The Workbox System

We just started using the Sue Patrick Workbox System this year and LOVE it! For those of you who don’t know what it is, its not a curriculum, but an organization system. I’ll do my best to explain it to you, but Sue does a better job on her website, so you can look there for a video demonstration of how to set it up! My setup is a bit different than what Sue Patrick recommends, but I really believe you can modify the system to suit your needs. I recommend her book, it has a lot of great ideas and teaching philosophies as well as a free typing program which we love!

Here’s an overview of how we use our workboxes. I really can’t say enough about the workbox system! Its totally revolutionized how we do school! I can’t imagine trying to organize 3 different grade levels without them! Here’s a photo of what my setup looks like:

Side Note: I have to say I like the workboxes separating the kids, seems to help them focus.

I got these workboxes at JoAnn’s during a 50% off sale, you can also find them at Sam’s club. They are called Smart Place 10 drawer carts.

The Planning:
I use an excel spreadsheet to do my planning. At the end of each week, Thurs or Fri I sit down and go through my teacher’s manuals and fill in the spreadsheet for what will go in boxes during the week. After I put in core work, I fill the boxes that are left over with fun educational games or crafts, and I try to make them go along with what we are doing. This planning part takes an hour sometimes a little more, but the smoothness that it creates for the actual school day makes it well worth the effort.

I have 3 kids doing school now, so each of them get a different color sheet, and the only purpose to that is so I can tell them apart easily. Each week I copy and paste the grid from the previous week into a new sheet in the same excel file, that way all my records are in one place. I print each weeks sheet and store it in a binder to show our lesson plans.

I also print out a copy of the page and tape it to the wall above each student’s desk so its easy for me to see as we’re working, and to fill boxes when we’re done. (If I make any changes during the week, I just pencil it in as I go then update the excel file at the end of the week.) You can Click here to download my workbox planning sheet.


The Setup: Here is how our boxes are setup, they are the same for each child. The benefit for the child here is that they can see exactly what is expected of them for the day. They can see how much they’ve actually completed, how much they have left, and they know exactly when they are done with work. Its really taken away all the whining we had last year about ‘how much left’, ‘when are we done’ etc. And that was just me! LOL!

In Action: Each box gets 1 subject in it, and everything needed to complete that project. If its cutting/pasting, include scissors and glue. Pencils, markers, dry-erase markers, erasers, whatever is needed so kids aren’t running around wasting time searching for things! I put a snack in our boxes about half way down just to help with motivation, and usually some thing crafty or fun in the last one. Here are a couple samples of boxes:

They work their boxes in order, no exceptions! (Well, except for my 3 year old, I allow her to pick whatever she feels like doing at the time.) As they work, my kids pull off the number on the box and stick it to the grid pasted on the wall next to their desk. This indicates that box is finished. (Sue Patrick does this part differently, but it wasn’t working for us, so we do it this way.) Any completed work gets turned in on top of the cart. When they get to a card that’s already on their strip, they can take that action, like here you see after 3 boxes she gets a potty break. They rarely take this, but it was an issue last year so I put it on and every now and then I’ll see them take a break. Since I can’t fit a science center, or art project in a box, I put it on this grid, when they get to that card they go to that center. The 3 help buttons on the bottom are for if they need help on a box that doesn’t have a work with mom card. I haven’t really even used these, they just raise their hands if they need help, but they’re in the download if you need them. You can click here to download my schedule strip, numbers, and subject cards. I also made blank number cards so you can add in your own images/theme: Download Blank Number Cards Here.

If there is a box that I know they need help on, or that requires my ‘teaching’ then I put a ‘work with mom’ sticker on it. They know to ask me when they get there. I also try to stagger the ‘work with mom’ boxes between kids so they don’t all need my help at once.

My numbers are just plain because I print them out on colored cardstock, but you can search for workbox numbers on google and find some fun ones! I found these cool designs today at Boys, School and Fun!

We used to pull the drawers all the way out and stack the completed ones on the floor (my son really liked seeing his work disappear from the cart), but once the baby started getting into them, we moved to just taking off the numbers and putting them on the grid on the wall. Again, here’s a big picture of what the setup looks like, and why we don’t put boxes on the floor anymore.

