photo of midlakes one-room schoolhouse

Background Information on One-Room Schoolhouses

  • As rural communities grew, one-room schoolhouses appeared in replacement to homeschooling. Farmers would often give a piece of land for the purpose of creating a schoolhouse and often times the schoolhouse carried the name of the farmland where it was located.

    Wooden schoolhouses were less expensive to build and could be moved as needed. As time progressed, these schoolhouses were usually about six miles apart to prevent children from walking more than three miles to schools. Students in first through eighth grade attended school when their parents allowed them to go.

    However, boys were often kept home to help on the farm during the spring planting seasons and the fall harvests. This prevented many of them from passing a grade-level exam to advance. Women did not teach if they were not already married. Young girls became schoolmarms but "schoolmarms" but were dismissed when they married. Consequently, "spinster" teachers or widowed teachers were common. Schoolmasters existed but the pay was minimal making it difficult to support a family.

    Discipline was a primary concern of parents. They did not want their children to waste time at school misbehaving and expected teachers use corporal punishment and/or humiliation for discipline. Since entire families attended the same classrooms, parents were kept informed of school happening from tattling brothers and sisters.

    The following is a list of suggested readings for those seeking to learn more about old-time country schools:

    • Little House Series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
    • A One-Room School, Bobbie Kalman
    • My Great Aunt Arizona, Gloria Houston
    • The One-Room School, Raymond Bial