ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

12 Things That I Learned in a Two-Room Schoolhouse That I Never Learned in Our City School System

Updated on October 18, 2014
This is a male student in an early school in the 1800's
This is a male student in an early school in the 1800's
This is a school marm. Our teacher was not like this. she She was more modern
This is a school marm. Our teacher was not like this. she She was more modern

In honor of New Home School

Today’s topic deals with one and two-room school houses. And I dread writing this because these early school buildings are now nothing more than visible-reminders of a time when education was learning the “Three R’s.” If you grasped this “complex” area of early-education, you were considered a real “Einstein,” who by the way, gained a segment of his early-education in a primitive school building.

Most every state in America has a one-room school house that some historical group has restored and got it registered on the List of Federal Landmarks so it can be protected from lawless-vandals and other criminals for the rest of its life. Hooray, Federal Government and the groups who love our “relics.”

I started my first day of school in 1961 in a two-room school house which was made of wood. It was called New Home. This country school had a man and wife team for teachers: L.J. and Gertrude Ballard, from Hamilton, Ala. Gertrude taught grades one through three, and her husband, L.J. taught grades four through six. New Home was a proverbial “rural utopia” for our school was located in the quiet surrounding of a beautiful rural part of Marion County, the county where I lived.

Did you or someone in your family ever attend a two-room schoolhouse?

See results
Two- room schoolhouse
Two- room schoolhouse

Some lessons are best not taught from textbooks

Things besides math, science, and history were taught. Topics such as manners, courtesy and respect—both self respect and respect for others and their property. In 1961, New Home was considered “top of the line” in teaching us farm children for whom all of these early school houses in the state of Alabama were built—giving rural children who had to help work their farms a chance to get a head-start on their education.

New Home and other one and two-room schools were shut down in 1966 by the Alabama State Department of Education and their accreditation ended. All of the rural students were actually “thrown” into the tougher, more-rigid city school systems. Honest to God, I hated my time in the Hamilton, Alabama city school system. I have my reasons, but I will not divulge them here.

Instead, I would love to pay a personal homage to New Home School and all of the rural schools in Alabama with a little ditty I like to call:

12 Things That I Learned From a Rural School That I Didn’t Learn From Our City School System

Norman Rockwell, iconic American painter, would have loved to paint New Home School
Norman Rockwell, iconic American painter, would have loved to paint New Home School
Two-  room schoolhouse in St. Augustine, Fla.
Two- room schoolhouse in St. Augustine, Fla.
Students in an early two-room schoolhouse
Students in an early two-room schoolhouse
A water pump was sometimes thhe only means of getting water in two- room schools
A water pump was sometimes thhe only means of getting water in two- room schools
Clipart of two- room schoolhouse
Clipart of two- room schoolhouse
Students in a latter school setting
Students in a latter school setting
A quaint one= room schoolhouse
A quaint one= room schoolhouse
Pioneer school building
Pioneer school building
Artwork of early school
Artwork of early school
Students in one- room school Dec. 1, 1941
Students in one- room school Dec. 1, 1941
Lovely two-room historical two- room school building
Lovely two-room historical two- room school building
Improved school room
Improved school room

HANDING PEOPLE—sharp objects such as scissors, knives and other sharp-edged things. Mrs. Gertrude Ballard was very stern about us learning this vital life lesson. “You want to hand the other person the scissors with the point toward you, not them, so you will not hurt them,” she would say most everyday. Our city school system never bothered showing us anything like this.

COMMON COURTESY—“Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am,” and likewise with male persons were strongly encouraged in our early education. It was “push come shove,” in our city school system and everyone out for themselves.

SELF-CONTROL—to stay in control and avoid violent confrontations that lead to fights, verbal and physical. The Ballards hated violence, and since we had no school nurse, they stressed self-control the more-frequently.

SPEECH HABITS—were taught to be decent and clean. If we were caught using profanities, we “got the board,” a piece of pine lumber that Mr. Ballard used for lawbreakers. One visit with “Mr. Lumber,” and you learned to “toe the line.”