We start our day with Group Time, which includes Prayer, Bible Study, Pledge, Alphabet songs, Days of week, Months of year, and Calendar time. Then we do Poems, and the Science reading together. After all that we move on to our boxes! You can read more about our daily schedule here.

So that’s it, we LOVE LOVE LOVE our boxes, its like Christmas morning everyday for the kids as they run in and look through boxes to see what they have. I don’t have anymore complaining about ‘how much more’ nor do we have “what do I do next mom?” and me saying “Hold on a minute while I finish with your sister”! I really think its made our days smoother and seems to help keep me organized, as well as let the kids know what is expected of them for the day, what they have left, and when they are done. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND using boxes or some sort of system like this. I have seen people with older kids use file folders instead of boxes, you can google on sue patrick workboxes and get TONS of information and blogs with ideas! There is also a Yahoo Workbox group where people share downloads, ideas, help etc.

Please don’t look at this and be overwhelmed, the planning is truly worth the effort and you can adjust the system to make it work for your family as well!

I hope you found this post helpful! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

My Workbox Downloads:

To see another review of The Workbox System, visit Homeschool Creations


  1. I recently found your blog and you have inspired me! I was having trouble with my preschooler and your ideas have helped me make school time so fun for her now because she is included more. I really want to try out the workbox system because of you also. Now if I can just find the boxes on sale! Thank you for sharing what works for your family.

    • Thank you so much! We were using wire rolly shelves a teir of 4 and I placed items in a plastic shoe box for our centers but this may work better? Thanks for the great downloads to help me get started. I was using a different schedule but this looks more us. Thanks.

    • Thank you so much! We were using wire rollie shelves a tier of 4 and I placed items in a plastic shoe box for our centers but this may work better? Thanks for the great downloads to help me get started. I was using a different schedule but this looks more us. Thanks.

  2. P.S.- Where did you get your desks?

    • If you need school style desks, check within your local ISD to see where they have their surplus store or auction items. Almost every district has them. You can get great deals on them there.

  3. Yes, I too would like to know where you got your desks. They are really cool. Great Post!

  4. I just have to tell you, thank you so much for your inspiration! I love the way you have every thing set up. I also have 3 children and right now we're using file folders because I wasn't sure I'd want 3 seperate boxes to deal with but I really love your set up! Thanks again for sharing!

  5. I got my desks for $5 at a church school that was closing and just scrubbed them and painted them!

  6. Thank you so much! You're the first person to explain the workboxes in enough detail that I actually understood it!!! I'm so happy! We're just starting out and I've got 4 similar in age as you (6,5,4,&2)

  7. Your site is amazing! Thank you for so many helpful resources. I'd love to see a copy of your workbox planning sheet, but I keep getting an error code when I try to download it. Is there a direct link? Thanks again!

  8. Hi sorry, I did have a bad link, its fixed now! Thanks!

    • Melissa K says:

      I downloaded your workbox planning sheet, but it’s full. How do I get a blank one to fill in myself?
      Thank you so much for sharing your days with us!

  9. Anonymous says:

    So I immediately thought – hey this looks just like my son's classroom. I have a child with autism, and his special ed classroom uses many of the principles of TEACCH ( for classroom management and organization.Then I read Sue Patrick's story and figured out why it was so similar. How awesome that these ideas that help our special needs kids are finding a wider audience.

  10. I love your blog!! I have been reading on here for over an hour and thanks to your tips…my weekend of planning work boxes for my prek DD 🙂 thanks again!!

  11. Thanks for explaining this! I think this is something that will really help us out a lot. I'm adding to my goal list for next year. One question, do you do art work in your school room? We've always done school in our kitchen/dining room and it has hard floors. I'm just curious if your kids do painting etc. in that room too? Thanks!

