Workboxes ~ The Help Card

When I first read the workbox system book I was appalled at the idea of doling out three "help me" cards to each child and telling them to use them wisely. After all, this is homeschooling, not public school ~ I'm supposed to be here to help my children, not to be bothered by their requests for assistance. But now? Now I get it. The cards are meant to make the child stop and think for themselves before asking for help.

"Mom, I don't understand ..." "Mom, I don't get it ..." "Mom, I don't know what I am supposed to do ..." "Mom, how do you spell ...?" "Mom, he won't share the dictionary." "Mom, did I do this right?" "Mom! Mom! Mom!"

9 times out of 10 the boys can figure out whatever they are asking for help on. My answers usually fall along the lines, of "Did you read the instruction card?" (No.) "What do you think?" (to which the answer will be exactly correct). "Did you use the spelling dictionary?" (No.) "Can you work it out?" (Yes.)

I am reminded of a young toddler, perhaps the more timid type, who is ready to walk unassisted but is unwilling to let go of a parent's hand and take those first steps. We have to encourage them to let go and walk on their own. Over and over again we offer love and support and also recognize when they are ready to do things on their own. We don't push independence too early; it is something that grows with time.

I'm going to give the "Help" cards a try beginning Monday; I want to encourage them to think before they give up and ask for help. If it doesn't work we can always stop using them.


How many would you recommend with things like Algebra? Many times it is the way that you said... he just needed to read the instructions, or look in his book more... but sometimes, I have to phsyically show him how to do the problems. And now he is getting into proofs. Should I maybe give him more because the subject matter isn't self taught? What do you think?

If it is the main algebra lesson then I would sit and do that with him (no help cards needed when I am giving the lesson), and while he is getting concepts down I would try to be close by during practice work and probably wouldn't limit help. But at some point when you feel he has something down I would try starting with a reasonable number of help cards and then taper them down from there.

When I think about it, I did my algebra homework at home and there was no one there who could help me. So maybe sometimes the answer is that he has to do his best on his own and you will review it with him the next day.

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