Red-Eyed Studio

Crafted with love... and caffeine.

Too little work?

Heather Bouwhuizen1 Comment

My oldest daughter is playing travel soccer this year.  The travel soccer schedule is demanding.  2 practices a week.  1-2 games a week.  Other special events, as deemed warranted by the coach.  Luckily, she isn't the goal keeper, because that is another 2 practices per week!  

The location where she practices is an hour from our house, and practice is an hour and a half.  The games have been at least an hour from our house.  Huge time suck.  Really.

But, she enjoys it, and so we endure. 

The eye opening part for me:  she has a girl on her team that we give a ride to once a week.  She is in 6th grade.  This poor girl leaves for school at 6:30 am (like she leaves the house at 6:30am- which means she got up at 5:30a??), and doesn't get home from school until 4:30pm!  So, she has been at school for 10 hours, and every night she has gotten in the car for practice with us, she has her school books with her.  She says most nights, she has 2-3 hours of homework.

So let's do this math: up at 5:30 am, home at 4:30pm, soccer practice from 4:45pm-7pm (including travel time), dinner from 7-7:30pm, homework from 7:30pm-10:30pm, in bed around 11pm.  Yikes!

But...this makes me wonder: Is homeschooling sheltering my kids too much from the realities of life?  I remember those days.  I remember not getting homework done because I fell asleep on the couch at 3 in the afternoon.   My kids don't usually start school until 8:30-9am.  They are finished with school by 3pm most days (this includes home school gym, and any field trips we do).  They rarely have work to do outside of school, other than a little reading.  Should I be making them do more?  Should I increase the demands I have on them? I have one starting high school next year.  Is he going to be able to hang in college and "real life" if he isn't exposed to a grueling schedule now?

Lately, I've been asking myself these questions.  When I see that poor girl, I feel sorry for her.  She must be exhausted.  But maybe, she's just used to that schedule.  Maybe I've forgotten how life is suppose to work?  Maybe I feel busy all the time, but I've forgotten what busy really is.

Or maybe, the demands are too much for our middle and high school students?  Maybe their schedules are too exhausting?  

It's given me some things to think about.  I'm thinking the answer might be somewhere in the middle.  I need to increase the work demands on my middle schoolers some.  Maybe some "homework".  Some independent projects, ect. 

What are your thoughts on this fellow parents?  I'd love to hear from other homeschooling families and families that have kids in public school. 


Fall break!

Heather BouwhuizenComment

We've made it to our first school break! Yeah!  

We start school in the middle of August so that we can plan regular breaks throughout the school year.  I find this helps me with my patience level.  (Aka: sanity level!!!). It also gives the kids a break.  The weather has been beautiful, and they've been able to play outside and enjoy it! 


We are also celebrating some birthdays this week and next. 



My youngest turns 5.     

My youngest turns 5.   


My oldest daughter turns 12.   And my youngest son turns 7.  Busy times around here!  I'm so glad that I get to spend their birthdays with them!  


Rhys turns 7

Rhys turns 7

Ashlyn turned 12

Ashlyn turned 12

We are on week 4

Heather BouwhuizenComment

It's been tough getting back into the swing of school this year!  We are using a new curriculum called Discovery K12.  It is a free, secular curriculum.  I've been happy with the content so far.  Lots of writing, which is something my kids need some practice in.  


Rhys and Ashlyn hard at work.  

Rhys and Ashlyn hard at work.  

We are adding in a few supplements.  We are adding in Easy Grammer for the older three.  We've used this program in the past, and enjoy it's format. We are adding in a monthly reading book (this month is The Giver for the older two, and Charlotte's Web for Ava.  I'm not sure about Rhys yet...).  And lastly, we are going to "visit" a country and two states, every month.  


We also watch documentaries on Netflix.  So far, we've learned how beavers help the environment, but can also be pests.  We've also learned about some jobs that dogs can do. 


We also use ABC Mouse for my preschooler and Reading Eggs and Mathseeds for my first grader.  My fourth grader has an app on her Kindle for practicing her multiplication math facts. 

The last activity that we participate in is Homescool Gym, through our local YMCA.  This is a great place for the kids to meet up with friends, and get a little exercise.   


Overall, we are off to a great start.  Happy new school year everyone!  


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Cameron - working on school, on the couch, in his PJ's!  8th grade isn't so bad.  

Cameron - working on school, on the couch, in his PJ's!  8th grade isn't so bad.  

