Showing posts with label Workbox System. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Workbox System. Show all posts

Thursday, October 15, 2009

TOS Crew Review: ABCteach Online Resource for Children's Education

With the deluge of products on the market-both physical and online-it can be rather overwhelming for most to decide what are "necessities",  and what qualifies as "nice to have but can live without"  items for their homeschooling needs.  Depending on your educational method and approach, the answer to that may come more easily than others. I tend to be an eclectic, Charlotte Mason based, hands-on Workboxing/Lapbooking type of instructor. The children also lean toward that learning style; and so for us, a mixture of different styles of curriculum help to accomplish this method. Tossing in a few worksheet related activities is not unheard of around these parts; and now that we are a Workboxing family, projects and games, file folders and lapbooks which reinforce our current study material, show up often in our boxes. The problem is, that one can quickly run out of stuff to put in there-things that are not so complex they would take days to accomplish; yet serve as positive tools to refresh and invigorate the children's brain cells.

One way I accomplish the task, is to have some online memberships to varying sites which provide ideas, worksheets, flash cards, clip art, coloring sheets and so forth. There are several nice companies out there-including ABCteach. I had actually come across their site before, and have accessed a lot of the free worksheets prior to this review opportunity-but decided on a different one because of the cost. It all came down to the almighty dollar. Sad, but true-as of late, our belts have had to be pulled pretty darn tight, and so I had to make a fiscally responsible choice for our family. The problem is, I missed out on so much because that the other site simply doesn't offer what ABCteach does. I found the section for creating personalized worksheets, crossword puzzles and other search and find activities, to be such an awesome way to customize and really highlight what we were covering in our studies. I love that feature.  I also quickly noticed that their graphics, clip art and overall look to their material is very high quality.  That means a lot to a person who really prefers her "works" [that is any activity I put together like a lapbook or game] and projects to be classy and professional. 

To get an idea of what you can do with this site-check out the post I have showing the projects I put together using some of the downloads from ABCteach. I am not a big fan of using an over abundance of worksheets, so I tend to avoid getting drawn into that way of teaching. But what I did find, was that I could take a particular download, and change the way to use it or pull parts to create an activity that is reusable, fun and does not resemble your typical idea of a the "just keep 'em busy" through worksheets, way of teaching.

I also have been receiving newsletters from ABCteach which notify us of all the new updates and goodies they have added to their site-which is quite often!  So they certainly stay on top of things, and provide the members with a sleu of materials to keep you from hitting that proverbial wall of "nothing new here".  Plus, they have a blog, have won the Teacher's Choice Award in 2007, and have a pretty easy to navigate website. I actually like the layout a lot-it is linear and organized fairly well, in my opinion.  I have heard others say it confused them, so maybe it is just that I have been scrolling through similar layouts for some time and find it rather easy to work through.  I am not sure, but again-for me, it was easy to use.   It is quite obvious the folks at ABCteach really care about the quality and care they put into their company, and I really appreciate that!

You can access their site to try out several different downloads, since they offer thousands of free worksheets to everyone. It is a great way to see if the material suits your needs and teaching style. For me, it is a must have for our family due to the very nature of the way I teach, and  the way the kids learn.  By visiting the site, you should be able to glean enough examples to see if it fits your family.  I am thinking most of the material is geared for pre-K through late elementary; with a few things (like the foreign language stuff) that can easily be used with older students.  Depending on where your child is in their studies, and how they learn-this could be a great tool to add to your homeschool resources.

if creating projects and activities for the workboxes or lapbooks or works

if simply copying off a worksheet and including in your student's work load

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$40 per year/individual, other price reductions for group membership.

I have seen the subscription price discounted at times, through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op for example-so search for specials to see if you can save on the cost. Another option is to see if you can get folks from your homeschool group or co-op together and purchase a group discounted membership.
For more details regarding their prices, visit their Membership information page.

Be sure to check out what my team mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschooling products, on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

**ABCteach provided me with a free one-month subscription membership to their site, in order to test and use this with my family, so that I could write this review.

