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Sue Patrick’s Workboxes

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   I must be among a small minority who had never heard of workboxes. With all the building and moving chaos happening the end of last school year and throughout the summer, I guess I missed out on the craze. Or maybe I just never ran into it because I don’t pay much attention to scheduling and organizational tips. I spend hours upon hours researching and praying over which materials will work best for each child in my own family, and then go with those. We stack our materials in crates and they go through the next lesson each day. I could never really figure out why it would be necessary to waste my time writing down their next lesson. Just open the book where you left off. Do what we’re ready for, and don’t move on until it’s understood. Kind of hard to write that on a schedule. We also do many subjects together, in which I open up the manual to the next page, and read or lead a discussion either around our table or piled up on the bed. We spend as little as 5 minutes on some things, and have been known to continue for weeks on others, adding impromptu field trips and grabbing my college textbooks for further discussion sometimes! Kind of hard to put that on a schedule too, LOL.  

       Since we’ve moved into our new house, and we have a bit of a different setup for schoolwork this year ( together days are Mon, Wed, and Friday, and independent studies are Tues and Thurs), I was open minded to review Sue Patrick’s Workbox System.  Since I hadn’t really seen much discussion on the system proir to this, I felt I could give the system a fair go. My initial impression, though, was quite jaded when I learned that she matter-of-factly states that the system should be layed out exactly as she shows because she knows what works and what doesn’t.  LOL, sounded like one of the reasons that top my list for avoiding public schools to me, because we all know every child in every household learns differently, and every family is different as well. But onward I walked, trying to keep that open mind.

     I received Sue Patrick’s Workbox System User’s Guide ebook. Upon downloading it, I began to read through why she developed the system (she has an autistic child), then on into the structure of the system, and her educational philosophy.  I did enjoy reading through Sue’s opinions because of my great interest in different educational styles and philosophies. I find it very interesting and often inspiring to learn of ways others have taken obstacles and situations to develop and persevere to a place of success in their own situations, then graciously sharing their ideas with others. I am cautious, however, of philosophies not open to change and adaptation, especially in recommending them to others who may be less experienced or learned in adapting programs and materials to individual temperments and learning styles.

     Knowing that Sue Patrick’s desire was for her readers to use the program "as is" before trying to adapt to their own families was very difficult. The first step in implementing anything in my homeschool (after prayer and my own research) is to sit my girls down and show it to them, and ask their opinions. They both laughed at the thought of schedule strips with little pieces of velcro to stick off and on things, just as I imagined they might. They both did understand how this might be helpful for autistic or smaller non-readers, though.

      They liked the idea of seperating out assignments and  Mom scheduling them daily. This put more work on mom’s shoulders, and less on their own of keeping up with their assignments. Hmmm, seemed to be another step backwards, from the independence they already show and the responsibility they have to me, LOL. 

       As we looked at the pictures of the twelve shoe boxes on the little rack, we all commented on how very messy it appeared to have papers and books folded over sticking out of the little boxes. Another strike against doing it Sue’s way, because I’ve worked diligently on teaching my girls respect for their materials and books. Seemed another step backwards to exchange their neat and tidy crates of materials for messy shoeboxes with papers sticking out everywhere because they didn’t fit.

       After our discussion of what we felt might be a good way we could try this system out and which, if any, parts might help us accomplish our goals for our homeschool, we went shopping. We liked the idea of plastic boxes to seperate individual assignments and still leave the texts and larger materials in their crates. I already have most of my schoolwork seperated out into plastic boxes and stacked, such as Levi’s BFIAR materials in one box, MATHUSEE manipulatives in another, lapbooking materials in one, preschool letter of the week activities in another. So we figured we could just buy some of those, but we could’t find anything big enough for less than 2.50 to 3.50 apiece, and I didn’t feel it a good investment for something that wouldn’t be long term. So we spent a couple of weeks and several shopping trips discussing and trying to figure out what we could do to use her system as close to she described for review purposes to accomplish the objects she lays out in her User’s Guide. One thing I was trying to focus on was using clear boxes and seeing them empty once the work was all finished. My mother was visiting at the time, and she read the User’s Guide to help us try and figure it out as well. My daughters and I really enjoyed including her in this project!


    In the end, we purchased each girl a plastic file box and hanging file folders for assignments. As they complete a folder, they put it in Mom’s box for grading, and they can see their empty box when all their work is complete.

    I went ahead and printed off the schedule strips and other basic downloadables from the  website  which we had access to for review purposes.  I didn’t really care for the look or format of any of the downloads.

     I simply could not make her schedule work for us. Instead, I printed off several different types of schedules from many different planners and programs, and finally ended up making one myself on Word. This is something I’ve been going to do for quite some time, but never had the time to work on and figure out. I finally just TOOK the time and did it. I made a schedule for each child and a "together" schedule. I even went on to make out longterm schedules for the subjects that I could to make the weekly schedules easier. I’ve never gone to this extent before, but after Sue got the organizational ball rolling for me, I just took advantage of the creative juices and got it all laid out for our new weekly schedule. I assigned a color to each child for the schedules and background color on their file folder tabs to quickly identify who I was dealing with.


So how’s it working?

     Well, at first it was hard to take the extra time to sit down and type out  weekly schedules, and switch out individual assignments in folders. It means more copying, more typing out answer sheets for them to fill in, much more time on my part seperating out lapbook pieces and me keeping up with their stuff. But since I only fill their folders on Tuesdays and Thursdays for their "independent" days, it’s working out ok. I do feel they are getting things done when they might have used the excuse before that they didn’t know exactly what to do or couldn’t find something. On Monday, Wed and Friday we do our together subjects, and then go over the things they do independently that need to be reviewed. All in all, it’s working out pretty well. But, I must say, it’s a long way from Sue Patricks workbox system, LOL.


Would I recommend this to others?

      Hmmm. Well, yes and no. For those seasoned at adapting programs to fit their own needs, it is a good read. Sue has some great ideas, especially for younger kids and certainly learning challenged students. For those new to homeschooling who are not used to adapting, I believe it could be quite frustrating to feel obligated to use the program "as is", and then deal with the frustration and those scary feelings of failure when some parts don’t work. It’s a whole heap of work on Mom’s part, and for a newbie, this could definitely steer her away from the true joys of homeschooling, which I believe are piling up on your couch or bed with a good book and just spending time together laughing, learning, and praising our Creator. You can’t put that in a box.


 Sue Patrick’s Workbox User’s Guide ebook can be purchased for $19.00. You can also purchase consulting, supplies, and some package deals on her website., as well as view sample pages and videos.


         For many families, I know this has been a great program to help keep them going when they seemed to feel lost at sea. For my family, I felt I was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken.  Once I quit trying to stick my square pegs into round holes, I found a wonderful springboard of ideas that has helped us start out a new year, in a new house, going in that new direction.

For other reviews and opinions, please visit the TOS Crew  blog.


Sue Patrick’s Workbox User’s Guide ebook was provided free of charge to me for review purposes as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.


One thought on “Sue Patrick’s Workboxes

  1. Chris,

    I love reading your reviews! You do such a good job with them. Thanks for taking the time to review this. It was great to read your input on it.

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