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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 Tips for Homeschooling Through Chaos

Job loss. Moving. New babies. High risk pregnancy. Hospitalization. Injury. Chronic pain disability.

These are a few of the things that we, at the Non Stepford house, have dealt with during our almost (gasp!) eight years of homeschooling.

That’s one of the many things nobody warns you about when you embark on the homeschooling path. Life keeps happening. As a homeschooler, you’re not immune to the chaos that life throws at you. In fact, I sometimes wonder if homeschooling isn’t some sort of lightening rod for it, or if it’s like hanging a sign on your front door saying, “Murphy! Come visit!”

homeschooling through chaos

The old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Personally, the only place I tend to get going is to the fridge, to see if there’s any cheesecake hidden away.

I’ve been asked, many, many times, why I don’t just put the Minions in public school. I’ve given many thoughtful, profound answers over the years, but really, it boils down to three things: 1) Homeschooling is best for our family, 2) I don’t want to, and 3) I’m stubborn as all holy heck. To me, asking why I don’t put the kids in school is akin to asking, “Why don’t you quit parenting?” It’s a part of our life as a family now, and not something I’d ever willingly give up, at least during the elementary years. High school, I’m willing to negotiate on, depending on what the situation is. Heck, I’ve been known to BEG Diva, our almost 16-year-old, to try high school, but no dice.

See, I’m not someone who always planned to homeschool. We started as a direct result of Diva being horribly bullied…so we started out in chaos. And have been fumbling our way through ever since.

My tips for homeschooling through chaos:

  1. Scale back – Do what you can, as you can. If that means math and read alouds are the extent of your ability that day, that’s okay.

  2. Use media – Personally, I love me some National Geographic. There are loads of science shows geared for children, and I have no guilt at all in plugging them in to Magic School Bus, Kratts Creatures, or similar. The Middle Minions think Horrible Histories is fantastic. I also looked for free online ‘games’ for reading, spelling and math. They think they’re playing, but I know they’re learning. Win!

  3. Delegate – Daddy Wolf is probably the biggest resource I have. I can count on him to oversee math, to have the kids read to him, and to do read alouds when I’m not able. Diva, the teenager, does art with the Middle Minions, because since becoming one-armed (and left at that!) cutting, sewing, and painting are not in my abilities.

  4. Be patient – This is for you. Remember, when chaos hits, everyone is out of sync. Kids are more rambunctious, or at least the Minions are. If I’m stressed, or out of whack, so are they. I find that giving them some physical activities outside helps tremendously. Burn off that energy, so they can settle down and focus.

  5. Accept outside help – Granted, sometimes this isn’t even an option. We’ve been in a new city, without a support system, so I understand how that happens. But, if you have anyone you can turn to, that can help at all, LET THEM. Ask for help and support. You might be amazed at what folks will do when emergencies arise.

So. There you have it. Five tips for surviving chaos, and still homeschooling. My number six tip, is possibly the most important though: Remember, this too shall pass. And it will, and it does. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Melissa 'Imp' (4 Posts)

Wife to Wolf, Mom to 5 Minions at home, figuring out living, homeschooling, one handed in a 2 handed world.

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Teaching History to Hands-On Learners

All three of our children are hands-on learners. They also have short attention spans. It seems like it wouldn’t be a good combination for teaching history. Am I the only one that thought history was boring when I was young? Based on my impression, that is what I thought teaching history would be like as well – reading long text and hoping they actually absorb some of it. I’m glad to say I was wrong!

Teaching History to Hands-on Learners

Don’t limit yourself to text books when it comes to history because history is all around us! Hands-on learners don’t have to be limited to listening to or reading text and answering questions. History can (and I venture to say should) be hands-on! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Arts and Crafts

The great thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to limit ourselves to always keeping subjects separate. We love combining them! Arts and Crafts are a great way to make history “come to life!” Projects can be as simple as drawing a picture related to what you are learning to crafts related to that event or time frame.

Are they learning about Native Americans? Build a teepee! This can be done on a small scale with popsicle sticks and construction paper or on a larger scale with long sticks and sheets! Gathering the materials can be part of the fun!

Learning about Christopher Columbus? Build boats or make a paper mache Earth to depict the discovery that Earth is round.

Teaching Biblical History? Make scrolls, bake bread with and without yeast, create pottery, make tablets with the 10 Commandments. The possibilities are endless really!

Hands-On History - Pottery

Acting and Costumes

Who doesn’t love to dress up? Older kids even like to dress up once in a while! Dressing up and acting out scenes in history can instill an appreciation and really make it “real” to hands-on learners. Hands-on learners really need physical interaction to make lessons “stick,” and what better way to learn about history than putting yourself into someone else’s shoes – literally!

You don’t have to buy expensive costumes or props. Simply make the most of what you have around the home. Letting your children come up with the props and clothing is a great way to really get them to see and take in the difference between what they wore then versus what we wear now as they try to adapt their clothing and materials to look like those of that time.

Historical Locations

I never thought I’d say I miss living near Washington D.C., but the historical locations there are amazing! Of course, Houston doesn’t lack in great locations. Museums offer a great experience for learning history. Many museums have homeschool days that include more than just a tour but hands-on activities as well. Don’t limit yourself to History Museums. Art Museums, Children’s Museums, and Science Museums all offer pieces of history!

One of our favorite places in Houston is Space Center Houston. They offer a lot of hands-on activities and, of course, amazing historical information regarding the space program and history.

Hands-on History - Space Center Houston

Some other ideas for hands-on history is to go to a cemetery and do gravestone rubbings. If you live near family members’ graves, this is also a great way to learn your own history. It’s a different way to learn the history of the area in which you live, too. View the dates and research information. Be sure gravestone rubbings are allowed as they are not permitted everywhere. Here is more information about tombstone rubbings.

Above all else, have FUN! Hands-on learners really enjoy the experience of learning hands-on. Don’t feel like you have to weigh it down with questions. Let them explore in the ways they understand and learn best!

What are some hands-on history activities you have done with your family?


Emilee Roberts (3 Posts)

Emilee is happily married to her best friend, Joey, who is a 2x cancer survivor and Disabled Veteran. She is a full-time, homeschooling mom to their 3 special needs kids who amaze, inspire, and humble her every day. In addition to blogging she is a freelance writer and mompreneur with a crafting/sewing business with the same name as her blog Pea of Sweetness.

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***3 FREE Complete Drawing Lessons from the SEE THE LIGHT 9 DVD/36 lesson ART CLASS curriculum that is used by many homeschooling families. Recommended for ages 6 + +***