Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Sue Patrick's Workbox System


For the past few months I've been hearing about workboxes throughout the homeschooling community on-line. Hardly a day goes by where I don't read of another person trying them out, attempting to use them to organize their homeschool, and extolling the wonders of them.

I was pretty excited to hear that the TOS Homeschool Crew would be getting Sue Patrick's book, Workbox System User's Guide, to review. This eBook sells for $19 on her website.

However, my excitement soon waned once I started reading Ms. Patrick's book. I hesitate to say that, but I have truly been agonizing over how to publish this review. I did not like the book & I'm not thrilled with the way Ms. Patrick presents it in her book. Why do you ask? I had to confirm again and again that Ms. Patrick was indeed a homeschooler. She has two children & her oldest child is autistic. She designed her system to help foster independence in her children's schooling. All good of course.

Here is where Ms. Patrick & I digress though. The set-up she requires in her book is very much a "school at home" approach. The child has their workbox setup, a desk, and as little interaction with their teacher (i.e. mom) as possible since Ms. Patrick feels there is far too much talking going on in homeschools and that homeschooled children are "addicted to Mom sitting" with them and helping them with school work. Needless to say, I disagree wholeheartedly with this, but then again, that is my opinion. I simply found the tone of the book annoying.

The first fourteen pages of Ms. Patrick's book may be viewed by clicking HERE. And if you'd like to see a two minute video explaining how the system works, you may click HERE. Here is one more link for you, an interview of Sue Patrick posted at lovetoknow.

I am using a workbox-like system here at home with the boys, but it only vaguely resembles the system shared in the book. First, Ms. Patrick wants one to use 12 plastic shoeboxes and a shoe rack to hold them - for each child. I may have mentioned a time or two that I live in a 14x70 trailer & my living room is wall-to-wall bookshelves already. I simply could not see a single area in my home where I could set up the system as suggested. So I tweaked it. Of course! Isn't that what all homeschoolers do?

I am using one large bin per student (B13 & J5 are using dishpans - they are cheap - and N8 has a $5 bin). Inside each bin are 12 Ziploc bags. For the most part, what I want them to do fits in a gallon size bags. Although, I do see the need for some two gallon bags & plan to pick some up. I am using Ms. Patrick's schedule strips and schedule grid. These (and a few more printables) are free downloads from her website once you purchase the book and register it there.

We are still coming together in the morning for "together school." This is when I do a read-aloud and one or two other subjects that all the boys do together (history, science, Bible, etc.). Those subjects that they were already doing on their own are now found in their workboxes. B13 is loving this system but I am encountering some frustration with him and his workboxes. He's so eager to "be done with school" that he is rushing through his work & not following instructions I give him via sticky notes. It's something we're continuing to work on & at 13 years of age, independence is definitely a skill J13 needs to learn. I'm not quite so worried about N8 or J5 learning this at their young ages.

If you struggle with staying on task during the day (or your children do) or you find yourself trying to juggle multi-ages or you have older children who need to learn how to manage their day or you have special needs children who thrive with structure, then you may wish to try out the book to see if it lines up with your homeschooling philosophy.

If you'd like to see how I am using it in my own homeschool. You may click over to my homeschool log blog (I love saying that), Freedom Academy.

*Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. All opinions shared are my own. TOS Crew Members are given the product free of charge in order to review it.


  1. What? A somewhat negative review of the workboxes? I never thought I'd see such a thing! I must say, I have been flabbergasted at the way this system is currently taking the HS community by storm. But somehow it hasn't appealed to me too much, and I appreciate your honest review. Makes me not feel like I'm missing out on TOO much!

  2. I admit to not liking her book either. I found it much to regimented and the attitude of "this is the only right way to do this" turned me off right from the start. Also, I didn't really feel like this concept was any great new thing, but much like MOTH when it came out it is certainly a band wagon that alot of people, myself included, have jumped on. The reason I decided to implement it is because it gives a good "home" for everything each child needs. I haven't posted a review either for the same reason, but I will one of these days because I do like the fact that everything is now in a set spot and the boys don't have to mess with the spreadsheet schedules I used to use for the girls.

  3. Good, honest review Lisa. I had a very similar opinion of the behavior management tools she included. Not for me. I visited your school blog and really like your ziplock bag idea. I have a small house too and had to create a place for the boxes. It cost a lot, too, so now I feel obligated not to switch to different containers. Wish I had seen your idea earlier! :)

  4. Ugh, Lisa, I can't cut and paste your line that she thinks there is too much talking going on in homeschooling.

    What in the world? The biggest reason I school my kids is so they can talk and LEARN. I don't want to talk "at" them, I want them to be able to think and reason, to TELL me why they believe what they believe--whether it's why Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is good literature, or why Jesus is the Truth.

  5. Great review! I had a suspicion about the workbox system being too regimented for my taste. I like the idea of being organized and planning things, but I do not want to do "public school at home." I encourage free discussions around here! Sharon is always surprising me with her depth of questions and new learning avenues. It would be sad to lose that by making her sit quietly at a desk all day!


Oh thank goodness! I'm not here all alone. Thanks for leaving me a comment. It helps that I'm not always talking to myself. Right? Hello?