The curriculum in our one-room schoolhouse was quite complete. We studied History, Geography, Arithmetic, Reading, Spelling and Penmanship. Scheduling our recitation times for that many classes/subjects must have been a challenge.
In smaller schools chances were that there would not be somebody in every grade level. The time for each class was often only 10 minutes or so, and also classes were scheduled so that not all classes met every day. Some met three times a week, and others two times. We were exposed to much information other than our own grade, and so even though we were working on our own assignments, we overheard other information and some of it was bound to soak in by the process of osmosis! The teacher surely did not have time to baby us - she gave us our lesson and from then on we were responsible for it. She did make use of older students in helping the younger ones, which was good for all of us. The older students had two alternatives if they finished their work and had extra time. First-we were all expected to spend a lot of time practicing our penmanship. This was a subject, as the others, and we were tested on it. Secondly, we could spend our time studying for the 8th grade exams.
The other thing I remember, gratefully, is that once a week we had a spelling bee. We were given a good basic phonics course, and then practiced with spelling bees. We were divided into two sides, each with the same number of older and younger students as nearly as possible. Each student was given words suitable to their grade levels. If we missed a word we really should have known we sat down. And so on until only one was left standing that week. You see we were exposed to many words above our level, but they did sink into our sub consciousness, to be called out later. No one was embarrassed because of the tact of the teacher. There was one girl in our school who usually was the winner. Now this was in the 1930s and many farm homes did not have a great deal of reading material for either adults or children. How did she know the words? She studied them constantly from the Montgomery Ward, and Sears and Roebuck catalogs!
Art and music were always taken care of after the last recess on Friday afternoon. For every holiday in nearly every month we gave a program for our parents, and the community in general. This included decorating the schoolroom, making properties for the program, learning short songs, skits and poems pertinent to the coming holiday. I can still sing some of those songs!
Our phys ed activities were surely spontaneous! Many children had to walk quite a ways to school; rural schoolhouses were usually placed so that no student had to walk more than 21/2 miles to get there.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.