The Workboxing Theory

I re-read my post about Sue Patrick's Workbox System and realized that some might take it as something I don't like.

I DO like the theory behind the system.

In fact, many classroom teachers have been using similar systems for many years with success.  In fact, similar ideas were something professors and instructors I had taught us to incorporate in one way or another in our daily classroom routines to ease classroom management - the "getting from point A to point B" smoothly and efficiently while still maintaining control and avoiding disruptions and enabling them to get through the lessons and work planned for the day.

I guess I was just disappointed that through the reading of various blogs and discussions on the subject I did not realize that was what the system was until I had the e-book.

BUT the idea behind workboxes?

I absolutely LOVE.

I just don't like the idea that her way is the only way.

A workbox system as she describes simply won't work for someone who lives in a house with less than 900 square feet of living space, half of which is currently under renovation, especially if you have more than one child.

Yeah, our actual living space right now is around the 475 square feet (I do have a path to the laundry room and second bathroom if it should be needed - both of which are in the basement).  A small house, yes, but it is plenty big enough for the three of us and we don't require more - more space just means more stuff to clean and dust for Mommy here.

I don't like the idea that one person's way is the only way...for anything

It is why there are different styles of houses.  The basic structure is the same - four walls, a few rooms for living and sleeping - but the style of each house is different.  You just have to look at your neighbours.  Even if you have the same style of house as everyone else on your block, I can guarantee your decorating tastes are different.

It is why every family is different.  A husband, perhaps.  A wife, perhaps.  Or maybe it is grandparents raising the next generation.  One child...five children...or more (Bless all of you who have more!  Some days I wonder how I can deal with one!)

I have never believed there is a one size fits all solution to anything, Sue Patrick's Workbox System included.

But I do believe this system or something similar will work for anyone - with tweaking and adjusting to suit your available space and your family and your style.

If you are new to the education process or have no idea where to begin putting together such a system or variant thereof, the book is a good starting point and I would recommend it if you can't wrap your head around the various blogs and discussions BUT just keep in mind that you might not agree with some of her ideas and beliefs.

There.  Clarified.

I think...

When the Child's Away, Mom Will Play

Well, it wasn't really play, but I did manage to get a few things done today that I would not normally have been able to accomplish in such a short time without hearing the standard "Mommy!  Can you do this for me?" and "Mommy!  I need your help!".  (Yes, my son still calls me "Mommy" - not Ma, and not Mom or Mother...But MOMMY!  Ah, the joys of homeschooling!)  Or, from my ever loving but collector-of-everything-throw-nothing-out-cheap Hubby "You're not giving that away are you?" or "Do you know how much we paid for that?" or the famous "you could sell that in a garage sale you know" - as if he sticks around long enough when we are having a garage sale to know exactly how much work one of them is...but I digress...

I went into our dark basement...alone...scary in itself...and picked out a couple plastic tubes and brought them upstairs.  Set one on the floor and one on the chair and began to sort into piles:  "Give Away" and "Keepsake Box".

They were Baby Clothes.

Weep...Weep...Sniffle...All out good bawling session while no one is around to witness it because my baby is not a baby any longer...

Through two big old plastic tubs of stuff, I ended up with one neat little stack of baby items that we are putting in Squirt's Keepsake Box.  A sleeper my Grandmother bought for him along with a soft fluffy blanket one of my friends gave us, a cute little outfit my Hubby picked out himself - a little suit and tie combo - and a few other special items.  The rest were placed into plastic bags and delivered next door.  She does not have babies, but she has plenty of friends who are having babies and are in need of baby items due to low income levels.  The clothes are going to be put to good use rather than just sitting in our basement taking up space.

I have to admit that once I had the items sorted I almost did not put them into the bags.  Almost.  I looked at the neat piles of 3 month old clothes and started to remember when Squirt was so tiny those little sleepers were actually too long on him.  I got all weepy-eyed again.  Then I quickly placed them into green bags so I could not see what was inside them.

But I knew.  I set the bags near the entry way as I filled them - did I mention the tubs were BIG tubs?  Very BIG tubs?  Packed and stuffed so full the lids had to be taped on with duct tape?  Yeah, I filled MORE than a couple bags.  So once I had the bags filled, I put on the coat and proceeded to make a few trips to the neighbours.

I almost did not make it out the door the first time.  I almost stopped and was going to turn the other direction and take the bags to the basement.  Almost.

