Posts Tagged ‘workboxes’

All About Me

All About Marvelous Me, by Becky Radtke

If you are looking for a fun way to get your kids to do journaling, here is a great option.  All About Marvelous Me is a 64-page book of fill in the blank pages that will inspire your kids’ creativity.  Each page is a new topic to write about. Here is a summary from Amazon’s website.

 Kids can have fun reflecting on their past, present, and future! Loaded with fun things to do, such as fill-in-the-blanks, checklists, drawing, and journaling, this 64-page book will inspire children to write and illustrate details of their daily lives and inner thoughts. Activities include taking personality quizzes, designing the ultimate hangout, imagining the perfect job, and many other interesting personal challenges.

This book is arranged in a fun format that even some of the most reluctant writers can find to be inspiring.  I love that it is set up in such a way that children who have difficulty with written expression will be able to manage the journaling very well.  Little Miss does not enjoy writing, yet this looks like a book she would have fun doing.

Definitely, this is one journal that I will be adding to Little Miss’ workboxes.

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Recently, I was asked why we use the workbox system for our homeschool. It is a question that I have been asked often enough that I feel the need to blog about this.

When I first was introduced to the workbox system, it was through Robin’s blog on Heart of Wisdom’s website. Being that I prefer things to be very organized, I gravitated to the various blogs on Robin’s links page. I was surprised to see just how varied the families chose to implement the system in their homes. Little Miss was a preschooler at the time. Even at that age, she was very self-driven. If I had all her activities laid out for her, she would go through them independently. The thought of organizing them onto a bookcase appealed to me. We were given a couple of old school desks for the kids by a neighbor. I set one up next to a bookcase and loaded it up with the shoe box bins as suggested in the book, Sue Patrick’s Workbox System: A User’s Guide.

For Little Miss, this worked out great. For me, not so much. I love books and I tend to get a bit cranky when I find damaged ones. Seeing the workbooks develop a curl in them from being in the shoe box started to grate on my nerves a bit. I ended up tearing the pages out of her workbooks, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but the workbooks were not all curled up. Using the system with Little Miss was a great learning curve for me. I will always be grateful that I learned about the system long before I began homeschooling Pookie.

With Pookie, the system has been a life saver. Autistic children tend to crave a strict routine in order to function well. This is especially true when it comes to educating them. In order for Pookie to be able to focus on his homeschooling, he needs the routine to be a constant that he can count on. If I decide to mix it up a bit, he doesn’t always respond well. This does not mean that he has to do all activities in a specific order. It only refers to the idea of using the workboxes only part of the time. If I have him using the workboxes and suddenly stop using them for a few days, he doesn’t tolerate it as well. He finds it harder to focus on the activities he is doing. I believe that he needs the consistency of using the workboxes to stay on track. While the activities in each workbox may change from day to day, there is a consistency in the fact that his work is always stored in the workboxes. As he works through his visual schedule and completes the activities as outlined on that schedule, he is able to manage ti without a meltdown.

Many families without an autistic child use the system successfully with their children. It provides a means to teach kids how to manage their time and have self-discipline. On the various blogs out there, you can often find cute printable workbox number tags and cards for the visual schedule that you can print for free. These are really cute and you can make them in any theme you want. You can print out themed tags and cards that appeal to each of your children. This can make workboxes fun for little ones.

For Pookie, I found that the cute factor doesn’t help him any. He can become distracted by the pictures on the tags and schedule cards. His cards are pretty generic. The workbox tags are plain numbers with no pictures. Where we do use graphics is in the visual schedule. Intermingled with his number cards, he has little cards with pictures of his various therapy toys and manipulatives. For example, I made cards with pictures of his pattern blocks, sort & stack set, lacing beads, and puzzles. The number cards on his schedule are a duplicate set that match his workbox tags.

There are several aspects of the system that I especially see as being beneficial to Pookie. First is the visual schedule. The schedule is one of the foundational elements for Pookie. It allows him to not only know what is coming up, but he can have a certain level of independence. He takes each activity in sequence and is able to move through his daily assignments. All the while, he is able to visually see that there is a stopping point. Adding the check in/check out card also gives that sense of knowing when his school time starts and stops.

