Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review: Sue Patrick's Workbox System

Most homeschool families out there have at least heard of workboxes, if not know someone actively using this system. I personally had only heard a few brief mentions of this method, but wasn't aware of any of my friends actually using this system until September. That was when a dear friend of mine wrote a blog post about using workboxes with her children, which I found interesting. For her. Not me.

My first thought was, "That's far too structured for my taste." Granted, I had no first-hand experience with the method, but liked some of the reasons behind it such as organization and accountability. However, the overall feel of it left me with a weird taste in my mouth. I'm not hyper-organized, but I'm not completely unstructured, either. The workbox method at first seemed very rigid and confining to me, as well as time-consuming. (I don't do well with time-consuming, either.)

When I learned that as part of the TOS Crew I'd been chosen to review Sue Patrick's Workbox System e-book, I admit that I was really curious. I wanted to see how this whole thing worked, from start to finish.

*For the purpose of this review, I was supplied with a free copy of the E-book as well as free access to all the downloads and charts for a six-week period. No other compensation was provided.*

What Is It:

Fellow homeschooling mom, Sue Patrick is the creator of this homeschool phenomenon, and author of Sue Patrick's Workbox System User Guide. The Guide walks you through every aspect of the workbox method in a generally clear, straightforward manner* (see Opinion section below). Sue Patrick explains that her method is perfect for every family, grade level, and student.

With the workbox system, student's daily lessons and activities are organized in easy-to-tackle chunks, allowing them to work independently and feel a greater sense of accomplishment. The lessons and activities are stored in 12 totes or "workboxes" that are completed in numerical order. At the end of the day, Mom fills each workbox up with the next day's lessons and activities, and the process begins all over again.

(See video presentation below for more details)

Sue Parick's Workbox System


I wasn't able to use this system exactly as Sue Patrick prescribed. I just didn't have the money to purchase the recommended about of workboxes and racks. Therefore, I tweaked accordingly. Now, I must tell you that Ms. Patrick highly suggests you DO NOT deviate from her system in order to receive the maximum benefit of it, which is fine. But due to financial reasons, there was no other way around it for me.

What I immediately noticed with this system was that it forced me to be more organized. There was no winging it with the workboxes. They were either filled or they weren't. Period. This was both good and bad; good in the sense that it helped me stay on top of things, but bad because I don't like being told what to do, especially by inanimate objects. (Ahem)

My children also liked having everything laid out in front of them, which provided a handy visual goal for the day. However, Ethan did ask at one point to just "hand him his work" instead of "stuffing it in a box". (Guess he's a bit like his Momma in that regard.)

I did have a few minor issues with Sue Patrick's line of thinking. For example, I don't like the idea of "school at home" which is exactly what this reminded me of. Nor did I care for all the cards (like "quiet time", "ask for help", "lunch") and found them to be completely unnecessary in a homeschool setting. I also had a hard time seeing how this method would work for *every* single homeschool family, as Ms Patrick suggests. Perhaps with some individualized tweaking it could work, but I couldn't imagine how say, the Duggar's would comfortably use this system with their 18 children.

The Guide itself was really helpful in explaining the ins and outs of the System, however I did find it to be a bit vague when it came to actually setting up the boxes. Something a little more step-by-step would've been better for a newbie like me. But this is a very minor issue, and one that may not be felt by other readers/users. However, I did appreciate the level of detail Ms. Patrick put into the explanation of the System itself. That was excellent.


  • Better structure and more efficient use of student's time.
  • Consistent homeschool planning for Mom (something I could probably use more of--ahem)
  • Visible "goal" each day.
  • Eliminates the question, "Are we done yet?" from children's vocabularies. :)
  • More independent study time (which can also be labeled as a "con". See below.)
  • Potentially pricey to set up. 12 totes/metal rack times x amount of children = one serious trip to Target, Wal-Mart, Storables, etc.
  • Too structured for a relaxed family.
  • Time consuming for Mom, depending upon how many workboxes she needs to fill each day.
  • Encourages more independent study time, which may not work well for those families who thrive on togetherness.
Costs and Purchasing Information:

Sue Patrick's Workbox System components are available via her website, The User's Guide is available as an E-book for the reasonable price of $19, a Book for $19.95 plus s/h, or as a Book/Consulting Package for $119.95 plus s/h. This purchase provides you with 4 months of email consultation with Sue Patrick herself.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I'd have to say that my original fear of workboxes was unfounded. I don't "dislike" the system, but I do have to tweak it in order to make it work for my family. I'm not completely sold on the idea, but I'm not completely against it, either. I appreciate the organizational factor tremendously, but quickly found myself overwhelmed with filling up box after box on a daily basis.

To learn more about workboxing, please visit Sue Patrick's website by clicking here.

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