LIFE IN A TWO ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE
Until the age of 13 I attended a two room schoolhouse. I knew larger schools existed as I’d seen the “town” school from the outside but my reality was two rooms.
Strict adherence to the age cut-off didn’t exist back then so I was allowed to start 1st grade as a 5 yr old who wouldn’t turn 6 until November. Our school had no Kindergarten so this was my first school experience. I was the ONLY kid in first grade that year. My classroom contained grades 1-4. Our teacher, Mrs. McNeil, taught all four grades. Four lines of desks, each line a different grade. In the second classroom of our school were the upper grades, 5-8.
The basement of our schoolhouse contained restrooms and a small workshop where basic woodworking skills were taught to some of the older kids. A wide banister framed the stairs leading to the basement. Sliding down the banister carried a risk of getting chastised, if caught, but was worth the risk if no adults were in sight. An auditorium, actually a small gym with a stage at one end, doubled as a performing arts room and the location for our yearly Christmas plays. A large outdoor field with a baseball diamond was for recess, which took place rain or shine. A large open air, roofed shed contained swings and became the place to play on rainy days.
I had the same teacher for grades 1-4 and only got a “new” teacher when I moved up to the “big kids room” as a fifth grader. Our library was in the upper classroom and consisted of one cabinet full of books. Apparently in those days there wasn’t a mobile library option, or if there was no one in our school administration took advantage of it. Before I’d completed half of 5th grade I’d read every book in that library and was reading some of them for the 2nd or 3rd time. Thankfully our mother took us to the library in town on a regular basis so I had other options available.
Our education didn’t have many frills. Unlike today, there were no para-pros, no special education classes, no ESL classes, no hot lunch program and specialty classes like music, art and P.E. were minimal. We all brought our lunch from home. Physical education was recess.
Music? The Teacher Probably Needed Earplugs
Music consisted of a make shift band with an assortment of tambourines, recorders, and maracas. Oh, I’m sure our teachers must have needed earplugs. The yearly Christmas production was the extent of our drama. The teachers chose the play we would perform each Christmas. Parts were assigned weeks in advance and pages upon pages of dialogue memorized for each production. Parents were recruited to create backdrops and costumes. The little auditorium overflowed with friends and family on the night of our big production.
And Then We Moved
We moved when I was in 8th grade and I was suddenly transferred to a much larger school. It was a middle school containing 7th and 8th grades and had a total of maybe 150-200 kids. Although very small by today’s standards, it was huge to me. Talk about culture shock!!
Today, as an adult, I recognize that the education we got in that little two room schoolhouse was very good in its areas of strength … reading, writing and arithmetic. It was, at that time, lacking in the areas of history, science, art, music and physical education. Today’s schools, large and small, offer extensive options in curriculum as well as addressing the learning style and needs of a large population. Do your research, know your child, learn what teaching/learning style works for each and what is available in your area. A diligent effort in this regard can make your child’s school experience successful.
The school I attended is still functional (and is shown in the photo at the top of this article). I was unable to find statistics on the number of two room schoolhouses still in existence and there are only a handful of one room schools. The stories those old walls could tell. How fun it would be to go back and visit my little old school. Maybe one of these days on one of our excursions.