After Labor Day, most kids in the United States will be looking at books again, and they’re probably not excited about it. However, one look at 19th century American schools might convince them how much tougher it could be – and how good they are at it.
1. In some areas the school was taught once in a single room.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, schoolhouses with a room in rural areas were the norm. A single teacher taught classes 1-8 together. The youngest students – called Abekedarians because they would learn their ABCs – sat in the front, while the oldest sat in the back. The room was heated by a single wood stove.
2. There was no transport to school.
Most schoolhouses were built to serve students living within four or five miles, which was considered close enough for them to walk.
3. Boys and girls were sometimes separated.
In some schools boys and girls entered through separate doors; They were also kept separate for class.
4. The school year was much shorter.
When the Ministry of Education started collecting data on this subject in the school year 1
5. There were no fancy school items.
Forget about trapper keepers and gel pens. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, students only got by with a blackboard and some chalk [PDF].
6. Students can help the teacher teach.
In the Monitorial or Lancasterian system, the older, stronger students learned lessons directly from the teacher and then taught the younger, weaker students.
7. Teaching was very different in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The teachers taught subjects such as reading, writing, arithmetic, history, grammar, rhetoric and geography (see some 19th century textbooks here). Students memorized their lessons and the teacher took them as a class outside the room to recite what they had learned – so the teacher could correct them on things like pronunciation on the spot – while the other students continued to work behind them.
8. Teachers sometimes lived with their students’ families.
According to Michael Day of the Country School Association of America, this practice was known as the “boarding round,” and often involved the teacher moving from one student house to the next as often as each week. A teacher from Wisconsin wrote about family boarding in 1851.
“I found it very uncomfortable, especially during the winter and spring semesters, to go on board for a week where I would have a comfortable room. For the next week my room was so open that the snow was blowing in and I sometimes found it on my bed and in it too. Some of the places I went on board had flannel sheets to sleep on; and the other cotton. The most uncomfortable thing, however, was having to walk through snow and water. I suffered badly from colds and coughs. “
9. The discipline was very strict.
Sure, getting out of line in the 1800s and early 1900s could result in incarceration, suspension, or eviction, but it could also lead to a lashing. According to a document [PDF] outlines the rules for students and teachers established by the Board of Education in Franklin, Ohio, beginning in 1883.
“Students may be detained at any break or a maximum of fifteen minutes past the hour to end the afternoon session if the teacher deems such detention to be necessary for teaching or for discipline purposes. … Whenever it becomes necessary for teachers to resort to corporal punishment, it must not be done on the student’s head or hands. “
Not all places had such a rule, however; In other areas, teachers might use a ruler or pointer to whip a student’s knuckles or palms [PDF]. Other punishments included holding a heavy book in hand for more than an hour and writing “I will not …” 100 times to do a specific activity on the board.
10. In the 1800s, the school did not offer lunch.
Instead, the children brought their lunch to school in metal buckets. Each student drank water from a bucket that the older boys had filled with the same tin cup. That began to change in the early 1900s.
11. For many students the training ended with the eighth grade.
In order to graduate, students would have to pass a final exam. This PDF shows an example of a typical eighth grade exam in Nebraska around 1895. It includes questions such as “Name the parts of speech and define the ones that have not changed.” “A car body is 2 feet deep, 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold? “And” What are elementary noises? How classified? “