Wow, it’s been a minute since I’ve blogged – daily because WE MOVED! One day at a time we are unpacking and settling in our new home in South Carolina. Life is so beautiful here and even though we miss Baltimore, we love living out in the country and soaking up our life as a family of five. No foster care holding us back, no more holding our breath until court date – there’s been something so healing about our move here that truly affirms that we made the best choice for our family – I will be doing a followup post to this topic and sharing some photos and updates we’ve done so far.
One thing that we have had to get used to very quickly is being much further from town. Back in Baltimore it took us 5 minutes max to get to anything we need, here its more of a 20-25 minute drive so we have been opting in for more delivery services. When we “go to town” now its more like a half day event LOL!
I’ve always loved Walmart for it’s sheer quantity in products and pricing but they recently launched a membership called Walmart + which is incredible. It includes FREE next day or even two shipping from Walmart.com and the best part? NO MINIMUM ORDER. You can purchase a membership for the year at only $98 or pay monthly for $12.95. If you are anything like me before I purchase things from a VERY popular online shopping app, I am constantly pulling an item up in multiple places to make sure I’m getting it for the best deal. Many, many times Walmart has the price beat but in the past I would have to have a minimum order of $35 to get free shipping. It used to send me back to that other store even if the price was higher – not anymore.
With the Walmart + membership you also get a discount on gas per gallon at any over 2,000 Walmart and Murphy gas stations which is an awesome bonus perk of the membership.
Currently I’m planning Jax’s room design – here are a few of my favorites from Walmart you can shop here!
This post is sponsored by Walmart. All opinions are my own.
Wow, 2020 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? It has been a doozy for parents to try and figure out what the best decision is for our children. Let me preface this post by saying – WHATEVER decision you have made, or end up making is a good one. There is not one right or wrong answer so please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This post is meant to help you if you are homeschooling or if you’ve chosen distance learning.
So this year we chose to homeschool Henry again and we are fortunate that a local Christian school is allowing at home distance learning so Finn can stay home as well. Finn will be able to fully homeschool once his adoption is complete, but we are thankful he can do distance until then. When I originally wrote out this blog post, both boys were going to be using Abeka..until I started going through the papers and learned Henry was academically ahead of most of the first grade curriculum. I went through the papers and everything except the last 12 weeks would have been review. We couldn’t justify paying $400+ dollars for only 12 weeks of the curriculum, so we returned it and are making the switch back to The Good and the Beautiful for Henry!
I actually feel a little relieved that Henry will be continuing with TGAB. I am already very familiar with it and loved how simple the layout was for school. TGAB is academically ahead of Abeka so we would have been putting him back almost an entire grade to make it work. I will still be using Abeka for Henry’s Social studies, Science, and History. For those subjects I will teach the boys together – possibly for Handwriting too, I have both Abeka and TGAB books so I’m still undecided which route I will take.
Ok, let’s talk about our schoolroom because that’s the fun part! Last year we chose our guest bedroom upstairs to transform into a schoolroom but if I’m honest, that didn’t work great for us. Having our schoolroom that was not close to our main living space did not work well because it felt isolating for the boys and myself. It seemed more like a chore to go upstairs for our learning time and even during their independent work time, I didn’t want to go too far just in case they needed help. Thankfully, we were able to do an easy switch and move Teddy (our 2 year old son) upstairs and give him that really nice room, meanwhile transforming his old bedroom into our new schoolroom!
Creating a calm and effective schoolroom
COLORS – I really wanted to create a bright but calming space for my boys to learn in this year. I chose the color Privilege Green by SW because it was a fun, but calming color. The creamy white walls also bring a brightness to the room which can help with clarity during learning.
OILS – I have a diffuser constantly running in our schoolroom to bring additional peace and calm. Our favorite diffuser blend is Grapefruit and Peace and Calm and it’s sort of become this room’s “signature scent”.
MUSIC – Another thing we enjoy in the school room is worship music. Many times I will catch them humming along quietly while they do their work. They look forward to choosing a station on our Alexa to quietly play during our school time.
NATURAL LIGHT – If possible, keep your shades/curtains open for any natural light to come in! Studies show that sunshine improves brain function and can encourage cognitive function so we keep our shades open in our schoolroom as much as possible!
ORGANIZATION – It’s important to keep your child’s learning space organized. You can encourage them to tidy up after each day of school or even reward them for keeping their desk tidy. Children will be more focused and diligent to pay attention to the work they have if they are not distracted by clutter.
