One-room school houses were very common in the 1890’s especially in rural counties. These one-room school houses had one teacher that taught several grades, usually primer (kindergarten) through eighth grades. They also served as the location of church on Sunday’s for all families, town hall meetings and other gatherings. The one-room school house was maintained by all the families in the town.
One-room school houses tended to have outhouses (for restrooms), a water pump outside for water and wood-stoves in the middle of the room. Older children were responsible for maintaining the wood/coal in the stoves to keep everyone warm.
Teachers in one-room schools were very special. They often were students that had previously attended the same one-room school house. In the winter, they would arrive early to get the fire started in the wood stove so the school would be warm for children. In poor economic areas, many teachers would provide a noon meal for the students with donations from nearby farmers. Teachers that married were excused from teaching.
A typical school day was from 9-4pm Monday through Friday. Children would be given recess periods of 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon and a break for lunch. No formal playgrounds were established back then. They would have balls, bats, jacks to play with as well as a teeter-totter and a wooden swing.
All children were given chores that had to be done each school day. Some of the chores were; bringing in buckets of water from the well, cleaning the chalkboards, hauling in wood/coal, sweeping etc.
Memorizing to recite speeches, poems and lessons was a common form of learning. It was believed that the constant review of lessons perfectly retained the information in students' minds and trained articulation and public speaking skills. Lessons also included stories, poems and verses to teach moral lessons.
School was often secondary to family farms and their means to living at that time. Often, older boys did not attend school during the harvest seasons. When a new baby arrived in families, older girls stayed home to help.
The majority of one-room schools in the United States are no longer used as schools and have either been torn down, used as museums, sold to be converted into homes or moved to historical sites (like the one located at the Henry Ford Greenfield Village). However, in some very rural communities including in Amish communities they still utilize one-room school houses. And the concept of multi-age groups learning in the same room.
Do you think your children would find visiting a one-room school house interesting? Want to learn pioneer teaching tips that may help you teach multiple children?
Then consider attending our field trip scheduled to the Oak Grove One-Room School House in Toledo, Ohio on November 9, 2017. E-mail our director for more information or check our FB Group Page!
Melissa is Co-Director for CHE. She is the mom to six children (one in Heaven). She has been homeschooling for eight years and is beginning her third year at CHE. Melissa has been Catholic all her life and attended Catholic schools. Before marrying her husband and starting their family, she was the Business Manager and Compliance Director for a charter school management company.