What's a Workbox System and Do I Need One?
Several years ago I started seeing the phrase "workboxes" pop up on homeschooling messageboards and blogs. I had no idea what they were, so I started investigating. Since then, this organizational system has become very well-known and used in many home classrooms. In a nut-shell, workboxes are an organizational system used with any curriculum that helps develop independent work habits and a well-structured school day.
Since there is so much out there (on the web) regarding workboxes, I thought I'd share what I've found and what our personal experience is using the workbox system..
This system was developed by Sue Patrick, a homeschool mom from North Carolina. In her book she states that this system was started to help her autistic child achieve his highest educational potential. What she found was that all types of learners benefit from using this system. Not only are the children benefiting, but the family as well, because their homeschool day is running smoother and they accomplish more in their day. Her book explains the reasoning behind the system, how to set-up the system in your household, and gives practical ideas and activities to implement along with your workbox system.
The basis of the system is to have 12 workboxes for each student. Each box (or drawer, envelope, however you choose to organize) holds one activity that the child is to do that day.These boxes are stored on shelves or on a shoe rack. Since each box is numbered, the child knows what needs to be completed and in which order. For more detailed information, see Sue's book.
Many homeschoolers have tweeked this set-up using other containers as workboxes (see A Peek Into the School Room for examples).
-- Repurposed Cereal Boxes
-- Sterlite plastic drawer carts
-- Hanging file folders
-- Magazine holders
-- Wall Pockets
Besides seeing the workboxes, each child has a schedule strip. The schedule strip reinforces the workbox order, and also allows the teacher to place additional schedule cards for activities that won't fit in the boxes on the strip (ie. take a 15min. break, jump-rope for 10min.) The child matches the number on the schedule strip to the box and by the end of the day, all the tags should be removed from the schedule strip and all the boxes empty.
When you order the book you will have access to all the printables you need to get started. Sometimes though, you might need a specific type of card or just want something different. Here are a few free printables for the schedule cards and the number cards that I have come across while learning more about workboxes:
Looking around the web, many homeschoolers are sharing what this system looks like in their home. Some use the system as-is, and others have modified it to work with their family's specific needs.
Sterlite Rolling Carts/Drawers:
Banker's Boxes/Milk Crates:
Sheri from What's in the Box created a bound version of the workbox schedule
Each box contains an assignment or activity that your child needs to complete during the day plus everything they need to complete that assignment. So yes, throw that pencil/eraser/crayon in there too so that there is never any excuses for not getting started. What I like is that I can easily see what type of work my child has to do for the day. If the day is a little heavy on written work, I might throw in a creative activity or game that goes along with a lesson.
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This deal comes around only once a year! This week only you can purchase 91 different homeschool/household related e-Books for only $25! That makes each book only 28cents! Click here to see the complete listing of e-Books.
Here are some links from around the web that would work well with workboxes. The goal is to put meaningful learning activities that go with your curriculum along with subject assignments in the workboxes.
- Homeschool Share's Workboxable Section
There are many printable activities for various grade levels and subjects for workboxes located at Homeschool Share.
- File Folder Fun
Many free printable file folder games for various ages.
- Printables from Homeschool Creations
Many printables geared toward pre-k and K.
- Printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler
Lots of free printables for pre-k and K.
- Printables from Spell Outloud
Various printables for early elementary age students.
- Printables from 1+1+1=1
Lots of preschool-related themed printables.
- Mama Jenn Printables
Lots of preschool to early elementary printables.
Organizing Teaching Materials
Organizing and tracking all the materials that have been used with the workboxes can be challenging at times. Having a system in place makes the job of filling and tracking materials go so much smoother. Here are a couple ways to keep track of items to use and to keep track of what goes in the boxes:
- Honey from Sunflower Schoohouse organizes her materials in Rubbermaid totes.
- Another option is a file-card system. Write workbox ideas on index cards and file behind the appropriate divider. When you need ideas as what to put in the box for a particular subject or theme, glance through the cards in the index card box for ideas.
