How to Create a Homeschool Room
Creating a homeschool space can be daunting. To have a dedicated space or not to have a dedicated space? To decorate it to the perfect degree or go for a minimalist approach? Waldorf or Montessori? And the list of choices and decisions goes on and on and on.
Today I’m sharing with you what our current homeschool room looks like, what it looked like a month ago, and why we made the changes we did.
Homeschooling with ADHD
We finally got an official diagnosis for the struggles Mr. T has been having focusing academically: ADHD combined type. Y’all, Mr. T has been doing so much better over the last 6 months with the supplements (including Vayarin, a medical food prescription) we’ve been using while working with our pediatrician that we didn’t realize how much he was still struggling.
The areas we knew he excels in were off the charts awesome, but the areas he struggles in were just as off the chart in the opposite direction. Asynchrony at it’s finest. Since we homeschool we have the option to address diet, supplementation, and learning and living environment.
The initial changes our psychologist suggested were to simplify. While I love decorating, fun colors, and having books everywhere, the writing was on the wall that some things desperately needed to be changed to allow Mr. T to succeed. Without further ado, here is our simplified homeschool area.
From the hallway looking in. You can see the photo I posted on Instagram a few weeks ago when I announced our homeschool room was about to change drastically. To be fair, the boys had just finished playing and hadn’t cleaned up yet so it was extra messy, but illustrated a point. There was way too much available in there for a kid who has too many gears going at once anyway. Distractions can be visual, mental, or physical.
The new paint color is a gorgeous pale yellow from Glidden called Lemon Ice. But wait. Isn’t yellow a stimulating color? Well, yes if it is bright. If it is a soft yellow, it helps with focus. Crazy, right? I actually did a lot of research and found plenty of color theory to back pale yellow walls for ADHD kids. It has made a big difference so far. So if you have a kiddo who gets squirrely, you might consider a color change. It helps that yellow is also Mr. T’s favorite color, though he prefers the day-glo bright version.
You’ll also notice there are a lot fewer shelves. We took two 9-cube cubbies out. I also *cleaned out* curriculum and extras. This is seriously freeing. I recommend all curriculum hoarders, tryer-outers, and “keep it just in case” people do this. This greatly reduced our visual clutter on that side of the room and I no longer have the “I’m not using that and should be” guilt. That left our curriculum for this year and a few toys and sensory materials in the school room. (Curriculum we’ve purchased for future use was moved to the basement on one of the cubby shelves.)
The Learning Wall.
My goal has never been to create school at home, but I did have a wall-of-stuff. We had a white board, a magnetic board, a cork board, a number chart, a clock, a periodic table, and a map. It was a lot looking back, but seemed “normal” to me to have in a school room.
That’s it, and it’s amazing.
Mr. T has a small number chart he can pull out if he needs it. Mr. F can use his letter magnets on the board, practice handwriting on the board, and I can use the board for instructing. We have printable notebook sized maps from WonderMaps so there’s no need for a map on the wall to make it look like a “school room”. I don’t know why I thought any of that was necessary. If you don’t have room for a bunch of fluff, then don’t feel bad. You don’t need it anyway.
You’ll notice the guitar got moved to the school room. We are including music lessons as part of our homeschool this year. Mr. T has chosen guitar and Mr. F chose piano. The guitar needed to be where Mr. T could see it to remember to practice. That is how it ended up in the schoolroom.
What’s on the Shelf of Spectacular
I refer to our diffuser shelf as the shelf of spectacular. My Mrs. Myers Lavender candle is there for when we are just hanging out or I decide to do my weekly planning in there in the evening.
Our beloved ceramic diffuser is there. I love that it does intermittent diffusing. And I have to tell you all that I’ve been using essential oils since way before they were “cool” and I don’t use MLM brands. For our schoolroom we use Plant Therapy KidSafe A+ Attention rollerball for the boys and drops in the diffuser, and Calming the Child because who doesn’t want calm kids?
