Spring – School

School was important in the life of kids during the spring– at least until May when school let out. A typical day would begin early in the morning when children did their chores before school. Then they walked or rode horses or bicycles to school. Norma Ehlers said her country school teacher was only 16 years old, just out of high school herself.

norma ehlerslife_0301“I went to first grade when I was four years old…Most schools were about four or five miles apart… everyone would be within walking distance of that school. And we had a bench up front, and first and second graders learned together. When you were a first grader, you had second grade work, and when you were a second grader you reviewed with the first graders…She’d call us up to the front…for… our reading lessons, our math lessons…I liked to read and I liked history… I read the encyclopedias; that was the only really good set of books we had.” — Norma Ehlers

Norma spent eight years in the country school and then went to high school in town. She said it seemed like a long ways from home and was not an easy adjustment.

Children often memorized poems and recited them for school programs. Look up some of these favorite school poems from the 1920s and see if you can memorize the first few lines.

“The Barefoot Boy” by John Greenleaf Whittier
“The Blacksmith,” “Hiawatha,” “The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The Wind,” “The Cow” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear
“The Elf and the Doormouse” by Oliver Herford
“What do we Plant when we Plant a Tree” by Henry Abbey

What did kids play during recess?

Pom Pom Pull-Away: You will need a large space and many children to play this game. One side of the space is the starting line; the other side is the goal line. One person is “it” and stands in the middle while all other players stand behind the starting line. The person who is “it” calls out, “Pom Pom Pull-Away,” and all other players run to the opposite side. Those tagged by the “it” person become his/her prisoners and must stay in the center. When the “it” person calls again “Pom Pom Pull-Away,” the children run back to the starting line, while everyone in the center now helps the “it person tag those trying to run to the other side. The game continues until all children have been caught.

Follow the Leader: Any number of people can play. All players line up behind the chosen leader, doing everything the leader does: waving arms, walking on hands, running in circles, climbing trees. Players can choose a new leader after a short time.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

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