Next, I look at the “work with Mom” cards. These little gems are a great way to let the kids know when they need to come to me for further instruction or aid in an assignment. At this point, most of Pookie’s workboxes are requiring my help. Gradually, the level of assistance has been dropping. I help him set up the activity and get started, With certain activities, he has been doing them long enough that I am able to step back and he will continue on his own to complete it. With Little Miss, these cards let her know when I am needing to give her more information or discuss a new concept. Once the instruction is done, she works on her own to complete the assignment.

The “Help” cards that I give to Little Miss are a great motivator in teaching independence. These cards are used for those times when your child is capable of doing the assignments on their own, but they want you to help them instead of figuring things out for themselves. One good example of this is a behavior that Little Miss had a couple of years ago. She was capable to doing her worksheet on her own. The instructions on the worksheet were very clearly written at her level of understanding. She kept coming up to me to ask what to do each step along the way. When I would ask her what the instructions said, she could tell me clearly what she was to do. She just wanted me to tell her instead of her reading the instructions for herself. In situations like this, the Help cards are terrific. Given 4 of the cards at the beginning of the school day, she learned quickly to do as much work on her own as possible. Each time that she comes to me for help (excluding when there is a Work with Mom card along with her assignment), she has to give me one of her Help cards. When she runs out of Help cards, she can no longer ask me for help. She quickly learned to save those cards for when she truly needed the assistance.

One of the ideas in the system that Pookie’s Occupational Therapist, loves is the extra cards for the child’s desk. Having an “I’m ready to work” and “Quiet” card in a little stand on the desk are valuable tools. They are visual reminders to the child of what they should be doing. It is also good non-verbal way to address the issue of a child non focusing on their work. The example in the book mentioned that if a child zones out, you can tap or draw attention to the “I’m ready to work” card and help them to refocus without having to give verbal instruction. In a classroom setting where there are other children present, this can be very important. In the homeschool setting, if you have one child who is distracted when you are speaking to another child, the non-verbal approach is also a benefit.

So, how does all of this translate into our homeschooling? I made for each of the kids a picture card. It is an index card with their photo on it. After breakfast, they take their card and place it into a “School’s In” pocket I have set up for them on a wall chart. They then go to their work stations and begin going through their visual schedules. On the schedules, there are workbox number cards as well as a few activity cards that are ones done away from the desk. I also have 2 snacks and a lunch card on their schedules as well. They work through their schedules until all of their homeschool assignments are finished. Lastly, they take their picture card and move it to the “School’s Out” pocket. One new card that I am making for each of the kids is a “clean work station” card to have as their last item on their visual schedule. This reminder will help to ensure that the area is cleaned and ready for the next day before they go off to play.

Having the set routine, Little Miss is able to complete her work in a more timely manner. It wasn’t always the case, but as she learned to manage her time, she has improved on this considerably. A very helpful item for her has been the use of a kitchen timer. I am looking into buying a visual timer for them to use instead. There are some really nice ones that are like a traffic light. It starts with green, then as the time is nearly up, the yellow light comes on. When time is up, the red light comes on. This one is going to be a better option for Pookie as it is very visual and he will learn time management best with it. I know that many homeschool families are against the idea of using timers, but it is a personal choice. You have to look at what is best for your children. Ours happen to do better if they know that they have a time limit.

Since using the workbox system, the school days have gone more smoothly for Little Miss. She gets more done each day and is now learning time management to the point that she can finish her school day earlier than she used to. For Pookie, the routine is calming to him. He is able to predict what comes next. This alone has been a way to reduce frustration and meltdowns. His focus on his activities and assignments is much better than before. With the increased focus, he is able to learn in a much more efficient way.

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The past few weeks have been a blast. I have been doing a more relaxed homeschooling with the kids and they are thriving on it. I haven’t written too much about it due to not knowing if I would continue with this method. To my surprise and enjoyment, both kids are having fun and learning much.

We are still following the curriculum that we chose earlier, but are more informal is how we use it. For example, the math curriculum that we initially chose turns out to not be a very good fit. While I am sure that many love the Singapore math, I find that after a year of using it, Little Miss’ lessons still are not covering topics that we feel she should have done. We do a lot of hands-on math and she loves it. Having had a break from the workbooks, she goes to them eagerly now when we do a lesson from them. In between, I am teaching her other math topics that I feel the curriculum passed over too quickly. A couple of examples being skip counting and multiplication tables. Halfway through her 2nd year in Singapore and they still haven’t tackled those topics yet. Definitely will be choosing a different curriculum for math soon.

