Our Gathered Cottage » Gathered home and family

pintopinterest
pintopinterest

Wow, I never thought I would type those words! I never pictured myself as a homeschooling mom, but here we go! Originally we had both of the oldest boys registered in a private Christian school for the fall. As most of you know we have been foster parents to a 5 year old boy named Finn – him and Henry are only a few months apart. We were all set for them to start kindergarten in the fall when we found out our agency had changed their minds about Finn attending private school. Immediately we were devastated but looking back, it’s so obvious it was part of a larger plan.

pintopinterest
pintopinterest

It wasn’t long after, my mind kept wandering to the thought of homeschooling. It would be too difficult to put the boys in different schools and for the first time, I started to entertain the idea. I spoke with several homeschooling mamas who expressed their deep love for teaching their own children and it sparked enough interest for me to do my research. The original thought of keeping Henry home seemed overwhelming and honestly scary knowing I would be the one solely responsible for his kindergarten education. I immediately started reading the book The Unhurried Homeschool and it was such an eye opener. From the freedoms you get, the extra amount of time with your children, and having control of how and when your children are exposed to things – I solidified the decision in my mind..now just to convince Curt.

pintopinterest
pintopinterest
pintopinterest

He immediately thought it was a great idea which was further confirmation that I needed to know this was the right decision. Not long after, we asked Henry what he thought and he was also 100% on board and SO EXCITED. Another part of this journey to make this decision was knowing how much time I would be “getting back” with Henry. We didn’t get those first 3 years with him and keeping Henry home this year will feel like I’m gaining some of his most precious years back. It’s a win win for our family.

Now for the fun part – the schoolroom. I wrestled with even creating a specific space to begin with because so many blogs said you really don’t need one. Being a former kindergarten teacher myself, I wanted to create a space that would be special for this experience. I think having a schoolroom will also help with our routine although things don’t have to be run like a formal classroom. Separating homeschool from our living space will help keep some structure..and I love me some structure.

pintopinterest
pintopinterest

This room has changed so many times in the 2.5 years we’ve lived here. It started as an empty nursery as we finished our foster certification, Henry’s bedroom, Hailey’s bedroom, a guest bedroom, Teddy’s bedroom, our office space, and now a schoolroom. I was able to work with a few companies to make this space come together and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

pintopinterest
pintopinterest
pintopinterest

My budget for this room was $250 and we stayed under budget with the help of Tilt Blinds and D.Marie Interiors wallpaper. Everything else was pretty much thrifted, from Facebook Marketplace, or found on clearance. I love this space so much but more importantly, so do the boys. Even though I won’t be able to homeschool Finn this year, he and Henry are up here almost every day and we have started doing some preschool review! I can’t wait for my first year of homeschool to start, even with all the ups and downs I’m sure it will bring. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, let me know what you think below! If you would like to follow our homeschool journey, I have created a separate account on Instagram, Our Gathered Homeschool. I will be sharing more in depth about how I plan to tackle this first year as a homeschooling mama!

Amy

 Share onFacebook Follow onInstagram Pin topinterest 
  • Carli Heringer

    Oh Amy! It is PERFECT! Absolutely beautiful! I love it!!!ReplyCancel

It’s only been a couple months since Marie Kondo’s method swept the nation and her new method not only became popular, but it inspired lots of people to start deep cleaning and organizing their homes. When Joss and Main reached out to see if I could share some organizational tips and favorite items from their website, I couldn’t wait to start this project!

I’m a little OCD when it comes to organizing and I love to keep things extra tidy in my boys’ room so they can always find their own things and keep their space clean. Here are a few tips that have successfully worked for my toddler boys on keeping their rooms tidy and organized –

