One Room School

Picture of the one-room school house exhibit at the Whitley County Ag Museum

One- room schools were common in most rural areas like Indiana from 1850 to the 1930s. The schools were often quite small, built of wood or stone. Most schools only went to eighth grade, with four or five students in each class. There was usually only one teacher for all of the students, and she was often only one or two years older than the students.

Students at these schools were taught the same things students today learn. The youngest students practiced reading and writing while the middle grades learned history and arithmetic. In some schools, the older students could learn science – usually biology or astronomy. Students back then had to do homework, too, but it was a lot different. They didn’t use much paper. Instead, students had a small chalkboard, called a slate, which they would bring each morning to show the teacher their work.

The school day lasted from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon, with periodic fifteen-minute breaks and an hour lunch, during which students would usually go home. Most schools were open all year round, except during planting and harvesting seasons, when the children were needed on the farm. In the winter, the older students were responsible for keeping the small wood stove stocked to warm the building.