Aztec father instructing sons how to carry wood and fish, mother instructing daughter how to grind maize.
The Aztec Empire was one of the most powerful Native American civilizations. Aztecs lived on the territory that now belongs to Mexico.
The Aztec children started their learning at the age of three. The father taught the boy and the mother taught the girl. It was the parents' responsibility to teach their kids how to be a helpful member of the family and the household. The Aztecs were very organized and knew exactly what to teach their kids each year.
First, the girl would be taught how to help in the house and the boy would carry water and help at the marketplace. Every year new tasks were added. For example, the boys learned to fish and carry firewood and the girls would grind maize, cook and weave.
Parents spent a lot of time with their kids teaching them everything that would help them in their lives. They taught their kids how speak, dress, and how to behave in public. In fact, the Aztec parents were the childrens' first teachers.
Aztec parents were very loving ,but very strict. They punished their children for laziness, disobedience, rudeness and boastfulness. Both boys and girls were punished by either being forced to inhail the bitter smoke from a fire made of chili peppers or by being pricked by sharp thorns. The boys would also be laid naked on the cold, damp ground with their hands and feet tied and the girls were forced to wake up very early in the morning and do extra cooking, cleaning and sweeping.
Besides education at home, there was free schooling for everyone. There were two types of schools. One of the schools was called Telpochcalli, the House of Youth. The children of common citizens (not very wealthy) attended this type of school. There, they studied Aztec history, myths and rituals. There weren't any text books. The children repeated texts after the teachers and learned them by heart. There was a lot of singing, music and dancing that went with the texts to make memorizing easier. Boys also participated in physical excercises in order to be prepared to become warriors. Another type of school called Calmecac was for the kids from the noble families. This school was very strict. Calmecac's students were going to become priests, military leaders and judges. The schools were at the temples, and the classes were taught by priests. Younger students in Calmecac had the same subjects as in Telpochcalli with addition to math and writing. Eventually they also had to learn astrology, law, architecture, medicine, religion and rituals. Girls could also go to Calmecac, but they had separate schools, without boys.
Incas didn't have a written language. It did not make learning easier, because they had to memorize everything. As in the Aztec Empire, Inca children learned a lot from their parents. In fact, kids from the poor families learned everything from their parents ans neighbors since they never went to school. The only children that attended a real school were the sons of the noblemen and local rulers. These boys went to school for four years. During the first year they learned Quechua, the Inca language spoken by nobel people. They studied religion during the second year. The third year was spent learning how to use quipu, a complicated system of strings and cords with knots, used to record numerical information and for sending messages. (Look at the picture of an Inca man holding a quipu). The fourth and final year was spent learning Inca history.
Since Incas did not have a writing system, all teaching was by example and learning required a lot of practice and endless repetitions. Kids were threatened and beaten for disobedience but they could be punished not more than once a day. The maximum punishment was ten blows to the soles of the feet.