Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Beating the Spring Fever Blues

It doesn't seem to matter if one is homeschooled or goes to school, every year about this time Spring Fever hits. As a classroom teacher the last 6 - 8 weeks of school seemed to be the most difficult (with the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas coming in at a close second). Here at home it's the same. Everybody ( including the teacher!) is wishing they were somewhere else - in the sandbox, in the river, on the swings, finishing up the Spring Cleaning that never got finished, sitting on the porch reading a good book, etc. To combat this lack of enthusiasm for anything "schoolish" I usually try to change things up a bit. Sometimes I change the schedule, sometimes I add in a new unit study, one year we worked on making some really neat nature notebooks. This year, I've discovered something that is such a hit, I think we'll continue with it next year. ..


Doesn't sound like much does it? That's what I thought, but then I did some research and some tinkering and we have a wonderful system in place for our homeschool.

The creator of this system, Sue Patrick, published her idea into an eBook: I read several homeschool blogs to find out about it, them broke down and bought the book. I'm glad I did. It's been a big hit. It actually reminds me of the system a teacher used when I was student-teaching a 2nd grade class (way back then). The students loved it, and it was a wonderful organization tool for the teacher. When I read about Sue Patrick's Workbox System I thought Why didn't I think of that?!
Okay so what exactly is it?

Basically, the system is a set of boxes for each student. The child's work is put into those boxes, and he or she is instructed to complete the work, in order. I've tweaked it a bit for each of my kids and I'm still thinking of ways to make it better for our family, but the results are that I have the same enthusiasm from the kids that I do at the beginning of the year. They are not only completing their work (happily), but I am incorporating some of the things we don't always get to like art projects and exercise breaks. I think this is what is so motivating for the kids.
Since I have three children using this system, I have set it up 3 different ways. This is because I wanted to use what I already had on hand instead of buying a bunch of boxes and stands. It's also because I wanted to test and see which we like best.

Here are Builder's boxes. These follow the plan layed out in the book the most. Sue Patrick uses a different shelf system, but once again, I already had this one. Builder has 9 boxes. There is room to add more as he gets older. He starts with #1 (obviously), takes the box to his seat, and completes the "work" in the box. For Builder, in preschool, that work might be a math worksheet, a puzzle, a phonics worksheet, pattern blocks, Tangrams, etc. When he's finished, he puts a little smiley face on the outside (attached with velcro) and returns the box to it's place on the shelf. He then goes on to #2. Some of the boxes have a little "work with mom" note attached. The child knows he is to bring his box to me (or I come to him) and we do that work together. These are the times for instruction in subjects like Math, Reading, Science, etc.

Here are Jetter's boxes. I like this system the best, but I think it's because the boxes just look "neater" on the shelves. Jetter has 12 boxes and he has a sticker to attach instead of the smiley face.

I started out thinking that Social Butterfly is a little too old for this system. She already has an assignment sheet that she uses each day and checks things off as she does them. But, of course, she wanted a system too, so we came up with this. We purchased her boxes in the hardware department. There are twelve, and I write her assignments on little business sized cards. I made up several cards that just say "Math" or "Science" or whatever. I attach a tiny Post It to the card if there are specific instructions or page numbers.

Social Butterfly and Jetter seem to like the system the most. I think that is because their workload hasn't changed. They have a few fun items added in, but the rest of it is mostly the same. Builder is adjusting to it. It's helped me to see that while Builder is doing just fine academically, he really had a very short school day before. I worked with him on reading, math and religion and then he was free to play. The workboxes take him longer to complete so he is learning the discipline of being in the classroom, working quietly, for longer than in the past.

What is Beany doing while the rest of the kids are happily working away? He's working too, in his own way. His work usually usually involves making messes but he sure is happy!

For me the set up takes more time (I have to fill all those boxes!) but the kid's enthusiasm is worth it. It will be summer before we know it! Hmmmm, I wonder if I can come up with a workbox system for their chores...

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