My 4 Ring Circus

Welcome to our final week of participation in the Not Back to School Blog Hop!  So far, we have talked about our curriculum, our homeschool set up, and our first day.  This week, we get to share a ‘typical’ day.

We currently have four children, a 7 year old 2nd grader, a 5 1/2 year old K student, a 3 1/2 year old preschooler, and an on the move 18 month old who wants to do everything the older ones do.  Homeschooling our four precious children can sometimes feel like a circus – Yes, you might even call it a 4 ring circus!

Kids 2009

It is difficult to admit this, but I am hoping that it will encourage someone else…  I have experienced a very trying and tiring first month as I tried very hard to fit everything in that I wanted to do with the kids.  It created too long of days and too little down time for both our kids and for mom!  I was a few weeks into the start of the year and I was already feeling burned out – Definitely, NOT a good way to start.  I felt that I was daily performing in a circus act in which I was dropping all of the spinning plates!

I am still adjusting things and trying to make our weekdays more manageable.  Here are some things I have done, so far…
– cut down on the number of days we planned to do certain subjects (specifically grammar, structured writing, and science)
-moved the much wanted weekly nature walks to an ‘as the opportunity arises’ basis
-simplified spelling (I actually did away with the separate workbook and am now using words from what she is already learning in her ETC phonics book plus a couple sight words each week.)
-said ‘no’ to additional things outside the home that sounded beneficial and good, but would have added stress to our week
-worked on developing a good ‘flow’ to our day (We are finally starting to get into a good routine!  We are not on a timed schedule, but we have our flow from one activity to the next.)

Our Day Wall Schedule

As a note, ‘workboxes’ take a large portion of our mornings as it involves the older girls doing independent language arts and math as I rotate meeting with them (for reading, spelling, etc.) and their younger brother for preschool.  Once they finish their workboxes, they are free to play as they wait for the others.  We do MFW Bible, History, and Science all together.  Art and music, is generally, just with our 2nd and K children with the younger two coloring and/or listening in.

To someone walking in, our days may still seem to be somewhat disorderly, but it IS organized, thought out, AND the kids are learning.

So, without further ado, here are the stars of our show…

In Ring 1, we have our 2nd grader!
Here she is working on some independent language arts or math from her daily workbox…
2nd workbox
reading and writing in her Bible notebook…
2nd Bible
and reading aloud to mommy (and our toddler, if she can sit still long enough).
2nd reading to mom

Ring 2:  Our kindergartner!
Our K child doing some independent work as well…
K workbox
She loves to read and share books with her younger siblings!K reading to T

Ring 3:  Our preschooler!
He can be found doing hands on educational activities or playing as his big sisters work with mom…
P nature collageP doing eraser tracers

Ring 4:  Our toddler!
She can often be found in her dress up shoes and pushing different items around in her big brother’s dump truck…
T and dump truck
or learning to color (scribble) and enjoying every minute of it!T coloring

I am also discovering that I need a large dose of grace for each day – both for myself and to pour out onto my kids.   There will always be diaper changes, discipline issues, a little extra loving from mom needing to be bestowed on our toddler, and occasionally asking an older sibling to play or read to the littlest one – things that sometimes just don’t seem to fit when we are in the ‘school’ mode.  I need to remind myself frequently that we are, first of all, a family that happens to school at home.  I can’t let the curriculum and academics take precedence over love of family and relationship building within the home.  It truly does ALL go together and, no, it is not really a circus here.  Hopefully, on most days, it could be called a well coordinated balancing act.

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  1. Hi Michelle, I just wanted to let you know how much I love your curriculum. I have two weeks done with my almost 3 year old and it seemed to go well. We are just starting to test the waters of homeschooling to see if it is for us and so far it’s been great. My husband is a pastor so time and money are a rare commodity! My daughter is smart but asks me to do it for her all the time when I know she can do it herself…any ideas? Thanks again for the great curriculum and for offering it for free…I’ve told all my friends about it!
    in His grip,

  2. Stephanie B says

    Michelle- I LOVE the picture of your baby pushing around the dump truck in her princess shoes- ha ha ha, priceless! So glad I know you and your wonderful family. ~Steph

  3. Hello there!! Enjoyed reading about your days. Loved the pictures, your family is beautiful!
    Have a blessed year!

  4. hi michelle, i would love to hear more about the ‘workboxes’. is this just an idea you came up with to help organize each child’s schoolwork, or was this something that came with the curriculum. i’m always looking for better ways to organize, because it does not come naturally to me!

    also, i am trying to work with my preschooler more this year, while teaching my first grader and taking care of our newborn. any tips on how to do preschool and first grade? this is the first time i’ve tried to do something separate for my preschooler (who is 4). as always, thanks for your help!
    amber b.