Friday, October 2, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Sue Patrick's Workbox System

The Workbox System, by Sue Patrick,  is truly a different method for presenting your children with their school work. This set up is a creative, streamlined design; which reinstates a sense of accountability, and order to the typical homeschooling family's day. Originally born out of a mother’s desire to find something for her autistic son's specific needs, and through much trial and error-Sue created something that can not only  benefit a child with special educational requirements, but most children in general. Workboxing helps to break down the assignments, yet still includes various activities, and incorporates those "fun" projects that sometimes can be waylaid due to time constraints or good intentions gone MIA.

This video offers more insight about the system for you.

The Workbox System systematically defines a student’s assignments and daily activities by breaking them into smaller units, which by itself is not anything new in the history of education-after all Charlotte Mason developed her method around prescribed time limits [near the turn of the 20th Century] for working on any given subject-but the presentation of the system is rather "newfangled".  Just by placing all the necessary goodies, along with the actual lesson into the clear, plastic shoebox and then onto a wire shelf-you will have something interesting to behold, indeed. Add some number cards, a number grid, and a schedule strip and activities like center time-and you have yourself a new way to teach 'readin, 'riting and 'rithematic, all subjects in between! Because the student’s activities are laid out before them in clear boxes they can "see" what is to come and watch the work load disappear by day's end. With a bit of teacher prep* time, and by using the suggestions Sue offers in her User Guide; you can present your child with a more independent method to accomplishing their subjects. The added benefit of the system is that it eliminates the “What do I have to do next?” and the drudgery of going from one subject to the next.

This is one example of a particular day, but it changes each time 

Here is another day's worth of activities-I rotate the boxes around a bit to stave off boredom.  I have a larger tote to store my bigger projects like lapbooks to maintain non-crinkleage.

After using this for almost a year now, I still rave about the actual system and how it has changed the way we do school.  I have shared the workbox bug [the good kind] with several friends who are now using it too.  After all, it makes no sense to keep something all to oneself, if it truly can bless other families.

I love, love the actual system, the ideas and the way it simplifies one's way to go about presenting the child with their work.  After all, in our experience, I have seen some remarkable changes in my young student. By age 7, this child was already staging boycotts and revolts on a daily basis when it came to "school time". I was entrenched in prayer for something, anything that would solve our need to call a truce so we could get on with our studies.  Then, it happened-I came across this funny sounding system and after some investigation I soon became enchanted with it. That said, I have not used the "pure" version of the workbox system. This is due to a few things-one, I held off buying the book because I knew I had the possibility of reviewing this year for TOS. So, even though I was able to glean good info and insight as to the basic set-up and procedure via other blogs-I still was "in the dark" about some of it, so I improvised. Secondly, it is impossible to expect folks to do something the exact same way as prescribed [in the homeschool world-this is referred to "tweaking it"], especially when it concerns something as personal as the educational philosophy one holds in regards to their precious children. So ours is a "morphed version" that isn't 100% pure, but works for us.  I found that I had to adjust and reconfigure some of it as we used it; so that it fits my child's personality and needs-as it should. So one child in in our family has the shoe rack/shoe boxes which is pretty close (although there are plenty of switch ups and changes that better fit him/us/our space issues) to Sue's recommended system; the other (our teenager) has another (which will be switched to an Ikea shelving unit and clearish boxes once I get an opportunity to get to the store) that is working for her. Now her current one is a trial type system because I didn't want to spend tons of money on the set-up,  if it proved to be a lead balloon. And because she refused to use the type her brother has, we designed something that suited her tastes.  So within our home-we have two different systems going, and they are working-which points to the very issue I noted above-it is a personal choice and one should not feel adapting it is wrong, or that it won't work.  I do agree though with Sue, that you should try (even for a bit) the original plan if you can.  Even if that means "practicing" on one student first to see if it the Workbox System fits your family. What's more-the boy loves doing "school" now, looks forward to seeing what he gets to do each day, and we accomplish more than we ever have before.  And that my friends, is the pure beauty of this system!

Furthermore, on another positive note-I love the creativity it has spawned in me!  Due to the fact that I would rather focus my time and energy on the accumulation of ideas, projects and links one truly needs after getting the system up and running [not what your actual system is]-I have dedicated a blog, What's in the Box?  to  showcase this recently acquired passion. I prefer to focus on the positives of the system, and let the not-so-great parts fall by the wayside.

