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Using the Workbox System in Your Homeschool

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how we use workboxes to organize our homeschool, but today I wanted to explain a bit about how we set up our system. If you’ve read about the workbox system, it can sound a little overwhelming. (At least it did for me.)

Some homeschoolers recommend using a different workbox for each subject. Since we have four kids (three that are currently schooling), I was looking at 24 workboxes or more. Unfortunately, we have neither the room nor the money for that kind of setup. So, I decided to go about using the workbox system in a much more affordable (read: cheap) way.

Here’s a look at the simple way we use the workbox system in our homeschool!

Using the Workbox System in Your Homeschool - The Homeschool Post

Use inexpensive items.

I use clear shoeboxes for our kids’ workboxes. They’re inexpensive, see-through, and easy to stack inside our bookcase. Generally, getting a look at what’s inside the boxes helps the kids get excited for what they’ll be doing that day.

I don’t separate our workboxes by subject. I just stick everything they’ll do in each box. Tigger has a box, Pooh has a box, and Roo has a box. Piglet, who is 22 months old, has her own box, but I don’t let her go through it on her own just yet. :)

To organize the assignments, I printed the free workbox activity cards from Homeschool Creations, laminated them, and then stuck them on the side of each box with Velcro sticky back coins. That way, the kids can see what subjects they’ll be using the workboxes for.

Start slowly.

When we first started with the workbox system, I knew it would take a little time for the kids to adjust. Prior to that, I had always assigned their work and they had come to rely on me giving explicit directions for each subject. Using workboxes, though, meant that they would be assuming some of the responsibility for their work. That’s a great thing, but it was very new for them.

To ease into the system, I started by giving them a few items or assignments a couple of days a week. For example, Tigger would have one worksheet for Language Arts, one worksheet for Math, and one worksheet for Reading. Over time, though, she adjusted to completing her work and I increased the amount of work I gave her. Now I have very little trouble giving her a lengthy assignment.

For Pooh and Roo, I started with one worksheet each. Pooh would get an early reading activity and Roo would get a coloring page. Now they each do several activities on their own that are adapted for their age and grade level.

Have you tried the workbox system? Did you like it? Let us know how you use workboxes in your homeschool!


Selena (3 Posts)

Selena is a homeschooling graduate, a former tax accountant, and a homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She and her husband, Jay, practice eclectic homeschooling to keep their ADHD learners engaged! You can keep up with Selena by following her blog Look! We're Learning! on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.

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5 Reasons to Love a Charlotte Mason Education

This post first appeared on my own blog in September 2013 and again February 2014. I think it’s worth repeating here.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. My favorite poem begins that way. Today I am going to count the ways that I love homeschooling but more specifically the ways I love a Charlotte Mason education. In absolutely no particular order other than what came to me as I sat to write this. Winking smile

CM reasons

1. Science of relations. This took me a while to understand when I first heard the term. And it is even possible that I don’t have it down quite yet.

“Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–
         “Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.”
“Our deadly error is to suppose that we are his showman to the universe; and, not only so, but that there is no community at all between child and universe unless such as we choose to set up.”
At first I thought this meant that simply they would realize that one book mentioned a person that we’d read about in another book. And in a way this is true; they do and will recognize names and events from one book to another, especially with the books that have been chosen. But it means more than that. They will realize and recognize how these things, –the events, the attitudes, the personalities, the successes and failures- all can be associated with our own lives. Not just our own lives but the world around us. At least that is what I take ‘science of relations’ to mean.
It took me awhile to understand that I am a companion on this educational journey. Teacher, to a point. Facilitator could be a better word. I offer the best that I find, and indeed, shelter from what I consider harmful. But it is up to them to grasp that it is all connected. We joke, half-way, that I raised them wrong; I always gave them the answer when they asked “why”. It’s taken us a couple of years to look for the relationship rather than to just wait for the answer to be given.
2. Freedom. I think that homeschooling offers a lot of freedom. We can choose what we use for our curriculum, what method we use, when we do school, how often we study a subject, and we can do it all in our pjs if we want. We don’t do that last one, by the way. Well, not that often anyway. But a huge ‘freedom’ I find in Charlotte Mason’s education philosophy is the freedom to have God at the center of it all.
“Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,––the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.”
Many think that homeschooling because of religious beliefs is ridiculous. And to that I say, I don’t homeschool because of my religious beliefs (but will add if one feels that it is ridiculous to homeschool for that reason, that means their ‘religion’ doesn’t mean much to them). I relish the fact that we can incorporate our beliefs into our school. Charlotte Mason did not have the same ideas that our household holds (she didn’t argue with evolution) but spoke of the importance of God in the lives of children, and their parents.
Religion –a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
“We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.”
Public school or another educational method wouldn’t prevent me from instilling ‘religion’ into my children but having a mentor that puts such importance on it is a wonderful thing.
3. Living books. Not just ‘books’ but ‘living’ books. The difference is amazing. A textbook relays facts and information. Learning can most certainly happen with a textbook. It just isn’t as fun, it doesn’t connect with the reader, and the information may only live in the mind long enough to take a test or finish the task for which the text was assigned. We’ve used Ambleside Online since 2009/2010, Years 5-10 (Y7Lite-10 with my dd; Y5-Y8 with my ds). We are currently going through a mishmash of Y11 and Y12 for my daughter’s senior year, and Y9 for my son’s sophomore year.
Some of our favorite living books that we have used thus far:
English Literature for Boys and Girls by H. E. Marshall (free for Kindle)
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (free for Kindle)
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
This Country of Ours by H. E. Marshall
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne (free for Kindle)
Washington: The Indispensible Man by James Thomas Flexner
Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif
And although neither would agree without some hesitation, Winston Churchill’s The History of the English Speaking Peoples have been great books for history. There are so many more that we’ve used and read through that have been, if not wonderful and joyous, at least enjoyable. The same cannot be said of most of the other methods and curriculums we’ve tried.
Added in this category but a little bit of its own reason are the “extras” which are really the riches of CM: art and music study, nature study, Plutarch and Shakespeare. These are areas that our family, unfortunately, miss out on most when it comes down to crunch time. The majority of assessment in the educational world does not include these areas, and so we are often somewhat forced to focus more on math, science, and reading ability. Without these, though, we lose a lot of the connection to a more rounded education.
4. Challenging yet not crushing. A Charlotte Mason education is challenging. It isn’t easy and I don’t think it is right for everyone. Personally, I do believe that every one can follow and benefit from a Charlotte Mason education, but I am realistic enough to know that there are so many other methods that can be appealing to families, for a variety of reasons. In many public schools, the norm is –or used to be when I was going through it as well as my kids –to give the students text books, quizzes that are full of multiple choice and to feed the information to the students. Many excel in this atmosphere. I know I did; for majority of school, I was almost a straight-A student. It wasn’t until some of my classes in college required me to think outside the text book that I started to realize that spoon-feeding and multiple choice tests weren’t the only way to get an ‘education’. I’m not saying I received a poor education –wait, yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. I didn’t want my kids to have to go down that same boring path. I loved to learn, but hated how I was being taught. My memory was great; my comprehension, and subsequently application, not so great. I’m still working on that.
“We, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.”
-Charlotte Mason, Principle #11 (which is followed by “Education is the science of relations”, #1 of my reasons above)
CM advocates gauging how much the student knows through narration. That isn’t the only way, but it is a very integral part. If you cannot tell what you know, in an intelligible, organized, detailed manner, how well did you first, take in the information, and second, process that information? There is the saying that people who can, do; those who can’t, teach. But truly, if you can’t do it, how can you adequately teach it? I think that you can do it without being able to teach it but …how much better to be able to do both.
“As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should ‘tell back’ after a single reading or hearing: or should write on some part of what they have read.”
A Charlotte Mason education stretches the mind to focus more on connections, I believe. It goes along with “science of relations”, perhaps. When we read through the books that we do, the “living books”, we gain a connection with all that we are reading about; the atmosphere, the people, the emotions, the events, the results, etc. This is the ‘not crushing’ part. This connection is like a friend that we do not forget. It challenges us to reach farther than just the next mark on our test, the highest grade in the class; it challenges us to reach farther than we had before and beyond a grade. At first the kids, and I’ll admit I did too, had such a difficult time with the choices that came along with the CM method. The kids sometimes preferred fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice assignments! Because they were easy. I’m not giving them easy, but I am giving them tools that they can use to grow, without crushing them.
5. Individual responsibility for learning.  I actually got this from my daughter. She appreciates the ‘self-teaching’ aspect; being able to take any article, book or other resource, whether written, visual or an experience, and find the pertinent bits as opposed to having the ‘answers’ supplied. My kids, being older, do a lot of their work independently. I set forth the books they will read and the resources they can use. By this time they have learned how to read what they know they need to and they know how to study for information. I see it as them taking a responsibility for their own learning.
“Children must learn the difference between “I want” and “I will.” They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else, interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.”
“Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous ideas if we really want to believe them.”
The above quotes are L. N. Laurio’s modern English paraphrases for Charlotte Mason’s Principle #17 & 18. Although it can apply to a multitude of circumstances, I’ve put it here because I think it goes well with having responsibility for one’s actions. Learning is definitely an ‘action’.
Those are my top 5 reasons for loving a CM method for educating. It’s not only for my kiddos and not only for ‘school’. It is for me as well and for life.
North Laurel (13 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.