We've started school

Heather BouwhuizenComment

The kids are going to visit their grandparents at the end of August.  We are normally a few weeks into school by then.  This year, we started earlier than normal, so they can have that week off.  

The curriculum we are using this year is Discovery K12.  

The things I like about it: 

1. It's free!  

2.  It has a secular worldview  

3.  It's computer based, so I don't have piles of school books everywhere.  

Things I don't like:  

1.  I wish it had a parent portal ( I've been told one is in development)

2.  I worry about them spending all their time on computers

3. It's good basic information, but we are supplementing in science and maybe math.  


We we are also using Brainpop (great science and history videos), Story of the World, Reading Eggs and Math Seeds (my first grader), ABC Mouse (my preschooler) and my preschooler is using a workbook series (Everything Your Preschooler Needs to Know).  We are also going to read Around the World in Eighty Days (I'll read this aloud to them) and do some geography activities associated with this.   

Since much of our curriculum is either free, or a continuation from last year, our total bill for homeschooling the kids this year is about $100.  Since our overall homeschooling costs are so low this year, it has allowed us to buy the kids two additional netbooks, so now we can all sit together, and work on school together, which makes my job a little easier. 


What curriculum are you using this year?  What to you like/dislike about it?  Have you started school yet?  I'd love to hear from you.   

5 Homeschooled Advantages

Paul BouwhuizenComment


1. Control

We have the ability to control what they learn and the quality of those subjects.

If we want to spend four weeks on engineering principals because it is something that we noticed caught the kid’s attention last year, we can and do.  We spent a few days designing and building a spirograph robot using the Lego Mindstorm EV3 system.  We looked at this tutorial and made some modifications for our robot.

Nearly all of the kids were immediately engaged with the project.  They learned about programming, robot design, and input-output from automating physical device.   (I’ll discuss this more in a later post)

2. Flexibility

There’s something to be said for being able to decide when, where, how your children learn.  We set the time that school starts.  (usually around 8:00)  If we decide that a specific reading curriculum is not to our standards, we can change to a different program-- even in the middle of the school year.  It’s our decision.  If we want to spend more time on STEM subjects and not do History for a year, we can.  If we decide to drive to Gettysburg to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg or the Gettysburg Address, we can.

3. Ownership of their Educations

Shoving responsibility of our children’s education to the state, or anyone else for that matter, does not sound appealing.  We decided to home school because two of our children needed additional help that they were not receiving in public school and one of them was not being challenged enough.  Our local public school was not responding to our concerns.  Heather and I took action.

Here are some of the statistics on “parent-led” education.

4. Less Peer Pressure!

We get to shape our kids views and ideas vs. schoolmates.  That doesn’t mean our kids don’t have friends; they do, both public school friends and home school friends.  We just are more involved in these friendships, and can spend some time talking to our children about good friends vs. toxic relationships.  Our children do not have to worry about bullying, school violence, or just fitting in.  Their attention is focused on learning in a positive environment, where they are comfortable.

5. Stronger family bond

I feel that the relationship that my children have with my wife will be stronger in the long run.  Our children learn with us.  We read together, research together, study together, ect.  I like to think that our children will look back and appreciate the time they were able to spend with us during their younger years.  They grow up so fast and I want to take advantage of every day that we can.


Picking a Curriculum

Heather BouwhuizenComment

I agonize over this every summer.  What if I chose wrong?  What if we start using it, but it doesn't work with my child?  What if it's too much work.. Or not enough? 


i started out pulling my own curriculum together.  That worked for my kids, but was very time consuming for me.  Last year, we bought a box curriculum, which was great- covered everything and WAY less work for me!  But so expensive... 

This year, We are thinking of choosing an online curriculum.  Less expensive than the box curriculum from last year, but more expensive than me pulling a curriculum together.  It's less work than the box curriculum (I don't have to check the work!  Just follow up on making sure they have done the work).  It leaves me free to plan some fun stuff, which is what homeschooling is about! 

An online curriculum means less stuff!  These are our overflowing homeschool baskets from last year.  

An online curriculum means less stuff!  These are our overflowing homeschool baskets from last year.  

How do you choose a curriculum?   

Thanks for reading!  

The Child Who Resists Schooling

Heather Bouwhuizen2 Comments

Most families I know, have a child that doesn't want to "do" school.  They pout, the procrastinate, they make trouble.. .. 

This is my "difficult" child:  



She is sitting at the pool, the first day of summer for her siblings, finishing the school work she didn't get finished during the year.  She didn't complete a single question in her book while we were at the pool.  She is stubborn.  She is independent.  

