My sister and I lived for five wonderful years on my grandparents’ farm. My first school experience was a one-room rural school house complete with a bell that hung outside the front door. The teacher would ring that bell when recess was over. I had 14 classmates, kindergarten though fourth grade.
The school also had a two-seater outhouse. You learned to “hold it” until you had to make the trip. I don’t think there was ever a need for the second seat, but it was there just in case!
Winters were severe, especially in a five year-old’s mind. A story I loved to tell my kids – it made their eyes roll with that “here we go again” look – was about a big winter snowstorm that drifted the roads shut. My grandmother, a fierce believer in education, told me to get ready for school. I looked at the snowdrifts across the farm yard and asked how we would get there since the school was two miles away from our farm. She laughed and said “We will ride the horse.” She wasn’t kidding. One hour later, bundled in my heaviest coat with a thick scarf over my face, I walked into the one-room schoolhouse with the bell hanging by the door.
When my kids looked out the window at the snow falling and said they wanted to skip school, I just looked at them and said I had a story to tell them.
Times have really changed. Your children can explore the educational reaches of the world from their desktop in their rooms. The one thing they will never learn on their computer is to say “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am”. That has to be taught at home, under the watchful eye of their parents.
Luckily, our valley is filled with many parents who are teaching their kids to honor the places in which they live and the people around them. Although I don’t hear “Yes Sir” much any more, I do meet young here who are learning to respect not just their elders, but also people who look different, speak different languages and come from many places around the world. That’s a good change.
And frankly, I don’t miss outhouses all that much.