KID’S WORKSPACE – I went back and forth about a hundred times until I landed on using the Gateleg table from Ikea. It is a table/desk combo and can easily be folded down for more room if needed. It’s a perfect fit for the boys because it has 3 built in drawers on both sides for their school supplies and there is plenty of room for projects or if I want to sit and teach at the desk. We’ve used the desk/table for over a month now and it was such a great choice! The boys and I love it and I highly recommend it for homeschooling!
STORAGE – This bedroom has a small closet so Curt added some simple wooden shelves to store learning games, printer, curriculum, and all extra educational supplies in. I also have one Ivar cabinet from Ikea that works great for daily use. This holds their workbooks, language/math supplies, and things they would need on a daily basis.
OFFICE – For my desk area, I chose this Room Essentials desk from Target, another killer piece of furniture for under $100! I found a comfy gray chair from the same line at Target and I’ve loved having an office inside of the schoolroom that allows me to get work done and be in the room while they work on school. So far the flow of the room has been functional and surprisingly relaxing.
READING NOOK – When designing this room, the reading nook was so important to me. I wanted a cozy space to encourage reading and I’ll go ahead and tell you – it has worked! Henry is my bookworm and even when were not doing school, I can find him in there with his nose in a book almost every day. Finn might not have a deep love for reading, but it has been really fun to see him reach for book after book since we finished the room. I’m really happy with the outcome of this space and so glad we chose to make it a priority for this room.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below and I’d be happy to answer them!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by this year and your child’s education – here’s your reminder, YOU GOT THIS MAMA!
By now most everyone with school age kids has homeschooled at least 8+ weeks. You might be feeling one of two ways –
“GET MY CHILDREN OUT OF THIS HOUSE NOW BEFORE I GO INSANE” or “Wow, I didn’t think I could ever homeschool my children, maybe I should consider this for next year?”
You may be somewhere in between those two feelings but if you are considering homeschooling next year, hopefully this blog post can give you some encouragement that you CAN DO THIS!
I left a question box in my Instagram stories earlier this week to answer questions for people who were interesting in homeschooling full time and WOW, was I surprised by the amount of people who were interested in making the switch! I am still pretty new at homeschooling but when we were considering keeping Henry home last year I felt overwhelmed and went searching for resources. If anything, I’m hoping this will help you get some clarity and possibly point you in the direction you are looking to go with your children’s education.
Ok, let’s get to it!
Did you pick and choose your curriculum or did you buy one big set?This was a super common question and one that I searched for an answer to when we made the switch. Last year we combined 2 sets of curriculum. We used The Good and the Beautiful for our Language, Math, and Science and used Abeka for Handwriting, Social Studies, and Health. The original plan was to use TGAB for everything but since I had used Abeka when I taught at a private school, I really wanted to use some of their extra curricular this year.
How long do you teach every day.Between 2 and 3 hours total.
Tips for schooling multiple kids at the same time without losing your mind?This one made me laugh because the STRUGGLE IS REAL. Henry is in first grade for most of his curriculum and Finn is in kindergarten. What has worked for us is combining them for Bible, Science, Social Studies, Health, Art, and Music. I understand that won’t work for every family but if you are able to combine at least one or two subjects that might be a big help. I’ve talked to parents who might teach a science lesson with their kindergarten and 5th grade children together, but make it applicable to both. When the boys have 2 different levels to learn in language, I’m usually having the other one do quiet seat work while I teach that day’s lesson and vice versa when it’s time to teach the other. I have a notebook that they can get their next seat work assignment out of if I’m teaching the other one. It took a little bit of adjusting to get them to be self sufficient while they wait for their next assignment, but they are doing great so far.
Pushing through the frustration on the child’s end. How to get them past “I can’t”. If you could be a fly on the wall in our home some days you would see how much we struggle with this one too….it can been SO HARD at times. I have one son who school comes very easy to and another who struggles daily with focusing and following through. My biggest piece of advice is stick to your guns, take breaks, give rewards or extra free time, and be patient with them and yourself. We have learned not to be push overs when it comes to school work but also know this is extra hard on them. I’ve learned how important it is for me to have a calm and patient attitude when teaching; if not, the kids pick up on that and it only ends in frustration.