- Rhonda shares how she keeps track of what is in the workboxes by using Homeschool Tracker Software
- Homeschool Workbox Organizing and Planning
Robin from Heart of Wisdom shares how she schedules, plans and organizes her teaching materials that will be used in the Workbox System.
- Sample Excel Workbox Schedule
Erika from Confessions of a Homeschooler shares how she keeps track of materials for her children.
- Schedule Spreadsheet
Jenn shares how she plans her kids' workboxes.
- A Comprehensive Review of the Workbox System
Kari, from the The Snail's Trail has compiled websites and photos of the workbox system.
- Yahoo Workbox Groups
Several online groups that share workbox ideas.
- Ideas for the Workbox
A blog dedicated to workbox ideas.
- Fun Filled Weekly Workboxes Meme
Bloggers can post links that showcase what they are doing with their workboxes.
- TOS Crew Reviews
The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew has multiple reviews of this system by their team. This link will bring you to a link list of all the team reviews.
- Workbox Directory - Heart of Wisdom
Robin has compiled a directory of workbox users that blog.
- Blog, She Wrote: Workboxes: One Year Later
An article on how the workbox system is working (in a modified way) for this family one year later.
- They Hold My Heart: Homeschool Boxes (also titled "Stop Asking Me For Snacks")
Great description of how they use workboxes plus a video.
The workbox system is just that---a system. It is a tool to use in this educational journey.
Comments, Thoughts, Suggestions? I'm All Ears!
lucille12 on April 15, 2015:
You want to make a selection on regardless of whether to pick amongst the closed or open shoe racks.
anonymous on August 01, 2013:
That's really interesting thanks. I think I will use this system with my granddaughter for the summer school holidays.Might be useful to help me with MY jobs too!
anonymous on March 22, 2013:
The link for the Essay writing tool takes you to a blog that says you have to be invited to be able to read it. If anyone is able to contact the owner of that blog, I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for the writing program if they are willing to share it!
anonymous on January 27, 2013:
Thanks for sharing. I highly enjoyed how organized and neat this is. My home-school is in a very small area. These pointers are very helpful. Thank you!
Li-Li-ThePinkBookworm on November 26, 2012:
I know friends who use this system and found that it works great for them. Your lens is incredibly informational and inspirational. I hope to someday use this system myself.
Shannon from Florida on September 08, 2012:
What a great idea!!!
Stephen Bush from Ohio on August 29, 2012:
anonymous on August 23, 2012:
I am a homeschool mom of 2 (1st and 3rd grade) and we use work"boxes" well manilla folders for us during independent work time.
Expat Mamasita from Thailand on August 05, 2012:
An excellent idea
funbee lm on July 30, 2012:
a really good idea
steph-naylor on July 23, 2012:
This is a pretty cool lens!
VSP on July 21, 2012:
Nicely done! Didn't do this with my girls, but will be sharing it on my FB page HomeschoolPreschoolthruHighschool on July 27th.
LLMom27 on June 18, 2012:
Such a beautiful lens. I have used workboxes for several years, and they have been so helpful in my homeschool.
GeniePark on April 21, 2012:
They look like cool way to organize kids room too. Specially around there table.
jimmyworldstar on February 09, 2012:
Workboxes are great too so students don't have to take out supplies from their backpack or from home all the time.
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on January 22, 2012:
Boxes are foundation of better organisation. Great overall!
jadehorseshoe on December 24, 2011:
SUPER Useful Lens.
Titus2Homemaker on December 21, 2011:
This is such a great overview of workboxes! I have bookmarked this, and will keep it in mind for when people ask me what workboxes are.
JoyfulReviewer on December 01, 2011:
Nice organization ideas that can also work for lots of other projects. Congratulations on having one of the top 35 homeschooling lenses.
RobinDM on November 24, 2011:
I love our boxes and really enjoy seeing what others are doing. Thanks for this wonderful lens!
Johanna Eisler on November 13, 2011:
What a wonderful tool! How I wish I had implemented something like this for my precious ADD daughter! Congratulations on a practical, helpful lens!
Sandra Wilson from Wilson Education Resource Centre on November 12, 2011:
I think it is a wonderful way to keep organized! Great job!
