Imagine you’re a six-year-old in 1911. You live on a farm about a mile from the nearest neighbor. It’s time for you to be educated, Ma says. You’ve got new shoes–your first shoes ever–and you’ll walk with your big brother and sister down that dirt road, maybe three miles, and you’ll start school at a one-room or two-room school.
Your brother will help the other big kids stoke the wood stove that sits in the corner of the classroom. You’ll eat your lunch out of a silver pail and make friends with perhaps the only other 1st grade student and you’ll play outside at recess even when it’s ten below zero (-23 C). And you won’t freeze to death. You’ll walk the three miles back home and do chores before supper. Then you’ll start your homework.
Those were the days, dear readers. The days of the one- and two-room schoolhouses which dotted our countryside like a bouquet of wildflowers. Teachers like Miss Olson and Miss Nelson and Miss Maki and Mr. Johnson taught their classes of rural students how to do readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmatic. (“Taught to the tune of the hickory stick” for those of you who know that old-time song.)
Who would have suspected that the little schoolhouses would slowly disappear? Over the years they would be consolidated into bigger districts until very, very few schools remain in our United States of America.
We are very fortunate to live in a rural township which still features a public two-room school. Arvon Township School was built in 1911. It consolidated several smaller one-room schools around the township. The district offered K-12 education and the building was considered a marvel of modern architecture and engineering to those who lived in this corner of the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Fast forward to 2013. The building still stands solid and strong, thanks to the foresight of members of the Board of Education. The building educates K-6 students in its two downstairs classrooms. The older students are bussed to L’Anse and Baraga, two nearby districts, for their junior high and high school education.
The two classrooms (one for K-2nd graders and the other for 3rd-6th) are on the main floor. The basement features a tiny cafeteria, and the upstairs–no kidding–has a small gym and library.
How many students attend our little school? In the past dozen years the student count varies between five and 15. Currently, we teach ten children.
How can we afford to stay open? Fortunately, our township lands lie along Lake Superior. Our local property taxes are more than enough to keep the small school operating. We receive no state aid for operation. We’ve even been able to lower the millage several times in recent years, so the school ends up being a godsend to local taxpayers.
This school is near and dear to my heart. Both of our kids attended elementary school here. And, even though I’m prejudiced, they both received a great primary education. They both look back at their days at Arvon with fondness.
(In fact, they’re one of the reasons I’m posting this blog. So they can see pics of what the school looks like now.)
And, of course, I have another blogging reason.
The Weekly Photo Challenge at WordPress is A Day in My Life. They advise us to share photographically what our day is like.
Since I spend 12-16 hours a week working at this wonderful two-room school, one of the last of its kind in the country, I want to give you a peek inside.
This, my friends, is a Day in my Life.
Except I’m not teaching the kids.
No, indeed. I am the person upstairs figuring with the numbers, making everything balance out to the penny.
You can even see where I shall be working soon later this morning in the next photo. The school is empty this week, as all the kids are on Easter vacation, lucky students, don’t you think?
Thank you for pausing to enjoy some photos of our two-room school. (Yes, if you count the library and gym, there are actually four rooms, plus some small cubbyholes for offices and storage, plus of course the basement with the cafeteria. But it’s still considered a two-room school because of the number of classrooms.)
It’s been a great joy to be a part of this wonderful school for so many years. Have any of you ever attended or visited a one- or two-room school? Did your parents or grandparents attend one? Did they share good memories?