  • Clean up EVERY TIME you get toys out. It’s a rarity that you will walk in our home and see their room a mess. It’s not because I’m mom of the year, but because we have a system that works great for us – it’s important to me to teach my children to respect their belongings. Even if we are running out the door, we clean up every time. It took a little time to teach them this method at 3 years old so I would recommend starting as early as you can. It wasn’t too long after that they started doing this all by themselves.
  • One toy at a time. We have a rule in our home that if you are playing with one toy and are ready to move on to something different, you should put that toy away first. It makes cleaning up a breeze when there are only a few items to pick up when it’s time to leave or get ready for bed. Of course there are times this rule doesn’t apply, but in general they play with one toy or set of toys at a time before switching to something new.
  • Don’t do it for them. I am all for helping my children tidy up their rooms but teaching them to be responsible for their own things is something we started pretty early on. A few months ago I taught them how to hang up their own shirts and now they love helping me get laundry done. Each day when they get ready for bed they put their dirty laundry in the hamper, shoes on the shelf, fold their pants as best they can, and get their pajamas on by themselves. My boys love that they have independent jobs and look forward to doing things by themselves every day.
  • Organize by category. If you have one giant bin that everything goes into chances are things will get lost frequently and your children will do more of a “dump everything out” method when they play which makes cleaning up so much harder! Here are some photos of how I have organized the boys’ books, games, and toys!
pintopinterest
I love these wall baskets for their books! They are much more likely to read books if they can visibly see them. If you do mount books racks on the wall, I suggest using wall anchors.
pintopinterest
Each bin is a “home” for different toys. Play food, card games, figurines, and train tracks.
pintopinterest
We use the dresser in their room for toys and games. These are their favorite games and we keep them neat and visible in a drawer for them to easily access and put away.
pintopinterest
Farm animals, Waffle blocks, large cars, and small cars all have their own place. These bins are very inexpensive and easy for the boys to use.
pintopinterest
Clean and tidy when they are not using them!
pintopinterest
My boys’ LOVE board games so this thrifted wicker trunk was a perfect find to store them!
  • Choose good organizational items. Under each of the boys’ beds they have several plastic totes that are designated for certain toys. They can easily slide these out and open/shut them by themselves. We also have a variety of baskets, bins, and sliding drawers that they can use without help. If children constantly need you in order to access or put away toys, chances are they will get frustrated and may not play with those toys as much or be excited to clean up. Choosing age appropriate storage items for your children to use will help them independently get out and put away their own toys.
  • Make it fun or use an incentive program. If you children are not used to cleaning up by themselves and resist when you ask them to help, make it something they look forward to! Whether that’s getting an extra five minutes on the iPad when they do clean up or even cleaning up to a fun song! Children will be more excited and motivated to organize and clean up if they are enjoying it!

When browsing through Joss and Main’s website it was hard for me to narrow down my choices because of their amazing selection! Below are my absolute favorites that inspire me! I chose warm and neutral tones, lots of textures, and things that are beautiful, yet functional for a child of any age! I hope you enjoy this selection from Joss and Main and be sure to let me know which ones are your absolute favorites!

Thank you for reading this blog post! To see my Joss and Main favorites shop the look below!

Amy

jute basket

This Set of Baskets
// More Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Storage Box

This Storage Box
// More Fabric Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Jute Basket

This Basket
// More Baskets
Storage Box

This Box
// More Boxes
Wicker Basket

This Wicker Basket
// More Wicker Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Metal Storage

This Storage
// More Wire & Metal Baskets
Basket Set on Wheels

This Rolling Basket Set
// More Rolling Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Hanging Basket

This Hanging Basket
// More Industrial Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Lined Metal Basket

This Basket
// More Cottage Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Wicker Basket

This Basket
// More Gold Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Sea Grass Basket

This Basket
// More Bathroom Accessories
Metal Basket Set

This Basket Set
// More Gray Baskets, Bins & Boxes
seagrass wicker basket set

This Basket Set
// More Brown Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Copper Basket

This Basket
// More Medium Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Storage Box

This Storage Box
// More Baskets, Bins & Boxes with Tops
Woven Storage Basket

This Basket
// More Traditional Baskets, Bins & Boxes
fabric box

This Fabric Box
// More Stackable Baskets, Bins & Boxes
storage box

This Storage Box
// More Large Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Foldable Storage Bin

This Foldable Storage Bin
// More 10″ Deep Baskets, Bins & Boxes
wicker basket set

This Basket Set
// More Sets of Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Round Basket

This Basket
// More Decorative Baskets, Bins & Boxes
baskets for dresser

This Set of Baskets
// More Modern & Contemporary Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Woven Basket

This Woven Basket
// More Bohemian Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Basket with handles

This Basket Set
// More Black Baskets, Bins & Boxes
storage basket

This Basket
// More 20″ Tall Baskets, Bins & Boxes
Round Wicker Basket

This Basket
// More Rustic Baskets, Bins & Boxes

 Share onFacebook Follow onInstagram Pin topinterest 
  • Janet

    Could you tell me where you got the sign over your mantel?

