Hooligan Zoo

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TOS Review – Sue Patrick's Workboxes

on October 27, 2009

You know, as a homeschooling mama, I am always on the hunt for new!  Improved!  Better!  This works for EVERY family! products.  I like order.  I like scheduling.  However, I also realize that life DOES happen, and things all get thrown in a loop.

This brings us to Sue Patrick’s Workbox system.  In a very very brief nutshell, Sue Patrick teaches how to take the multitude of schooling subjects that we tend to do in a day, and break it down into bite sized pieces.  Using clear plastic shoe boxes is her preferred method of doing this, and her ebook clearly advocates not deviating from that plan.  More specifics can be seen about the plan on a video on the site here.

Sue developed the system when discovering that her son had Autism.  In an interview on Love to Know, she says,

We have two children, ages fourteen and twelve — both of whom I have always homeschooled. However, let me assure you that there was no one who went into motherhood with less of a thought of homeschooling that I did. I’ve never been a teacher — my degree is in forestry and environmental resources.

However, my son was diagnosed with autism, and it was a crushing blow. Doctors and professionals told us that our son was so severely affected with autism that he should be put in a facility. However, I knew that my son was intelligent and capable and worth the effort and I was determined to find a way to help him. I started homeschooling him at 18 months. I had him, and a younger baby at the time, and I simply didn’t deal well with mayhem. I had to find a way to make our days more organized. To make a long story short, I had developed the system pretty much as it is now, by the time he was four years old.

First I’ll talk a little bit about how we implemented the system in our house, and then I’ll address some pros and cons.

Ephraim does like structure.  He likes to know what’s next, what’s at the end, when he’s going to be all done… that kind of thing.  He seems to need to be able to anticipate what’s up and coming, and to roll with that.  For Eph, the system works well in that way.  Zi is such an easy learner that she could really take the system or leave it… she would excel either way.

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((for the curious, Zi’s box 1 has Math U See – Alpha, two has Aesop’s fables, three has copywork, four has Quarter Mile Math, five has Shakespeare, and six has map study.))

((Eph’s box 1 has Math U See – Primer there, but he’s since moved on to Alpha, box two has Big Susan (literature), three has The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, four has copywork, five has Starfall, six has Map study))

Here’s what we found.  These are actually scrapbooking cubes that I got on sale at Michael’s.  I liked that I could plop them on the shelf, and not lose too much space.  Zi’s cube is on the left, and Eph’s is on the right.

So, at the beginning of the day, they go to their schedule strips, one for each of them,

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and see if they need to do something on the strip itself, or go to the first box.  The number is taken out of the box and put on the strip, so that they can see when they’re done.  When they’re finished with that subject, it goes into a basket where I will either put it back in the slot for the next day, or put it in the proper spot on the shelf.

Now, we have six spots.  Sue advocates having 12.  I find that six is a LOT for us… especially schooling in a more relaxed Charlotte Mason method.  Sue also feels that the system will ONLY work if it’s done her way…  again, a quote from an interview with Love to Know,

Everyone’s home school is their own and I agree that my system can and will look different in each home. However, because I have “fine tuned” this system over so many years, I know what works and what doesn’t. I also know what is easiest to implement and use. There is such universal revolt of using the boxes by those who “hear” of my system by word of mouth. But those who read my book or hear my talk understand the whys and they understand why I feel the workboxes are important. Most alternatives that I’ve heard of or seen simply make it more difficult for the moms to set it up and for the children to enjoy the inherent benefits of the system. I have consulted with so many families over the years, that I know the alterations are not as beneficial as using the actual workboxes. I never hear of anyone who uses the workboxes who wanted to find another way after experiencing the benefits. It’s always those who haven’t actually tried the workboxes and want a different option from the beginning.

Now, here’s the problem that I have with Sue Patrick. She comes across as very inflexible… in a her way is the only way type of thing, BUT, as homeschoolers, that’s what we do!  We tweak!  We make it work for our own families!

The ebook is very easy to read, although it definitely leans toward “doing school at home” which is also not for us.  Sue does very carefully go through all of her reasoning for doing the workboxes the way she does, and how it worked for her.  However, pointing at a popsicle stick holding a “shh!” sign is not for me.  Hooligans only having three mom helps per day?  Also not for me.

Some pros to the workbox system?

  • It forces me to set up the night before, meaning that we can get right to it in the morning.
  • Because there tends to be more boxes than subjects, I can add in some games, or some fun things that I wouldn’t normally think of.
  • It’s easy to clean up afterward, the hooligans aren’t putting things in random boxes.
  • The hooligans really like knowing how much there is, what’s coming next, and how long it’ll take to get to snack time.

Some cons to the workbox system?

  • It takes TIME.  It took time to set up, cutting, printing, etc… etc…  Every night I am spending between twenty minutes and half an hour to set up the boxes properly.
  • It took a little while to figure out how to balance the order of things, so that both hooligans weren’t needing me for different subjects at the same time.
  • We do a LOT of subjects together…  this system is more of an independent worker system.
  • You do need some space.  If this is going to be done with the 12 shoeboxes, a rack and the boxes would take a lot of space.  The ones that we have aren’t too bad, but did take up a whole shelf of my bookshelf.

But, if you want to know more about it, head on over to Sue Patrick’s Website and take a gander at what she has to offer!  You really do need to buy the book to get a full idea of what this system is all about.

The User Guide in ebook form, or Paperback is $19.95 (all funds are American currency)
The book with four months of consultation is $119.95
To save time on cutting, laminating, etc, schedule strips already assembled can be purchased for $12.75 for one child, or $24 for two children.
Center packages are available for $40 each
Also check out the starter packages.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials.  I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.


2 responses to “TOS Review – Sue Patrick's Workboxes

  1. Sheri H says:

    I like how you showed your version-which is nice (I need those for my scrapbooking stuff!) and I also like how you noted what you didn’t like. The beauty is that is can work with some effort and adjustments. The time thing-yes-initially and then daily, there is the issue of time spent to deal with. I find now, after using it almost a year-even when I am winging it-I can fill my 8 year old’s in 15 min. or so. My teen takes a tad longer b/cuz I have to hunt down her stuff from her HS group classes-but even then, usually 20 min. and both do at least 6-10 a day. Keep doing what works for your family…nice post!

    FM Sheri

  2. […] do usually use a loose version of Sue Patrick’s Workboxes, and that helps make the day go smoother.  Click that link to see how we’ve implemented it […]

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