My friend Pam Barnhill stopped by today and she sat down to have a little chat with us. Some of you might know her from her popular podcast, Homeschool Solutions.
Sonya: Pam, thanks so much for joining us today.
Pam: Thank you so much for having me, Sonya. It’s great to be here.
Sonya: Would you tell a little about your family?
Pam: Sure! I have three kids. The oldest is 13; she’s a girl. And then we have an 11-year-old boy and a nine-year-old boy, as well. I’ve been married to my husband, Matt, for 25 years this year. And we’ve been homeschooling ever since the kids were little. We started preschool at home.
Sonya: And you don’t do strictly Charlotte Mason.
Pam: No, we’re not strictly Charlotte Mason. I would say we’re influenced by Charlotte Mason, and we’re influenced by Classical education as well.
Sonya: So tell a little bit about your podcast too. I know you help a lot of homeschool moms all across the board—not just Charlotte Mason, not just one particular approach. But tell a little bit about your podcast.
Pam: We love to encourage and equip homeschool moms from all walks of homeschooling. And so we try to do that by talking about homeschool planning. We talk a lot about homeschool morning time, which is a great practice where the entire family can come together and learn together at one time. And then we also talk to them about being consistent in your homeschool and just feeling really good about what you’re doing at home.
Sonya: What would you say are your hopes and dreams for doing this podcast? What is it you’re trying to accomplish?
Pam: Well, we really want moms to feel confident in what they’re doing, because a lot of times we talk to homeschool moms and there are a lot of fears that comes with homeschooling.
Sonya: There are.
Pam: Homeschooling is hard, it’s difficult. It’s enjoyable, it’s fabulously wonderful; then there are some days where you’re like “Why did I even get out of bed?”
Sonya: It’s like a rollercoaster.
Pam: Very much a rollercoaster ride. But we find that moms are not always feeling secure in themselves, and I really want them to feel secure in themselves. I really want them to feel confident in what they’re doing. And so that’s what we try to do, is just give them those little tools and those words of encouragement to help them feel like they’re doing a good job.
Sonya: So do you have any habits that help you in your work? I know blogging and doing podcasts and all of that requires a lot of effort, a lot of work. Are there any habits that help you get that all done?
Pam: Well, when I can, I try to get up early in the morning.
Sonya: Okay, so how early are we talking?
Pam: Well, you know, if I’m up before six, I feel like I’m doing a good job.
Sonya: Oh yeah!
Pam: I find if I need to do focused work for the day, then I really do need to try to get up about 5:30 or 6:00 and try to hit an hour or two, a 30-minute or 45-minute window, so I can do some writing or something like that.
Sonya: So that’s before your kids are up and running.
Pam: I have some early risers who like to try to beat me out. They’re finally getting to where they’ll sleep until 6:15 or 6:30 or something like that. So it’s a small window that I have there, and then I move in and do my quiet time and a little bit of reading; because I find that if I’m going to read something, I need to do that early in the morning too, so I can be focused on what I’m reading. That really helps a lot. Then I usually make some time to work in the afternoon, but I try to block my time off to where the afternoon is communication and small fires. And then maybe a medium size project at the end of the day after those fires are put out. But that focus work time in the morning is what really helps me.
Sonya: I think, in a way, you are balancing three jobs. Because you’re overseeing your household as a wife and a mother, but then you’re homeschooling, and that is a second job.
Pam: It’s a job unto itself.
Sonya: And then doing a third job, in addition to that. Some other moms are in the same boat. Do you have any counsel or advice for those moms who are balancing those three jobs?
Pam: I think that the biggest thing to be frank and up front about is, I don’t do it all by myself. My husband is there; he is helping; he’s part of this team. He takes the kids and runs them around in the afternoon so my house is quiet and I have some time to get some things done. And so I don’t want to put out the idea that I’m here alone doing three jobs, because I’m really not.
Sonya: And your superpower cape is out to the cleaners right now.
Pam: Very much out to the cleaners, yes! So he’s helping with all of that kind of stuff so that I can have time to work. And then also with the business, I have a team of people who are helping me with that part of the job. So really the only thing I do by myself is the homeschooling, and I love that. That’s a lot of fun to be able to spend that time. It’s just saying, “These are the hours that we homeschool”— this is the time that we’re going to put everything else aside and sit down and focus on this. And this is the priority in the day.
Sonya: Sometimes that’s hard to keep that priority when you have other things pressing in on you and things that want your attention, urgent things.
Pam: Yes. We’re not perfect with it, you know. Every once in a while something comes up that we have to do during that time. But you know, we hit it most of the time.
Sonya: That’s great. So what habits are you working on personally? Getting up early is one. Do you have any other habits that are helping you personally?
Pam: Making time for that reading in the morning is a big one. I’m going through a Bible study of the Gospel of Luke right now, and so spending some time doing that and in prayer. And then also having that set time in the morning to do that deeper reading. I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, Karen Glass’s Mind to Mind. Believe it or not this is the first time that I’ve read Charlotte Mason, and I’m reading it through Karen’s version of the book. And so that’s been really reading great . . . reading for my book club, just that heavier reading: Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott. Those kinds of things feed me, so then I can turn around and kind of pour it into my kids a little bit more too.
Sonya: Do you find that it kind of sets the tone for your day?
Pam: It really does. It really does, and I miss it when I don’t get it.
Sonya: What kinds of things inspire you? Besides that reading, what other kinds of things inspire you?
Pam: Beauty inspires me. Neatness inspires me. Is that bad to say?
Sonya: No, not at all.
Pam: So like if I’m at my house and there’s a huge mess somewhere, we kind of have to clean up before we get started with school. Everything doesn’t have to be picture perfect, but at least it has to be straight. Little things like candles and just beautiful things like that inspires me. And then we always like to have music and fun. Fun is something that’s very inspiring as well. We have a little sign in our kitchen that says “This kitchen is made for dancing!”
Sonya: Oh nice!
Pam: And so we love to have kitchen dance parties together and just joking and laughing and having a good time with the kids. Family game nights; those kinds of things are a lot of fun for us and inspire me as well.
Sonya: Well, you have inspired a lot of other homeschool moms with the work that you do. So on behalf of all of them, thank you for all the time and effort that you put into your podcast. I know it’s not always easy. But what you have shared has encouraged so many moms to keep going.
[to the reader]: And so I invite you to also take a listen to Pam’s podcast. It will encourage you.
[to Pam]: You do interview some Charlotte Mason people on there sometimes.
Pam: I do! We love having Charlotte Mason friends on the podcast and we do have them on there, and you’re going to be on there soon.
So take a listen to Pam’s podcast and be encouraged!