We focus more on Little Miss’ lesson plans and bring Pookie into it. He has his own workbox activities, but the topics of his lessons run along the lines of Little Miss’ daily work. It has been a much more effective way to go. He sits and listens to the daily reading assignments as well as sitting in as Little Miss and I discuss what was read. We include him in any projects that we do and he seems to enjoy that. I know that he is absorbing the information presented at least in part.

After Little Miss’ lessons are done, we all play with Pookie and work together to help him with his workboxes. One task that he likes to do is the pattern block pictures. He sits and does his puzzle while Little Miss sits beside him playing with her own pattern block puzzles. Art projects, science experiments and other activities are also done with Pookie taking part in what Little Miss is doing.

While Little Miss is doing the curriculum at her level, Pookie is getting the exposure to it at a level that matches his abilities. I am so excited. It is a much more peaceful way to learn for all involved. I can’t wait to see just how this works in the long term.

Some of the long term projects that the kids are doing include Flat Travelers.  I mentioned these in a previous post.  The kids made their travelers using the free paper dolls available at the Making Friends website.  Along with little journals, these travelers have been mailed out to other states and even countries.  Each new destination becomes a geography lesson for Little Miss.  She is keeping a binder of her traveler’s adventures and for Pookie, I am putting together a scrapbook as well.  He loves to look through the pictures and items that they receive with their travelers. In some cases, the items received can be added to a sensory bin for him.  One good example was a sweet friend of our went on vacation to a beach and brought back shells, sand, dried sea weed, and other items that she found at the beach.  Pookie loves to pick up the shells and star fish to look at them and feel their textures.  What a great learning experience for him!  For Little Miss, she enjoys the items but also loves reading the journal entries about the travelers’ adventures.

It is so rewarding to see the excitement that the kids have towards learning.  Little Miss is now learning to use our old Netbook to type up emails to friends and family.  This gives her keyboarding practice as well.  Soon, we will be adding some educational software to the Netbook so that the kids can play the games.

The workboxes are still a major part of our homeschooling.  We use them for keeping lessons organized as well as to store materials for each day’s projects.  I love the convenience of being able to load the workboxes in the evening and have them ready for the next day.  It makes for a much more efficient and productive experience as well.

Little Miss has been enjoying the more laid back approach.  She gets far more accomplished this way.  Pookie is still much more structured in how we approach his schooling.  Being autistic, he needs the routine far more than a typical child.  In fact, we have noticed lately that he is requiring even more structure than a year ago.  It works out well.  In between lessons that he can take part in, I have him doing other Montessori style activities to build on his fine motor development.

With the upcoming holiday season upon us, we will be incorporating the history of the holidays into our lessons.  Already, I am planning out the holiday themed art projects that the kids will be doing.  Handmade gifts and ornaments are among the activities.  As we work on the various projects, we talk about the lessons of the day.  An example of this is the first Thanksgiving story.  We are learning about how it was celebrated.  What foods did they eat?  If possible, we will be trying out some of those foods as a part of our own celebration.

There are many ways to homeschool.  We have only begun to learn the possibilities of how we can make learning an exciting adventure for our whole family.


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I am always surprised at how many homeschool families still are learning about workboxes.  We have been using them in one form or another for several years now.  It began with stumbling across it on the Internet and reading many blogs.  I ended up buying the book and  have been thrilled with the results.


For anyone just starting out with workboxes, I highly recommend buying the book.  Ms. Patrick offers a detailed description of what the workbox system is, how it set up, the function of it, and the reasons why it is set up a specific way.  Based upon the TEACCH method of instruction, the workbox system takes a child through their school day with a emphasis on teaching them independence.

The heart of the system are the containers used as the workboxes.  Each assignment or task is placed into its own bin with all necessary materials.  This is perfect for easily distracted children.  Instead of getting side-tracked when fetching a box of crayons or a pencil, the supplies are in the bin ready for use.  The less times a child has to go find a school supply, the better the day goes.

I quickly realized that the Montessori style of learning uses a system similar to workboxes.  Each activity is on its own tray or basket.  Again, all components to the activity are included.  Like workboxes, the trays or baskets are placed onto shelves for easy access.   The workbox system can be used with any curriculum your family or class decides to use.