  12. MG: NO! We do art projects in the kitchen, where clean up is much easier! There's carpet in my school room, and so no paint allowed! :0)

    • We also have carpet in out school room int he basement but I had a long strip of linoleum that I cut in 2 and they fit perfectly under our craft table to prevent spills and stains (=

  13. Hi! I found your post thru another homeschool blog and I have to say yawl are brilliant for implementing this! You have inspired me too! I am a very loosey goosey casual homeschooling mom and desperately need help with getting organized. I will be coming back to your site often I'm sure! Thanks!!Chris 🙂

  14. Just a Night Owl…that was the site where I read about it. Thanks to both of you!

  15. I am swinging through from UBP10 and found your workbox system… all I can say is… I WANT IT! Hehee…Love it! Right now I use a little file box thingie because it's what I could get my hands on to get started. Love drawers though because they would be bigger and allow for snacks!!! Hehe..Thanks for sharing! Following your blog!!

  16. This is fabulous! How did I not know about this?! My sister told me all the "really good" hs momma's know about this system – HA!Anyways, I had come up with a version of this, kinda…sorta….but this is SOOOO much better, more organized, creative & fun ~ I HAVE to try this!Even with my kiddos that are on a computer-based curriculum, this could be helpful. Not ALL their work will be digital, and this will help me include physical, handwritten, fun projects for them as well~Again, thanks so much! I can confidently call my sister and tell her I now understand this whole "workbox" thingy! 😉

  17. Great workbox post. Love your carts and how you've adjusted the system for your family. We've modified it a bit too, and you're right – the time spent planning ahead really pays off during the school day. Thanks for sharing your downloads too!

  18. Hello. I love your site. Thank you for all of your hard work and for sharing your ideas/templates, etc. I do have a question. You, as well as many moms who follow your blog, seem to be quite frugal. It seems like all of the printing would cost a fortune each month for ink. Any ideas or suggestions to keep cost down?

  19. The WELL: Hi here are some money-saving tips on printing:

  20. Jennifer-Anne says:

    I like this workbox idea. I have 6 and 4 year olds using Abeka and see that you use Abeka also. When it is time to go over the lesson say for example for LArts…is that a w/mom example? I was just wondering how you handled that. THanks for any insight.

  21. Jennifer-Anne: For boxes where there is a lesson, I usually put a "work with mom" sticker on that box. That way when they get to it they know that they need my help.I try to staggar those boxes so I'm not needed by 2 people at once, but it doesn't always work! Some days I'll do instruction with my older kids then send them to their boxes then start with the younger ones so I can sit and help with their activities. The older ones can ask questions if they need to.

  22. This literally made me giddy. I'm in my first year of homeschooling and I feel like it is just utter unorganized chaos! tHANK YOU!!!!

  23. this is a REALLY awesome idea. I love it.filing it away for when we start our journey.

  24. Do your workboxes hold up well? Are the kids able to take them out and put them back easily? I looked at the reviews on them on and A lot of the reviews mentioned that they fall off the tracks and are cheaply made. I absolutely love the idea, but now I'm hesitant to spend the money on them. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them. Thanks again for all your hard work!

  25. BECKY: You know, I've seen the bad reviews too, but we really haven't had any issues with them. They can be a little difficult to get back in the tracks for little ones, but we don't take ours all the way out. They take their number card off the front and put it on a grid when they're done instead of stacking empty boxes on the floor. I didn't put the wheels on the bottom, so maybe that helps them be a little more stable. If you put a SUPER heavy book in them, they can drop out of the tracks, but this has only happened a couple times in the bottom drawers where I tend to stick all my prek's books for the week. Sometimes i get it really too full. Otherwise we love our boxes!

  26. OK. I have been wanting to implement something like this for awhile,so thank you for this post!Also, so you know JoAnne's is having half off these workbox files right now. Also, they give homeschool teachers a 15% discount – just ask in the store! That is 65% off. So good, I went ahead and got two! I'm excited.thanks again – your blog is awesome!!

  27. Your blog is excellent! I'm so impressed and inspired that I don't feel as afraid to start up my own home daycare! I still have a lot of work to do but this is great! Take care and keep up the great work!