    Thank you!
    JanetReplyCancel

A few months ago I started searching for a mantel for our dining room! For the last two years we’ve been in our house there has always been something not quite right to me in the dining room. The wall on the right side of the room is so large and no matter how I decorated it, it felt off. One day I was browsing through Pinterest and saw a faux fireplace when it hit me – that’s what it needed! Right away I hopped on Facebook Marketplace and started searching. Surprisingly it only took two days to find one in my budget. This mantel was chippy and gorgeous and only $100! Most fireplace mantels were priced near $350-$400 so when I saw this one I immediately made plans with the seller to purchase it.

pintopinterest

We drove over an hour to pick up the gorgeous piece and as soon as I got it home and leaned it against the wall, I knew my brain could finally rest because this was what this space needed! I loved it but in order for it to match the style and decor in our house, I knew it needed to be lightened up a bit. Off I ran to Michaels and purchased Folk Art Milk Paint! This paint was perfect because it wasn’t a thick coat of paint, just enough to give it a “white washed” look.

Once the mantel was complete we mounted it on the wall by attaching heavy duty picture frame brackets to the back of the mantel and hung it on the wall. We kept it low enough so the legs would still touch the ground and help support the weight of the mantel. I knew right away I wanted to build an insert and had just the perfect idea in mind.

I have seen book page inserts floating around Pinterest and Instagram but never any tutorials on how to make one that I’m aware of, hence the point of this blog post. This may have been the most simple DIY project yet and looks like a million dollars! Here’s how to make one yourself!

pintopinterest

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 piece of hobby board or 1/4 inch plywood

1 book – I recommend a novel or a book with all words

Glue gun

Glue sticks

Scissors

Nail and Nail gun

Here’s how to make a book page insert:

First start by ripping lots and lots of pages out of the book you will be using. I love the look of ripped pages so the more tattered the better.

pintopinterest

I started gluing individual pages at the bottom of the hobby board and worked my way up. In my opinion, making them look different and mixing up the way they lay on the board gave it a much more textured look.

Don’t overdo it with the hot glue or you will have lumps and bumps behind the pages. I typically did a thin line on 2 sides and small dots on the others.

pintopinterest

I did overlap the pages on the hobby board so it would have a clean line to cut the edges with. I recommend making your board about 2-3 inches bigger than the space so you don’t have to make it look perfect since it will be tucked in behind the mantel.

Once it was all dry, I tripped up the edges with scissors. From there we used a nail gun and attached it to the back of the mantel. If you don’t want to attach it, you can always just slide it in behind the mantel.

That’s it! Pretty easy peasy! There are lot of other ideas for faux fireplace mantel inserts as well I will link here for you to get more inspiration!

pintopinterest
pintopinterest

Thanks for reading and as always if you try this out, please tag me on instagram @ourgatheredcottage!

xo,

Amy

 Share onFacebook Follow onInstagram Pin topinterest 

April 28, 2017, the day we were interviewed to become Henry’s adoptive parents was such a special date in more ways than one.  I remember sitting in that cold, white conference room staring at the box of donuts we had brought to the ladies who would be interviewing us.  I took a deep breath as they slid a giant stack of papers to us – it was there we found out so much about the boy we now call our son.  When we looked at the top we saw his birth name followed by a familiar date, April 28, 2014.  It was his third birthday that day and I felt an instant bond with this boy I had never met.  Then my heart started beating because I realized what else that day had meant for me three years ago, it was the day my life fell apart.

pintopinterest

As I sit here in my beautiful home – my husband in the next room watching a football game and my children asleep in their beds – I am eternally grateful for the beautiful life God has gifted me.  I could never have imagined living the life I have now and I truly owe every piece of it to the Lord.  He has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.  Four and a half years ago, I couldn’t say that though.  On April 28, 2014 my life as I knew it completely crumbled apart.  My 7 year marriage was suddenly over and I was left to pick up the pieces alone.  The day your life falls apart is not a date you forget, well at least it wasn’t for me.

pintopinterest

As I sat there in the interview and read that date, my heart felt like it was exploding.  My eyes started welling up with tears, and I grabbed Curt’s hand.  It hit me.  God allowed my son to be born over a thousand miles away the exact day my life fell apart.  The day that I fell to my knees and thought life would never look beautiful again – He was working and my son was born that very day.  You might have thought I was crazy when I knew he would be my son after seeing his picture on a poster board?  That’s nothing compared to the complete peace I felt after seeing that date on that paper.  This was my son and I knew it.

