group activities then separate folders for individual work, it may take longer or you may be quite speedy and take no time at all.  I can do a more detailed post down the road about how to be and stay organized if you wish.  Those with several children will have to put in more time-but honestly, it is so worth the initial outlay of time to have your day go smoothly and with less distractions from kids "disappearing to find stuff to use with the lesson" and so forth.  It does keep you organized and in better control.  The students will know right away what they have to do that day and what is needed because it is in the box waiting for them.  It is not right for everybody, but for folks like me who like to be organized, and have stuff ready to go...especially with kids who like to know what to expect-it works.  

and that concludes this post.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. I just finished Sue Patrick's book and your post adds to my understanding. :)