(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)
I really enjoyed fifth and sixth grades at my new school in Ohio. The old historic school buildings were in the center of beautiful Victorian neighborhoods. The classrooms were bright with high ceilings, wood trim and big windows. I could see the snow fall and the leaves change from my window. My little sister and I loved the walks to and from school, and often we would save our milk money for ice cream on the way home. I even had teachers who saw my artistic talent and encouraged me to add art to all my book reports and let me help decorate the classrooms.
School was no longer something I dreaded. One of my teachers started each day with a brain game or logic puzzle on the chalk board, and I was always so proud to be the first student to solve the puzzle, even though I had to wear my glasses to see the board. I had a friend or two and got into a fight or two—once a bully was making fun of my little sister and me, so I showed her my fist. She ran home crying with a bloody nose and decided to be my friend after that. For my seventh grade year, my sisters and I were moved to a new school district—one of the “better” schools by reputation. I had always gone to small town schools before, but this middle school was one of the big city schools, and it was frightening. The fact that it had no windows didn’t even compare to the behavior of rowdy boys and bullies. I was grabbed and teased. I walked into the “tattoo parlor” in the girl’s bathroom, supplied with razors and permanent marker.
While waiting in the lunch line, I was offered a “good” deal on any kind of drug I’d like to try. Four girls in my middle school were pregnant. And I’d often get lost in the maze of halls and stairways between classes. My report cards also suffered. There were no art classes or logic games on the blackboard, and I felt myself failing socially and academically. This may have been a normal educational experience for most American teens back in the early 90s, but it was a shocking change to me. That same year, my mom began homeschooling Heather for health reasons. That left me waiting at the bus stop alone each morning while Heather sat at the dining room table with a pile of workbooks, a big globe, and a pack of colored pencils. And popsicles. My mom rarely forgot to hand out the popsicles. Sometimes she even sat outside under the dogwood tree to do her schoolwork or played during school hours! Homeschooling was rare back then. I hadn’t heard of it before. I was jealous.
Mom started getting homeschooling magazines in the mail, and I looked through big piles of them with her, their covers adorned with families, most with a dozen or so children all in matching hand-sewn clothing. I didn’t know what that was all about—I didn’t want to wear homemade dresses to match my mom and sisters—but the situation was becoming harder to handle at school, and I wanted to come home and stay home. One day I came home after a very bad day at school and basically demanded to be homeschooled. I finally revealed to my parents exactly what was happening at school each day, and understandably, they were shocked. They quickly agreed that homeschooling would probably be a better option and arranged to take me out of school. So after Christmas break, I didn’t go back. (click here to continue reading)