  28. Jennifer says:

    I just ordered my cart from JoAnn's tonight 🙂 It was discounted down to $44.99 from $74.99, plus I found a free shipping coupon code from "" and saved another $8.00! I only spent $48 with tax and everything which I thought was a pretty good deal :-)Thanks for this wonderful idea and for all that you do! I will be a brand new homeschooling mom this year to my first grader and I also have a 3 year old and a baby due Aug.26th! I'm going to have my hands full, for sure, but reading blogs such as yours is such an inspiration and encouragement!! Thank you!!

  29. I don't know if it's just a local thing but at Shopko, during school supply time, you can get these carts for $15-$25. I have one from Joann's and one from Shopko and beside for slight color variance they are exactly alike.

  30. I posted this elsewhere, but as MG said, the carts are on sale at ShopKo (here in Utah at least). They’re B1G1 through today making them $35 each, but tomorrow they’re simply $29.99 each (regularly $69.99 each).

  31. Hi! I love your site. Thanks so much for the information! I am teaching pre-K, K, and 1st this year. When we had our Christian school (which we’re working on getting up and running again but for now sort-of a semi-home/semi-Christian school type situation) we used the A Beka curriculum (which I see you utilize). I will do most of my plans through A Beka and I’m looking more into your K4 curr as well as Christian Light Bible but wondered if I could use the workbox system for it? It seems like it would be a lot of work for me. Any input would be terrific. If you could, please email with your response as I may not get to your site right away and will soon be making my decisions. Thanks so much.


  32. I just want to say, after struggling to find a way that made sense to me (and to my kids!) of how to organize our homeschool day (we are just starting!) I found your blog, and your WORKBOX has revolutionized the way I envisioned “perfection”, lol. Seriously, the 10-drawer cart is going to be the BEST thing in our classroom. We have a very small area in our house with which to homeschool, and I didnt want to try & have just folders laying around, etc. I *LOVE* this setup that you have, and canoot thank you enough!!! Thank you so much for sharing (great site by the way!) 🙂

  33. p.s. I got the cart on sale at JoAnn’s online, & even with shipping (because it said the price was for “online only”) it was still only around $55 DELIVERED! yay! 🙂 I’m going to visit the local store as well, because I have three kids & while I’m starting with only one at home (3rd grader) I have another 3rd grader & a 2nd grader who will be home as well by CHristmas (I’m doing one in the beginning, to make sure I can do this LOL). I want all 3 to have these cards; they are FABULOUS! Thank you again! 🙂

  34. First, thank you for all the amazing resources and ideas you are sharing, your blog is truly an inspiration!

    Secondly, my girls are 2.5 years, probably about the same age as your Teeny Tot. Would you suggest one cart for them both to go through together or should they have their own carts? They’re not really working very independently yet and I’m afraid they’d be too interested in what the other is doing if they were working on different activities at the same time…though I can clearly see the benefit of the workbox system for kids of different ages.


    • Honestly I would suggest having their own carts. They may still want to see what others are doing, but from my experience with our Teeny Tot, (2.5 almost 3) she really wants to have her OWN special activities. I think it just makes her feel special. Worst case, you can put one in the basement until they get a little older and you will definitely need it then. But really I think having their own activities is better.

      Up to you, just my opinion :o) Have a great Thanksgiving!

  35. I was wondering if you have any way to enlarge your spreadsheet? I would like to view how you have it organized but I have MAC and can’t view Excell & the thumbnail view is too small for me to see how you have it organized, ty so! I think this workbox system will be a big asset in aiding me with my daughter’s homeschooling and my toddler special needs’ son with his various therapy at home sessions. Just wanted to view your spreadsheet to get inspiration…ty!

  36. A Public School Teacher Taking Advice from the Homeschoolers says:

    I LOVE this. I wish I had enough money to buy 30 for my public school classroom. Many of my kids would do SO much better with this system! I think I might try to do a grant or something to get boxes for everyone. This would make small group work so much easier. Man, I gotta figure out how you can do this with A LOT of kids. Any thoughts??

    • I’m wondering if you could use larger file boxes for each subject, then put activities in individual files for each student?

