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Need to Get Organized? Check Out Homeschool Workboxes

Need to Get Organized? Check Out Homeschool Workboxes

homeschool_workboxes_organizedI recently started using homeschool workboxes for my boys based on the ideas in Sue Patrick’s Workbox System.

WOW!  My children have stopped complaining about school and we are getting twice the amount of work accomplished. This system is a godsend.  I love it! This exciting organization system structures your homeschool day in bite size chunks.

My favorite part is how this setup  helps the children understand where we are in the school day and how much time is left.  No more frustrating  “Are we done yet?” I never realized how frustrating it must be form them not knowing if the school day was going to be one or four hours. Public school children know how long their day will be.  Knowing what is expected–getting expectations up front is an important leadership quality (See the The One Minute Manager ) necessary for good morale and productivity.

I’ve always used a box system, of sorts,  many years before the term Workbox became popular. I keep worksheet and workbook assignments in one crate and boxes of history and science unit study books in other crates.

When I read about Sue’s Workbox System I immediately saw several  benefits over the system I was using.

Workbox Benefits

  • Versatile – works with any curriculum.
  • Prioritized -Always assign Bible study to the #1 box! You’ll get the most important thing done daily.
  • Economical – use cereal boxes, or recycle scrapbook or toy bins or dollar store storage containers
  • Easy– a few hours of reading and your ready to start your plan.
  • Organized – forces helps mom to be organized and plan the school day ahead of time.
  • Logical – Filing boxes with school assignments and projects make so much more sense than writing things in a lesson planner then pulling them out one at a time all day long.
  • Saves Time – Everything is completely laid out before the day begins (no running around looking for scissors, markers, a certain worksheet,  etc.)
  • Flexible – easy to adapt schedule.  When interruption arises you can have the children to do independent work until you are free to do “Work with Mom” one-on-one.
  • Scheduled – everyone knows what is expected of them, how much work there is to be done, and when their work is completed. No more “Are we done yet.” (If I only had a nickel for every time I heard…”)
  • Promotes Independence – You and children can view independent or “work with mom” assignments at a glance.
  • Promotes Peace – Creates a smooth running well-structured learning environment (which make mom happy, and when mom is happy everyone is happy).
  • Motivates –  children to see all their work at all times, as well as see it disappear as completed. Helps children grow in self-control and independence, give them a sense of accomplishment.
  • Promotes Family Togetherness -Since everything is laid out you can rope dad into helping! share you homeschool experience with Daddy by letting him teach from a few boxes.
  • Systematize -You can incorporate all those things you bought but keep forgetting to add to your school day like   like flash cards, games,  timelines, map skills, etc by placing them in a workbox.

How Workboxes Work: An Overview

  • Create the structure with a rack or shelves for each child filled with  set of workboxes (from 6 to 12 depending on your preference)
  • You can create Workboxes out of shoeboxes, magazine racks, file folders, crates, wicker baskets, etc.
  • Workboxes are filled by mom daily to include the work assignments and materials needed for each subject.
  • Workboxes include; workbooks, worksheets, books, flash cards, wipe-off mats, games,   arts and crafts,  stationary, snacks and little surprises.
  • Each workbox has everything the child needs i.e. a worksheet and pencil or wipe-off mat and crayons.
  • The boxes are numbered.
  • The boxes have direction cards  i.e. read mom a story, write a letter, 30 minutes of free time, etc. ( laminated cards can be used over and over, moms all over cyber space and making cute printable to share)
  • Children complete one box before moving to the next.
  • Workboxes can be completed by children independently unless tagged with a “Work with Mom” tag.
  • When all the boxes are completed work is school work is over for the day.
  • See the book for details  Sue Patrick’s Workbox System
  • Watch theexplanation video posted on Sue’ site.

Modifying the Workbox System  for the Heart of Wisdom Approach

We adapted Sue’s recommendations for the Heart of Wisdom approach (unit study/Charlotte Mason methods). The majority of our school day is spent together reading aloud, copy work, narration, or lapbooking together. I have workboxes for each child (phonics, spelling, math, surprises, snacks, flashcards, handwriting worksheets, educational games, etc) interspersed with Family Workboxes for Bible, history, and science. Almost all our work is done together so instead of “Work with Mom” card my children have a few “Work Independently” cards.

“This structure provides both teacher and student an air of organization, clear expectations, and even a level of peace and calm, all of which creates a better learning environment.”~Sue Patrick

My Homeschool Workbox Plan

I  temporarily converted my Scrapbook Organizer Cart (with Drawers) in to a Workbox Station to get started.

So far this is working  for workbooks and worksheets but the bins are much too narrow.  I want deeper bins for unit studies and lapbook projects.

I prayed for an alternative (because I don’t want to spend any money). Then, I thought of  the boys IKEA’s Trofast toy station ( we bought at IKEA when we lived in VA).

It is sturdy and still looks great after 10 years.  I went upstairs and moved it into our dining room/schoolroom area. It is perfect–almost.

IKEA’s Trofast system comes with different size bins. Ours has very deep 12” bins (see right). I need the shallower bins as shown below. I can use 3″ bins for worksheets and workbooks but also use the deep bins to hold reading books and unit study books. I can’t wait to get my bins (cheap too only $3 each)

There is no IKEA near my home so I have to shop online and IKEA will not ship the bins I need

My parents live near an IKEA and will pick them up and bring them to me next month.