Do you have the same schedule every day?For the most part, yes. We emphasize working hard and then be done the rest of the day. In my opinion, one of the best parts of homeschooling is the freedom to not be bound to a schedule all day and the flexibility to do more things as a family. With that, we don’t want our boys to sleep in every day and not have structure to their day. The first couple days of quarantine we did school whenever we got around to it and it made for a very stressful time in our house because the last thing I wanted to do at 2pm was sit down and do 2-3 hours of school. That’s just me, but I think structure is important and will teach them discipline for when they get older. Wednesday is our typical “day off school” or our very light day. Typically on Wednesdays we will do a fun art or science project that takes up more time. We’ve done nature walks, made slime, bug journaling, giant floor puzzles, scavenger hunts and fun things that we might not have time for on a normal school day. Having a day off of school in the middle of the week has been so nice for all of us. Again, the beauty of homeschool is that we get to decide when things should be done and for our family, a mid-week break has been a game changer.
After deciding you wanted to homeschool, what were your next steps? How do you switch from public school to homeschool?First decide whether you want to homeschool through the state or find a homeschool umbrella to go through. We decided to use a church umbrella because we liked how it was structured. We have zero restrictions on the curriculum we use, only the subjects our state requires. There are also no rules on when we do school, or how many days we teach. Not all homeschool umbrellas are this lenient but we felt strongly that this was the best choice for our family since flexibility is a big deal for us. From there we contacted our local district to fill out a homeschool form to notify them of the change in our child’s education. Lastly, we chose the curriculum we would be using based on the guidelines for what was required in our state.
How do you stay focused/prioritize homeschool when there are other homeschool duties?This will be a learning curve for sure because homeschool will change the structure of your day. If teaching my children from home has taught me anything, it’s that I’ve really had to learn how to manage my time better. I am far from perfect, but I’m working on it every day. My advice is to squeeze in household chores during their quiet/seat work time. I am probably sitting/teaching the boys about 50% of the 2-3 hours? Most of the time I teach, give instructions, and they independently finish their assignments. If they need help, they know to come get me and I can help them through whatever they are working on. Often Henry has done reading assignments while I am my getting ready for the day or even folding laundry. Multi tasking is my best friend during homeschooling!Another suggestion would be find a curriculum that offers video classes. We plan to use them in the fall and I know it is going to help greatly with getting things done during homeschool.
How do you ensure your kids are getting the social development they need?I would join a co-op if possible. We were not able to join one last year because of the wait list (we started homeschooling mid year and they were already filled up) but that is a great way for your kids to get regular socialization. Have regular play dates, trips to the library, parks, and let them go places with you! Curt and I are pretty social people so we don’t worry about that a ton but if this is a big concern for you, just keep them active in your community in a few ways and they should be just fine! We also have a membership at our local YMCA and a year pass to a science museum, just to make sure they have plenty of social interactions.
Organization help! I need a kick in the butt to get it together!Have a designated space for homeschool items. You don’t need an entire room but a bookshelf, dresser drawer, or closet will work. This is my system – Each child has 2 main binders. Binder #1 is 2 weeks worth of work labeled M-F and M-F. Each morning when they open their binder all of their work is laid out for them. When they complete their work for the day, it goes in an assigned binder, (Language, Math, Science, etc). Those binders are small one inch binders that are labeled by subject and will be easy for my homeschool reviewer to look over for the year.
Meltdowns. Please HELP!!!Ahhhhh I am all too familiar with these outbursts and if I’m being completely transparent, this week has been a doozy. From a mom who has a child who has them on the regular, this is what has helped us. Don’t threaten punishment when your child is about to get to a phase 10 meltdown. (ex. “If you don’t stop, I’m taking your bike away!”) This only makes them more angry and fuels the meltdown. Try to talk with them calmly and tell them they have a choice. This is how a typical conversation goes – “(Name), you can take deep breaths and work through this or we will have to stay here for longer and keep working on this assignment. I am going to walk away for 2 minutes so you can try to calm down. When I come back, you can let me know what you have decided.” This does not work every time but when I walk away, he has a minute to think about his decision, and it usually helps. This has been really hard for us lately and we are actively working through this issue with one of our boys but let me encourage you to keep going and not give up. YOU CAN DO THIS AND SO CAN THEY!
My child is in pre-k. How many days should they start homeschooling?I might start with 2 or 3 but it really depends on your child. If they love learning and can’t wait to homeschool, teach them as much as they can handle! On the other hand, try not to have super high expectations for little ones who are just starting out in school. If they can only handle 30 minutes a couple times a week, that is an awesome start! Eventually you can work up to a daily schedule but really try to make it enjoyable for them so they look forward to it!