RESPECT FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S PROPERTY—was very important to the Ballards. Their teaching was: “We need to act as if our neighbor’s property is our own, and then we will not be guilty of damaging anyone’s home or belongings.” You’d think that in 1961, this was an outdated topic, but thank God it was still in-fashion to teach this remedial item to us rural children. NOTE: we boys were even scolded if through fun, we damaged the playhouses that the girl students built near the playground to learn to “play house.”

TEAMWORK—no matter if it was a class project or playing softball, teamwork was heavily-stressed. The teaching was “we” all need each other in life so when we see someone in need of help, we will automatically stop what we are doing and lend them a hand.

LISTENING—as well as responding to questions in class were important for us to learn. Mr. Ballard was famous for saying, “Conversation is not just about being a good talker, but more importantly, a good listener.” And would you believe, all of these mostly-obscure lessons in today’s society, stuck with us all like Super-Glue.

DOING CHORES—at first, didn’t mean that much to us as a school-related subject, but as time went on, and we would all take our part in sweeping, emptying trash cans, and other needed-chores, made us realize that education is not just found in textbooks.

CARING FOR ANIMALS—was high on our teachers’ list for things that would serve us well in life. If the Ballards even heard a rumor that we were mean to any animal, even a stray cat, they did not ask questions, but first asked us why we did it and if we didn’t give a good answer, we were disciplined. I was never boarded for breaking this New Home commandment. I had learned from my parents to love animals before I started to school.

TELLING THE TRUTH—no matter the circumstance. The Ballards did not respect a liar. Yes, we kids were tempted to lie and did tell a fib here and there, but overall, when Mr. or Mrs. Ballard asked us a question, we answered quickly and truthfully. You would come more apt to not get boarded if you were honest than if the Ballards caught you in a lie.

RESPECT FOR FEMALES—in first through sixth grades were taught to the children at New Home no matter what age. I believe that this subject and telling the truth were “the two” most-important things we were taught. Sure, we teased the girls and pestered them, but it was all in fun. There was no vulgar or profane words said to them or any inappropriate movements made toward them or else . . .”Mr. Lumber,” and a visit to our parents by Mr. and Mrs. Ballard.

RESPECTING THE FLAG—and our country. Oh man, did the Ballards get super-serious about us learning this one and respect for God too. I can remember even today how we listened to a Bible story read to us every morning by Mrs. Gertrude Ballard and then we stood, said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and said a short prayer.

“A personal and sincere thank you to Mr. and Mrs. L.J. Ballard, for these and all of the school subjects that you labored to teach us. May your rewards in Heaven be great for you earned it.”

Uh, uh! It just hit me. I broke two Federal Laws at New Home and never even knew it.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, aesta1,

      Your schooling sounds similar to mine. And I forgot to mention that children with little siblings were allowed to bring them to school so both parents could work in the fields or gardens to get work done. It was like a dream, New Home School. Part Wizard of Oz and part Andy Griffith, but one Special place as I am sure yours was too.

      Come back to see me.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I started schooling in a barrio school because our school in town will not budge around my being underage so my parents sent me to our farm school where my aunt was the head teacher. She told the teacher to just take me in as I would be tired of it in a week anyway and not come back. Well, little did they know. I stayed on and finished and moved on to second grade in town as with my credentials, they now have no choice but to take me in. Anyway, in these old schools was taught everyday, Good Manners and Right Conduct. Later, in the schools where I taught, we had Morning Talk given by nuns and these life lessons served us well in life.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Perspycacious,

      You are sincerely welcome. I never knew that this hub did that for you, but I am so glad that you feel this way.

      And the part about if you got bored, you could learn from the higher grades, same here, but I was NOT a bit interested in higher learning.

      Do not hate me. I was just being truthful, as taught by Gertrude Ballard.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      The nice part was, if I got bored with my own studies, I could learn those of the grades higher than mine, for we were right there together. It doesn't seem to have worked out too badly either. Thanks for the trigger to reminiscence.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thank you not just for the nice comment, but for noticing the two typos which are now repaired. That was the teacher in you reacting. Thanks again. I have to agree with you on the comparison you gave of today's bigger, more-complex school systems as compared to the Ballards, who focused on real life along with the textbook structure.

