| Even in Williamsburg,
Pennsylvania in 1774, there were still few schools. Many parents
taught their children to read and write at home using a bible and a
hornbook. A hornbook was a wooden board with a handle. A lesson
sheet of the ABCs in small and capital letters, some series of syllables
and often, the Lord's Prayer, was attached to the board and was protected
by a thin layer of cow's horn. Some hornbooks of wealthy families
were very fancy, decorated with jewels and leather and included ivory
pointers. Most of them were plain and had a string around the handle
to be worn around the neck.
People who wrote the early
primers and readers used pictures of animals learning to read and write to
show that reading and writing were natural and fairly easy
processes! By the 1750s, literacy rates
(percentage of people who could basically read and write) were the highest
in the New England colonies, at about 75% for
males and 65% for females. The literacy
rates, however, were lower in the the Middle and Southern colonies.
using a quill dipped in ink, which sometimes blotted on the page, so they
sprinkled on pounce. Pounce is a powder-like sand that helps not blotch
Most children wrote in a copybook because paper
was so expensive. Wealthy children had a tutor (always a man) teach them
privately. Some boys went to grammar school and sometimes even college but
never girls. Girls were given lessons on how to run a home. It wasn't even
expected for girls to spend any of their time reading! Instead their
mothers taught them how to cook, sew, preserve food, direct servants and
serve an elegant meal. Some girls were sent to teachers to learn how to
sing, play a musical instrument, sew fancy stitchery, to serve tea
properly by learning manners and how to carry on a polite conversation.
When boys grew older, they could become apprentices to learning to become
shopkeepers or craftsmen by working with and watching an adult.
Education was becoming more secular in order to produce socially
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in Revolutionary America
Grammar Schools were born as the growth of middle-class businesses
in the 1700s led to the demand for a secondary education that would
provide practical instruction in many subjects, from navigation and engineering to bookkeeping and foreign
needed more than elementary instruction; but were not interested in
preparing for college. Commercial
subjects were emphasized over religious ones.
Some other subjects such as music, art and dancing were also
taught as means to train students for socializing in polite company.
These schools were the first secondary institutions to accept
female students. Girls
who lived in the Middle Colonies had greater educational opportunity
than girls who lived elsewhere because of the larger number of
schools there. Quakers
and Christian leaders such as William Penn and Anthony Benezet, were
concerned with and supported the education of several deprived
groups such as women as well as African-Americans and Native
in the 1700s, English Grammar Schools became more flexible in
allowing women to attend. They were taught the 3 Rs (Reading,
Writing, and 'Rithmetic), as well as dancing, French, and Training
on being a Lady.
Academy was a new type of secondary school that grew up during the
second half of the eighteenth century.
It was basically an attempt to combine Latin and English
grammar schools through separate Latin and English departments
within one school. These
schools were private, and women were allowed to attend.
Academies were unlike the Latin grammar schools in
that the primary language was English.
Also, classical subjects were included in the curriculum,
unlike the English grammar schools.
Later on, the academy became the most popular type of
Free School (You will need a username and
password to access off campus)
after the abolition of slavery in NYC
primary means of education for African Americans for almost 50
formal education of NativeAmericans was left up to missionaries,
most notably within the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw tribes. The
aim of these institutions was to "de-indianize" the
children and begin the road towards assimilation into
European-American society. The missionaries worked primarily to
inculcate Christian religion and morals in the students, which was
also viewed as a necessary step in the assimilation process.
Native Americans were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, religion,
Visit Schools from the Early National period
Century Schoolhouse in York, Maine
Meet the People behind Early National Education