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Putting History into Perspective

Connecting History to the Modern World


Putting History into Perspective

Let’s face it, sometimes history can seem so dry.  Without context children lose the importance of understanding how history affects their own lives. Trying to connect their minds and hearts to something that happened long before they were even born can seem like a daunting task. Actually, it may seem impossible. The reality is it’s hard for any human to connect to something that happened decades, if not centuries, ago. It will seem irrelevant if there isn’t an understanding of how it connects with ones self.

I think there are three great ways to connect the old with the new. These three ideas allow a student to explore and consider history as it relates to other people, and ultimately to themselves. None of them are a great mystery and one or more of them are often incorporated into homeschooling. You may currently be using one of these methods but perhaps didn’t consider how you are connecting the old with the new.

History through Literature

History through Literature

Reading stories that are set in the same era, especially true, biographical and/or autobiographical stories, can put into perspective the time and place where events occurred. By putting a human face on the story we see how the events affected that person. We can read about their struggles, their worries, their victories and joys. We can see how government decisions affected the people living at the time. We can read about how a family endured during hardship or how they fought for the sake of freedom.

Whatever the story is about, reading through it with a child, while at the same time studying the historical events of the same era can help our children to relate to history. Comparing that history, that story, to how a child currently lives, and considering what might be different if events had turned out differently in the past, can help to truly put into perspective how history has shaped our world.

Resources for Historical Literary Guides


Personal History through Family Genealogy


Personal History through Family Genealogy

Knowing where they come from can help a child to connect with history. Discovering that a grandparent lived and served in the army during a war, or a great grandparent lived through the depression, or perhaps a 3 or 4x grandparent immigrated to the U.S. or even that you are related to royalty, can make for exciting discoveries, comprehension of how a period of time affects your actual family and make history seem more real.

A few years ago I became fascinated by ancestry research. It was before the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” began. But, the addition of that show has increased an awareness of personal family history. I’ve researched many direct lines of my family’s ancestry and have been fascinated by what I have found on both sides of my lineage.

Examples of my Personal History

  • My grandfather (my dad’s dad) was a soldier in World War 1. (Yes the first war, not the second).
  • I learned that my 9x Great Grandfather on my mother’s maternal side was one of the earliest settlers of the Maryland Colony and gave 100 acres for the establishment of London Towne, Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
  • On my father’s maternal side I can trace, not one line but 4 separate lines through English royalty including barons, earls, and knights. I also discovered that my 15x great-grandfather worked prominently with Kings Edward IV, Richard III, was the step father to King Henry VII and presided in his coronation ceremony.
  • I also discovered that through my 15X great-grandmother’s line I can directly trace my lineage back to King Edward III and subsequently William the Conquerer.
  • The infamous Devil Anse Hatfield and I share a common grandfather. His great-grandfather (Abner Vance) on his mother’s side (Nancy) is my 5x great-grandfather through her uncle James Howard. Which means we are 2nd cousins 4x removed.

There are more stories than just these. The point is that as we study through history being able to relate events to our ancestors helps to put into perspective how the history is personal to us. Knowing my grandfather was a soldier in the first world war helped me to truly relate to the events which unfolded. As my son is learning about the founding of the American colonies, I can point out that his 10X great-grandfather was there, was a part of the events, the culture and how the geography unfolded to form Maryland today.

Have you researched your ancestry? Do your children know where they come from? Have you made history relevant by learning about how your family interacted with the times?

Resources for Learning more about Personal Ancestral History

My favorite source is, it’s there that I can enter any name and the word genealogy, or include an approximate date and find a wealth of information. It doesn’t work every time, and many times it leads me back to which is where I keep my tree research, but sometimes, I unexpectedly find even more information to the stories than I had ever discovered and it opens my eyes to how each person’s life relates to the history that we read during the era in which they lived.

History Timeline

Using a History Timeline to Put History into Perspective

Building a historical timeline with your kids can help you to put the time frame into perspective. Knowing when something took place in relationship to the child’s own life, helps them to get a feel for how long ago something happened. Did it happen in their lifetime, just before they were born, in mom & dad’s lifetime, or grandma’s lifetime? Was the event something that took place before, during or after the life of Jesus Christ, was it something that happened during the time of Moses or David?

By connecting the dates of world history with something relevant to a child’s life will help them to put into perspective when something happened. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be quite simple.

Timelines do not have to be fancy. In our homeschool we use a simple binder and paper, we trace the timeline from creation forward. As we learn an era, we can easily see how close to creation or modern era the event happened. You can use a pre-made timeline, or make one of your own. A poster board, or homemade scroll would work nicely.

I recently discovered the game Time Line, where the goal is to put into chronological order the cards which contain specific events. It really is a fun game that can easily put events into historical context.

Have you used any of these methods of putting history into perspective for your children? Share with us in the comments.


Renée (19 Posts)

Renée Brown is author at her personal blog, Great Peace Academy. She is a homeschooling mom to her one amazing son, Jonathan and has been the wife of her Beloved Michael for 21 years. On her blog you will find discussions about her work as a homeschooling mom, her family and her faith.

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