Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc.

Meet Massachusetts Homeschoolers: Isabella Watkins

By Isabella Watkins

My parents and I only intended to homeschool while I was in fifth grade, then I would go back to my old school for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

On the first day of fifth grade, I woke up at around eight in the morning, made teacher nametags for my parents and a student one for myself, and sat down at the table in my room with every intention of recreating the school environment. This routine lasted about four or five days, until my parents surprised me with the question: What would you like to do today?

It was a strange concept, to have a choice about what I did each day, but I found right away that I liked it better than having someone else choose my schedule. That day I had the biggest revelation in all my ten years: I can contribute to deciding how I spend my time and what I learn. I never used the teacher/student nametags again.

Now I make lists almost every night with a full agenda covering what I want to accomplish the next day. I make extra copies of my schedule for my parents so that they can follow along. My daily schedules reflect a lot of the things that I enjoy. I find it wonderfully ridiculous that there was ever a time where I couldn’t just say, I’m going to write the next Great American Novel! and then sit right down and attempt it.

After spending the rest of fifth grade filling each day with things that I cared about (by the end of the year, my computer had about a hundred or so writing documents and my table had towers of books), I knew that I could not leave the paradise of homeschooling and go back to school. I’m now in seventh grade, and at the wise age of thirteen years and a few months, I can say I made the right choice to stay a homeschooler.

My basic curriculum includes the staple subjects: math, history, and science. Some of the things that my parents count as homeschooling are, to me, just things that I love to do: reading, writing, and editing my writing. I also like to make mini-movies with my friends, editing with video editing software before the grand unveiling on the projector in my basement (I make pretty good maple popcorn to complete the cinematic experience). I am also learning a lot of everyday skills, such as meal planning, making grocery lists, time management, cooking, and baking.

I feel very fortunate that I am allowed the daily opportunity to decide on my priorities and ambitions. I am thankful for the good years of school I had for helping me to discover some of the things that I enjoy, and to my parents and my homeschool teachers for helping me explore my capabilities.

During this time when school kids are experiencing something like homeschooling (not quite, though), I find it fascinating to observe how people who are getting time to explore their interests are reacting. I have some school friends who over the course of a half hour call first tell me how bored they are because they can’t go to school or afterschool activities, but then talk about all the projects they are working on. They don't seem to realize the disconnect; I wonder if they resort to saying that they are bored when they don't have their time completely scheduled. In any case, it is wonderful to see what my friends come up with of their own accord, and how excited they are to talk about it.

With the aid of my own daily schedules, I am able to put time in each day to work on my ambitions, my projects, and my knowledge using the methods I choose, to learn things that I care about and to be around the people (and animals) I love.

Isabella Watkins loves homeschooling, Skyping with her best friend, reading Jane Austen novels, and writing. She is currently working on her first full-length novel.