Workbox Crate: simplified homeschooling

Y’all, this is in the category of life-changing as far as homeschooling my 7-year-old. I’m not exaggerating; we’ve only been doing this a couple of weeks but it has already made a HUGE difference in our days. My main goal for this was to save my sanity by giving my active girl some much-needed purpose to her day, and it’s done exactly that.

workbox crate for simplified homeschooling

If left to her own devices, my youngest girl gets into trouble and/or annoys everyone in the house; however, when she has something to DO, she’s a joy. The reality is, I simply don’t have the energy to come up with something for her to do every. waking. moment.  {This is the girl with the polar opposite personality from my quiet-loving introverted self.}

Before this, our days were haphazard. Sometimes I’d sit down and “do school” with her, sometimes not. When I did, she’d pester me to do more. When I didn’t, she’d endlessly pepper me with questions about when we’d do it and what we’d do. It drove me crazy. Clearly, she needed more structure to her day, but I didn’t want to compromise my unschoolish philosophy for the early years. We needed a happy balance between the two.

My workbox crate system:

What I finally came up with was inspired by two posts. First was this one I remembered reading a few years ago, when I didn’t need it. I looked it back up when I realized it would work well for us. Essentially, it’s Kris’ modification of Sue Patrick’s original workbox system, condensed into a crate with hanging files. Perfect.

Workbox crate with hanging files.
WorkBox crate

But I didn’t think the laminated chart and velcro pieces would work for us, so my workbox crate and files sat mocking me on the piano bench in my office while I pondered. And then I read this post on using spiral notebooks to simplify homeschooling. It was exactly the solution I needed.

Spiral notebook with assignments.
assignment notebook

How it works:

I recommend reading both of those posts I mentioned above for more details. I’ve tweaked it all to suit me, but it’s essentially what those posts explain.

Each morning, Scout pulls out her spiral assignment notebook, and starts with the first thing on the list. I labeled each hanging file with a number rather than a subject, so it’s easy to find but I can switch them up easily anytime I want.

As she finishes an assignment, she checks it off, puts her completed paper or workbook back in that file, then moves on to the next one. Right now there are only 5 files but I can add more later.

Example of a typical day:

  1. A Reason for Handwriting, p. 52
  2. Math, lesson 8
  3. Explode the Code, p. 23-24
  4. Map Skill worksheet
  5. coloring sheet

This amount of work usually takes her about two hours. I stay nearby for questions, and particularly to make sure she understands new math concepts, but she is able to do the majority of it herself. This lets me get dinner in the crock pot or start a load of laundry, etc., while she works.

Happily busy girl.

Prepping the workbox:

Each evening, I take out the papers she did that day and move them to my own file, double-check her work (I usually see enough as she’s working it to know she did it correctly), and write out the assignments for the next day. It’s no trouble to hand-write it; I just have to remember to do it since it’s not yet a habit.

I looooove the flexibility of this system. Some days I switch up phonics with spelling or grammar. The coloring sheet is from one of my ocean animals coloring books, a color-by-number, or other printables I’ve found online. I’ll occasionally swap out A Reason for Handwriting with poetry copywork. And once we finish that map skills workbook, I have other geography worksheets for her to do.

Now that this is going so well, I can gradually add in other things on my want-to-do homeschooling list. Like art in the afternoons and read-alouds at lunch time.

{Can you believe it’s been two years today since we met the kids?}

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Two years already? And yet haven’t they always just been… <3

I currently have a high school student, middle school student, toddler and infant… I have tried all sorts of systems for the different seasons in our learning adventure. I imagine this crate system will be much used in the years to come!


We used a similar system with my daughter in the elementary years. She was an early riser, so instead of waking me up she could go to her workbox and get started on school. There was never any question of what she had to do for the day. I also added fun things for her to do when her work was completed. Keeping those extras fresh and not boring was the biggest challenge for me.

Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Wow! I can NOT believe it’s been two years since you met them. Time doesn’t fly – it passes in some sort of impossible warp speed. I love how you’ve adapted these two ideas to create a system that works so well for your family.

Michelle Cannon

Great system! We use crates to organize our lessons, too.

Nancy M

I’ve heard of these but not tried them but I appreciate you posting this. We are in a co-op this year and we are getting those items done but seems like we can’t get to other areas consistently and my husband and I keep talking about that our 4th grader (our youngest) really needs to gain more independence from me so I can get other things done. I think I’m going to really consider if this method will work for us. Thanks Jamie!


That’s so funny that you linked to Kris’ post- I thought I had an original idea. I revamped our workboxes last year to look like that! I am sure I read her post way back when it stuck in the back of my mind. I have been pleased with the system.


We adapted the workbox system to our family almost the same way — I just wrote the assignments on our white board and we kept the papers in plastic drawers. It worked wonderfully for several years and set the kids up for good work habits now that they are in their preteen/teenage years.

Such a sweet picture of her working at the table!


do you have a daily schedule that you follow? I also read the blog post on the spiral notebook to keep assignments in.. i am going to do that as well.


Jamie – I really love this. I’ve seen a few workbox crate ideas, but I love how you combined the spiral notebook with the crate system. I think this’ll work super well with my daughter, who always wants to do more school and is currently needs less hands-on than her brother. Thanks for sharing!


Where did you find your workbox crate? I love them!


Just curious if you rip the pages out of the books, or do you just put the entire workbook in the folder?