One of the things that I love about the book is the detail Ms. Patrick puts into her examples.  She takes figuratively takes you by the hand and guides you through.  She is a firm believer of using multiple activities to help teach one concept.  A file folder game, a worksheet, or a poster activity all on the same theme will help to teach a concept to your child.  For example, let’s say that your child is learning US geography.  In one workbox, you can have a map with instructions to color in certain states on the map.  At a geography center, you can have a US map puzzle to be put together.  In a file folder game, you can match a list of states with their state capital.  All the activities help to teach US geography, but in different methods.

Ms. Patrick gives wonderful examples in the book for turning any knowledge needed into a file folder game.  One idea that I am taking from the book this year is a labeling activity.  In her book, Ms. Patrick uses file folder games, but I am using a slightly different method.  Print out a picture of a skeleton.  Or you can simply buy a small one from the dollar store as they are selling Halloween items right now.  Write onto strips of cardstock the names of the various bones.  Place magnetic tape on the back of each label.  Tape the skeleton onto a cookie sheet.  Next, place the bone name labels at the appropriate spot.

When Ms. Patrick wrote the book, she gave many ideas on how to set the system up and to teach.  On the internet, you can find many blogs which show pictures of the workbox system in use.  There are a wide array of ideas on how to implement the system in your own home.  Whether you use the bins as Ms. Patrick suggests, a set of drawers, or file folders as your method of organizing, the end goal is the same.  You are teaching your child independence and time management.  The inclusion of a visual schedule aids greatly in the time management aspects of the system.   Even Pookie is learning to use the visual schedule to know what order t do his activities in.

Though Ms. Patrick’s son is on the autism spectrum, the routine of the system is enough  for him to stay on task.  What a great inspiration for me with Pookie!  Little Miss benefits just as much through the organizing of her work.  She is able to focus on the tasks before her without my constantly being at her side.  While she does activities that are very self-reliant, I can work with Pookie on his tasks that require my help.

The book will benefit kids in public school as well.  Having their homework center set up in a similar fashion will give them the organization they may need.  A set of drawers just for keeping their supplies near their desk will cut done on the time spend doing their homework.   The age that you can start workboxes is easy to figure out.  At what age are you starting to preschool your child?  You can train them from the beginning to use workboxes.  That is how I began with Pookie.  I set his Montessori activities into the drawers.  Each drawer contains one activity.  Using his visual schedule as a guide, Pookie is learning to navigate through the workboxes and gaining independence.


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Ever feel like you are homeschooling multiple age groups in spite of the fact you are only dealing with one child at that time?  Welcome to my world.

Little Miss is easy to homeschool.  She is a bright and articulate little girl who works at her age level or above, depending on the subject.  I can prepare her lessons and place them in her workboxes at night and she can move through the lessons with minimal assistance from me.  Not because the work is too easy, but because she is capable of reading instructions and following them.  Not so with Pookie.  He needs constant guidance.  I not only am teaching him, but I also serve as a motivator in keeping him on task.

One aspect of homeschooling a severely autistic child that no one seems to talk about is the multi-level teaching that you have to do.  Let me explain.  Pookie is 6 years old.  He is very smart and picks up new information very quickly.  One case in point being when I taught him the sign for the word “eat”.  Pookie was grunting and pointing at a snack that he wanted.  I knew what he was wanting, but chose to take this as a teaching moment.  I asked if he was hungry, using sign language as well as speech.  He smiled and I asked if he wanted to eat.  Again, I used both speech and signing.  He watched me and then got upset.  I think he realized that the grunt & point technique was not working anymore.  I took his hand and using a hand-over-hand method showed him the sign for eat.  He got mad and pointed again, this time with a stronger grunt that was on the verge of becoming a screech.  I told him to stop fussing and show me that he wanted to eat.  He then immediately did an approximated sign language gesture that closely mimics the gesture for “eat”.  At that point, I gave him his snack.

Seeing how quickly Pookie can learn, I know that he is a smart kid.  It took only a couple of his workbox assignments for him to do the visual schedule very well in working through the remaining workboxes.  Often, I have noticed that if being taught something that is never changing, such as North America’s location on a world map  always being the same continent, he learns very quickly.  Abstract and conceptual learning are tough however.  Those things are much more difficult for him to grasp.

