Friday, January 8, 2010

Two-Dimensional Workboxes & A Clean Pantry

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Friday. I made it to the end of my first week of the second half of the school year. Of course, since we took December and some of November off, that means I still have 22 weeks to go, while others see the light at the end of only a 17 week tunnel. But it's all good. And it was an exceptionally good week...

Organization - Two-Dimensional Workboxes
Over the last couple of years, I have kept my eye on Sue Patrick's Workbox System. I like the theory behind the system, especially for my hands-on learner. However, I haven't wanted to fork over the money for the system, plus since our house has been perpetually For Sale, I didn't want to further clutter our home with workboxes.

So, with 5 years of tweaking experience and now 3 children who are reading fluently, I have finally found the system that works for us. We'll call it Kathleen's Two-Dimensional Workbox System. Here's how it works:
Every afternoon, I take about 30 minutes to get ready for the next school day. Let's follow what I do for Jacob as an example:

1. I get out his folder and stack his school books on the table where I'm planning.

2. I get out a blank Workbox Sheet for him.

3. I get out a blank Mommy's Daily Schedule for my purposes.

4. Going subject by subject, I:

  • Check the work he did today for accuracy. Anything that needs to be reviewed the next day because of errors, I mark on my Mommy's Daily Schedule in the slot marked "Jacob".

  • I then fill in the workbox on his Workbox Sheet for that subject so that he knows what he must accomplish in that subject the next day.
  • For any subjects he will do with me the next day, I simply write "(with Mom)" in the box.

  • I cross out any subjects he will not need to do the next day.

  • I giggle when I find things like "cool dood" written across the top of any of his papers.

  • I place his completed Workbox Sheet plus any papers he will need the next day in his folder and put it and his books on his bookshelf.

I begin the next day by doing a couple of subjects with the boys together. Currently, I am doing Math Made Meaningful 3 with the both of them so they will gain a better understanding of what exactly they are doing when they multiply and divide. After math, we work on Four Square Writing, a book I picked up at The School Box. Although I am a writing teacher, and although I had some high school students who could write no better than a second grader, I have a difficult time teaching them from square one, so this program helps me teach them to organize and add detail to their writing.

After my time with the boys, I will meet one-on-one with each child while the others go to their folders, get their books, and go to work, crossing out each workbox as each task is completed.

I had a similar system going the first part of this year, and its near-success told me I was on to something; however, for my visual/kinesthetic learner, the simple checklist I provided still left a lot of room for error of omission (either that, or he just used "I didn't see it on my list" as a very convenient excuse). This visual two dimensional box system came to me while I was lying on the massage table of a one Dr. Quack. And it's working beautifully so far. There have only been two small details missed this week.

Patting Myself on the Back
This semester we are going to be botanists. Using Apologia's Botany, we began this week by defining botany and by discussing classification. And in a moment of true brilliance, I re-wrote one of Jeannie Fulbright's activities. The activity is on taxonomy, and the instructions are to gather all of the shoes in the house and have the children sort them by creating categories. Now, I have spent countless hours attempting to train the children to put their shoes away. The very last thing I want in the middle of my living room floor on a Friday afternoon is a pile of a hundred and fifty shoes.


It just so happens that I have long been neglecting my pantry. It has been operating on an open-at-your-own-risk basis for some time now, with bags of half-eaten chips balanced precariously on boxes of brown sugar and open boxes of cereal getting staler by the day.

What better opportunity for sorting could ever present itself?

So I set my little taxonomists to work on Kingdom: Pantry, first shelf Phylum: Breakfast Foods.

Taxonomy learned. Pantry cleaned. Brilliant, no?

And does everyone remember King Phillip Came Over For Girl Scouts? We learned that little mneumonic to help us with Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. They need a little more drilling, though, because if you ask one of the boys what comes after "Family", they will respond, "Girl."

On Other Subjects
I have finally found the subject that has stumped my oldest: fractions. Not simple fractions. She totally gets if she takes one piece of an eight piece pizza, she has taken 1/8th. It's the equivalencies, reducing, proper, and improper that is messing her up. So I'm taking a step back and going back to more clearly define each term and make sure there is complete understanding before we forge ahead. Thanks to the Pizza Fraction game for the help.

So, one down, 22 more to go. Crossing my fingers that the kids' great attitudes and my enthusiasm will not waver. If you need me, I'll be filling in workboxes and admiring my clean pantry.


5thsister said...

I so wish I would have thought of that during our taxonomy lessons last year. I might have gotten a clean pantry or closet out of the deal!

Chef Penny said...

Thanks for the great idea! Now I too will have a clean pantry next term! Woohoo!

dclouser said...

I love the workbox idea! You are so organized. And now your pantry is, too! So glad your first week back went well.

CrossView said...

I love the little doodles, too! And I know that they'd probably get in trouble for it in ps but I can't help but giggle!

Very creative pantry cleaning! Love that! If you guys need more practice in it, come on over!;o)

Here's to non-wavering! =D

Arby said...

"Cool dood." That's a classic!

Cheryl@SomewhatCrunchy said...

Oh wow! You've been busy. Enjoy Apologia Botany,m it's a wonderful curriculum!!

tsinclair said...

I have considered the work boxes for years now. We are currently working on a check-off list, probably something similar to what you did earlier in the year. Week 1 for us, and so far okay.
Botany, I really wanted to do that as I heard it is best in the Spring. We do not have the Botany book - we have Astronomy, so I guess we will go ahead and do that.
Good luck, and I hope that it continues to run smoothly for you.

Weird Unsocialized Mom said...

Love the taxonomy lesson. Brilliant! I was also interested to see how you've tweaked workboxes in your home. I'm loving our tweaked version. It works better than I ever thought it would.

Kathleen said...


Kathleen said...

A second test.