I was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia. In a tiny village you’d be hard pressed to find on any map. I went to one of those rural schoolhouses, the kind from a Lucy Maud Montgomery novel. The same one that both my maternal grandparents were taught in. The same one that some of their parents were taught in. Originally a one-room schoolhouse, a second room was later built, stacked on top of the first. Grades primary, 1, 2 and 3 were taught downstairs; grades 4, 5 and 6 were taught upstairs. We had two teachers for all seven grades and a music teacher who drove in from the next town a couple times a week to teach music class. There was a little playground outside, with two swing sets, monkey bars, a slide and a couple of teeter-totters. We had gym class outside when we could and when the weather was poor, we moved our desks to the side of the room so we could have gym inside.
The school was pretty busy at one time, but in my time there weren’t as many kids around. Enrollment was down. People weren’t having as many kids anymore and a lot of people were moving to larger towns and cities to find work. Until grade 3, I was the only member of my class (I won all the year-end awards!). After I graduated grade 4, they shut the school down to save money and bused us an hour into the next town to go to school. It was hard for me to adjust to such a “big” school and a new curriculum with so many kids I didn’t know. I struggled to find my place that school year.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are from my time at that little schoolhouse: epic King of the Mountain contests, making a lifelong friend with one trip around the schoolyard, reading challenges where each book represented a paper scoop on a paper cone on the wall, biking to and from school in the warm spring sun. There is something so pure and idyllic about being taught within your community, with other kids from that same community, by members of the community. I think it really fosters community spirit and pride, something that seems to be missing from the mega-schools so many of our kids are being educated in today.
It feels special to be a part of something that no longer exists. People seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I was taught in a two-room schoolhouse. As if I also used to ride unicorns across rainbows. Our school is now used to train local firefighters but I know so many stand unused, doting the countryside like abandoned sentinels of our youth. Someday ours may be gone, torn down because no one wants to pay for the upkeep of the building. I hope to never see that day.
If you have a story about a rural schoolhouse you attended, I’d love to hear about it!