But, (and I am sure you saw this coming) but I in all fairness and honesty to my readers-I  need to point out a few things.  Not wanting to get myself involved in a huge cyber Rocky Balboa VS Apollo Creed Heavy Weight Championship fight;  I simply can say that I have a lot of different views on the actual philosophy behind educating one's own -which [mostly] do not align with Sue's.  I cannot in good conscience leave these tidbits out of my review-I want you to know where I stand on some of the particulars that bothered me about this book. 

I do not agree with Sue's philosophy on education.  I disagree with transplanting a public school classroom smack dab into my home.  I do not want to emulate the very thing I dislike.  I do have an area in my home that holds most of our school supplies which to some may appear to be a "classroom" but truly, it is not a PS version.  We consider it our area to house the necessities, but are in no way confined to it all day long. I do not expect children to stay seated at their own desks for an official period of "school " time.  I simply don't.  We enjoy the very essence of what homeschooling is meant to be-learning in an environment which is not sterile or disjointed from every day life.   I have been in the trenches long enough to have found the method and philosophies (yes-we are eclectic) that work best for us...I do not feel it necessary to insist that her way is the only way. It isn't. So please, just keep that in mind as you read through it-that there are some statements can come across as offensive-whether intentional or not. And remember, that with some digging you will find a treasure which can be a true blessing to your family. 

So where do I stand? Now, after reading it-I can say to those who ponder the "to buy or not to buy" question-that  I do advise purchasing it for several reasons.  First off, it is always good to go to the original source.  You do miss a lot of reasons behind the process of it.  You miss access to several helpful downloads, and resources that for most remain elusive until seeing it within the confines of the book or site.  I also believe in supporting those who have spent their valuable time and energy, to put together many years worth of trial and error, wisdom and knowledge into a book or project-so the rest of us can benefit from it too.  Even by sharing ideas, projects and helpful insight to the system on blogs such as mine-you miss out on the "why" behind the development of it; and miss the chance to support a fellow homeschooler.  Ultimately, it is your decision.  You will need to figure out if plunking down the $20 for the eBook/book is best for your family.  I know that for me-if I had had this from the start, I would have had a better grasp on the overall picture of the system-and that would have filled in some gaps that until recently remained holes to me.  I simply advise that you enter this decision with the knowledge that you-and you alone- must decide your family's philosophical take and method of educating your youngsters. If you read it with the pre-knowledge that some of it simply will not fit your style, you can still glean the necessary information regarding the system-and forgo the rest.

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*By teacher prep time, I am referring to the fact that someone (usually you) will have to print, cut and laminate the "stuff" you will need for the system to run smoothly.  You will also discover that organizing all the components will help you to find them more quickly,  in order to fill the boxes without spending an eternity doing it (because you will need to do this before each day begins); and most likely-you will find that you may need to rearrange a few things in your home/teaching area in order to accommodate this system.  This may even require your time hunting through closets and totes, to find those lovely "fun" projects and kits that have somehow found themselves collecting dust in recent months-or years. Putting these wonderful doo-dads in the workboxes, are a major part of the system-so it is wise to seek them out.  Add in the extra goodies you  may want to have on hand; such as file folder games, flashcards, downloaded activities from various sources, etc., and you have yourself quite a project ahead of you.  BUT it is so well worth the time and focus to get things in order to be ready to use, because in the end-it saves you valuable time after the system is up and running.

Sue Patrick's Workbox System Homepage
Book-comes in two choices, eBook and hard copy. Book: $19.95 eBook: 19.00
With the purchase of the book, you can also procure a consultation session with the author for an additional charge.

Center kits are also available for purchase.

Starter kits and package deals page. This is great for those who do not have the resources or time to put together the goodies necessary to get started. Prices vary, depending on your needs.

Don't forget to check out the TOS Crew Homepage for more reviews on this and many other great homeschool products.

**Sue Patrick provided me with the free copy of the Sue Patrick's Workbox System eBook in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.