Monday, September 22, 2008

Colonial School Experience

Last night we took our children's youth group on a field trip back in time. The site was a restored and completely furnished one room school house built in 1854. In the front yard stood the pump, in the rear, the outhouse, and to the right stood a gnarly old maple that surely witnessed the children of generations at play.

Upon entering the small building, you immediately felt the hands of the clock roll back. A small potbellied stove sat front and center, with a large teacher's desk to the left. Original desks made neat rows with tiny ones in the front, then ones a little larger, and then the very largest in the back--a testament to the fact that all the children learned together. Small holes on the top of each desk marked the places where ink wells, long gone, had sat ready for eager hands. On a table in the front, sat neat stacks of yellowed paged primers with a language that was almost foreign to read. The room smelled of old books and chalk dust, and the wooden floors were worn smooth by years and years of traffic.

Our children were encouraged to dress in knickers and long dresses, and bonnets and suspenders. The effect was incredible. Being a teacher myself, I could just imagine the scene of so many years ago. It stirred in my heart a longing for the simple schooling and Godly values of years gone by. I would have loved being a teacher back then, though in so many ways the job would have been more difficult. How would I have managed all the different levels and abilities of the town's children? What creative things would I have been able to employ to teach effectively? And then there were the incredibly strict rules governing the teacher herself. I would have lost my job, had I married. I know, I'm getting distracted. But its so easy to daydream about how things were and could have been if I were the one in the aged pictures on the wall.

But, back to our evening. The children were called to line up with the ringing of the ancient handheld bell. They filed in and took their seats, the little ones, two to a seat in the front, and the big ones taking the seats to the rear. The "teacher" opened in prayer and then led them in the pledge of allegiance to the flag. I stood outside the doors and just listened to the sweet voices inside. It was as if I were standing outside on a day long ago.

There were recitals of poetry, and songs of praise before the children were dismissed for a few outdoor games. We played sack races, and drop the hankie, and the children got first hand experience with how difficult it was to play in long dresses! What a hoot! My boys, by the way, were the only two boys in attendance among the twenty something girls.

Refreshments consisted of water from the well served in small canning jars, and apples from a bushel basket. My boys spent most of their time doing what boys for generations had done during recess--attempting to climb that maple!

We ended our evening with a devotional and discussion of times long past. It was a wonderful experience for the kids, one that made them really stop and consider how much things have changed--some for the better, and some for the worse.

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