This is where we reach the idea of teaching multi-level developmental stages.  On one hand, I am teaching Kindergarten to a child who is academically able to do most of the work.  In fine motor skills, this same child is only two years old in his developmental stage.  Mixed in between his developmental age and his chronological age, you have various levels of his development in all areas.  This has a profound affect on how I have to teach him.  It is like teaching several age levels all at the same time, in the same child.  Does any of this sound familiar to you parents who have a special needs child?

So, the big question becomes, how do I teach a child whose developmental and academic levels are all over the place?  Start by learning what teaching style your child needs.  Are they visual learners?  In the case of autistic children, many are able to learn best if taught using visual techniques.  Others may do best with hands-on or through listening to you read a story.  Pookie is a mixture.  In some areas, Pookie needs constant repetition, such as when learning phonics or other subjects that require a lot of memorization.  The question for me was what technique works best in providing that repetition.  I use two simple approaches in teaching Pookie.  The first is to provide as many hands-on or tactile projects as possible.  The second is the use of visual aids.

Let’s say that I want to teach a child about the continents and oceans.  One method would be to point to the map and slowly name each one, repeating the process until he can accurately locate them upon request.  Another is to provide several activities that each teach the same information but in different ways.  Again using the oceans and continents as an example, you could:

Print 2 maps, cutting out the continents and oceans from one of the maps. Have the child match the pieces on the other map.

Make labels of the names of the continents and oceans. Have him place the labels on the correct places on a map.

Make a match game using pictures of each continent and it’s name label.

Point out each continent or ocean out on a map and keep repeating the names until the child can accurately point to each as it is named.

Print out a worksheet or two that teach the names for the child to complete.

Using a tray of salt, have the child draw a continent with their finger.

Make a 3-dimensional map using air-dry clay

All of these methods, and many more than I didn’t mention, can teach a child the same information in various ways that maintain the child’s interest.  Including as many forms of sensory input will also help the child to retain the information.

In Pookie’s situation, the varied methods also address his developmental skills.  He receives sensory input that is very important for him.  He is able to practice many of the OT styled tasks that are similar to what his therapist does during his therapy sessions each week.  Each separate activity brings with it a new, fun way to learn as well as demonstrate knowledge.

Often, I will have 2-3 activities in one day that all teach the same information, but in different ways.  For example, in one workbox, I may have a matching game.   In a second workbox, a tracing activity.  In the third workbox, I might place a puzzle.  Three very different activities that all teach one topic.

It is a challenge sometimes to come up with new ideas for teaching Pookie.  It is worth every moment of planning though.  The progress that I see in him makes the time and effort well worth it.

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When people learn that I homeschool both of our children, I am often asked how I juggle teaching both a typical and a special needs child.  The thought being that a typical child doesn’t receive as much one-on-one time.  How do you give ample instruction to your typical child, while still meeting the needs of your special needs child?  Here is what we have done successfully thus far.

One of the greatest blessings for us was to implement the workbox system.  We had always planned to homeschool both children.  Once we learned that Pookie has Infantile Autism, I knew that we would have to find a way to make homeschooling work for both children.  It was about this time that I stumbled upon blog posts about Sue Patrick’s Workbox System and her book.  I purchased the book and have found it to be the best option for our family.

I didn’t wait until Little Miss was officially doing homeschool to get her started in learning to use workboxes.  We used them for her preschool activities.  In starting early, the workbox system has been all she has known.  As a family, we find the system to be far more organized than anything else I ever tried with my now adult children whom I homeschooled years ago.  The system teaches independent working skills and even time management.  By having her use the system with preschool, she was learning early to go from one activity to the next without needing prompting.  She still needed some instruction in how to do some of her work, but overall she was able to go from one activity to the next without me having to tell her.  It helped that she had the visual schedule chart. She knew that when her tags were all gone from her schedule strip, that she was all done for the day.

Today, both Little Miss and Pookie have their own schedule strips and workboxes.  As I plan out the assignment schedules, I take into account what lessons Little Miss will need the most one-on-one time with.  I make out my schedule so that I have Little Miss’ lessons that require the most of my time to coincide with activities for Pookie that he can do on his own.  Likewise, I do the one-on-one activities with Pookie when Little Miss has assignments that she can do independently.  The following is an example of how this works.