Do you feel this is something you were called to do initially or more fell into?I love this question! So I can definitely say I felt a calling to start homeschooling when we started. The Lord really put a burden on my heart early last year when Henry wasn’t being challenged enough in school. I was following a few moms on IG who had talked about homeschooling and once Curt and I started talking about it, we felt strongly we should look into it to see what it would entail. Once we started our homeschool journey, we’ve really never looked back. We can confidently say, we want to homeschool our children full time one day. We love it, even on the bad days.
Can you talk more about the curriculum you used this year and why you chose it?Let me start off by saying I was SO CONFUSED when I started looking. Everything looked like good curriculum and truthfully, they are all probably amazing – it really just depends on your personal style. What drew me to The Good and the Beautiful was the flow of the books. I liked that the curriculum incorporated God throughout the stories and lessons. Many people asked why I chose this curriculum since I do not share the LDS beliefs. TGAB is written with Biblical truths and lessons throughout the curriculum but it doesn’t include Bible doctrines so it didn’t detour me from choosing it. TGAB also has items like math activity kits that have a ton of hands on learning manipulatives that are used along with the curriculum. When I begin teaching my youngest preschool I will start him in TGAB. However, for next year I think I am going to transition my two oldest boys completely over to the Abeka curriculum and here’s why – There are more options. This is just my opinion and I truly love TGAB but now that I have taught using both, I think Abeka has more to offer in 1st-5th grade and I am eager to use the video lessons since I’m homeschooling more than one child. The online (or dvd) teaching videos the kids can watch which would be SO HELPFUL on days that are extra busy or if I want to dedicate more time to one child with a project or assignment. To me, it’s like having a virtual teacher’s aid to help you out on days that you need it. This fall we will be switching over fully and even though it will cost more to get our curriculum through Abeka, I think it is the best fit for our family. My biggest piece of advice is to watch reviews on YouTube. This is what ultimately helped me choose our curriculum. Do some research and pick out your top 2 or 3 choices. Visit blogs, forums, facebook groups, or youtube reviews. Doing this gave me a way better idea of what was included in the curriculum and I enjoyed hearing multiple reviews before we purchased ours.
What are the best curriculum options out there in your opinion? Abeka, The Good and the Beautiful, BJU Press, and Teaching Texbooks are the few that I have looked into that I liked. Again, watching reviews on YouTube helped a lot and gave me a lot of insight on how each curriculum worked.
We don’t have space for a homeschool room. What do you suggest? We have a small homeschool room but don’t really use it every day. Ideally in our forever home, we will have a big homeschool room on the same level as our living room but for now we use our dining room table and the boy’s bedroom most days. It has really helped us out by having a designated cabinet for binders, art supplies, and books so the boys can easily access it and take it to where we are homeschooling that day. My plan for the fall (depending on if Finn is full time homeschool or private school) is to have one do video teaching at the desk in their room while the other one does the same at the dining room table. They can also do quiet seat work there if they choose so they can have their own spaces during the day. If they would rather sit at the table for seat work, I am ok with that as long as they are quiet and don’t interupt each other’s worktime.
Do your children take assessments each year? How do you know what you are teaching them is really sticking?As I teach my boys each day, I already have a good idea of where they were at. That being said, I will be having Henry tested this summer to get a better idea of what grade he should be in this fall. He has completed all of Kindergarten and about 3/4 of first grade. Thankfully it’s easy to acquire testing for him. You can request testing through your local public school, online, and even through some homeschool umbrellas.
How do you keep kids interested and engaged? Try to provide fun activities or creative learning opportunities throughout the week so they have something to be excited about! For example – Sight word bingo, math races/drills, science scavenger hunts, sensory play, scrabble junior, nature walk.
How did you make a homeschool schedule? I’m feeling a little overwhelmed on where to start?Start by dedicating a certain amount of time to each subject and go from there. You can also try using a premade schedule like the one I have in this blog post. Don’t feel pressure to have the perfect schedule. More than likely you will change it throughout the year until it fits your family perfect!
Is it expensive to homeschool?I tried to total up the cost of our curriculum, school supplies, and books for this year and I think we invested around $800-$900. This also included several workbooks and extra curriculars for Finn. Next year we have budgeted $1500 because we will be adding video classes to their daily learning.
What resources do you use for the summer?Do you still homeschool during the off months? We do 1-2 short days a week of review including educational games on education.com.
If you saw my Instagram stories today, we decided to build a sand/water sensory table for the boys! With all of this extra time outside lately, we figured this would be a great activity for them! The wood models typically range from $200-$600 and as much as I love my children…that just wasn’t in the cards LOL.