Joan4 on September 21, 2011:
I do not homeschool, but this system should work for all kinds of projects for just about anybody - especially those of us who work on line. I can imagine household chores and daily exercise and internet projects in a box system. Thank you for helping me to understand this brilliant concept. Blessed by a SquidAngel.
Loretta from United States on August 13, 2011:
The SquidAngel School Bus is driving through your neighborhood leaving ~*~*~*~*~angel dus~*~*~*~*~ sprinkles along the way!
Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on August 10, 2011:
I've been here before but wanted to stop by again to leave a blessing from this angel on the "Back to School Bus Trip."
anonymous on August 08, 2011:
Thank you so much, I have been trying to figure how this works, and your article helped me a lot. I have been homeschooling my kids for 8 years, and this looks very interesting especially for my 4th grade daughter.
TeacherRenee on July 09, 2011:
Very interesting ideas, thanks for sharing. And thanks for visiting my "teaching your children to write their name" lens and sharing the link to your printables. Very nice!
kwhiting644 lm on June 12, 2011:
I teach special needs children and there are some very good ideas on here. Thanks.
lasertek lm on June 10, 2011:
Btw, great looking lens. Awesome job!
Take a peek at my lens, Homeschooling 101: Guide to Free Curriculum and Other Resources.
blessedmomto7 on June 09, 2011:
This sounds like a great idea, however, I think it would be a lot of extra work to fill these boxes every day. My kids have all their work laid out by day in an assignment book and they keep their work in a plastic tub (we call them their schoolbuckets). They know each day what to do and what order to work in by following the assignment books. They check off assignments as they are done. I have 7 kids, no space and am schooling 5 of them (one preschooler and one baby) so far. Great info here, but I don't think it would work for me.
achraf lm on June 06, 2011:
great idea! very helpful, thanks a lot
AdriennePetersen on June 05, 2011:
Great idea for all sorts of projects too! Congrats on LOTD!
anonymous on June 03, 2011:
Good stuff for saving my place!
miaponzo on May 28, 2011:
I'm in education and your system is very helpful. Thanks! and congrats!
Susan300 on May 27, 2011:
Great lens. Great system. Glad I stopped by. :)
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on May 27, 2011:
This lens is now featured on The Homeschool Club on Facebook www.facebook.com/homeschool.club
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on May 27, 2011:
Congratulations on receiving a well-deserved Lens of the Day award!
bames24 lm on May 27, 2011:
canonpowershotprice on May 26, 2011:
Excellent Lens , Great Idea
pheonix76 from WNY on May 26, 2011:
Interesting lens and this system seems very organized!! It's also a great way to keep children interested. Congrats on LOTD. :)
sa_kargo on May 26, 2011:
what a great system!
ChaosAndCritters on May 26, 2011:
Although I had never heard of this system, I did a very similar setup back when I was homeschooling all of my kids! They're in school now that we live in a tiny rural community, but with summer vacation coming up next week, I think it's time to put in a workbox system for the next three months!
katiecolette on May 26, 2011:
Sounds like a great system! I think it could be a great way to occupy children at home as well as in a classroom setting.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on May 26, 2011:
Congratulations on a well deserved LOTD!
AltogetherLeather on May 26, 2011:
Love this post about organization - I can always use more of it in my life! :)
SofiaMann on May 26, 2011:
Thanks for all the advice.
darciefrench lm on May 26, 2011:
I wish I could be so organized -:)
jennysue19 on May 26, 2011:
It's an interesting lens, mainly because homeschooling is less popular in the UK. I guess it's because we mostly don't have people living out in the sticks too far for kids to get to school every day. One thing I don't see much of here and that is teaching children healthy eating habits. How about including an activity that involves a healthy snack like some fruit or raw veg, together with a discussion and/or an assignment that backs it up. Or you could have a cooking session with related health education on nutrition. Teaching children to cook ensures that they don't grow up to think that all food comes ready-prepared from the supermarket and only needs a microwave. Gardening and growing food could also be an integrated activity with all kinds of spin-offs like wildlife, climate change and so on. Education is not just about the core subjects. I'm not a parent, but if I had been, I might well have ended up home-schooling because so many of these things don't seem to feature in the curriculum of a typical British school.
lasertek lm on May 26, 2011:
I have seen the workboxes system on TV a year ago and decided to follow. The system helps the family so much in organizing toys, papers, books and the list goes on.
anonymous on May 26, 2011:
Seems like a very good system.
Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on May 26, 2011:
Wow! I can see where the workbox set up would work equally well for other tasks, such as organizing bills etc. Great lens! Congrats on getting LOTD.
Bill from Gold Coast, Australia on May 26, 2011:
Well done on LOTD. I need to implement some of these ideas into my daily life I think!
Mellony on May 26, 2011:
Great lense, great ideas !
WeirdStuff on May 26, 2011:
This is how I imagine a useful lense! L(
anonymous on May 26, 2011:
Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!
Lisa-Marie-Mary on May 26, 2011:
What a cool system to organize the school day - I love it! Congratulations for getting LOTD - great work!
sujaysen on May 26, 2011:
Beautiful lens. Thanks.
Lace9 on May 26, 2011:
What a fantastic lens, I love how you took the time to highlight the ways in which some families have tweaked the idea. As a homeschooling mother of three I think I am going to have to give the book a read myself. Oh & congrats on LOTD too :) well deserved.
Erin Hardison from Memphis, TN on May 26, 2011:
Wow, what a great resource. Thanks for all the examples of how you and other people use workboxes. Congrats on a well-deserved LOTD!
Pete Schultz on May 26, 2011:
congrats on LOTSD, looks like useful info.
irenemaria from Sweden on May 26, 2011:
So true, so good and so easy. I need to work on my boxes more....hehe
Ruthi on May 26, 2011:
Terrific ideas for helping us all get organized! Congratulations on Lens of the Day! I hope you'll stop by my Teachers are Heroes lens, since you are one!
Loretta from United States on May 26, 2011:
Thank you for this great explanation and example of using a work box system! Congrats on the LOTD too!
67Shelbygal on May 26, 2011:
Great Lens. Congrats on LOTD! :)
UKGhostwriter on May 26, 2011:
Very useful lens and so worthy of LOTD - congratulations!!
Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on May 26, 2011:
fantastic homeschool resource! Congrats on LOTD!
ikeephouse on May 26, 2011:
Congratulations on LOTD.
ChrisDay LM on May 26, 2011:
Congratulations on LotD - a worthy example for everyone to enjoy.
Jacqueline Marshall from Chicago area on May 26, 2011:
Awesome lens. I don't have children but a lot of this I could adapt to my own needs. If you saw my home office you'd know why. Congrats on LOTD - well deserved.
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on May 26, 2011:
Congrats on LOTD! As a former elementary school teacher, I appreciate every system that contributes to a well-organized learning environment. Thank you for a very useful lens with tips that can be immediately applied. All the very best to you.
creativedreams on May 26, 2011:
I see the point of using this to engage younger kids (and to keep the required items, that looks amazing too), but won't a bit older ones feel a bit funny about playing with boxes instead of just having an agenda/printed schedule?
That said, I think it's neat. It could even work in traditional schools with few children per classroom. Gives everybody a very clear pointer of what is next to be done, what they need to do it, etc... It should encourage initiative as well (instead of the teacher or parent telling them what to do all the time).
gypsyman27 lm on May 26, 2011:
As I was a teacher and used to consider myself a good one, I admire the fact that you chose to home school your children. I was a single parent and wanted to homeschool my sons, but I was very lenient with them. I let them get away with a lot of things that perhaps I should have objected to, and did not. I started to teach so if they needed me, I would be in the same place they were. It would not have worked at home. But, I'm rambling, great lens, excellent information. See you around the galaxy...
Ann Hinds from So Cal on May 26, 2011:
I just got the books and work pages for next semester for our first time of homeschooling. These are great ideas as I was not sure how to organize and keep track of all that stuff. Thanks for the timely tips. Congrats of LOTD.
anonymous on May 26, 2011:
Congratulations on your LOTD .. dear, SpellOutloud :) So wonderful lens with a lot of great ideas. Have a wonderful time.. always :)
LouisaDembul on May 26, 2011:
A fantastic idea, very well presented! Congratulations on LOTD!