I trekked across the yard and knocked on the neighbour's door and said "I have some baby cloths for your friends" and proceeded to fill her house with bags.

It got so much easier after the first bag.  So much easier that by the time I was done lugging the stuff over there and she mentioned that one of her friends was looking for a crib mattress because the cat sprayed all over her's, I was QUICK to volunteer our old crib mattress.  After all, the crib is no good any longer because Squirt broke a clip that holds the rails in place and it cannot be replaced any longer (well, it can...but the piece costs almost as much as the crib cost us to begin with.)

I trekked across the back yard to the shed, dug out the mattress and dragged it over there as well while her hubby proceeded to fill up his truck to take things to her various friends.

I also took the baby bath tub and the baby bath seat (holds baby up in the bigger tub and frees Mommy's hands to wash baby and not worry about slippage).  I took a bag of Playtex bottles (sans nipples) and some extra liners that had never been opened.  I took...Well...I just took a whole bunch of stuff over there and freed up some space in the shed as well as a whole corner of our basement storage area.

So now I am left with this feeling of accomplishment over having cleared out that much in such a short time.  No, I did not make any money from these items but I know they are going to people who really need them so I feel good about it.

I also learned something.  I got rid off all those things and you know what?  The memories of my son as a baby did NOT disappear with them!  The memories are STILL HERE!!!  In my heart and in my mind!  I don't need to have the ALL the stuff that he wore as a baby because after all, it is not the stuff that makes the memories but the people - in this case, the birth of my son.  I have baby pictures of him and I have him every day so why do I need to clutter my house with stuff?

And now I have these two big old plastic tubs sitting in the middle of my kitchen.

Wonder what I can fill them with...

I wonder if Squirt would notice a few toys missing from his room...AKA "Toys R Us"...

I still have a couple hours before he's scheduled to return....

If The Shoe (Box) Does Not Fit...A Review of Sue Patrick's Workbox System

Not sure to what happened to my "one week off"... 

But LIFE happens.

And computer issues.

So we are back now.  Well...kind of.  Squirt is with his Dad visiting family right now and I'm at home not straying too far from the "powder room" since I seem to have come down with something.  I am feeling better now than I was at 6 am this morning so figured I would post what I've been thinking about recently.

I have been reading a lot about the newest catch phrase in homeschooling.

We all have heard it.

Sue Patrick's Workbox System

I was excited about this, thinking it was going to be something that would revolutionize our homeschool.  Something that would make the difference between night and day for my son.  That come 2010 we would start our first week with the workbox system in place and my son would rise and shine and not once whine about school ever ever again.

I should lie down while I'm dreaming.  He's eight.  He's going to whine and cry about school occasionally regardless of HOW we school - home or otherwise.

So, I started the book with a really open mind despite being sick (food poisoning - note to self - don't eat fast food from...never mind...just don't eat fast food is the safest bet on this.  Your body will thank you for it).  In fact, I was so open minded, it was even something I asked Hubby to purchase for me as a Christmas gift.  (Aren't we so romantic after 20+ years of marriage?)

I wanted to learn about this system everyone was raving about.  I wanted to turn our homeschool around and have everything in place according to the book by the time school started in 2010.  I wanted our next few months to be happy and organized.

Just imagine!!!  A system that promises that you and your child/ren will be happier and more productive and able to accomplish everything you set out for them in the day and still have time left over to spare!!! 

I was excited as I finally had a chance to sit down and read the guide last night - okay, it was 3:30 in the morning and I was between trips to the bathroom. 

Now, I am a "spell it out exactly" kind of person when it comes to something new.  If you give me a camera, don't just hand me the manual.  Hand me a manual WITH PICTURES of exactly what button does what and exactly how things are done in a step by step approach.  Step this.  Step this.  Step three...We do this because we did this in step two...

Ms. Patrick does not do that.  While her guide is clearly written, if you are like me it can be a bit of a struggle because I need pictures and instructions showing me EXACTLY how it should be done and exactly how it should look in each box.  Granted, that can be difficult with so many different curriculums out there and trying to incorporate so many different levels and homeschool classrooms BUT "Workbox #1 should look similar to this" or "Place velcro here" would have been helpful.

