As many of you have probably noticed, I like to try new things. So after a homeschool workshop on "Work Boxes" I decided to give it a try. My method is very different from the original method created by Sue Patrick, and is much more convenient for our situation.
What Didn't WorkSEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST...
In the original "Work Box" system you use shoe boxes (up to 12 of them per child) and place the school work in each box each day. The children work their way through the boxes- each one has a number on it and when the child finishes what is in the box they take the number and place it on a special card, when all their numbers for that day are on their card they are finished for the day. First, I do not have room for 24 shoe boxes so I decided to try a commonly used modified work box system- file folders.
With the file folder system we still had a few problems: First, the number thing was a complete bust. The girls lost or detached each number that was clipped to the folders and I had to look up what number was attached to what folder each time they completed something in order for them to fill out their card... WAY too much work. So we scrapped the number/card system entirely.
Second problem with the file folder system: Things kept falling out of the sides of the file folders. Or they would attempt to take the folder out and only have half of the folder in hand= spilling all the contents of the folder all over. Yikes. Did not like that. These problems created a lot of stress for me so we decided to tweak things a bit.
Okay so I just kept altering things until we arrived at a system we have used and loved for the past 2 weeks. I went out and found "File Folder Jackets" These wonderful little inventions have sides, no more papers and books slipping out the sides, yet they fit wonderfully inside the hanging file folders. We picked up a package of two different colors, Madison is green, Lydia is Brown, no confusion on what belongs to who. Then, instead of using removable numbers, we now use an elimination system.
How I Use It
We'll start with my planning log pictured here, I've color coded my days so its easy for me to see at a glance what were going to be doing that day.
You can see that Math, SWR, Reading and Memory Work are numbered 0-3 and are highlighted in yellow each day, this means that those are subjects we need to complete every day. These each have a "permanent" jacket labeled with Name and corresponding number. Of these SWR and Reading (pictured) contain the same contents every day, done.
Math we place the next day's worksheet page (the workbook is too bulky and, surprisingly, if they only have one page in front of them, instead of the workbook, they work much faster and more cheerful).
Memory work contains a variety of items and then a note from me telling them to get something else (Math Flash Cards or Phonograms currently) to do with mom.
That is the schedule for the daily items.
As you can see from my planner, the other subjects I color coded to avoid overdoing it on a single day and spread our work out throughout the week. I no longer have to think about what our schedule should look like each day and figure out what we haven't done in a few days, etc.
It only takes me about 10 minutes or less to fill out my log each night (for both kids) and another 10 minutes to load the jackets, depending on what is happening it might take a total of 30 minutes. The best part- Jacob actually will help me with this, tonight for example, I had written up tomorrows itinerary and he is actually loading the jackets and writing the notes as I type this! Plus, he's been enjoying knowing exactly what the kids are doing each day.
Everything beyond the daily jackets are simply numbered and I place whatever subject were doing that day in the next numbered jacket and write the corresponding number on my planner. This helps me if they do accidentally loose the note- I just look in my planner and see what was in jacket #5. Sometimes the jacket will just contain a note to meet with mom to cover a specific subject. Other times they will contain something fun, ideas include a game, puzzle, coloring page, etc. to brighten the day a little.
After we "load" the jackets, we then just place them into the hanging file folders. (Note: 2-3 jackets per hanging file is about the max)
About the notes, we use what they call "reusable post-its," I don't know who came up with the name but it's simply a laminated note card. I write on them with vis-a-vis markers and clamp them onto the jacket. (Note: clamps work, paper clips do not!) At the end of the day I (or the kids) just run them under the faucet and dry them off. These are great for giving instruction and also for putting little notes of encouragement with their work, especially if it is a difficult subject.
How The Kids Use It
Simple, when it is time to start school, they can choose any jacket they like. Some they have to wait for if they need my help and I'm working with one of them. Others they can do on their own. Once they choose a jacket, they take the entire folder jacket out and to their desired work space, complete the work, have me check it and then return the work back INTO the jacket. They take the jacket and put it in MY INBOX.
Then they take a short break, either by my setting a timer or until I'm finished with the other child and can work with them. They pick another jacket and we work on that.
When all their jacket's are gone, they are done! Easy as pie.
Bible time is a group thing, so we do that either first or last.
Some families require the students to work through the "work boxes" in order, personally I really don't care what order they do the work in as long as it is all done. Over all the kids love being able to have more control over their school day, they are happier having more control, and therefore work faster and with less whining.
This system hasn't added more school time to our day, even though I've divided them up on a few subjects and now work with them independently. It has allowed Madison to move ahead of Lydia in a few subjects and not feel bogged down "waiting" for her sister to be ready for the next problem, etc. In return it has allowed Lydia to relax a little and not feel rushed and possibly inferior to her sister.
So far, so good. I'm sure sometime down the line I'll get the itch to try something new again, but for now we really like this- and I'm glad we tried it!
For the record, after Jacob read the post his comment was, "No, I like this system, we're going to use this for a very long time."
Update: I thought I should update this post, we've moved several times since we implemented this program and I've had to give up on the folders because we just don't have the extra space anymore. BUT! we are still using the planner, we just check them off now instead of loading the folders, the kids go to their planning page and look it up. I've modified my scheduling page to accommodate our Charlotte Mason approach. You can download the documents by going to this post.