  37. I just started homeschooling our 11 year-old nephew this year and your site has been so helpful! I’ve also got two younger than 3 and another on the way and we plan to homeschool them all! I feel a little overwhelmed, but really appreciate your taking the time to lay everything out so beautifully on your blog! It’s helped me consider how we will get and stay organized as well as what curriculums to use, which I feel may be some of our largest challenges!

  38. Heather Ostlie says:

    Dear Erica, I am so glad that I came across your blog tonight! It is awesome. I love your idea about using the workbox system…it is brilliant. I am a homeschooling mom of 4 girls. This is our second year and when reading your blog I thought so many times…I totally say that! My girls are 8, almost 7, 5 and 2…so we are schooling three of them and have a toddler in the mix. I find it frustrating when they are always needing my help while I am working with another, so this seems like it might help fix that problem. Awesome! I will continue reading your blog and look forward to other great ideas.
    Thanks! Heather
    P.S. I love your schoolroom.

  39. Becky Emter says:

    I am not yet a Homschooling Mom but I will be starting this summer. I have to say, after looking at your blog, Erica, I want to be you when I grow up! I am so excited to explore all of your information! Thank you!

  40. I had not heard of the work box system before finding your blog a few weeks ago. It really inspired me and seemed like it would work so awesome for our homeschool. So I have now implemented it and it is going great. We all really love it. I just started a blog…we’ll see how it goes…and I wrote a short post about our work boxes. I gave you credit for where I got the idea and linked it back to your webpage. Thanks for the inspiration. Heather

  41. Luciana says:

    How are you using the 10-drawer as opposed to the 12-drawer Sue Patrick recommends?

  42. I schooled my kids like this for many years…but without the boxes. Just piled the workbooks and textbooks on one side of the desk in the order that they were to be used. As each kid followed his or her way down the schedule, he or she would stack the books, upside down, on the other side of the desk when finished with the book. They would also check off the box that had the assignment for that day and that subject. At one point, about 4th grade, my daughter was struggling with getting each assignment finished in a reasonable amount of time. So on the left edge of the assignment page where I listed each subject, I also listed the amount of time allowed for that subject. Then when she began each subject, she would set a baking timer for that amount of time. It would beep when she had 10 min. left, at 5 min. left, and then go off at “0.” It helped keep her on target time-wise.

  43. Ok call me slow . . . I get what the kids do, but what is the mom’s responsibility after the planning chart. Do you supply the boxes daily or weekly? Do you grade papers/workbooks daily? Do the kids keep their completed work back in the drawer or somewhere else?


  44. Melly Queen says:

    I love your setup! The work boxes are such a great idea! 🙂

  45. Hi, I noticed somewhere on here that you said that you don’t use the 10 drawer organizer anymore, that you now use your ikea drawers. How did you cope with going from your 10 drawers, to only 6? thanks.

  46. Daphne LaRosa says:

    I absolutely love this system.. I am just trying to figure out how we do it with the curriculum we use. I use Beautiful Feet History with both my 8 & 9 1/2 year old. I also use the geography with both of them. We do science together right now. My son needs me to do math with him & grammar. My daughter does grammar with me. both will be doing spelling when it comes in (All About Spelling) any ideas?

  47. So I saw someone else ask this but didn’t see a response, but I could have missed it….so sorry for the repeat question.

    I was wondering if you reload the drawers everyday? Do you think there is a way to load it with a weeks worth? Have you tried that?

    I am totally excited about this system!

    BTW I bought and am using your LOTW curriculum for preK and having a lot of fun with it!

  48. I just recently found your blog, you are such an inspiration! I just thought I was organized. Thanks so much!

  49. Just an idea for your readers that don’t have the space for workboxes but want to use the concept. I went to the dollar store and bought 6 plastic bins for each child. It cost me $12 since I have two kids. The pros: can stack and put away when not in use, takes up less space for those that don’t have an actual schoolroom. Cons:not all items fit, some of their bigger notebooks have to lay diagonally. When I can catch the drawers on sale I will switch to those, but for the time being, these only cost me $12 and can be used elsewhere in my house when I get the drawers.

  50. You can also find “workboxes” on Amazon!!! I was able to get them for under $50 a piece (FREE shipping)!!

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