When get the system to a the place the way I want it,  I will post how to use Workboxes with Heart of Wisdom approach. Thats what Heart of Wisdom is about, incorporating super ideas that work.

Workbox Videos

Well Planned Day Planners

Have you seen the Well Planned Day Planers designed by my daughter Rebecca Keliher? The are specifically made for homeschoolers.

Are You Using Workboxes?

I created a directory of over 50 families using the workbox system. Visit these blogs for great ideas how to tweak this system for your family.

What do you think? Doesn’t this system sound super!? Are you using it? Are you interested?

It seems to me every homeschooler that hears about this system jumps on it! Please comment and share.


Heartofwisdom teaching approach

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About Robin Sampson


  1. I posted this today:


    Workboxes are working really well in our homeschool!

    .-= Jodi´s last blog ..Sue Patrick’s Workbox System (Review) =-.

  2. Hey Robin,
    A few sites don’t work, the Color Orange and another one is on there 2 times. I did buy the book and plan to start this with my kids just have to find room. Do they come with locks- my 2 grandson’s get into everything :0)

  3. http://delightfullearning.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Workbox%20System

    Great post, Robin! Love that IKEA system ~ wow! Another great resource for workbox users is Sunflower School House.

    Blessings to you, Robin!

  4. Lisa K.

    I bought the e-book several weeks ago and am going to implementing it soon with the 9yo (the 14yo is pretty independent, still toying with whether to integrate him). Ilove to see how other people have used it, thanks for sharing:)

  5. AWESOME! I am a 14yr homeschooling veteran and I have never seen or heard of this before. This would have been so handy when my boys were younger. I am bookmarking this so I can share it with new homeschoolers that I mentor.

  6. I have several posts about workboxes and a Workbox Blogroll on my website. Come on over and visit.

  7. We bought a house last year that is needing to be repaired from top to bottom so we have had to make do but we are in the process of turning a large back/side/4th entrance way space into our classroom right now. If I could implement this setting for really, really cheap that would be ideal! I’ll have to see what people are freecycling!
    .-= Jennifer Von´s last blog ..3 of 52 weeks =-.

  8. we currently use the workbox system and love it.. Works great for days when Daddy helps as he can come in to our school room and see where the boys are and what they might need help on.

  9. Here is a post:

    Here is an article with ideas to fill:

    This is a great post! I need to update my links and add a bunch more, including yours! We are loving our workboxes 🙂
    .-= Angela Mills´s last blog ..Introducing…Coco and Soleil =-.

  10. Great post Robin! I hope more join the listings here so we all have more help and ideas. I need to update the list on my blog and add the new ones from the meme. I love all those pictures of different workboxes too. Do you have Jolanthe’s blog listed? I have a few TOS mates that are great workboxers and will send them here to you. I too want the the Trofast, but like you said they won’t ship the boxes! So I need to wait until I can get down there (and hour and 1/2 away).

    What’s in the Box?
    .-= Sheri H´s last blog ..2009 HS Blog Awards =-.

  11. We love the workbox system! Last year I used it for 3 of my kids. Here is my most recent workbox post. http://momtofivekids.blogspot.com/2009/10/another-workbox-system-post.html

  12. Hmm, seems like a lot of work for mom to put everything in place. I currently have a modified system of bins, so they can find their work easier and card charts telling them which work comes next, but I will definitely keep this in mind. I think it would be great if I was a little more organized in my day. Great food for thought!
    .-= Gina´s last blog ..In Case You’re Curious About My Writing Journey: January – September 2006 =-.

  13. Okay, I see now how this system would work for my style of teaching. (See my comment on your workbox post from 11/29.) It sounds like your school day is a lot like ours–we do so much of it together. Thank you for this information. I’m excited to learn more and perhaps start something up after the first of the year.

  14. Check out this site for more great organizers that work well for workbox.

  15. I’m so excited about using HOW and now the workbox system. I can see how this will help both my son and me with time management. It will absolutely meet his need to know when we will be done, and take the pressure off me too. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to more great ideas!

  16. Debbie

    Can you post the item number for the trofast system you use? I can’t locate it. Thank you!

  17. Sorry, I don’t know where she got them.

  18. ~tambrie Kitchens

    Thank you, Robin. I believe I may have found those shelves – thanks to YOU!

  19. Mrs. Rouzan


    I love this! Were those shoe racks that you used to stack the boxes on?

  20. Carrie Venz

    This is great a friend told me about this system.

  21. Thanks for sharing the visuals with the instructions!

  22. love your post about the workboxes – I’m a big fan of the system and am working on refining ours. I was hoping to get more ideas, but so many of the links on here don’t work. One of the videos is gone and I cannot view the directory, it said the link system as expired. help! I’d love to check them out!

  23. I featured you at the TOTAL HOME MAKEOVER GIVEAWAY: http://renee-joyjourney.com/2012/10/win-total-home-makeover-usa-book-tour.html

    You are welcome to post the give-away on your blog. Just email me at nrmetzler@windstream.net and I’ll send you the HTML.

    Thanks for this great tip!


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