In the book of The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker school was
very different from school today. In the book it says that Lucas Whitaker
sometimes went to school when there wasn’t any work to be done in the farm.
In the 1850’s, there was not a law that said kids have to go to school.
The law we have today called Compulsory Attendance Law that says that children
up to a certain age must be at school. The schools were also very different
because back then the schools were often one room school. Today the schools
are much bigger and the schools have many more rooms. School started at
nine o’clock and ended at three o’clock including lunch break and recess.
If you would like to learn more about education keep on reading.
A childs life in the 1850's
Around Lucas’s time teachers were mostly men. Then when Civil War started,
men stopped teaching and joined the army. Then schools started hiring single
women, because women normally stopped teaching when they got married. Custodial
work was done by teachers. Teachers were paid depending on where they lived.
Communities paid teachers $3-$5 a week. Public Schools paid them $5-$15
a week. Others schools paid them $4-$12 a month. Today schools pay teachers
around $52,693 a year in Connecticut. Teachers pay comes from state taxes.
| Schools in the 1800’s were one room,
wooden buildings. Behind the schools were two out-houses for the “retirement
either of either sex.” Some schools had seats in five rows of double wooden
desks with seats stuck to the floor by screws. Heat was provided
by an iron wood burning stove. Light for dark days was provided by a hanging
oil lamp. For drinking water came from a pail and dipper. Many students
said that “many of our schools are less comfortable than our prison.”
Other schools were a one- room school, painted white with green trim. Some
schools also had a playground so students could play during recess. Other
schools did not have enough room for a playground, so kids played in the
basement or a fenced area of the rooftop.
In public schools in the 1800’s, there were two kinds of public
school: primary and grammar school. Today we have elementary and middle
school. Kids started primary school when they were 5 or 6 years old. In
primary school boys and girls were taught together. After finishing primary
school students went to grammar school. Grammar school had grades from grade
5 to grade 8 or sometimes 7. In grammar, school boys and girls worked in
different classrooms. Students did not miss a day of school for bad weather.
Students walked to school no matter where they lived. Some students rode
horses to school when there was snow. Girls were at school more than boys
because boys had work to do at the farm. School started at 9:00 am to 3:00
pm. (including lunch break and recess.) There were 180 days of school. Today
we have we also have 180 days of school. In the 1800’s students only had
3 weeks of vacation in the whole year. Today we have longer vacations than
the children from the 1850’s.
In the mornings students were met in a very large room then they split
up in to smaller groups. A teacher had 20 to 30 students in the same grade.
Other schools were smaller so there wasn’t enough room for everyone. So there
was only one teacher for the whole school,so the teacher taught a grade
at a time. A teacher would start teaching first grade and then so on. So
when the teacher was teaching a grade the other students would be working
on their assignments. Their assignments were usually written with
pencil and paper and worked problems off the blackboard in the front. If
the students were lucky they would have textbooks. Textbooks were usually
passed down after student. Students usually didn’t get any homework because
they had plenty of time during class.
There were many subjects in school in the 1800’s. The three basic subjects
in school were writing, reading, and arithmetic. Doing sums was given to
arithmetic the “art of doing computation”. Arithmetic books covered addition,
subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals, fractions, and measurement.
Teachers rarely taught history or geography. Science wasn’t really taught
but hygiene was taught. The subject students most enjoyed was spelling. Because
very often there were spelling bees and if a student won the spelling bee
they would get “head marks” and with the most “head marks” they would get
a prize from the teacher. Today we have math, social studies, science, reading,
and language arts. In the 1800’s students had monthly reports called report
cards. In the report cards they included grades and conduct. The highest
grade in a report card is number 1 which means very good ,number 2 means
well , number 3 means middling , number 4 means poor , and number 5 means
very poor. Some students wished report cards had never even been invented.
After school kids played many sports one of the sports that they played
was baseball. Baseball was the most popular sport. Football was also played
but not as popular as baseball. Football grew out of soccer and English
rugby. A proper sport for young women and young men was lawn tennis. Kids
also loved to read and loved to climb foot paths or over small hills. Kids
did many other activities. There wasn’t usually any boredom.