Homeschool Portrait- Carol Barnier

I first encountered Carol’s website when I was doing a search on homeschooling very, very active boys. (Probably in the middle of the night when I start stressing about David becoming big enough to “do school” with us.)  So I was thrilled when I attended my first homeschool conventions this last Spring, Carol was one of the speakers.  Her session “If I’m Diapering the Watermelon Then Where Did I Put the Baby?” talking about the highly distractable mother was the first one I went to.

It was when she was giving practical solutions to problems moms face, that I thought “I have to feature her this summer for my Homeschool Portrait project!”  I was shocked when I emailed her asking if I could interview her for my blog that she actually emailed me back, and had no problem talking to a small time blogger like me. 

When I was in her session at the convention, I loved her very practical, and sometimes hysterical helps for moms trying to teach their kids.  She was joking (I think, but probably not) about the dilemma many mothers face of never being able to use the bathroom alone.  She said she solved this problem in her house by hanging a wipe board in her bathroom and saying that any child who enters a bathroom that she is using will be drilled on fractions.  No one ever bothered her in the bathroom anymore.  She’s sooo funny.  Unlike my other featured moms this summer, she’s written a few books out there as well.  You can click on them to get a closer look if you like:
The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles: A Fresh and Demystifying ApproachHow to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On to LearningIf I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?: Help for the Highly Distractible Mom

1)      Tell us about your family.  How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
 I have three. But of course, when speaking to homeschoolers, one suddenly feels that compunction to say “I have ONLY three.” That’s my favorite reason for going shopping. In the grocery store, three is an impressive achievement.
Are all of your children home educated?
Yes. But my first attended a private kindergarten (which we’re pretty sure he flunked, if such a thing is possible), and then all three of my children attended a private christian school for a single year when I was often away helping my mother deal with her cancer. Other than that, they’re all homeschooled.  
Do you or your husband work?  What sort of work are you into?
My husband is an IT guy, which means that even though he does work, I have absolutely no idea what he does. He speaks in acronyms so much that I have long suspected he truly works for the CIA. When I’m not homeschooling or doing things at church, I write and speak to anyone who is willing to pull up a chair.  
How much education do you have?  If you went to college, what did you major in?
Once upon a time I was a music major, which means that when we had to learn all the various instrument, my short little arms (I’m 4’11 3/4″) couldn’t reach the last position for the trombone. I would extend my arm its full length and then let go of the slide and catch it with my foot. In highschool, this worked okay in Jazz band, but was not helpful in marching band. Anyway. . .off I went to music school. As I neared the end of my degree, I decided I didn’t like one of my professors, so much so that I didn’t want to take his course, which unfortunately was a prerequisite for graduating. I don’t get many points for good sense. So late, late, late in the game, I changed my degree to Political Science/pre-law. Go figure. I did finally graduate with a bachelor’s, which to this day, I’ve pretty much never used.   
Which curriculum and/or homeschool philosophy do you follow?
Pwah haa ha! There’s a philosophy? Somebody shouldda told me! We follow the philosophy of if it interests us, we learn about it. I call it rabbit-trail education. In truth, I’m sure that my style would be more aptly called “Eclectic” I’ve always mixed my materials by subject. I like bits and pieces of many styles. I like the narration and sketching used in Charlotte Mason. I like the emphasis on reading (and de-emphasis on spelling, vocabulary and grammar) of Robinson Curriculum. I like the focus on early memorization of the Classical method (not so crazy about learning Latin and Greek). But whatever I do, I surround my children with wondrously rich books (again–Charlotte Mason and “living books” idea).   
 I know it’s a loaded question, so answer as briefly or detailed as you like.  Why did you decide to homeschool?
Didn’t feel we had a choice. My son’s ADHD made it difficult, or even impossible for him to attend public school without medication. We had other medical issues that prevented us from looking at that option. So we homeschooled as a stop-gap measure till we could figure out what we REALLY wanted to do. Or till we cold afford a small country (ie. the price to get into a private school that specialized in ADHD kids.) We had no expectation we would continue. After all, as everybody KNEW, homeschoolers were people who all lived in Idaho, raised goats, and dressed their children alike. We were certain we weren’t really homeschool material. Once we figured out what to do next, we’d be outta this homeschool gig. And God just laughed. Because here we are, 17 years later, incredibly thankful for the gifts that came with that initial step. I wouldn’t trade it.  
What does a typical school day look like in your home?
Again. . .typical? Someone somewhere gets typical? Why is it I haven’t been getting these memos? Alright, I’ll do my best to give you some idea of typical. But please know that it’s a shifting sand dune we’re treading on. My oldest daughter and I rise early. We both start working on our various projects. She on schooling (she’s a senior) and me, typically writing. My second child rises later and fiddles around doing whatever till around noon. She might do some school work. She might play with legos. But at noon, she’s mine, and we begin to work together in earnest. We cover all the things she absolutely needs me for. Then at four, I usually start thinking about dinner, and she finished up whatever is left on her list of To-do’s. We manage this “typical”day about twice a week. 
What do you find to be the hardest part of home educating?
No breaks from each other? I think I’m half-way serious about that. Somedays I think we grow complacent about each other because we’re together all the time. Since you didn’t ask me what is the best thing about homeschooling, I’ll answer anyway. :-) Well, okay there are many great things. But one of my favorites is that I’m getting the great education that I never had. I’ve learned so much right along with my kids. Being a teacher is like the greatest job on earth. (Okay, right after being a corporate buyer for a major book chain).     

