I first became aware of homeschooling mother, author, and speaker Carol Barnier when I attended a presentation she gave on a game she developed to teach children how to read at the 2006 LEAH Convention at the NYS Fairgrounds in Syracuse. I was struck by her commonsense, easygoing, and humorous approach to speaking and educating children, and so I purchased her two books, How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning and If I’m Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where’d I Leave the Baby?, for the library’s homeschooling collection, where they’ve spent very little time on the shelf. Her books are popular, I think, because they offer good advice but also because they’re honest, warm, and unintimidating. Carol speaks and writes often about “highly distractible” children and adults, always in the spirit of creating understanding and accepting environments in which everyone can thrive. One of her newest projects, Sizzle Bop!, is an online community “where highly distractible people are celebrated, encouraged, and empowered.” Carol is a busy person, and she went to some trouble to do this interview with me, for which I’m grateful. I think you all will be, too.
Adrienne: I’ll begin with the big question: How did you and your family get started in homeschooling?
Carol: I would love to weave you a tale of lofty thoughts, noble ambitions and great foresight. But the truth is not so grand. Our son sort of flunked kindergarten. Flunked is too strong a word, but he certainly struggled, and he struggled in ways that the other kids didn’t. When it was determined that he was ADHD we began to look at options. Medication wasn’t one of them. It’s not that we were anti-medication, but he had other medical issues that precluded this choice. Next, we began to meet with each of the four possible first grade public school teachers in our local schools. Each one watched him interfacing with her students and her classroom and then declared that without medication, this child would not succeed in first grade. Strike two. Lastly, we checked out local private schools. But this was financially impossible. Strike three.