Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Workbox details

I just wanted to post some details on our adaptations of the workbox system.

First of all, as you can see in the photo here, I use Sterlite drawers instead of open boxes. This is much neater and tidier and keeps my toddler out of the contents.

Second, I don't use the schedule strip as described in Sue Patrick's book. Instead, I use a laminated chart on the wall above the boxes that has all the numbers written on it in squares. Each square has velcro on it.

Third, instead of taking the numbered tags from the schedule strip and placing them on the boxes as they are completed, I put the numbers on the boxes when I fill them. Then, as the kids finish each box, they remove the tag and place it on the corresponding spot on the numbered chart on the wall. So they know the boxes they have left are the ones with number tags on them, and I can glance at the chart on the wall at any point during the day and see how close they are to finishing by how many tags are still missing from the chart.

This setup has worked very well for us for the last couple of months. For the most part, the kids have had a better attitude and lots of enthusiasm to start and finish their work earlier rather than later. Occasionally, though, Hayden (with ADHD) still reverts to his old habits of only half-doing an assignment and trying to pass it off as finished, or wasting time when he should be doing his work. Admittedly, today was the worst day yet since we started the system. But today was NOT a typical day as far as our routine goes. Today was the first day of the Regal Free Family Film Festival, so we went to the movies in the morning and started school in the afternoon. In addition, he had flag football practice this evening. So it was anything but a typical day. In addition, with the limited hours for school, Haylee was NOT doing school, as she was already two days ahead of schedule, and I knew there wouldn't be enough time for me to work with both of them. So he was a bit distracted by her, as she kept playing around him and talking to him and adding to his distraction. This is one of the benefits of the workbox system we've seen...they both can be busy with school at the same time, so there's less opportunity for distraction. Having that not be the case, like today, shows why that is SO important to the flow of our school day.

I haven't posted new pics lately because I can't seem to find my camera, lol. You know how that goes. Hayden has been swiping it and taking miscellaneous pictures lately, as evidenced by the strange photos of the floor and Haylee making funny faces when I go to offload my photos to the computer, ROFL. I've even seen photos of store shelves and cars passing by outside my van while I'm driving. That can only be Hayden! Mind you, I bought him his own camera this spring for Easter...a nice VTech Kidzoom camera...but I had to take it away because they were drawn to it like a magnet during school hours, and I guess I forgot to give it back, so he's been playing with mine. :)

Another tip on workboxes, this time related to actually filling them each night. A lot of people say it takes them a big chunk of time to fill them up at night. I found myself having to stay up late after the kids were in bed to do it uninterrupted. But by 10 PM, I'm tired and falling asleep myself after I nurse the baby, so that was hard for me. I've found a better way that makes more efficient use of my time. Now, as each child finishes a box, I go ahead and refill it with the items for the next day. So as soon as they move that number tag to their chart on the wall, I drop in the box what needs to be in it for the next day. Most of their textbooks and related items stay in the boxes anyway, so it's just a matter of adding in any worksheets or supplies for experiments and the like that needs to be done for the next day. But by updating them as we go along, I don't need that huge chunk of time at the end of the night to get the boxes ready for the next day. I mentioned before that I have the whole school year scheduled out and all of their worksheets sorted into daily page protectors before we ever start our new school year. All that prep BEFORE the school year begins is a worthwhile investment of time, also. I use Sue's workbox schedule (just a blank table with the numbers of the boxes and columns for each school day of the week) to type out the contents that need to go in each box for the week for each child, and I make that on Friday nights for the following week. So I only have to stay up one night a week to take care of that. I take the time to flip through their lesson plans for science and math and all the other subjects and itemize all the supplies that need to be in the boxes for each day's assignments. So refilling the boxes as we go along is simple because I just glance at that schedule and grab those items that change each day and drop them into the box as we move on to the next one.

As others have stated, the time it takes to keep the workboxes filled is more than balanced out by the amount of time that is SAVED during the actual school day by having everything ready and waiting and organized. Not having to stop to go get supplies for an assignment, and not having a child wait for the next assignment because you're still busy with the other child are both HUGE time-savers, and more importantly, it keeps the momentum going for the KIDS themselves. The fewer opportunities for them to get sidetracked, the better.

Yesterday, as a "fun" box for Haylee, we made a shrinky dink shape. We'd never done one before...that was pretty neat! Hayden says he wants to make one, too, and he wants to watch it shrink up in the toaster oven. So I guess we'll be seeing a return of Shrinky Dinks to the workboxes one day soon! I had picked up the little kit, new and unopened, at the thrift store for a mere 45 cents, and it came with a little satin headband you could glue the shapes to for decoration. They are too cute. I thought it was cool how it comes out so thick, almost like glass, when it goes in so paper thin. I guess they'd look pretty cute as scrapbook embellishments, too. I'll have to remember that.

Another recent craft find at the thrift store was a new, unopened kit for making stained glass bottles. It has little miniature bottles in it, and the paints for making them look like stained glass. I thought Haylee would enjoy making that, and maybe even Hayden. He likes painting stuff. It was also only 45 cents and came with 4 bottles in the kit. I love finding unusual, cheap crafts like that to put into the boxes for fun.

Our workload for school is definitely full this year. Hayden is not getting fun boxes right now because he has 12 real assignments. Haylee is having 10 real assignments and 2 fun boxes each day. I'm hoping things will lighten up for Hayden at some point, but I've heard that Core 5 is the heaviest workload of all the Sonlight cores. Plus, we do so many supplemental things, particularly this year. I don't know. I think I need to work in some fun things for him, if not in the boxes, then at least in the middle of the school day just to break things up, like 15 minutes playing on the Didj, or 15 minutes playing on the Wii, or 15 minutes playing outside. I don't know if that would work in a positive way with him or not. It might get him off track so that he has a hard time getting focused again, but on the other hand, it might be just enough of a break to get him rejuvenated to keep going and get his work done. I might have to experiment with it a bit. As of late, though, he's being rather lazy about his work. I really had to babysit him through his assignments today because he was too lazy to read the directions to understand what he was supposed to do. I always have to be prepared to change things up with him to stay one step ahead of him.

Well, here's to hoping things go more smoothly tomorrow as we get back to a normal routine again. I was trying to steal away to my computer frequently today to start planning their big birthday bash in August. Hayden and Haylee's birthdays are only 12 days apart, so we have one huge party every year and really go all out with a theme. We're doing an Italian Bistro party this year. I always make authentic dishes to go with the theme, and I love to make things from scratch and try new recipes. I think I'm going to make homemade Calzones this year, and let the kids make their own individual pizzas as an activity. For side dishes, I was thinking fettuccini alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs, Italian bread or maybe homemade bruschetta (I just learned how to make that in a cooking class), salad, fruit tray, veggie tray, and for the cake, I found a great-looking recipe on AllRecipes for a Chocolate Italian Cream Cake.

I'm also trying to find some affordable plain white aprons that the kids can decorate themselves while their pizzas are cooking, and then they can take them home as party favors. I'm having a hard time finding youth sized ones rather than kid-sized ones, which are made more for the preschool set. Most of their friends are even bigger than they are, so I definitely need the youth size. If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment on my blog. Thanks.