Local Folks: Sarah Marshall

Local Folks: Sarah Marshall
Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall is the spearhead of JAX Story Art Studio for homeschool families, where a team of three teachers offers classes and workshops all based around stories—reading them, writing them, and depicting them in visual art. The downtown classes and workshops are meant to help local homeschoolers grow a community, to connect with other kids over something they’re interested in—art, which is the driving force behind it all. It’s a unique, integrated learning experience.   

Sarah and her husband, Dean, along with their two children arrived in Jacksonville this year on the Fourth of July after four years of travel along the east coast of the U.S. and the Bahamas on their sailboat. They chose Jacksonville for all it has to offer homeschool families. “And it’s a good hurricane hole for Florida,” Sarah said.

The idea for the studio blossomed out of what was originally intended to be a free teen art group for her twelve-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, who enjoys sketching and digital art in addition to writing and reading. The group was a way for Jacqueline to connect and create with other homeschooled peers. “We’d been removed from society for a while,” Sarah said. The art group allowed her daughter to engage with what she loves doing while at the same time building community. Several local teens joined her.

“It went really well!” Sarah said of the teen group. It was meant to be a free social situation, but parents began requesting for their children other types of art classes, which are not easy to find for students who are not involved in a school system. And the parents were willing to pay. So, Sarah secured a rental space downtown at The Art Center Cooperative (TACC), 800 West Monroe Street.

In addition to being a mom, Sarah is a licensed teacher. She holds degrees in visual art and elementary education. She had served as an elementary reading specialist for 15 years at a school in Palm Beach County, where she designed arts-integration curricula, which infuse content with art—whether that content be for science or social studies or writing. She has educated teachers and parents on how to enhance reading instruction. She has taught the foundations of reading to countless students, in groups and individually, including her own son, Cohen, who is now nine. Sarah is founder, owner, and operator of New Bern Tutor. [NewBernTutor.com] She offers private reading lessons online for beginning and struggling readers and leads in-person homeschool reading workshops for parents. It’s this extensive experience, and her training from Harvard’s Project Zero and from The Kennedy Center, that Sarah draws on when planning the classes and workshops that she leads at her new studio.

Sarah has taken two other professional teachers onto her team at JAX Story Art Studio: Mark Montgomery, a local artist who taught in China at an international school, and Erin Sumner, a writing specialist from the Orange County school district.

The curriculum that Sarah is planning for the studio is “a true integration of reading, writing, and art,” she said. There will be art print talks, where students will observe pieces and have conversations about what they’ve noticed. These talks will provide opportunities for vocabulary expansion. The studio will provide classes on descriptive writing about the pieces of art studied. Art history classes will be offered, which will integrate reading about the artists and writing about what was learned. Students will create art using different techniques that had been employed by the artists the class studies. A variety of paints, fiber, clay, and more will be explored. “You name it; we’ll be using it,” Sarah said.

JAX Story Art Studio is a creative space for all homeschoolers. “I do it because I love it. There’s nothing like this out there, and I wanted my kids to have this,” Sarah said. Most classes and workshops maintain a low student-teacher ratio, 8:1 for elementary, 18:1 for teen groups. All offerings are co-ed.

Find out about classes, workshops, and events by joining the private Facebook group JAX Homeschoolers Story Art Studio, calling 252-327-9785, or visiting  JAXStoryArtStudio.com.

“The focus is about helping these homeschoolers connect,” Sarah said. The goal is to create community.

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