I was scrolling Pinterest earlier this week and I saw a DIY sensory table that stopped me in my tracks. My first thought was to look up the cost until I realized we could build this for pretty cheap! This project took a total of 3 hours from start to finish and the boys are loving it already!
Here is what you’ll need:
(6) 2x4x8′ boards
Impact driver or drill
3″ screws (we used exterior wood screws)
Kreg Jig and coordinating 1.25″ pocket hole screws
Wood Sealer (for outdoor use)
(2) 28 quart tubs with lids
First, start by cutting the legs, ours were 2 feet tall. Next we built the frame by cutting (3) 20 3/4″ boards and framed them out by placing the buckets where they would go to double check the size. To finish the top of the frame we used (2) 33 1/2″ boards for the front and back of the table.
We layed all 5 boards out with the tubs and then were ready to put it all together. Curt predrilled the holes and worked his way around frame to make a rectangle. We then put in the middle piece, along with the tubs (to make sure the fit was perfect) and screwed in the middle board.
Once the top is done, all that’s left is the legs and support beams. If you saw my stories, we were contemplating to go the easy route and just attach the the legs on the side of the table. Most DIY models had the legs screwed into the sides of the table top but Curt and I are both perfectionists and even though it would have functioned the same, we knew it could look even better.
From here, Curt used a Kreg Jig to create pocket holes so the table would be “seamless”. This was only our second time using a Kreg Jig but this time, he was really sold on this method and will be using it in the future for sure. To start attaching legs, turn the frame upside down and screw in all 4 legs using the Kreg Jig pocket hole screws. From here, you could technically be done with the project but we have 3 busy boys who can be rough on their toys and we knew it would be best to add support beams to make this table stronger.
Using the pocket holes again, we added a 16 5/8” board on both sides of the table and connected down the middle with a 30 1/2″ board. We also added a 33 1/2″ support beam under the bins. This is also optional, but no we don’t have to worry about the sand or water being too heavy for the plastic hanging bins. As you can see below, this not only made the entire table stronger, it looks professionally built as well.
Lastly, we added a few screws for hanging shovels and a sand bucket as well as a sealant to protect it from the weather. I orginally was going to stain the table but I ended up loving the light colored pine with the bright blues and reds of the sand toys so I left it being natural.
I love how the table turned out and it was so fun being the assistant to the regional manager for this project – Curt even let me cut all the boards on the miter saw 😉 If you are interested in making the project, you can find a video tutorial in my highlights under “sensory tbl”. When we will not be using the sensory table, the lids will go on and it will be stored in a place that doesn’t get a lot of moisture.
I’ve always been curious about Cricut machines but if I’m being honest, I was always so intimidated to get one. I assumed they were a lot of upkeep and super pricey to create one. When Joann’s asked if I would do a campaign using a Cricut Joy, I said yes because this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try one out. I’ll just put it this way…I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT. This machine is so incredibly simple to use and this is definitely something I will be using quite often.
For my first project, I wanted to create labels for my spice rack. I bought new jars almost a year ago and never finished them so now seemed like the best time! I used writable smart labels to create this project and as you can see in the photos below, it turned out so great!
Since we are quarantined because of the Coronavirus, I thought making cards with the Cricut Joy would be a perfect second project for the myself and the boys. We’ve really been incorporating snail mail into our weekly routine as a fun way to cheer up someone’s day! The boys loved using the Cricut app to choose a design, follow the instructions, and watch the magic happen!
As you can see in the photo above, the Cricut app tells you exactly what will come next and it will stop the machine, then give you the next prompt so you know what you need to do next.
Just watching this machine draw and cut out a design was so interesting and easy! For me, the step by step instructions on the Cricut app made learning this system so simple for someone who has never used it! Something I noticed about the Cricut Joy is now compact this machine is. It’s small but powerful. For now, I have it tucked into a cute pink tote along with my other Cricut Joysupplies and it takes up minimal room.
I mean HOW CUTE IS THIS CARD?? I don’t think I’ll ever buy another greeting card again! I love that it the Cricut not only drew the design on the card but it also did a cut out to make it 3D.
Although this is my very first Cricut machine, I highly highly recommend the Cricut Joy. It’s compact size, easy to learn app, and the fantastic results speak for themselves. I am so excited to keep creating with the Cricut Joy and can’t wait to see how else I can use this in our home!
Welcome to Our Gathered Cottage! I have loved home decor + thrifting for years but it was't until we moved into our 1953 Maryland cottage and started styling our home on a small budget that I wanted to share it with others! Take a look around the blog and hopefully something will inspire you too!