When I first considered homeschooling my kids, one of the big things holding me back was the idea of teaching all subjects to all of my children while also being constantly available to each of them. As an introverted, highly sensitive mama, I knew that I would get overwhelmed very quickly. My husband, knowing me as he does, was concerned for me, too.
I had a nursing baby at the time, so I decided to start researching homeschooling by watching YouTube videos so that I could see how other moms got it all done. One video, created by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler, introduced me to the homeschool workbox system. Suddenly, homeschooling seemed possible! Even my husband agreed to be all in on homeschooling if I homeschooled “like that.”
So from Day One, I’ve implemented a version of the workbox system in our homeschool. It has evolved over time to meet our specific needs, but we continue to love it.
Organizing with Homeschool Workboxes
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Like Erica, I use a drawer system as our homeschool workboxes. I chose the Seville Classics Large 10-Drawer Organizer Cart for its wider drawers that comfortably hold a binder. My first grader’s drawers are each assigned to a different subject and labeled appropriately. I’ve ordered the drawers in the order that I usually want him to do his work (from the top down), but the drawers do come out and can be re-ordered easily.
Besides a label, each drawer also has an indicator that you can move to show red, green, or in between. Since my first grader doesn’t have work in every drawer every day, I move the indicator to green if a drawer has work for him to do that day. When he’s done with the work in that drawer, he moves the indicator back to red. He loves being able to glance at his drawers and see how much work he has that day (it’s often the first thing he does in the morning!), and I can glance at the drawers to see how much he’s done.
A file crate lives on top of the drawer system. I color-code my kids so that I can identify the owners of certain belongings with a glance, so his name on the front of the crate, his folders, and his clipboard are all in his color.
The clipboard is one of the most important things in his crate. It holds a checklist of his work for the week, which I print out from Homeschool Planet (an online lesson planner). Each day when I fill his drawers, I can just pull out the clipboard and see what I have planned for him for the next day. I should mention that the lesson plan is not set in stone. It’s just a plan, not my boss, so I change it as needed. But schooling three kids and having a lot going on, I absolutely must have some plan in place to refer to so that I’m not standing in front of the drawers each evening trying to come up with a plan on the fly.
While a lot of my first grader’s work is in binders that generally stay in his drawers, I keep a few resources, like some worksheets, book reports, and file folder games, in folders in the crate until they’re needed. Keeping these materials close at hand makes filling the drawers quick and easy.
The crate also contains reading material. I keep his Hooked on Phonics books and readers for the year in the crate, along with any other books that I have planned for him to read over the next month or so. That way I don’t have to go looking for them when it’s time to fill his drawers.
What’s in the drawers?
Now let’s take a closer look at the contents of each drawer on this particular day:
This drawer contains my first grader’s glasses and Morning Work binder, which he works out of every day. His Morning Work binder contains calendaring sheets as well as some copywork. And isn’t this binder cover the cutest?! The printable comes with many different binder covers. I chose this little guy because he has a big smile like my first grader.
This drawer contains my first grader’s math binder. We’re using Math-U-See, which does come in a workbook, but I re-order the worksheets into a binder to fit our needs. Last year I had all of the math worksheets in a folder in his crate and just pulled out pages each day to put in his drawer, but there were days that he wanted to work ahead and do more. Keeping it all in a binder allows him to work ahead if he wants to without him having to wait for me to pull out more worksheets.
This is where his Handwriting Without Tears workbook lives. And that’s all I have to say about that. 🙂
My first grader is doing a couple of different things for spelling this year (please refer to our Curriculum Choices video for more information). This drawer usually contains a Spelling You See worksheet along with a Boogie Board that we use for All About Spelling. I’ve also put together a Spelling Practice binder with worksheets for practicing his All About Spelling words. That binder stays in the crate on top of the drawers on days that we’re not using it. The other materials we use for All About Spelling are a teacher’s manual, which I keep with my other teacher’s manuals, and the All About Spelling app, which we use on my iPad.
This drawer contains our First Language Lessons book and the Kumon Writing workbook for Grade 1. My curriculum video explains more about why we have two different resources in here, but basically it looked like First Language Lessons wasn’t going to work out, so I selected a Kumon resource to give him another way to learn parts of speech.
He reads out of The Beginner’s Bible every day. It’s a bit above his reading level, so I treat it as shared reading. When it’s time to read out of his Bible and do his other reading (below), we move to the couch to be more comfortable.
This drawer holds his Hooked on Phonics material, plus another fun reader if he doesn’t have a reader in his history drawer (below). Reading real books every day has helped both of my older boys progress more quickly and naturally in their reading abilities (especially in recognizing sight words!), so I always have him reading out of a book as well as working through his phonics program.
We do a lot of our history together as a group, along with age-appropriate notebooking. This drawer is the home for my first grader’s history binder, which holds his notebooking pages. It also often contains a reader related to the historical topic that we are currently learning about.
I’ve been treating science very much the way I’ve been treating history, with group work supplemented by notebooking pages. This drawer holds notebooking pages when we have them.
I’m saving this drawer for a couple of writing projects that we’ll do later in the year.
I hope this peek into my first grader’s homeschool workbox system was helpful! The labels that I use for his drawers are available for download, so go ahead and grab a copy today!