I think Ava has an independent spirit.  Part of me cheers this independence, and part of me wishes she would just conform!!  She is sassy, and sometimes rude, and always a challenge.  But she's also thoughtful and creative and tends to look at the world in a way I have never considered.   


So, how do you handle your challenging child?  


We have found frequent breaks help.  Making things interesting helps some too.  Playing games, instead of flash cards.  She is fiercely competitive-- so, having her compete with siblings can be helpful (although this sometimes backfires).   We are always looking for ideas-- so please share. :) 


After I posted this, I realized I should add something.  I think we would be having this problem if she were in public school too.  In fact, she did go to public school in Kindergarten, and spent much of her year separated from the other students because she would refuse to participate. 


Thank you for reading. 

YMCA Homeschool Gym

Heather BouwhuizenComment

If you have a YMCA near you, and you homeschool, I suggest that you see if they have a homeschool gym program available.  This is our third year of homeschool gym, and the kids thoroughly enjoy it.  We are lucky enough to have two YMCA's within driving distance of our home, so we go to gym 3-4 days a week.  A great way for the kids to burn of some energy, and get some socializing time with their friends!  



My kids showing off their last day of gym T- shirts!  


Testing Week

Heather BouwhuizenComment

Our state (Virginia) requires that our children take a standardized test (CAT) as our measure of progress.  We have until August to have the test complete, but we use it as an end mark to our "school year".   Needless to say, they kids can't wait to get their test done!


It's a bit of a process.  I have to administer the test to each child separately, since they are all in different grades.  Rhys is done (yeah!), and Cameron has done the first part.  By the end of the week, we'll be returning the tests to be graded.

Ava and Pax, working hard  

Ava and Pax, working hard  


Testing week creates anxiety in the house.  As homeschoolers, the kids aren't really used to taking tests.  They might have an open book quiz as we work through their texts, but really, I just gauge whether they understand a topic by the work they produce daily.   So we aren't used to tests. 


Why We Homeschool

Heather Bouwhuizen2 Comments

I'm asked this a lot.  Why do you homeschool?  It's not a simple answer, but I will try my best to explain. 

My kids fall in the area where they need extra support from the school, but they aren't really bad enough to qualify for the support.  They are all bright kids, and they are thriving at home, but they aren't necessarily "traditional learners", so they weren't always doing well in the public school environment.   My oldest daughter failed 2 of 4 SOL's (standards of learning tests here in Virginia). My oldest son fell on the low end of the SOL scores.  My kindergartener had a difficult year (she's a big personality and let's just say her and her teacher didn't get along).  I was spending many hours in the evening, helping each child with their homework.  And many hours during the day, at the school, trying to find a way to help my children be successful.  We wanted to see if we could find a better way.

The first year at home was a transition for all of us.  As many that are new to homeschooling, we tried to create "school" at home.  We were overwhelmed and tired (at that point I was teaching 5th, 4th and 1st grade, with a preschooler and toddler running around!).  By then end of the year, we decided that we needed to rethink what we were doing.

The second year, we lessened the load.  I realized that my now 5th/6th graders could do a lot of their work together.  We found groups (gym and music) and made friends with other homeschoolers.  This year was much better, but still, we felt like we were still trying to cram too much into each of our days. 


The third year (this is our current year), has me teaching preschool, kindergarten, third, 6th grade and 7th grade.  This year, we bought a box curriculum ( in years past, I pulled my own curriculum together).  We reorganized our schedule to be a 4 day "school week" (we have Monday's off), and we are following a more year round school pattern (6 weeks on, 2 weeks off, with a summer that will be around 8ish weeks).  This two week break has been wonderful for everyone in the family.  It gives me a chance to recharge, and the kids too!  This year went great!  We've continued with music and gym.  We still have a few homeschool friends that we meet up with (some of our friends have moved away.  We miss them.)  And we have  really found our groove. 

How are the kids doing?  Very well, I think.  They like being at home.  They enjoy their school work.  We aren't feeling overwhelmed, and all of them are passing (with flying colors!!) the state mandated testing that homeschoolers in Virginia have to do (CAT test).  The best part is: they all feel smart.  They don't have to struggle, and feel like they "can't learn".  They feel successful.


Four of six  kids.  They are watching their sister play soccer.  

Four of six  kids.  They are watching their sister play soccer.  

Here is my other daughter, playing soccer  

Here is my other daughter, playing soccer