I am also a "all in one place" kind of person.  I find it annoying if I am sent something and then have to go searching for parts of the item in other places.  Ms. Patrick's book is like that.  You have the "bones" of her idea, but have to go hunting and downloading from her site for the "meat" (the printables that make her system work).  I understand the concept behind it - trying to avoid having people download the whole book and sharing it all with others and infringing on copyright but at the same time, it makes it a pain in the butt for people like me who like everything in one place - and with one single click on the button.  I am disorganized enough so now I have to have a separate folder for the downloads should I chose to use them.  I can't just bring up the pdf of her book and have them all there.

So back to the book.  The book itself was small for the changes it proclaims to make.  BUT the whole theory when put into action can take up huge amounts of space contrary to what she claims - something about "relatively small amount of space".

10-12 clear shoe boxes on a stand PLUS exta space for the boxes as they are completed (I won't tell you more about this theory than what is already here)  PER CHILD.  I only have one child and can imagine what our small area would look like after the dog trips on the shoe boxes - or me as I rush to take another business call because I forgot to turn the phone off.  I can not even begin to imagine what a school room would look like for someone who has seven or more children they are homeschooling!  Can we say "lost amongst the workboxes"?

Right now our school room is in the kitchen.  Our SMALL kitchen that also houses our fridge, stove, microwave, computer, business and educational filing cabinets, school book shelf, cd player and cd holder, not to mention the table and chairs where we eat all our meals.  There is simply NO ROOM for another unit if I still want to use the room for what it was meant for - a place to cook our meals safely.  Granted, we are going to be moving into the spare bedroom eventually but even then, the room is too small for workboxes as she spells out in the book.  I am still going to have a have an adapted version to fit the idea into the room since it is still going to double as a spare bedroom.

I also have to say - and this is something I've heard from other homescoolers as well - that there are parts that seem very "regular school-y".  The idea behind some of the cards such as "bathroom break", "wait" and "quiet please" card might be necessary if you have 2+ children (I know a few homeschool moms who have to deal with 12 or more children, which is a regular classroom and do need some classroom management skills to retain some semblance of order so something like this may work very well for homeschooling) but in my case, I have only one.  And if he has to pee three times in the morning plus have a bowel movement before 10:30 break, then WHY should he need a card for it?  It just seems like the old "Hallway Pass" of the institutionalized schools we are trying to avoid.  In our house, if you have to go pee...You go and pee!  No card needed.  No asking permission.  Just go and do your bodily business and return asap.  And don't forget to wash your hands when you are done!

I also disagreed with a few of Ms. Patrick's theories regarding the Mother's role during school time.  In fact, I had to stop reading for a bit and take a deep breath because I honestly felt as if by NOT following her "beliefs" I was doing a grave disservice to my son.  Here's the gist - as a homeschooling mother, you should focus 100% on schooling during school time.  That is fine...IF you don't have anything else in life that requires doing.

Now, I not only homeschool our son but I am also the "office manager" for my husband's growing business.  That means I do the books, do the billing and the quotes, look up prices for billing and quotes, do up payroll for his employees and all the government forms that entails,  banking, etc.  I am also the housekeeper, cook, maid, chauffer, laundress, kisser of boo-boos, etc.  WithOUT me doing this, there would be NO homeschooling at all because I would have to go out and get a job to PAY for someone else to do these things.

So no, I canNOT NOT do these things and save them ONLY for non school times.  When Squirt is doing independent work, why can I NOT be doing up the payroll?  When Squirt is reading a passage to me from a book, why can I NOT be folding the laundry?  Why can we NOT be using 11:30 meal making or 2:30 grocery shopping to teach home economics?  Why can I NOT use his math time to have him help sort coupons?  Is that not teaching math AND home economics AND budgeting during school time?

If I saved everything non school related ONLY for non-school times, I would be too busy in the evenings doing those things that there would be NO family time.  The dishes still have to be washed and the laundry still has to be done whether you homeschool or don't homeschool and you are not doing a disservice to your child by not doing ONLY schooling during school time.  If anything, you are teaching them that they are able to multi-task so long as you are doing it efficiently.

And if I am having an issue with this, I can only imagine what the poor mother who has toddlers and babies to deal with must feel like.  Can't change a diaper during "school time"?  Can't feed the baby during school time?  THIS is part of life and part of homeschooling.  THIS teaches our children about life - that "the real world" does NOT always fit into a nice little package all neatly tied up into sections labeled "school", "home", "work", etc.  That sometimes these things intermingle and we HAVE to learn to balance them in order to function "in the real world".

Another point I disagreed with was the tone that her way was the "only way" and had to be followed to a T.

