ADVERTISEMENT

Are you excited about using the computers at school, checking out books at the school library or playing sports? School was much different for pioneer kids in the late 1800s.
Of course, there were no computers. Even paper and books were scarce on the frontier. There were no sports teams. Instead, school activities included chores such as chopping wood.
The Mini Page talked with an expert at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, Neb., to learn more about pioneer schools.

One-room schools

Few places had kindergarten. Kids started first grade when they were about 5 or 6 years old. Students usually stopped going to school after the eighth grade.
On the frontier, children from ages 6 to 14 would all go to class together in the same room. By the time they graduated, they had probably heard every grade's lectures year after year. By graduation, they'd know the subjects backward and forward.

Flurry of activity

A teacher might teach first-graders, then give them a project to work on. While the first-graders worked, the teacher would start instructing fourth-graders. At the same time, advanced pupils might be helping younger kids.
There may not have been a desk for each student, so kids sat on benches. When they had writing or art lessons, they'd move to desks. They might get up to help a younger student. They could move around at recess too.

Before class

Before school even started, students put in hours of work. They began each day by doing chores at home. Girls would help their mothers prepare breakfast and clean up. Boys might help feed the animals or chop wood.
After breakfast, they'd probably walk to school, which might be three to five miles away. In warm weather, they would usually walk barefoot.
Although they had shoes, most kids wore them only in the winter. Going barefoot was more comfortable. Back then, there were no left and right shoes. The shoes would form to the feet after time, but breaking in new shoes was painful.
Sometimes kids would get to ride a pony to school.
Once at school, students had more chores. Kids as young as third-graders might help chop the wood for the stove, pump water for the washbasin or sweep the floor.
A teacher and students pose in front of a school in Hecla, Mont., in 1893.