      I miss these people sometimes.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I pray that you have a peaceful week.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      Along with many others here, our schools would do much better if they followed the teaching philosophy of the Ballards. Schools today lack the ability to properly train our youth in moral values. They only care about getting the top ranking for most students passing the standard test exams, which leaves little room for creativity and teaching values. Great post and should be read by all parents and teachers! By the way, not sure you wanted your poll to read as you wrote the title and first voting option.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thank you for your lovely and warm comment.

      We rural kids in our day, DID learn more about life, manners, respect, than we did out of books.

      I think that our teachers saw the future coming and it wasn't pretty.

      Keep in touch with me.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, sheilamyers,

      You are correct. Tape recording her stories would be more-relaxed to allow you to NOT miss one of her priceless quotes or things of interest.

      I am serious. This would make a great book. I have noticed that spy-thrillers, sci-fi even vampires have pretty much ran their course and Americans are now ready for a NEW style of books: One about your mom and dad. You will feel better when you get started.

      Thank you so very much for your sweet comment.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Kenneth: I need to get a tape recorder and get her telling her stories. Even if I don't write a full-fledged book, I can add the stories into my family history notebooks. I wish I would've done that with my grandparents and never did. I don't want to lose the chance to do it with my parents.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      What a wonderful and insightful hub! You are so right that those small schools taught not only the subjects but also important lessons of life. They were real character building schools.

      Enjoyed this thought provoking hub! Thanks and voted up!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Sure thing. Thanks for bring this to my attention.

      I offer no excuse.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear sheila,

      This would, what you said in your comment about your mom, make a terrific book. Have you ever thought of doing one about her schooldays?

      Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder? Her Little House books made her a mint and her children and families even more monies with the series on NB C.

      Thanks for the sweet comment. No one but you could ever come up with something as preciouis as wrapping up an egg for pencils and things.

      You cannot make this stuff up.

      God bless you, my Dear friend.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      kenneth: I'll have to ask her to give me some more details about the actual class time. Most of what I've heard about are the wonderful teachers she had. My favorite story she tells though has to do with getting school supplies. If she needed a new pencil, her dad would wrap an egg up and give it to her in the morning. She'd stop at the little store she passed on the way to school and the store owner would give her two pencils in exchange for one egg.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I enjoyed your article but would suggest you go back and correct the numerous spelling errors or typos

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Dear sheilamyers,

      Ahhh, the memories of days gone by with the one and two-room schools. A true iconic experience.

      And do you know the two highlights of each month?

      A visit from the Bookmobile and the regional 4-H rep who taught us things like what trees to plant where and what type of soil, etc.

      Life was never the same after New Home.

      I am sure that your mom would agree about her early schooling.

      Dear sheila and all on this hub . . .please have a safe week ahead.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Thank you, Sylvestermouse,

      I agree with you 100% about the bussing issue. I never did see why this was implemented.

      We had to deal with this before I graduated high school and even the African-American students were showing dislike for us in an all-white school, so instead of progress, the fed's just caused more trouble.

      I acknowledge that my hub sounded much like fiction, and compared to school setting today, it is fiction, but I was so blessed to be at New Home School while it lasted.

      Visit with me anytime.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      My sincere thanks to you for the uplifting comment.

      Our teachers were no-nonsense, but plenty of common sense. I guess that was what hurt me the most when we were forced into our city school system. Teachers there didn't really want us there and in the fourth and fifth grade, they joined their "pets," the city kids in laughing at us, the rural rejects.

      I still carry the scars on my heart for that.

      Thanks for your visit and visit me again soon.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hey, now, Eric,

      Let me get this straight. Six-rooms, Navajo and Hopi Indians and the Atomic Bomb? Wow! What an exciting schoolday memory you shared and I am totally-honest.

      We would have went nuts if we had been exp;osed to wisdom about the A-Bomb, but there again, what self-respecting Communist would want to hurt us in rural Alabama at New Home. LOL. The commies didn't even know we existed.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Jaye,

      No, thank you for your touching schooldays memories. I know what you mean by the having to focus on my teacher, Gertrude Ballard. I never got to finish my sixth grade here for my family moving so much so my dad would farm for people.