Little Miss is able to do all reading assignments, notebooking, art, and some math completely independent other than brief instruction from me.  While she does these assignments, I am working with Pookie on those activities that need the most of my help. During the times when Pookie is playing with his puzzles, sensory bin, play dough, or other things that he is very familiar with, I am able to give more one-on-one to Little Miss.  If necessary, I will let Pookie have a break to play with his tablet while I give more time to Little Miss.   By working their schedule this way, both are given the one-on-one instruction they need without the other child missing out.

I have found early on that it is far easier to teach Little Miss to work independently than it is to teach Pookie to do so.  Simply because of the nature of his Infantile Autism, he will always require more aid than Little Miss.  Yes, he will gradually be able to develop independent skills, but it will take him much longer.  Whenever possible, we do activities that they can do together.  Little Miss loves to paint and do crafts as much as Pookie does. So, when one of them has an arts & crafts activity to do, they both sit at the table and work on projects.  Another favorite combined activity are science projects.  When a science experiment is planned, I schedule it so that both kids are able to take part at the same time.

A simple help to implement is to start your typical child on their school day a few minutes prior to your special needs child.  Before I go through the Morning Calendar with Pookie, I can spend about 10-15 minutes with Little Miss going over her schedule for the day.  This gives her a good start to her day as well.

One aspect of the workbox system that is a huge benefit for us is the “work with Mom” cards.  I place a “work with Mom” card in the drawer on top of any assignment that I know will need a few minutes of one-on-one instruction.  If Little Miss reaches one of those and I am busy with Pookie, she skips over that activity and goes on to the next.  When I am done working with Pookie, we go back to the skipped activity.  By doing this, she is able to continue working through her assignments and is not sitting idle waiting for me.  It makes her day go much more smoothly.

I hope this explanation helps to answer some of the questions that I have been getting.  If not, feel free to ask if you have more questions.

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Tonight, I am getting my workbox master plan set up for Pookie.  We are using two curriculums with him.

My Father’s World Kindergarten covers the basic subjects of Bible,  phonics and early math.  It also includes hands-on activities that he will enjoy.

Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts For His Glory is a program for 5-7 year old children.  It teaches language arts (phonics), math, history, basic science, art, fine motor activity, storytime, and has a Bible devotional that is separate from the Bible memory verse.

Joining two curriculums may seem still but I am finding that not to be the case.  Here is how I am seeing it up for Pookie.

Daily calendar – each morning we will have a morning calendar.  I will have it somewhat set up on our pocket chart.  Each morning, I will guide Pookie into placing the correct items in their space.  For example, have him mark of the current day in the calendar, place the correct day of the week label in the chart showing “yesterday was, today is, and tomorrow will be”, color of the day, weather picture, and he will “dress” a laminated paper doll will clothing appropriate for the weather.

Bible study – MFW, Bible lesson for each day.  I like how each week, the Bible lesson fits into the unit much easier.

Phonics – MFW,  the letter of the week approach fits well with Pookie learning/reviewing his alphabet.

Math – MFW, the methods used is hands on. Teaching how to count and do very basic skills using counters and other manipulatives.  It makes the lessons tangible and easier to learn.

The various hands-in activities in MFW-K teach art primarily art and science skills.  These will give Pookie extra opportunity to progress in these areas.  Most have a Montessori style to them.

The remaining subjects are all from the Heart of Dakota curriculum.  Most will be done after lunch when he is more settled and less fidgety.

Bible Devotional – a short reading that corresponds to the history lessons of the day.

History – a short reading from either a reader or a Bible story.

Phonics (see above)

Math  (see above)

Fine Motor – using the Do it Carefully workbook from Rod & Staff, the lessons teach prewriting skills, using scissors, coloring, and pasting.

Storytime – reading to Pookie classic stories such as The Adventures of Reddy Fox and other stories.

Thinking Games – teaches basic conceptual learning skills such as over, under, in, on, beside, around, and much more.

Science – simple discovery activities that are tied into the history readings, such as  sequences of life cycles, sorting living and non-living things, etc.

Artistic Expression – a weekly at activity that reinforces the history theme of the week.

In short, Pookie will be doing the MFW-K program and a light version of the Heart of Dakota program.  One he had completed this term, I will decide whether he is ready to do a more full version of the Heart of Dakota program.