The interview went on for another hour as we talked in depth about the home that Henry and his sisters would need.  At that time all three of them were diagnosed with some sort of speech delay, trauma, or autism.  I truly felt in my heart that we would only be chosen for Henry that day from the conversations we had in that conference room.  There we sat as a newly married couple that had never been parents, can you blame them for thinking we weren’t ready for the instant family we wanted so badly?

pintopinterest

Let’s get to the part about Mother’s Day because after all that is the title of this post.  May, 2017, two days before Mothers’ Day around 2:30 pm I was teaching yearbook to my class of high school seniors when I got a call from DSS.  It was the director of the program to let me know we had been chosen as pre-adoptive parents for Henry.  She then went on to let me know we had not been chosen for the girls and that they felt it would be too overwhelming to take on three special needs children.  Tears immediately poured down my face as I stood in the hallway trying to grasp what I had just been told, I was going to be a mom.  There was so much happiness and sadness all at the same time because as happy as I was about being chosen for Henry, I immediately grieved the loss that he would not grow up with his sisters and my perfect idea for our instant family was gone.  As my conversation ended with the director she said, “Mrs. Baker, happy first Happy Mothers’ Day, you are going to make a great mom.”

She ended the conversation by giving me a few dates to choose from to meet our little boy. Without hesitating I agreed to the first one she gave me.  I hung up the phone, closed my eyes, as I realized it was all working out.  I was going to be a mom.

pintopinterest

 Share onFacebook Follow onInstagram Pin topinterest 
  • Kristen

    Best Christmas story ever! Gods great gift of a family!😇🙏🏻ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Small

    This story gives me goosebumps!! It’s amazing to see how God lines everything up so perfectly❤️
    The date my world turned upside down was April 18…funny I can remember that when I can barely remember my own births at times.
    So inspiring to me to see how God has used you in so many great ways despite your world falling apart, Amy!
    It’s taking me a long time to get over the idea that God is done with me and “put me on the shelf” (so to speak) because of my current situation. I really just hope it means He has bigger things planned than I could’ve ever imagined.
    Love following your story!ReplyCancel

  • Morgan

    All the emotions!!!! Such a great part of your all’s sweet story & lives. I cannot wait to read next weeks post.ReplyCancel

After we attended the meeting that night, I had butterflies for weeks.  If you know anything about DSS, everything takes time – LOTS of time.  We overheard Henry’s case worker mention that he had two sisters that were up for adoption as well and friends, let me tell you – I went a little crazy.  Suddenly my family was all planned out, surely it was God’s will for us to get them all!  One adoption ceremony = instant family, right?!  We decided to attend the next foster to adopt meeting in hopes of finding out more about them and possibly putting an application in for them too.

(These photos are from Henry’s first visit in our home)pintopinterestpintopinterestThis meeting there were only 5 other people in attendance so my confidence on adopting all 3 was through the roof.  During the meeting we sat next to a lady who was very interested in the girls and I was immediately heartbroken.  Of course other people want these children, they are perfect.  That evening on the way home, all that confidence I felt was gone and I worried that maybe Henry wasn’t supposed to be ours or maybe we would never become parents at all.  Extreme I know, but when you see something so perfect right in front of you and want it with all of your heart, your emotions are everywhere just hoping that you get that picture perfect storybook ending.  When you hear that foster care is a roller coaster ride – believe it, it is.

pintopinterest

April 28, 2017 we drove to the Baltimore DSS office.  We left extra early to bring donuts from YiaYia’s bakery and rode almost the whole way in silence.  We were about to interview for our potential children and my typical over chatty self was completely somber by the reality that we had to nail this interview.  There we sat with 4 ladies –  the children’s case worker, the match worker, our home worker, and the foster to adopt department head.   The first question was “Did you bring those donuts to bribe us?”  I laughed under my breath and said,”Yes?” Thankfully it broke the ice and the interview began.

pintopinterest

Looking back now, they definitely only had us in mind for Henry but we tried to pull out all the stops to convince them we should have all three.  We were handed three packets that included every single hospital record, doctors visits, psychological evaluations, and diagnosis for all three siblings.  To say it was shocking and scary would be an understatement.  What had we just gotten ourselves into?  All three of these sweet babies had struggled so hard and it was so evident by just looking at the paperwork that they needed so much.  We talked about our home, our puppies, experience with children, why we wanted to be parents, what our parents thought about foster care, and the support system we had in place to get us through parenthood.  We left that meeting overwhelmed, we knew life was about to change and it certainly was. pintopinterest

 Share onFacebook Follow onInstagram Pin topinterest 
  • Apryl Clark

    Hi is handsome! How does the foster to adopt program work? I didn’t think there was an exact program. I am in Maryland as well.ReplyCancel