What do you, personally, do for fun?  Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Singing, fishing, writing, and best of all. . .speaking. I’d rather speak than eat (and if you’ve seen me, you know that’s saying something!)   
What are some of your favorite resources?  (e.g. websites, stores, books, programs)
How long have you got? This might be a good place to insert the curriculum survey we did on Sizzle Bop. This is an online community I started for parents who homeschool highly distractible kids. If you want to look at the resources all THOSE moms suggested, just click HERE.   
Any advice for those just starting out homeschooling?
 Know this. . .you don’t have to do everything perfectly, nor even everything right ALL AT ONCE. Homeschooling is the most forgiving, the most efficient, and the most workable educational system there is. Every one of us who homeschools gets some of it right each year, and some of it wrong. Then next year, we improve a bit. It’s a dynamic thing. 


  1. Mom says

    Wow, I’m trying to picture her playing the trombone, and I’m laughing so hard! I feel like I missed out now, not being able to homeschool you! Anyway, great job on this and all the other interviews!

  2. Anonymous says

    That trombone thing is funny. One of my older sisters played the trombone, and (bearing in mind the winters in NE Montana) one time she and our neighbor about her age (who lived about 3/4 mile away on the next farm) decided in school one day to do an experiment about how sound carries in really cold area. The experiment was this: my sister was to go out and stand on a little hill (where the vegetable cave was) near our farm house back door…and blow her trombone as hard as she could at a pre-arranged time. The neighbor girl would listen and give her the report and her opinion the next day in school.

    They did their experiment, but it got pretty funny (according to family reports–I was too little to understand it at the time) because it was about 20 below. In order to keep her lips from sticking to the trombone in a damaging fashion, she had to put her mouth on the trombone, ready to blow, BEFORE she opened the door and went outside all bundled up. So she has the trombone in position, she’s bundled up for the below-zero cold, and she’s struggling with the door and storm door–trying to hold the trombone in position, get out the door, up on the little hill to blow it loudly, continue holding it in place until she came back through the door. As the story goes, our Dad thought the whole thing was rather hilarious. Trombones do seem to lend themselves to humor! ~Sharon

  3. says

    I didn’t make it to MACHE, but I just finished listening to the cd of her speaking at the conference—-HILARIOUS. I loved her interview here, too!

  4. Anonymous says

    Carol is so colorful in her writing and speaking. I too, heard her at a homeschool conference a couple of years ago and was very encouraged by her honesty and practical advice. I just bought her book about learning styles of children–it should be delivered to me early in the week and I am eager to read it. Thank you for interviewing Carol!

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