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 preschooler’s drawers each have a number label, with both the number and the number word. My four-year-old already knows his numbers, so I’m hoping that he’ll start recognizing some number words this year as sight words from simply using these drawers. (FYI: These homeschool workbox labels are available for download.)
Besides a label, each drawer also has an indicator that you can move to show red, green, or in between. Since my preschooler 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, 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.
The crate also holds the worksheets, manipulatives, and books that I put in the drawers on the regular. I keep things simple with my preschooler by using the categories Numbers, Phonics, Handwriting, and Creativity, so the crate has a hanging folder for each category. I also keep his Hooked on Phonics books and readers for the year in there.
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 a number activity for my preschooler. I got this “missing number” printable (a whole set) from Confessions of a Homeschooler. My preschooler is learning how to hold a pencil this year and hasn’t yet learned how to write his numbers, so I have him stamp the missing number. He really likes stamping, and it’s a great fine-motor-skills activity, so it’s a win-win. When he’s done with the numbers, I often have him turn over the page and stamp some more so that he can stay busy and play around with the numbers.
This drawer contains another printable from Confessions of a Homeschooler, this time for phonics. I read the sentence and then have him use a do-a-dot marker to mark the upper and lower case letters (“F” in this case). I usually have him put the paper on a tray first to keep the mess down.
This drawer contains my preschooler’s Handwriting Without Tears workbook. He doesn’t work out of this every day, maybe twice a week. On days when he’s not working in the workbook, we’re doing another activity to play with the shapes of letters and numbers.
For some creative fun, I provide various coloring, painting, cutting, and pasting activities. On this day, my preschooler has a little painting activity. I have a paint brush and non-spill water cup that I’ll fill up for him when he gets to this drawer. He doesn’t actually love these painting pages as much as I thought he would, but I’ve found that he enjoys it if I paint with him. I’m more than willing, both for the fun of it and to encourage him to practice his fine motor skills.
A surprise addition to my preschooler’s drawers this year has been his first Hooked on Phonics book! I was hoping to get him to start blending sounds by the end of the year, but when he started spelling words for me (after listening in on his older brother’s spelling lesson), I realized that he was ready to start reading. He was so excited to get started. When we get to this drawer, we move to the couch to be more comfortable.
If I put anything in his other drawers, it’s usually just something fun to keep him busy if he chooses to stay in the schoolroom. On this day, I put a number puzzle activity and some fun magnets into his drawers. I do have a lot of other manipulatives and fun activities in the schoolroom that he is welcome to use once he’s done with the work I require of him. He loves to be in the schoolroom with his brothers, and I encourage that as long as he’s relatively quiet and respectful of other people concentrating.
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