Some of the Heart of Dakota subjects are not daily.  Science is twice per week, art is once, and thinking games is once per week.  These will be rotating activities sharing the same workbox drawer.   Daily calendar will be done prior to starting the workboxes each day.  With that in mind, here is the breakdown of Pookie’s workbox drawers.

#1  Bible lesson from MFW
#2  Phonics
#3  Math
#4  MFW  Hands-on Activity
#5  MFW  Hands-on Activity or Montessori Activity
#6  Heart of Dakota Bible Devotional
#7  History Reading
#8  Fine Motor Activity
#9  Storytime
#10  Thinking Games/Art/Science

Pookie’s visual schedule has spaces for about 15 PECS cards.  Intermingled with the workbox numbers will be 2 snack breaks, lunch, and two 15 minute free play breaks.  These breaks will give him the full 15 cards for his daily homeschool routine.

May sound like a lot for him, but he is definitely up to it.  I have gradually been increasing his organized activity time each day to prepare him.  Little things like placing puzzles, file folder games, picture card of a favorite toy or game such as mousetrap, added to his school day has been preparing him to be accustomed to using all 10 drawers/workboxes in a single day.   Some activities take a few minutes while others take longer.  He has really surprised me with how accepting he is of the routine.  He actually does better with it than when he had too much free time.

As always, of I do notice that it gets to be too much for him, I will make adjustments where needed.  It makes a good goal to work towards though.

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One of the things that I am finally getting a grip on is that Pookie will take longer to teach than Little Miss has done. Yes, I always knew it in my head but my heart was another issue. In many ways, Pookie is showing a lot of intelligence. There are other areas however where extra time and work is greatly needed. So, with that in mind, I am doing something a bit different this next term.

A fact that I have come to realize is that Pookie loves to be kept busy. Yes, he does like some down time, but overall, he is happiest when he is occupied with something. I have purposely kept his number of workboxes per session down to about 4-5 activities. I felt that would exhaust his attention span. He is teaching me a different way of thinking. Depending on the activities he is doing, there are days when he wants to do more. He loves variety and does show a great aptitude for catching on to new things. Given too much down time, he actually gets bored and cranky. I honestly believe that he enjoys the challenge of the lessons some days. Maybe not every lesson, but I do see the excitement quite often. Academically, if you look at the overall picture, he is still solidly in the preschool level. Conceptual learning and abstracts are still out of his realm of understanding. So, instead of going from Pre-K to 1st grade he is going to do Kindergarten.

I love the Heart of Dakota curriculum that we have been using. He seems to enjoy it as well. The only problem that we have is that it goes by too quickly for him. The entire program for each day only takes about 1-2 hours, depending on the hands-on activity he does that day. Pookie needs more than that. He needs more activities to reinforce what he is learning. As I was reading through Sue Patrick’s book, The Workbox System: A User’s Guide, I was reminded of her ideas for giving her son several activities that each taught the same concept. While each may contain the same information, the different approaches helped the child to grasp and retain the information better.

So, with that in mind, here are my thoughts on how to proceed with Pookie. First, continue with a Pre-K/Kindergarten level until I am sure he has mastered the information. To me, that is common sense. You cannot built a sturdy home on a shaky foundation. Your child’s academic progress is no different. They need that same solid foundation to progress effectively. What I am changing up is how I go about his education. This upcoming term, I will be blending two similar curricula into one as well as continuing with Montessori styled activities.

My Father’s World Kindergarten program is very good with teaching the basics, such as the alphabet and numbers. In many ways, it reminds me of a good Pre-K curriculum. There are worksheets and hands-on activities for Pookie to do each day. They spend an entire week on each letter of the alphabet to help insure that the child is learning the letter and it’s sound.

Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts for His Glory program is for children ages 5-7 years old. It covers all the basic school subjects, including science and history. There are plenty of hands-on activities as well. In the teacher’s guide, there are options to the math and reading/phonics program. Here is where blending the two curricula will work.

In the mornings, Pookie will be doing the My Father’s World curriculum.  We will be working on lapbooks that correspond to the week’s lesson theme as well.  Being as this curriculum is the gentler approach of the two, it will be perfect for mornings when Pookie is the most active and preferring a lot of hands-on projects.

In the afternoons, we will be doing the Heart of Dakota program.  By afternoon, Pookie is ready for that cuddle time with me on the couch as I read to him.  As we go through the books, I ask him to point out various items in the pictures to be sure he is paying attention to the details.  Because he had all morning to get the wiggles out of his system, he will be more ready in the afternoon to work on those few assignments that require him to sit at the table or desk.

