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Sue Patrick's Workbox System, A User's Guide, A Workbox System Starter Package Review by Donna Campos

Sue Patrick
Sue Patrick, Wend Publishing
P.O. Box 233
Wake Forest, NC 27588

Sue Patrick's Workbox System is an organizational tool to be used in home schools for any age group from Kindergarten through High School. The User's Guide is a 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" plastic spiral bound book of 122 pages with glossy plastic front and back covers. Additional printable forms supporting the program are available via the internet after registering the product, as are supplemental games and activities. Forms are referenced and noted throughout the User's Guide with a symbol, which is explained at the start of the book on the initial "How to Use this Book" page. The start of the book includes a dedication of Appreciation to God and family, the "How to Use this Book" page, and then two pages of Contents. Designed for home schools for all children ranging from "typical" to those with special needs, the Chapters include an overview of the Benefits of Homeschooling, How We Teach, an explanation of the Workbox System and those it is designed for, details of a Workbox day, Curriculum and Materials, Adjusting Curriculum Creatively, Life Skills, and the finer points regarding discipline, problem solving, and family dynamics when using the workbox system. Sue Patrick's Workbox System has two essential components: the actual physical structure of the system and the utilization of the Educational Philosophy discussed in her User's Guide. The actual physical structure will require the purchase of plastic shoe boxes and a simple wire rack shelving system to contain them, or similar components, and may already be items you own that can be gathered and utilized for the system. The optional Workbox System Starter Package included for this review contains support materials for two children: schedule strips with rings, workbox numbers, clocking in and out pockets, and the cards to be used for "Work with Mom" and "I Need Help." The items in the Workbox System Starter Package are laminated, have necessary Velcro attached, and include the additional Velcro pieces to be placed on your Workboxes. Additional support materials are available through the website and include center materials for Pre-K, grades 1-3, grades 3-5, and grades 4-6. A Consulting Package is also available for purchase that will provide three months of email contact with Sue Patrick for advisement and guidance in using the system.

The Workbox System came about after years of developing a workable system to use with her own son, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. She reveals her story in a heartfelt description of her family's walk through the years from diagnosis, managing, and eventually improving their home school program using her Workbox System. Loosely based on the structured teaching approach from Division TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children), a Division of the UNC Department of Psychiatry, Sue Patrick learned from TEACCH the value of teaching in a structured way to the individual mind and in so doing, developed her Workbox System. Easily adapted to every age group and multiple age groups within one home, Sue Patrick's Workbox System is a physical framework and teaching philosophy combination that builds responsibility in students and flexibility for parents as they schedule school days. Ideal for the gamut of learning styles, teaching methods, number of students, and educational abilities, the curriculum and materials are still entirely chosen by the home school, while the organization of the materials fit within Sue Patrick's Workbox System. Students easily distracted, struggling with individual responsibility, in need of intense organization, and many with special needs from advanced to learning delayed, will find assistance and routine are both easily found using Sue Patrick's Workbox System. Parent Teachers frustrated with planning, seeking a time conscious system, or with a desire to instill responsibility and a desire to learn more fully into their students will find organization with Sue Patrick's Workbox System. In simple terms, the system schedules tasks to be completed in a given school day onto schedule strips of numbered cards that correspond to boxes containing curriculum supplies, more specific instructions, and pictured notation for "Work with Mom" activities. All items for each activity are gathered and placed into a box for the student to use and kept at the child's work place for the school day. As tasks are completed, boxes are emptied, and the child's work space becomes cleaner and more motivating as physical evidence reveals the amount of work accomplished. The User's Guide explains the need for Life Skills, independence, and personal responsibility that we, as parent-teachers, need to instill in our children, regardless of their level of ability, in order to make our children learners for life. The method provides for general goal setting and curriculum choices without a stringent lesson plan, although a lesson plan is easily broken down into the workboxes.

For those who love every detail of a manual or User's guide, cover to cover reading will enable the parent to implement Sue Patrick's Workbox System thoroughly and successfully. But for those parents who are not into reading lengthy manuals (although this manual is easy reading at an adequate 122 pages), they will be pleasantly surprised at her straightforward acceptance of their preference as she understands, and stresses the study of chapter four to gain an adequate knowledge of the system. The additional chapters will provide fine tuning support and reference for those with a desire to quickly implement the program or who prefer not to study an entire User's Guide. We loved the emphasis Sue Patrick places on the family being the greatest positive influence on children. She has taken an organizational idea some seasoned home schoolers have found helpful, expanded it, fine tuned it, and developed it into a working program that will tremendously help home schoolers across the board. I am able to plan our day more easily, utilize my one on one time (or "Work with Mom" time) more efficiently between children, and the children are looking forward to a much more organized day. We have used a Picture Exchange Communication System in the past, as many parents with children on the autism spectrum have, and Sue Patrick's Workbox System expands on PECS. My husband's opinion of the system is that it can be: "PECS on steroids." Great, creative ideas for implementing the use of posters, file folder games, centers, unit studies, and various testing are all expanded upon in understandable terms. Comments and views on "testing" may not be agreeable to all, but Sue Patrick offers some wonderful ideas to utilize traditional testing in more flexible and creative ways. Instructions for both pre-planning what you want to place in the boxes for each child for each day and a log for actually recording what actually gets completed in the system allows you to plan and track easily. Utilizing both forms, particularly in the early stages of using the system, allows the parent to see discrepancies between planning and accomplished reality so that necessary changes may be easily made.