  5. Michelle (Joyful Heart) says


    ‘Workboxes’ is definitely NOT my idea! The original workbox idea was created by Sue Patrick. She has a website at . I found out about the idea through other online homeschool blogs and by doing a google search. Our workboxes are not how the original author intended, so maybe I should use a different name. Anyway, I modified the idea to make individual file boxes and folders for each school age child. Each day, I place each child’s language arts and math assignments in the folders. Most are to be completed on their own, but others have little signs on them to say ‘work with mom’ or ‘ help a sibling’.

    As for tips with working with a preschooler and first grader, I would suggest combining what you can (Bible, science, history, music, and read alouds as the younger is interested). While you have your first grader working on something independently, pull aside your preschooler and do what you have planned with him/her (preferably while your baby is napping =) ) I know this is oversimplified – It is just difficult to give advice when every family is different and I am not aware of your particular circumstances. Hope this has helped a little =)

  6. I am interested in what your 7 year old is doing in the bible notebook time. Could you share or link it if you have shared? I liked hearing about your day and what you have good plans you have had to lay aside. I am super at planning lots too.

    Alicia B

  7. THANK YOU, michelle, for taking the time to answer my questions and offer some advice! I really think your blog helps spur your sisters in Christ on to love and good deeds! Homeschooling isn’t easy, but it is definitley a “good deed” and I know we are called to be “zealous for good deeds!” Thanks for the help:)


  8. Alicia,

    I got the idea for Bible Notebooks from The Stay at Home Missionary blog and her post found at My K and 2nd grader read from their individual Bibles, orally tell me about their reading, and then draw a corresponding picture and write about it. In addition, sometimes my 7 year old will copy a verse or write a small thank you to God. If she asks for help with spelling, I assist her. Otherwise, I do not focus on her actual spelling of words. For my K child, I underwrite what the adult or ‘book’ spelling would be at the bottom of the page. They are basically Bible journals for their age level.

  9. I am still working on getting our schedule just right. I have had some difficulty trying to find the right balance and trying to fit everything in that I want to do.

  10. I am looking for rhymes or saying to help a child print the letters of the alphabet. Do you know where I could find them. I have seen them on sites but failed to bookmark it.
    Thank you

  11. Michelle (Joyful Heart) says


    I did a quick online search and found some letter formation rhymes here …

    Hope this helps!

  12. michelle,

    one quick question about the way you are implementing workboxes. after doing some research online, i am understanding the workbox idea. i notice you have individual numbers velcroed to the front of each student’s box. do these numbers correlate to the number of assignments they have completed (i.e., the student removes a number when they finish an assignment?). and do you direct the student to the workbox while you are working with another student individually?

    thank you for your help, michelle:)

  13. Michelle (Joyful Heart) says

    I attach the velcro numbers to the individual hanging folders at the start of each day (well, usually the night before) – one folder per assignment. I have twelve folders in each box, but I think the most we have used to date is nine for our oldest child. Once an assignment is completed, the child moves the velcro number from the folder to the front of the workbox.
    Typically, I work with my preschooler first (since everthing in his box is a work with mom at this point) as the older girls start working on assignments from their workboxes. When I meet with a child for the ‘work with mom’ assignments, I also take time to go through with them any work that they have already completed – checking and having them make corrections as neccesary. Oh, and they are allowed to ask questions as I work with one of their siblings, so they are not completely ‘on their own’, without any help =)
    If one of the older girls finishes all of their assignments and are waiting for ‘work with mom time’, they are usually quite happy to find a learning game/puzzle to play on their own or read/play with a younger sibling.

  14. thank you so much for your reply, michelle! VERY helpful! :)

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