Intermittently throughout the day, he will have two 15-minute breaks in the morning and again in the afternoon to free play or simply chill out.  He will also have a snack break halfway through the morning and again halfway through the afternoon, in addition to his lunch break.  Each of these curriculum programs are short in duration each day.  Even doing both, Pookie will not be overwhelmed.  I will always have the option to scale back a bit and do each program at half-speed if needed.  This is just another way of saying that I will take two days to complete a single day’s lessons for each program.  It would take twice as long to complete the programs, but with Pookie, we cannot do long breaks anyways.  The longer time period for completing the programs would work in his favor.

Montessori style activities will always be a part of his day for years to come.  He thrives on the hands-on learning.  Through it, he is able to show his knowledge and understanding.  They also address his need for sensory input each day.  From sensory bins to sorting activities and beyond, Pookie will have plenty of things to do that will stimulate his senses and broaden his learning opportunities

There are many adaptations that I still am making to worksheets in order for Pookie to be able to do them successfully. I will post some of those ideas in an upcoming blog. Many of the adaptations are similar to past ones, such as turning cut and paste activities into file folder games. There are a few new ones however that may give ideas for you to try.

I am really looking forward to the upcoming school term.  I have tentatively planned to start the new term in June, after we get back from a church youth camp.  Now that I have a good sense of what Pookie’s homeschool routine will be, I am working on Little Miss’ curriculum plans in more detail.  Both she and Pookie are getting curious about what they will be learning.  Every so often, I take out a hands-on element from their upcoming term so they can explore it a little.  It is capturing their curiosity and interest in a big way.  Pookie is especially showing interest in doing the Melissa and Doug Beginners Pattern Block Puzzles.  I am enjoying watching his excitement towards learning.  As long as their is interest and excitement, he is guaranteed to learn, which in turn gives me much hope for his future.

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At Therapy Works, where Pookie goes for his OT and Speech therapies, they have a really simple style of visual schedule.  It is one of those ideas that have you asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  Well, here is the schedule strip.  I made one for him to use here at home.  Much easier than the yardstick idea that I had.

You only need 4 things to make the schedule strip: wooden ruler, self-adhesive loop tape (the fuzzy part of the hook and loop tape), a pair of scissors, and a length of ribbon.


I cut a piece of the loop tape that was about 11.5″ long.  I adhered it to the back of the wooden ruler so that the hole near the end of the ruler was still showing.  Next, I threaded a ribbon through the hole and tied it to form a hanging loop.


That is it!  Your child now has a very portable schedule strip to use.  I am using this now for Pookie.  I place his morning schedule on the strip.  He has a little container into which he places the PECS cards as we do each activity.  The PECS style cards that I have for his homeschooling are about 1″ square.  You can easily make them on the SEN Teacher page I linked to in my last post.   Just use your own graphics or ones found online through a Google Images search.  You can also find them already designed on Pinterest.  The website which I used to find the ones shown here are from Homeschool Creations.

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Over the past week, I went on a shopping binge. Sounds bad, but in reality it was a great thing.  We were able to get the child credit when we filed our taxes. When the money came into our account, we allotted the entire child credit amount to be used towards the kids and their education.

I went shopping and bought all the supplies they would need for next school term.  Curriculum will be ordered next week after we get back from a trip visiting friends.  The shipping that I have done fills an 18 gallon size tote. I bought all their paper, pencils, supplies for making lapbooks and Little Miss’ notebooking, and art supplies.  The nail order items are the only thing left to purchase.

I am so happy to be ahead on this.  My dear husband is changing jobs after being a trucker and gone most of the time.  He is getting a local job and will be home each night.  Now that the school materials are taken care of, I won’t have to worry about budgeting for it and waiting for the sales this summer.

I was thrilled to find many items on clearance or at a sale price.  I even purchased two of the 10-drawer colorful carts for the kids to use as workboxes.  I found them for $24.98 each at Sam’s Club, a huge savings from the price at other stores.  I already have them assembled and the kids are enjoying them.  Even Pookie used his today and was curious to find what was in each drawer. 

It is such a sense of peace to know we will be done shopping for the school supplies once the online orders arrive.

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