How Workboxes Have Worked for Us

Last spring, I heard all the raving reviews of Sue Patrick’s Workbox System.  Being the organizer that I am and the lover of all purposeful baskets, holders, and containers, I had to take a closer look at this and see if it might work for our family.  

Sue Patrick’s original system consists of using 12 clear plastic shoeboxes for each child, placing a learning activity in each one.   You can learn more about her full system at her website and through her book.  I could see the benefit of her ideas, but I also knew there was no way I was going to be able to purchase and eventually store 5 sets of 12 large boxes! (My husband would have balked at the idea as well =) )   I knew that implementation of the entire system was not realistic for our growing homeschool family, but the goal behind it still intrigued me.   After reading several blogs of how other homeschooling moms of 3+ children altered the system to suit their needs, I grabbed some containers and followed suit!   I decided to try to use one plastic file box with 12 hanging files per child.  I made, printed, laminated, cut, and attached labels and we were set to go!

All I had to do next was place materials in each of the folders for each child.  AWANA, Bible, language arts, and math generally were the subjects focused on.  A few file folders would only have a card inside to indicate the activity to be completed.  For example Xtra Math practice on the computer, instrument practice, working with a sibling, etc.  

empty workboxfile with velcro tag

workbox in action

At the end of our school year, I asked each child, “What did you like about our workboxes this year?”   Here is a quick review by our kids…

4 year old preschooler

  1. “the name on it and the picture”
    (Mommy’s Interpretation:  He likes that he has a box with his very own name on it.  He also likes that he got to choose the color and background for the front of his box.) 
  2. “finding verses in it” 
    (Mommy’s Interpretation:  In the very first folder, I would place his Cubbie book containing his Bible verse from AWANA so that we would be sure to practice it daily!)

6 year old kindergartener

  1. “putting the tags on” 
    (Mommy’s Interpretation: She liked being in charge of removing the tags from her folders and placing them on the outside to show that she was finished with an assignment.)

8 year old second grader 

  1. “When I put the tag on, I know that I did something.” 
    (Mommy’s Interpretation:  She likes the visual to know when she has accomplished a task and how much she has left to do.)


Mommy’s Review of our Workboxes 

  1. I like that I wasn’t the keeper of all the books and materials!   In previous years, I had one tote for all of us.  It was becoming more and more difficult to fit everything for our growing family all in one tote.  Language arts and math for each child, history, Bible, etc. was overflowing and weighing my tote down!  This year, I reserved the tote for activities and lessons we would do together as a family – science, history, Bible, art, and music.  The childrens’ individual language arts and math lessons now had a new home in each child’s very own workbox.
  2. In previous years, I would be in charge of when the kids worked on their assignments.  This year, using individual workboxes, the children were given more freedom and control over which subject they wanted to work on and in which order.  At the start of the day, they would check the front of their box to see how many assignments they had and then check the outside of each hanging file to see which assignments were to be completed on their own and which were labeled as ‘work with mom’ or ‘work with a sibling’.  They would then then peek into their folders to get a glimpse of what they would be working on that day.  Previously, with the one tote, it was hard for them to see what we had to work on for the day and they never knew what was coming next nor how much more we had to do.  Individual workboxes, with the chart and movable tags, gave the children a visual for how much was left and for what they had already accomplished.  I  think they found it motivating.
  3. For our preschooler, his workbox was set up to be almost all ‘work with mom’ time.  His workbox gave us an organized space and order for working together.
  4. I truly think the implementation of workboxes made preparing and organizing work for each child more manageable as well.  Whenever there is a designated place to put items, it makes things go much more smoothly! 
  5. Using file boxes with handles made the workboxes portable.  We could work in a variety of places throughout our home and easily take our work with us… to the basement, an upstairs bedroom, the living room, even on a trip to dentist!


  1. We used standard hanging files and several hanging file folders ended up tearing and splitting half way through the year.  I attempted to tape and mend them to make it through the year, but it was not a pretty sight.

torn files and new files

I am looking forward to using our workboxes again this coming school year. The only changes I am planning to implement are using heavier duty hanging files and adding a small pouch to the front of each box to hold pencils, a small box of crayons, a glue stick, and pair of scissors for each PreK child or older.  I am also considering letting our fourth child have her very own workbox (slightly different than the older kids) and join in on the fun as well =) 


Oh, one last favorable review of workboxes came from Daddy –
“If it keeps mommy sane, I like it!”

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  1. Very helpful, Michelle! Thank you for taking the time to describe the way you do the Workbox System! I’m going to look into getting some of those plastic hanging folders!!

  2. Hi Michelle,
    Thank you so much for taking your valuable time to share your ideas. It is such an encouragement. Where did you find your boxes? I found some similar, but I would really like to have a different color for each of my 3 wee ones. Thanks for any help you have on this.

  3. Love this! We have used our workboxes this past year or two and they have been a lifesaver! This year, however, we will be traveling quite a bit, and I didn’t want to lose the usefulness, but unable to take 40 odd workboxes with us. I already have heavy duty file folder that I have often wondered why I continued to keep! Thanks again for posting!

  4. I would love more details on how you set up your workboxes and what is in the 12 folders. I tried to look at the “Color Me Orange” blog but got a message that it is by invitation only. Thanks for any help!

    • Hi Kristie!
      After receiving your comment, I checked and realized the link no longer worked. Sorry about that! I’ve since removed it. I also linked the printables that we used for preparing both the outside labels and the inside cards used in some of the file folders. =) What is placed inside of each file folder, as well as how many folders are actually used, greatly depends on the age of the child. Typically, my elementary aged children have their AWANA book in the first folder, followed by their grade level Bible, math, language arts (reading, spelling, phonics, handwriting), and instrument practice in the other folders. Some folders contain a worktext or sheet, a homemade learning game, books for literature, a craft, etc. Hope this helps!

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