      Mrs. Ballard would be teaching about how to print neat and cleanly, but through the two double-doors to Mr. Ballard's room, he might be talking about a history event--honestly, I was more-interested in the historical event than writing, but I dared to not tell Mrs. Ballard.

      I wish my grandkids could experience what I did.

      And you also.

      God bless you, dear Jaye, for always being my good friend and talented hubber.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Cruise Ready,

      You have a valid point. Educators today would be more at ease in a two-room or four-room schoolhouse and with a teacher at ease, the more educated the student.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Oh Me,

      Thank you very much for your compliment on this hub.

      I hope you can fathom just How MUCH your words mean to me. New Home is one of my favorite memories.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Rhonda,

      I do enjoy your comments. They warm my spirit to know that someone actually relates to my hubs.

      I appreciate you so much.

      And thank you for understanding my rural schoolhouse days. They were pure heaven on earth.

      I forgot to mention that we had ONE HOUR for lunch. Then a 30-minute recess afterwards. If we were getting along with each other, our teachers would let us play until our ONE bus came to get us.

      Can you imagine?

      Sincerly appreciate you.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      I wish schools would return to this philosophy of teaching. I can't say I ever had the benefit of such a classroom. The schools were bigger by the time I started to school, about a decade after you. But, living in the backwoods of the boons, we still had Bible study, the Pledge, and many a lesson on respect and proper comportment in society.

      Teachers are in serious danger of being fired today if they are even caught discussing religion in too many cases. Schools today are more a business than anything else. Millions are spent on fancy huge schools that look more like malls housing thousands of young people who wake up every day scared of what might happen to them in the shrouded back halls of what looks appealing from the road but reeks of a prison once you get inside.

      With the one room schools, everyone left knowing how to read with comprehension, how to form an intelligent opinion and support it. Now, we have graduating young adults who can't comprehend a newspaper written on a fourth grade level. Progress? I think not.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      4 years ago from United States

      I understand completely that you have given us a glimpse of your own school days, but it almost sounded fictional because I have never had the luxury of in such a wonderful education environment. I believe I can identify with the "shock" factor you described of being forced to leave your comfort zone and go to unfamiliar, completely different territory. You see, I was uprooted from my neighborhood schools during the desegregation busing craze. I am now in my 50's and still question what they hoped to achieve by daily busing young children out of their neighborhoods and dropping them off at a school that was at least a 30 min. drive from home if stops were not required along the way.

      The Ballards sound like wonderful teachers and excellent influences on young minds. Oh, how I wish the things you learned under their tutelage were taught in every school and in every home.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      My mom actually started off her school years in one of those little schoolhouses, but I think the one she went to only had one room. As for me, I attended an elementary school in a small town that had enough children that we needed a bigger building. Kindergarten only had one classroom with a morning and an afternoon class. All the other grades (up to grade 4) had two classrooms so they could keep the student to teacher ratio smaller. Even in that larger school building, we learned all of those valuable lessons you mentioned.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 

      4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      I enjoyed reading this insightful,interesting article which is full of wisdom and common sense.Thank you

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ha Ha we had 6 rooms in the brand new school house I attended in 1961. And we were the designated shelter for atomic bombs )-: Ours was the school all the Navajo and Hopi children had to attend. Wonderful times yet somehow twisted.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      4 years ago from East Central Florida

      Fabulous article, and should give today's educators some food for thought! At least, I hope it does.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      We really need to go back to educating the way the Ballards did in your one room school house.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hi, Ken - Your reminiscence about New Home sent me on my own trip down memory lane. There were a lot of small country schools dotted around the south before counties began to consolidate them with the nearest town school and bus kids for hours morning and afternoon.

      I started school at age five in a rural southern school--not a two-room building, but not a great deal larger. Grades one through six were taught there. Each class only had a few students, so two grades were taught by one teacher in a single room, with each group having alternate lessons all day. It was there I learned to write essays in third grade, a skill that's been handy all my life.

      The only down side was trying to concentrate on studying when the teacher was talking to the students in the room's other grade. (I wanted to listen to their lesson and often did.) It's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything because it gave me a good basic start and made me want to learn. My family moved after I completed the fourth grade, so trading 'up' to a larger school was a novel experience as well.

      Voted Up++



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)