We adjusted the program to our personal needs easily, as my son has a difficult time focusing when confronted with a disorganized space. For many children, the presence of unfinished material placed in boxes at their workspace will bring motivation toward completion, for my son it was more distracting than motivating. We implemented simple changes to personalize the system for our home and have seen tremendous success. The use of "I need help" cards placed full responsibility on my son to determine whether he would choose to take the time to figure out a problem or assignment, rather than quickly relying on assistance. Responsibility was an immediate advantage we saw from the program within the first day, and my son began focusing on using fewer help cards each day until he now has occasional days where he has required no additional help at all. From a parent standpoint, I have become so much more organized and daily planning requires only the time it takes to place items in drawers, grab a game or manipulative from shelves, and notate accordingly on my written record. The prior use of a Picture Exchange Communication System has given us a bit of a head start on this concept and enabled us to use Sue Patrick's Workbox System to organize our curriculum items, games, software, and more by creating a small PEC for each item and easily utilizing them on a schedule strip. I store all of my PECS on a large pocket 100s chart so that I can see shelves worth of curriculum represented in one place, enabling me to better utilize all of our activities and balance daily work to its best potential. My son is excited every evening as I begin to load material for the next day for him and he looks forward to every morning as it brings his big "reveal" of the work for the day!

As with many small businesses and published works there are typos and discrepancies in the book that become a bit frustrating. One part of the book stresses children should grasp phonics after learning 1000 sight words, while another says 2000, with no way of knowing which is the intended number. Some explanation of the negative effects of excessive talking by some students in home schools is generalized to most students, we disagree and have found excessive talking to be a specific habit of our son functioning on the autism spectrum and not our typical students. Regardless, Sue explains a simple method of gaining the attention of a talking student which easily and immediately redirects them to the task at hand, putting an end to unnecessary chatter. Some of her tips will be familiar to families experienced with programs used for children on the autism spectrum, but the familiarity breeds greater understanding of Sue Patrick's Workbox System and I believe will bring quicker success. The system seems a bit simplistic for older students and may lead families with older children to skip an attempt at using it. I urge families with all age groups to seriously considering using Sue Patrick's Workbox System. Older children will find greater independence and improved organization, while parents will better balance assigned activities between textbook, computer based, large motor, and extra curricula activities by using this system. When referencing independent learning, I stress that this system does not, in any way, release Parent-teachers from actually teaching. The system better utilizes time as assisted teaching is scheduled as such, while independent work is scheduled to be completed with the responsibility for completion focused on the student rather than the teacher. For families with multiple children, like ours, I was able to plan the schedule strips for each day alongside each other for multiple students, enabling me to shift my one on one focus from one child to another in a better planned fashion. Scheduling is key to a well run home school and is essential for successfully maneuvering adult lives, this system will teach children personal responsibility under the guidance of loving parents.

A couple of sentences on page 17 of the User's Guide reveal the heart of Sue Patrick and the importance of teaching our children at home. "I simply cannot understand teaching without God in the classroom. There is no other basis for history, science, geography, math or any subject on earth, than to start with God." Sue Patrick's Workbox System provides a means to a more peaceful end in the classroom, that of completed work in a calm and organized environment with children who are being responsible with their time and workload. The organizational tool this system provides for parent-teachers is phenomenal as planning becomes a simple task of choosing activities and assignments and gathering necessities into boxes for each one, with simple Velcro placement of numbered guides onto the schedule strip for the day finishing the task simply and easily. Planning, as minimal or as in depth as the parent chooses to accomplish, is encouraged on a personal basis rather than in a mass produced program as a particular curriculum may require. Sue Patrick's years of experience and hard earned knowledge of special needs culminates into a blessing for every home school. The expansion items available on her website and printable games and activities she has designed for use by her registered users provides even more support, now and in the future. For a little more investment families may save time and energy and purchase kits she has already organized, a smart investment in saved time, particularly for larger families utilizing the system over years with many students. We would purchase Sue Patrick's Workbox System had we not received it for review and are strongly encouraging family and friends to order her program. Regardless of the personal needs of your children, the system will suit their individuality and provide the flexibility necessary to successfully teach children at home. Users of Sue Patrick's Workbox System will feel better organized, accomplish more in a shorter time, have more responsible children, and will take back wasted moments of frustration previously spent planning school days and losing track of hoped for outcomes. This is a blessing to home schools of every shape, size, and need, Sue Patrick's years of knowledge are instantly yours the moment you begin reading her User's Guide.

Product Review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2009