I used to teach in a regular classroom.  There is NO ONE WAY that fits EVERY child and EVERY family.  It is the main reason we chose to homeschool.  No single curriculum is perfect for every child.  Just as Sonlight migh have worked for your son, it might not have worked for your daughter.  Just as Singapore Math might not have worked for you does not mean it does not work for me - which it does...IN CONJUNCTION WITH Math U See...Note that?  Singapore Math works for us BUT we also use Math U See to supplement...because no one single program has worked for us 100%.

As a teacher I discovered that every child is different and while Ms. Patrick's system might work "as she lays out" for Child/Family A does not mean it will work 100% for Child/Family B as she claims.  I believe that is a pretty broad statement to make - because her system as she lays out simply will NOT work for us AS IS.  It DOES need tweaking to fit our needs and space.

It is simply a matter of "the shoe (box) not always fitting"...

That all being said, I have to say, I have used a very similar method when I was teaching and had forgotten all about it until reading Sue Patrick's guide.  It wasn't workboxes BUT I did have a coloured card system set up in my classroom and the day's activities listed on the board.  My students would recieve their coloured cards for the day as they walked into the classroom. 

They would place their cards in the library card envelopes taped to the top of their desks - one envelope for each subject and labeled "1", "2", "3" etc - staggered so they could easily see the slots but not see the complete envelope and taped securely so they could see the coloured cards but it didn't take up a lot of room on their desk tops.  They would fill each slot with a card then we would do our morning routine and our first "group lesson".  They would then go to their cubby and moving from left to right begin their day.

Before I left the school the day before, I would go through their cubbies and set their workbooks, binders, notebooks, etc in the order we would be working the next day.  Then I would organize the cards once again - I would just put them into a recipe card box that had dividers labeled by name in alphabetical order ready to hand out the next day.When they were done, they would hand me the card, I would stamp it, they would return it to the basket on my desk and they would return to their desk to the next card - independent reading, math practice, or what ever.

Through the day we had "group lessons" such as social studies, science or language arts, but we also had "independent time" which was where they could pick from one of several learning centers set up around the classroom and do an activity from there, making sure they showed me their completed work before I stamped their cards and they would move on again. 

If they completed their work before the rest, they had to look over their card envelopes and make sure that I had not replaced one or two for incomplete work or corrections - if they found I had returned the #4 card, then they had to come to me and find out what it was they hadn't completed or what corrections they needed to make.  After that, they would have "free time" until the rest of the class was done - free time being reading a book of their choice from my library of classroom books, doing an art project, working on puzzles or quiet games with other students who were done their work as well.

This allowed them - as young as grade one - to work on being independent, but also freed up my time to work with students who were struggling in one area or another.

At the end of the school day, all the cards would be gone from their slots on their desk.  The children knew where in the day they were by merely glancing at the coloured cards - five slots empty, they were half way done their day and would soon have an hour for lunch and play.  Oh, look...only one slot left!  We're almost done for the whole day!!

These were not things I learned from one particular book but rather called "classroom management skills" that we were taught in university as well as during my internship.  In fact, many of the learning centers I used were ones I created in university and during internship...I wonder if I still have them...

Anyways, I read the book.

Do I recommend it?

Here's my take.

IF you are new to homeschooling and don't know where or how to begin, it might be one of those books that helps give you some guidance, a starting point for organizing your school room.

IF you are looking for the reasoning behind her system, you will need to purchase the book.

IF you are simply looking for a few ideas to try out in your classroom to help get you and the Kiddos organized, well...Maybe do a google or yahoo search for homeschool workboxes and see what comes up and then decide if you need the book.

BUT for someone who went to university and earned a degree in education and taught in the regular school system for several years it was simply 122 pages of stuff I learned about classroom management and running an efficient classroom.  (and not even a full 122 pages since several of the pages of the pdf Hubby ordered are left intentionally blank for notes, section dividers, etc)

So while I don't necessarily have the space for Sue Patrick's system as she states in the book and neither do I agree with everything she says, I do want to thank her deeply for reminding me that YES I can incorporate what worked for me as a regular classroom teacher as well as tweak some of Ms. Patrick's ideas without feeling guilty for "going regular school" while still maintaining some of the freedoms I LOVE about homeschooling.

And so, I will go and set up some things for January and I will tell my son he will still be allowed to pee and talk when ever he needs and wants.

Besides, Mommy has never been a real stickler for the rules.  After all, THAT is why I am a homeschooler!