Education in 18th century Deerfield: An Overview
education in rural schools was tax-funded and free to all children.
Numerous single room schools dotted the countryside. Both boys and
girls attended two sessions: a winter session and a summer session.
School supplies such as books, quills and ink often had to be provided
by the scholars’ families. Boys sat on one side of the room,
girls on the opposite side. Two recesses and a one-hour unsupervised
lunch period provided respite from the drudgery of rote memorization
and practicing the "art" of penmanship. Seldom was the teacher
a trained instructor, for there were no schools providing this type
of education. In spite of these limitations, most children did learn
to read, write, and cipher.
In Deerfield, some students elected to continue
their education past the primary schools, attending an academy where
they were charged tuition. In 1797, Deerfield Academy received a
charter "to promote piety, religion, morality, and the education
of youth in liberal arts and sciences and all other useful learning."
Students 10 to 21 years of age attended. The first class had 70
students, two-thirds of whom were from out of town and boarded with
the faculty and other Deerfield families.
Academy lessons were designed to expand the mind
and the social skills of young men and women. A classical education
plus science and math was the curricula for the young men. Young
women learned the classics as well as painting and needlework. Students
were taught using recitation as the main pedagogy, followed by a
Declamation Day at the end of the term when they expounded upon
what they had learned to teachers, parents, and interested community
members. A preceptor was selected to lead the term for the men;
a preceptress for the young women.
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