Dear Old Golden Rule Days—and Book Giveaway

  Things you probably didn’t know about the Little Red Schoolhouse


  • They weren’t always red.  Many early schools were built from logs.  Out west classes were often conducted in canvas tents, sod house and abandoned mines. Clapboard schools were painted white or left unpainted.  Some schools were painted red after the Civil War, but people objected to painting schools the same color as barns.


  •  The school year was planned around farming.   Families needed children to help with planting and harvesting. School terms were generally twelve weeks long and ran from Thanksgiving to early spring. A single school term of six to nine months began after the Civil War


  •  Almost every president up to and including Lyndon Baines Johnson attended a one room school. 


  • A one room schoolhouse would average somewhere between six to forty students.


  • Most teachers were female and were not allowed to marry.  Female teachers got five to six dollars a month in salary and generally boarded with a local family.  Male teachers earned fifteen dollars a month and were held in higher esteem.


  •  In the early 1800s the youngest scholars were called A-B-C-darians or abecedarians because they were learning their A-B-Cs.  These youngsters sat up front.


  •  A teacher’s duties included cutting wood, starting a fire in the potbelly stove and preparing a hot noon-day lunch.


  • McGuffey’s Readers were first in published in 1836.  Not all schools could afford textbooks and parents sent whatever books could be found around the house—usually Bibles and Sears, Roebucks Catalogs.   McGuffey’s opened the door for the printing of other textbooks including the History of the United States.  A popular geography book featured a Chinese peddler selling rats and puppies for the purpose of making pies.


  •  Unruly students are nothing new.  Those early scholars passed notes, dipped braids into inkwells; tied bell clappers so they wouldn’t ring; stuffed chimneys with branches and tossed buckshot into the fire to create loud explosions.  They also marked desks with “Images which would make heathens blush.”  Punishment included standing in a corner, staying after school or a wallop with a ruler or hickory stick. 


  •  Reform was slow. At the turn of the century state educators sent out rural standardization ranking schools on desks, blackboards and outhouses.


  •  Speaking of outhouses, did you know that during Colonial and Frontier times the crescent moon  on the door was used to symbolize womanhood?  (The moon or Luna was an ancient symbol for women). Outhouses for men and boys were marked with a star or sunburst.  These symbols were originally used to direct non-readers.  Male outhouses soon fell in disrepair and were not maintained (which explains why so few of them remain today). It soon became common practice for both sexes to use the “cleaner” crescent moon outhouses.


  •  In 1919 there were 190,000 one room, one teacher schoolhouses in the U.S.  By 1968 that had dwindled down to 4000.  Today there are only a couple hundred left.  Hawaii closed its last one room schoolhouse in 2005


The reason my mind is on schools has nothing to do with the new school year.  Maddie Parker in my story “Snow Angel” in A Log Cabin Christmas Collection is a teacher in a log cabin school in Texas.  Since her students have no desks she “borrows” the church pews for them to write on. This doesn’t sit well with the elders and leads one man to complain that he had to  “…stand two solid hours on Sunday morn to hear the preacher tell us we ain’t nothin’ but sinners.  That’s hard enough to take sittin’ down let alone standin’.”  


 Not only does Maddie rile up the town with her unorthodox ways, she causes one big headache for her nemesis Sheriff Brad Donovan.  Forced to traipse through an unprecedented snowstorm to rescue the schoolmarm and three of her most challenging students, he’s ready to wring her pretty neck.  Will a snowbound Christmas be just the thing to bring forgiveness to an entire town and hope to a grieving man’s heart?


I’m giving away a copy of my new book to one of you today so let’s hear it.  What do you most remember about your early school days? Anyone out there attend a one room schoolhouse?


 For more contests and giveaways visit me on my Facebook page:  



A Log Cabin Christmas: 9 Historical Romances during American Pioneer Christmases


A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance) 

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93 thoughts on “Dear Old Golden Rule Days—and Book Giveaway”

  1. Love the schoolhouse trivia, Margaret. Imagine how hard it would be to teach a room full of kids from little ones to teenagers. The wonder is that so many people emerged from those schools with a good education.
    Your new book cover is beautiful and your story sounds so heartwarming. A bit of early Christmas spirit.

  2. Very interesting! I never knew that there were outhouses designated for separate sexes. I wonder why female teachers couldn’t marry? Also note the difference in pay!