TKOSquidoo on May 26, 2011:
Dee Gallemore on May 26, 2011:
Great information and wonderfully done . . . congrats on LoTD! Well-deserved.
howtocurecancer on May 26, 2011:
Congrats for the LoTD.
Mihaela Vrban from Croatia on May 26, 2011:
Awesome! Well deserved LOTD :)))
djroll on May 26, 2011:
Great suggestions. I'll share it on my Facebook page with many mommies.
bbsoulful2 on May 19, 2011:
Thank you! I need something like this, because my little guys is smart as a whip, but not always organized, and I know this would be helpful for him. Terrific! Favorited...
Philippians468 on April 14, 2011:
thank you for sharing this lens! i love to have everything well organized! cheers
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on March 17, 2011:
You just got a "Lucky Leprechaun Blessing" from a SquidAngel who really loves your lens. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Barb McCoy on March 02, 2011:
So here you are....jumped over to check out your lenses. You have some great lenses! I think you should definitely build some more! I am adding to my favorites and blessing.
Vikki from US on January 26, 2011:
*Blessed* by a squid angel;)
I-sparkle on December 31, 2010:
Absolutely great lens. I don't have any children,, but this looks like a wonderful organizational tool many different groups might be able to use.
SheilaVine LM on November 16, 2010:
I like this idea very much many of my students would have benefited from learning about it earlier they are so disorganised
Cynthia Arre from Quezon City on November 15, 2010:
The work box system is a wonderful and clever organizing idea that can be used in home offices/workspaces too - I just might have to start implementing this as well!
gypsyman27 lm on November 15, 2010:
This is a great lens for all, and really good for the unorganized (like myself) I will refer back to this one many times, see you around the galaxy...
glenbrook on October 18, 2010:
Great lens:) We need all the help we can get, helping our 5 year old stay organized. Thumbs up!
anonymous on October 15, 2010:
The Random Happenings of Us mentioned in this link is now moving to www.teachertofour.blogspot.com . I am in the middle of switching posts over, but have also added other posts.
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on October 12, 2010:
I was wondering exactly what they were and how they were used. Thanks for explaining them so well! I don't know that this would work with my junior and senior highers, but it would definitely be helpful to my elementary son. I think it would help him know what to do while I'm working with his siblings. Thanks! : )
webseitler on October 06, 2010:
Great lens! I will have to come back and make some time to really read everything and check out these links. I love this idea for homeschooling. :)
LilliputStation on October 05, 2010:
You did a great job with this lens. I love the workbox idea, but I think it would be too much for our family. With 7 in school ages 5-14, I think I'd go crazy trying to set things up every day. I may try it with my little "caboose" when he is older. I'll have to bookmark this page to refer back to.
eclecticeducati1 on October 01, 2010:
I haven't tried workboxes, but it does sound like a neat idea. Great lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel.
anonymous on August 03, 2010:
@anonymous: I purchased the e-book, not the tangible book, but I do believe you only have access to PDF files of the color printouts online. Many other hs moms have made some cute workbox cards. What you can do is save the file on your computer and email it/bring in a CD to Kinkos or a local copy center. They can print them for you.
Also, there is not a special book for toddler workboxes. The concept is the same, but you just tailor the activities to be appropriate for toddlers.
I hope this helps! Feel free to ask any other questions.
anonymous on August 03, 2010:
I was looking for something like this for my two year old. I think I'm going to purchase the book. Does the book have the actual cards and color printouts or just access to them online? I do not have a color printer at home. Is there a specific book for the toddler workboxes?
anonymous on April 28, 2010:
Please update the forum location for the workbox forum. It will no longer be located on ning but has been relocated to the following address:
Thank you for all you referrals to our forum.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 22, 2010:
I can use one myself.
Tiffany3 on January 15, 2010:
I have long admired this system. Great lens!