Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Week In: Workboxes

So, last week was our first official week using the workboxes. We didn't have school on Monday due to the car being in for it's physical. We schooled Tuesday through Friday, and had a really good week. We walked away accomplishing a whole lot, and the kids were excited at using some games we haven't played with in a while.

Our Tuesday was a tad rocky. The kids were excited about using the boxes, and I gave them a quick rundown of how it would work. Using the boxes in the order they were given, what the various tags meant (like work with mom, or a timer, etc.) I especially made sure Jayden understood because he can't read and I didn't want him intruding on a lesson over knowing what to do with a workbox.

I tried a few different ways of setting up our boxes, in regards to subjects. For instance, Morgan often has 1 reading game, 1-2 reading songs, a reading book, and a reading paper. This seems like a lot, but the songs are done in 2 minutes or less, and the game is usually a family affair. However, to break it up I put the games and songs in one box, the papers in another. I put them one right after the other, with three math boxes following each other. That was Tuesday.

We had some minor tears. Part of it was due to frustration on his part. My child can count, he can count like crazy. He can skip count, he count backwards, he can count forwards. However, give him a number and ask him to count FROM that number and you'll freak him out like nobody's business. I'm not joking around. (See here for more details..)

On Wednesday I moved things around a bit and put reading, math, reading math, game time, reading, Bible. After that it's mostly our unit study and extras. The change was huge. We had no tears, we advanced through each box with little problems. Even the dog bones didn't seem to phase him.

It also took a bit of "playing" with the boxes to see how to set them up so that they were each timed to "perfection" (Morgan isn't the only one with perfectionism problems..) so that each child was busily working and not waiting on me to finish up with another child. They each get Leapster time, and Morgan often gets computer time as well. Jayden prefers to double up on the leapster as most of his educational games are still in America.. Anyway, if we had an over lapse I'd have them advance on to the next box. I think that happened once and I rotated boxes again.

It looks like we finally have a pattern down pretty well, and I'd like to start putting a few more of our fun things into the boxes. We're currently working on a larger unit study that requires a bit of writing, so breaking that up a bit would be a welcome relief for the boys. Mostly Jayden who'd rather not spend his time writing, tracing a vocabulary word is more then good enough for him.

All of this said, I know that one of the things that worried me a bit about the system was the boxes themselves. I'm a neat freak, and while I should, I won't apologize for it. My family suffers through it, with a few grunts of "oh no she's coming quick make sure our room is clean!" That'd be the day.. There's more then one reason I had a handful of legos to use as weapons against those mice! Not to mention how often the tooth-fairy has nearly fallen and broken her neck attempting to deliver goodies.

Back to the point at hand.. I was worried about the boxes all over the schoolroom floor. I despise tripping on things it just drives me bonkers. It may delight my children to see their mother sailing through the air screaming, "Who left that toy there.." but it does not delight their mother. It leaves their mother looking like she could slay a dragon, and that's not even taking my hair into consideration!

As it turns out, the boxes don't make a mess. I have the kids stack each box up with any leftover items going in the top box. Some items they are required to put away (leapster) as the other one may need it later. Sometimes the item is just a slip of paper to tell them what to do (such as piano practice/lessons). Other times they use the items and there's nothing left in the box when they are done (craft projects, math papers which go into their notebooks), etc.

By the end of our school day we have two neat piles of boxes sitting next to the shelves. I get up from time to time to stack up boxes that went askew, or rather were chucked on the floor because we have a strict "no workboxes on the school table" rule. It's just not big enough. I'll also put things away that they can't, like string from craft projects, or games that we won't be playing tomorrow. (I try to swap them out each day with a new one.)

In any event I'm really pleased with how it's working for us. I was a little bit worried about this week, as we had a short day on Wednesday, we'll have a field trip tomorrow, etc. Yet, oddly enough, because the boxes were filled up on Wednesday the kids managed to get through everything before we had to leave the house. They won't manage it on our field trip day because we leave horribly early, but I'm willing to bet they'll be eager to dig into a small amount of boxes when we get home.

One of the rules of workboxes, if you follow the manual, is to never allow them not to finish them. I don't abide by that rule for a variety of reasons. First off, life happens, and it's more important that my children learn to accept that and maneuver themselves through obstacles without panicking. Unlike their mother who goes into a full fledged panic when things go crazy on her. So, if things come up and we don't attend to them all fine, if they don't get to them due to laziness that would be a different story.

Wednesday, due to what I knew would be a no-school afternoon, I only assigned seven boxes. We went with the flow. They managed reading and math, plus a few fun extras and were more then ready when their mother leapt up from the table and screamed, "OH NO!! THAT'S NANA'S PLANE!! WE'RE LATE, WE CAN NOT BE LATE!!" In fact they were so done and busy playing an extra science game on the computer that they sat there and laughed at me. I suspect they would have remained there had I not run for the door with their father close on my heels screaming, "THE PLANE, THE PLANE!" For the record, he was so not mocking Fantasy Island! However, back to the point at hand.. We really like our workboxes!

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