    My kindergarten classes were held in the same building with high school students… a very odd pairing. I went to a Catholic grade school (1-8). All of my classes were in one building. The nuns were very strict. They spanked students.

  3. Hi Laurie,
    Society frowned on married women working outside the home. Morality also played a part. One of the school rules was that women could not be seen with a man other than her father or brother.

    I had fun in Snow Angel with this rule because the handsome sheriff had to spend the night at the schoolhouse with the teacher–very improper!

  4. I love your new book,,Christmas books are my favorite,,no havent attened a one room school,but went to one where we had to walk to school,,almost 3 miles,,an there were only 12 kids in my 1st grade class

  5. Both my mom and gramma taught in one room schools. I actually attended one for a short while when we lived on a sheep ranch in South Dakota. And we used outhouses. I don’t remember if there were symbols on the doors or not. I barely remember using them 🙂 The house we lived in didn’t have plumbing either. NO plumbing–not even a close water source. That was a trip down the road in the pickup.

    I think there were less than 10 of us in the school–two being the teacher’s kids. An interesting time, and really, not THAT long ago.

  6. Loved the schoolhouse facts, Margaret. My great grandmother taught at one room schoolhouses. Her situation was a little different because she had children of her own, and they were in charge of getting the potbelly stove going every morning. My grandmother used to tell stories of her and her brother hiking over to the school in the early morning hours and their fear of the wolves they could hear howling.

    Each child in her class was expected to bring an ingredient for the noon meal and then she would cook it up.

    My aunt remembers sneaking into the school before they were school age and the older kids teaching them to read during recess. There were so many great stories I was always kind of jealous that I wasn’t around to enjoy the old schoolhouse.


  7. Hi Lizzie, you’re right. It wasn’t THAT long ago.
    Things have changed dramatically in a very short time.

    A teen recently asked my husband how he courted without the use of text messaging or celluar phone. Today’s kids have no idea…

  8. Your post today was fascinating. In a small rural community where my mother grew up before moving to the big city she attended a one room schoolhouse. She told me stories about her life at that time which were interesting.

  9. My dad rode his pony to “rural” school. He was was small for his age and very shy, but he would go early to start the fire in the stove and bring in water. I’m sure the teachers must have appreciated that because two of them remained friends with him all their lives.
    Margaret, your facts about the schools are fascinating. I can’t believe they would hold school in an abandoned mine! I love the plot of “Snow Angel”, and the book sounds really wonderful. Nine romances by some of my favorite authors! I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

  10. A cousin taught in a small, rural school. Each summer, she boarded with my grandmother while taking courses at the “normal school”, now a state university but still with an emphasis on teaching.

  11. You gave some very interesting facts about one room school houses. 🙂 I went to public school until the 3rd grade then my mom began to home school my sister and I. So if you count my living room, then I went to a one room school house, ha! 🙂

    The book looks wonderful! I can imagine curling up in a rocking chair next to the fireplace enjoying this one! 🙂

  12. Great info, Margaret! I hadn’t heard about the outhouse with stars or sunbursts, but that makes perfect sense. And can you imagine the poor teacher having to cook a hot meal at noon after teaching a room full of children. Tough job!

  13. I’m not sure how it happened, but my comment appeared under Salena’s name. Here it is again.

    Great info, Margaret! I hadn’t heard about the outhouse with stars or sunbursts, but that makes perfect sense. And can you imagine the poor teacher having to cook a hot meal at noon after teaching a room full of children. Tough job!

  14. Your book looks wonderful, Margaret. What a great story to snuggle up with once the weather finally cools. Can’t wait!

    Oh, and in some of my own research on teaching, I found this quote that helped explain, I believe, why teaching became such a female-dominated profession by the time of the Civil War. And it has everything to do with the financial descrepancy you pointed out in your post.

    “God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems…very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price.” — Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849

  15. No, I didn’t attend a one room school house. However, we did live in the country when I was in elementary school. I remember the big desk we had. It sitted two students, so you shared a desk with someone. Looking back on all the old pictures back then the girls always wore dresses. It’s so funny to see all those little dresses. We had real bathrooms at the school, but at my house we did have an outhouse. I hated that thing!

  16. Very interesting about the outhouses. I can understand why there are not many of the old ones men used. They don’t take care of the ones we have now.

