The early settlers who came to North America were a very driven group of people, and entire families worked hard at making their new venture successful. They had escaped severe hardship in the country of their origin and were determined to succeed in this new soil. Pioneer families banded together for support and safety and together they tried to make their settlements flourish into villages and then into towns. They had a great appreciation for the value of education and they took great pains to ensure that their children were not deprived of this privilege. One of the first things they constructed, after houses and a church of course, was a pioneer schoolhouse.
A pioneer schoolhouse was a very rough structure since these hardy people did not have too much money or time for luxuries. As a matter of fact, they had to put in all the effort in order to get their children educated and they had to construct the schoolhouse by themselves since there was very little governance in those tumultuous days. The pioneer families also had to get together and pay for a school teacher so that their children could get a modicum of education.
A one room school house was therefore present in almost every pioneer town, and children of varying ages were taught under its roof all at the same time. Textbooks and paper were considered luxuries since everything had to be brought in from outside in those days. As a result, the style of teaching during those days was repetition, memorization, and rote learning. The children who studied in these pioneer log cabins had to work on slates and to share the few reading materials that there were available with other students.
Children were given very basic education in a pioneer schoolhouse. They were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and a little geography, all by the same school teacher. In addition, they had a lot of chores to do including hauling water for cleaning, chopping and hauling wood for the classroom stove and also cleaning the exterior of the building. As a matter of fact, their parents did a lot of chores for the school teacher as well, sometimes in lieu of a salary.
Those were days of great hardships, and students would have walk to school even in harsh weather, sometimes covering great distances. In winter, they would sometimes use skis or sleds for transportation but not everybody had that luxury. The pioneer schoolhouse was not comfortable at all either. These simple log cabin structures were extremely difficult to warm properly, and there was no insulation to speak of in those days. More often than not, pioneer schoolchildren had to wear coats while inside the classroom during the winter months.
It is still possible to come across a pioneer schoolhouse but these have been preserved as museums because of their historical value. Their cultural significance also cannot be ignored. It is possible to buy beautiful scale models of these schoolhouses from these museums and other places of tourist interest connected with the pioneer era and people pick them up because they are attractive and educational gifts.
A one room pioneer schoolhouse was a very common sight till not too long ago and many people’s grandparents will remember studying in one of them. This has been one of the most enduring institutions of the United States and Canada. Generations of children studied here and were provided with skills to face the world, in spite of these schoolhouses having extremely minimal facilities. There is no doubt that both nations owe these log cabin schoolhouses a great debt of gratitude.
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