Monday, February 08, 2010


I've been having a think and a revamp this weekend. I LOVE the workbox system, but I HATE the amount of time and energy it steals from me each night and at the weekend. I was at burnout point with it I think and simply avoiding. The kids were doing good and filling up their boxes in the mornings from my excel spreadsheet (whilst I filled just the two youngest ones' boxes), but this felt to me just like a glorified timetable with 3 times the amount of work! BUT the kids love the workboxes too, so what to do?

This is what I came up with ~ I've termed it mini-skool! The cards are diddy - there are 40 of the on one sheet of A4 (bull-dog clipped to the top of the easel at the mo'). I even have one (the yellow one in the pictures)!! The idea is basically that the children have 40 activities to complete in a week (32 in the case of TP) ~ that's 10 a day just like before. BUT instead of me filling the boxes and dictating to them what they are to do each day and the order they should do it, they will now have the autonomy to pick and choose what they fancy doing AND how much they do in any given day. All the diddy-cards on the chart are the 'must do's' and yes, there are a lot of them, but they are not all difficult and boring! Then, for the boys especially, there are few blank spaces which THEY must fill with activities of choice on Monday morning ~ choosing from the pocket chart (last picture - there's more cards in it now though). My only demand is that there are 40 completed activities by the end of the week, even if they choose to do some on Friday or Saturday. Obviously there are some taught subjects that we do as a group and these they will do when I call them to, out of necessity of not wanting to teach the same lesson over and over! This is the reason I have my own chart. You see, I am very good at disappearing into the study and doing 'my stuff' ~ OK, it is the adjoining room and I am 'available', but lately I have been very aware that this is not really good enough. SO, I have made myself an accountability chart. It's on full display to the children too, so they have ammunition against me! If I don't fulfil my duties in the week I cannot expect them to! There are four 'marking' sessions built into my week, as I tend to find that the marking just gets left until there is a mountain and then eats up my weekend :( . I have allowed myself only 2 photography/study sessions during school hours, one of which I anticipate sharing with Bugs. The rest of the time I must be where my kids are, working with them until the day is done ~ it'll be a challenge for me, but one I need to take up.

In case you were wondering; under all those diddy-cards are smiley faces. As each activity is completed the child moves the card down to the space below to reveal the smiley. At the end of the week I will expect to see 40 smilies :D

I really like this plan ~ I hope it works for everyone! I like the fact the children are going to have to take some extra responsibility for seeing that their work gets done, and at that they are in control of what they do and when. They will be able to see when they are leaving themselves too much to do another day and they will be able to feel the effects of 'ploughing through' one day to get more time to themselves another. I like the fact that they can clearly see their week laid out before them and what the expectations are, much more clearly than words on an excel sheet, or even boxes filled daily. I'm HOPING that the fact there looks to be a lot to do won't be problem to them when they get to grips with it and see the smilies appearing :D The last thing I like about it is that they can arrange their chart however they choose. SO they could choose to use the four rows as days and arrange their activities the way they plan to do them that day (or even just what they plan to do that day, but not the order), OR they can arrange the chart as I have, with blocks of subjects that they can pick from each day ~ it's entirely up to them! For the first time I really do feel that I am handing more of the control over to the children, whilst still striking the balance of ensuring that they learn what they need to. I'll let you know how it goes!!
I'm not sure yet if I am still going to need those expensive boxes I bought ... I'm thinking I may re-label them into subject sections, so that when, say TP, takes down her 'Early Comprehension' card she can then go to the 'English' section of her box and pick it out easily - already marked by me and with a sticky note in to tell her what work she needs to do next. All her English books would be in this section and all I would have to make sure to do at the weekend is rotate on her smiley-chart which ones she is to use that week. Then when I mark the work I drop it straight back into the workbox ready for when she gets to it next.


wdworkman said...

Looks good! Let us know how it goes this week.

Janet W

Esther said...

Hi Caroline, are you still working with this system? How's it going? I was wondering whether each activity came with a length of time or amount of work attached to it - ie half an hour of guitar practice / four pages of a workbook? I'm starting very structured (need to know and see exactly what's going on until I find my feet) but planning on loosening up in the future so intrigued as to how it works.

Caroline (Frogmum) said...

Essentially yes ~ I guess I need to do a 'back-to'school' blog post. watch this space I'll try to get to it later :) Just need to go and do some Youth Church planning first.

Lisa A. said...

Hi -- was just looking at making another run at the workbox system after trying it unsuccessfully a few years back. Like your system, too, though! Are you still using it?? And a question, assuming each row of 10 on your chart is a day, when there are say 4 guitar cards, how much time does that represent? Why don't you require 10 different activities each day? Or am I misunderstanding? Thanks for sharing your great ideas. Lisa

Caroline Hampton said...

Hi Lisa, in answer to your question ~ yes, we are still using our Mini-Skool system because it basically works really well for my older children. For my younger ones less so, but sort of ~ I'll write a blog catch-up for you (and others), so pop back in a couple of days and it should be waiting for you :D