Another tip we were given to help Mr. T to stay focused was to use a visual timer. This one from Learning Resources has been awesome. You set the timer, then you set the warning timer. When you turn it on, it flashed green until it hits the minute mark for the “Warning”, when it beeps and flashes yellow until the timer goes off and flashes red. I thought it was too simple to be effective. I was wrong. I hope to never be without one again.
We had a big 3-drawer plastic rolly thing full of pens, pencils, crayons, chalk, art stuff, etc. It’s gone. Each boy has his own pencil box consisting of:
- A glue stick
- a pencil sharpener
- 3 pencils
- a set of Crayola twistable crayons (because of sensory stuff, we have found these to last much longer than conventional crayons)
- 2 erasers
- Scissors, art supplies, extra pencils, pens, markers, etc. are all in the school room closet under lock and key because Mr. F has yet to agree that walls are not a good medium for art. And because this way they have finite choices.
It was recommended to us to have a set of simple rules, to post them, and to review them regularly. We went with our Knight’s Code that we were already using with our Knights in Training system. Having something I can refer Mr. T and Mr. F to when things are difficult rather than just harping on a “rule” allows them to be more agreeable to following the rule.
Wobble cushions are awesome. They are great for wiggly kids for seat work. Mr. T has a Bouncy Band as well. We also have chewy necklaces for the boys when they need something to help them not chew on pencils or K’nex. Instead of trying to correct sensory behaviors, I have learned that giving the boys tools to regulate is much more helpful.
Mr. F has only 1 sensory bin available at a time now. This awesome dinosaur sensory bin is from Special Needs Homeschooling. We also have a kinetic sand bin. We are now rotating those every other month with several of the boys other toys. Keeping the options to a smaller number helps with focus and keeps them from creating such a humongous mess when they are playing.
You can see the dress up and stuffed animal basket, the blue bin has a slinky and some wooden people, the brown bin is Keva Blocks, and our basket of animals we use for geography. The K’nex are on a shelf, but that’s the only other “toy” we have available now. It’s really made a difference and the boys are actually calmer. It took a week or so for them to adjust but now they don’t even ask for other toys.
And above those toys is our reading nook. I took one of my beloved bird curtains from the school room and recovered the cushion. The boys had outgrown the Poky Puppy. And we got the new reading pillow for in the nook and for them to use when they read in their bedroom. It’s such a cozy little nook, I even sneak in there from time to time.
I know the inside of the closet still looks crazy, but I actually cleaned a LOT of stuff out of it. There’s a bit more that I will probably let go, but for now it’s good. It just needs some organization. Not my gift, but I will commit to getting it done by October. Do you have a closet or hideaway where you keep your homeschool mom mess contained? I’d love pointers!
We have a basket of brain breaks and a shelf of logic games. Both are used to keep the boys engaged and active throughout the school day. Hot Potato is Mr. T’s favorite and Mr. F loves Balance Beans. We will also play Spot It! sometimes in the 5 minutes between subjects. Focused brain breaks are great for kids who struggle with focus. So are shorter lesson times. Our maximum lesson time for a single subject is 20 minutes. This has served us very well to date.
We have a small CD player in our schoolroom now in addition to the boys’ individual CD players. This shelf holds the current rotation of music, audio dramas, and books with CDs. My goal is to reduce this shelf more and rotate it more often, but I haven’t gotten to that yet. I do recommend the JLab headphones for kids. They have a built in volume control and are pretty durable. They work with both types of CD players, and with the iPad.
To keep confusion of whose book belongs to whom to a minimum, each boy has their notebooks in the cubby on their side of our desk. If you want to see more about our curriculum for this year, check that out here. We have some really awesome picks!
Whew! So that is our simplified homeschool room with a lot of detail. Are you working to help a distracted learner focus? What tricks have worked for you?
See all the iHomeschool Network Homeschool Room posts here!
Linked up with The Homeschool Nook Linkup.