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"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

This Old Schoolhouse

One-room schoolhouses were common throughout the United States from 1750 to 1950, most noticeably during their heyday in the late 1800’s. In these schools, children of all ages and grades were taught in a single room by one teacher. The total number of boys and girls would be anywhere from two to sixty, with grade levels ranging from first to eighth. The schoolteacher couldn’t teach all eight grades at once, of course, so he or she would teach one group of children while the rest of the students worked independently on assignments that were posted on the blackboard.

The materials used in one-room schools were minimal. Behind the teacher’s desk up front would be a large blackboard, alphabet chart, globe, and shelves. The Bible, a dictionary, and a hymnal were the main books used besides early textbooks such as “The New England Primer,” Webster’s “Blue-Backed Speller,” “McGuffey’s Readers,” and “Ray’s Arithmetic.” Listening, repetitive drills, memorization, recitation, reading aloud and copying were the most common means of learning “the three R’s.” Students had wooden paddles called horn books on which were inscribed the alphabet, numbers, and Bible verses for easy reference. The students wrote on small slate boards or in homemade copy books using quill pens dipped in inkwells.

Students either walked or rode horses to school, bringing their lunches in small tin pails. They sometimes helped out with school chores like bringing in wood. A bell signaled the beginning of class. The morning routine consisted of raising the American flag, singing a patriotic song or a hymn, and reading from the Bible. Students copied proverbs from “Poor Richard’s Almanac” and copied math problems from the blackboard. The morning sessions ended with exercises on cursive writing and penmanship. After lunch, there was a reading by the teacher, followed by drills in English grammar and studies of world geography and history. Spelling rounded out the day’s lessons and weekly spelling bees added some excitement.

The one-room schoolhouse was the focal point of many small communities, where town meetings, social events, and church services were also held. As populations increased and school buses made longer distances possible, large centralized schools with separate classes for each grade level were built beginning in the 1920’s. By the 1950’s, most one-room schools were abandoned. The majority of one-room schoolhouses have since been torn down, left in a state of decay, converted to other uses, or maintained as museums. However, one-room schoolhouses are still used in some small towns and rural villages, primarily for elementary education.

One-room schoolhouses that are open to the public include: the oldest standing schoolhouse in Strawberry, Arizona, and the restored schoolhouse at Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum. Also at Pioneer Arizona is the teacherage, an original structure which was the home for the teacher who taught at the schoolhouse. If you're ever in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, you can tour an Amish one-room school at the Amish Farm & House, 2395 Lincoln Highway East (U.S. Route 30), Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Make a Copybook - Take several sheets of white paper and fold them in half. Get a sheet of colored construction paper and fold it around the outside for a cover. Using a large-eyed needle and heavy thread or yarn, sew the cover to the paper along the crease. Decorate the cover. Inside, write down Scriptures, proverbs, quotes, poems, literary passages, etc.


Coyote School News, by Joan Sandin.

Going to School in Pioneer Times (Going to School in History), by Kerry Graves.

My Great-Aunt Arizona, by Gloria Houston.

On the Banks of Plum Creek and These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

One Room School, by Laurence P. Pringle.

One-Room School, by Raymond Bial.

Prairie School, by Lois Lenski.

Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Icons of America), by Jonathan Zimmerman.

The One-room Schoolhouse: A Tribute to a Beloved National Icon, by Paul Rocheleau.

Legacy of One-Room Schools, by Myrna Grove.

Under One Roof: A Traveler's Guide to America's One-Room Schoolhouse Museums, by Grace S. Schoerner.

Me and My One-Room Schoolhouse, by Rita Carney.

Web Sites (The One-Room Schoolhouse Resource Center, a compilation of historical one-room school resources throughout North America that are available on the internet.) (The One-Room Schoolhouse Center, an online resource for those interested in learning more about early education in the United States.) (The One Room School House Project, Kansas.) (Wikipedia article on one-room schoolhouses.) (One-room schoolhouse lesson plan.) (The Country School Association of America, dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the country school experience for those who are involved in one-room school preservation, history, or re-enactment.) (“An Old School Is A Treasure,” by Dean Buckenmeyer from Farmland News.) (“Revisiting the One-Room School,” by Gwenyth Swain from Book Links magazine, March 2005.) (Read a reporter's description of a typical day in an Amish one-room school.)


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

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