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I am fascinated by old schoolhouses. Perhaps it is because I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie or because my own father was schooled in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Kansas. Whenever we pass by one of these dilapidated old buildings, I stare and wonder at who might have gone to school there so many years ago, trudging through thick snow in black boots and prairie dresses, lunch pail in hand.
I now have my own one-room schoolhouse of sorts. No, we don’t trudge through snow to get here or wear prairie dresses (except when we are pretending) or eat our lunch from pails (except when we are pretending), but I do teach in a way that is rather reminiscent of days gone by.
Why a One Room Schoolhouse?
Some of you may be scratching your heads wondering why I feel so strongly about this, especially considering the one room schoolhouses were NOT homeschools. While I do believe taking education out of the parent’s hands and making it the government’s responsibility was not a good move, I do believe many of the one room schoolhouses based their design on what was already happening in many homes of the day.
In fact, homeschooling used to be the norm in which most children learned alongside their siblings whatever it was their parents deemed necessary for them to “make it” in this world. I believe it is imperative we find our roots in this way of educating.
In the Subscriber Pack (free for the taking if you sign up for email updates from Raising Arrows – see blue box below this post or my sidebar to sign up!), I’ve included 12 Ideas for Creating a One-Room Schoolhouse. I won’t be going through all those ideas here, but rather choosing a few I feel are the most integral to the task of turning your homeschool into a one room schoolhouse. As I go through these ideas, I believe you will begin to see why I like this model of education.
1. Start with the Bible.
Before every bit of Christianity was removed from the public school system, the Bible was the book by which all things were judged and measured. While I do not believe the one room schoolhouses executed this in a manner befitting of Deuteronomy 6 where the Israelites were exhorted to teach the Lord’s ways to their children day and night and everywhere in between, I do believe the rural schools, like where my father attended, did acknowledge God as the ultimate authority. My homeschool must reflect this as well.
2. Work from youngest to oldest.
This is one of those classic one room schoolhouse paradigms. The younger children, whose attention spans were considerably shorter, had the teacher’s focus at the beginning of class. It wasn’t until about a year ago, I began to follow this model. I had always set my school up with the intent that I would school the littles in the afternoon after all the bigs had finished their work. However, more often than not, I never got around to schooling the littles. Once I started making them the first thing on my list for the day, it was amazing how much we accomplished!
3. The trickle-down effect.
One room schoolhouses were conducive to exposing younger children to what they would be learning in upcoming years. By the time they were being taught in the upper levels, they had more than likely heard all the material several times.
The way we capture this in our homeschool is through something I call the trickle-down effect. I encourage the younger children to stay in the room and play quietly while I read to or have discussions with the older children. While they may not catch everything that is being said, I am always surprised by how attentive they are and how much they do manage to absorb. (If you are looking for ways to engage your children in meaningful and educational conversation, read this!)
We also have our older children give verbal reports and plan activities for the littles based on what they are learning in school. Typically, our younger children end up joining in with their own impromptu reports, repeating what their older siblings just said. I couldn’t ask for a better teaching opportunity!
4. Plan school around the needs of the family.
Back in the one room schoolhouse days, the family was still in charge. School was secondary. If there was work on the farm, school could wait. If it was time for harvest, school let out.
We are not a homeschooling family…we are a family who homeschools. If we are constantly trying to make our lives fit into the confines of a traditional school day, we will quite possibly miss out on some awesome opportunities that have value far beyond what a textbook can teach. Don’t let school rule your family or ruin your family.
5. Seek mastery.
Years ago, the standard of the one room schoolhouse was the standard held by parents at home. That standard was mastery. Somewhere along the way, we lost the drive to master a subject and became complacent and willing to substitute “good enough” for “well done.”
I have high expectations for my children. I am not wanting to make round pegs fit in square holes, nor frustrate my children, but I do expect them to do everything “as unto the Lord.”
We don’t go by grade levels, we don’t push through textbooks so we can get to the other side, and we don’t consider a C to be average.
As I look through this list, perhaps it isn’t the one room schoolhouse model I am truly after, but rather he Deuteronomy 6 schoolhouse I am after. For one room schoolhouses, despite my imaginations, were not perfect; however, Scripture always is. And maybe, just maybe, what the one room schoolhouse tried to do had already been done.
So, while I look to the one room schoolhouse as a model, it is not because I believe it was the epitome of proper education. It is simply because I believe the one room schoolhouse of yesteryear in rural Kansas can teach this public-schooled mama trying-to-make-her-way-as-a-homeschooler a thing or two.
Looking for more on homeschooling a large family, check out these tips!
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