  17. Hi, Margaret! I loved “A Vision of Lucy.” 🙂 Since I’m still in my teens, I’m afraid that one-room schoolhouses aren’t something I’ve had much experience with…being homeschooled, well, I guess you might call it a one room schoolhouse, lol! But my cousins, who are my age, used to go to a real one.

    Anyway, please enter me in this giveaway!

  18. Karen, interesting quote. Thank you for sharing. Of course there were plenty of critics who voiced concerns about the “feminization” of schools, but when push comes to shove economics always wins out.

  19. I grew up in rural Eastern Colorado and went to a one room school house for first and second grade.
    There were only about 25 kids in the room and I was envious of the 8th grade boys because they got to go get the fire wood. One of the girls rode her horse to school and he was put in a shed out back of the school. There was an outhouse that I was afaid to go to because I feard there might be a snake there.
    I don’t remember anything about the studies except I loved the big maps the teacher had on the walls. We took our lunches in a sack and we got to go to recess. There was a big swing and a teeter- totter. I do remember that no one acted out-of-line because our teacher was stern and non-smiling.

  20. Great post! I didn’t go to a one room school, by the time I was school age we were bused to a public school. Now I do remember having an outhouse in my younger days. We didn’t get an inside bathroom until I was about eight years old. Thanks goodness for modern times.

  21. I’m really looking forward to reading this book. Sounds like a perfect fall/winter read in front of a roaring fire!

    Can you tell me when it will actually be out? Amazon says “pre-order” still, yet the date of publication is showing Sept. 1. I’ve looked for it locally too, but no luck yet.

  22. Fascinating information about the one-room schoolhouse! I didn’t attend one, but I do remember when I was in the first grade having my roaming hand slapped with a ruler when I dared to reach for a crayon during a non-coloring time!

  23. I remember that early on in school my classroom had a purple door. I didn’t go to a one room school. Although I think that would have been a cool experience.

    Thanks for the chance to win this. This looks like a great book. I would love to win this. Thanks again.


  24. Laurie G, my mil who was 92 when she passed away this spring said married women weren’t allowed to marry simply because a married woman had a man to take care of her and it was considered wrong of her to keep taking money, when there was someone else with no one to take care of her that would need a job. It was abolutely out of the question that a married woman work. She said it wasn’t that uncommon for a couple to marry secretly and not live together, the woman staying with her parents, so she wouldn’t be fired. And they’d live that way until a child came along and the truth came out.

  25. I attended a one room school, the same on my dad went to. I went to ‘town school’ for 9 – 12 grade.
    My children went to the same one room country school as their dad and granddad and great-granddad and great-great granddad.
    Talk about deep roots!!!
    And I LOVED that school. Loved it. The school was one mile from home. Kids could walk or ride bikes to school.
    One teacher who was there from the time my oldest went to Kindergarten until my youngest graduated from eighth grade. This woman knew there was no graduating a kid and letting next year’s teacher deal with them. She stuck with every kid in that school until they knew what she needed them to know to handle the next grade.
    The school at it’s largest had 13 kids and at it’s smallest had 5. This was eight grades, so most my girls were all in their grades alone. Or they’d have a classmate for a few years then be alone again.
    We knew all the neighbors so well. The school Christmas programs and year end programs would be packed, because everyone had a child or grandchild or niece or neighbor…SOMEONE in that school. It was a blessing.

  26. Joye, thank you for sharing all those great memories. How funny that you envied the boys gathering firewood. I bet they envied the girls!

    I remember the teeter-totter. A friend and I would sit on one for hours talking. What fun!

  27. And I’m really looking forward to A Log Cabin Christmas. I love those Barbour Novella Collections. So many fun books, short, a quick read. Different voices. They’re great.

  28. Mary, now we know where all those wonderful stories of yours spring from–deep roots!

    I loved the “secret” marriages. There were probably more of those than we can imagine.

    See you at ACFW!


  29. In my senior year of high school I boarded with a family to go to school. We lived in a valley 55 miles from town. After I graduated I helped out in the One Room School in the Valley. It was big enough for about 30 kids, As I recall it held 5. We used it mainly at night for social gatherings. This was in MONO County of California and they did close it in the early 1960’s.

  30. This book is on my must read list. Winning a copy would be a wonderful early birthday gift. I love reading about one room schools and try picturing what that would be like. I was in a very small grade school where K & 1st grade was together and 2nd & 3rd. I think it’d be hard teaching every grade in one room and keeping track where everyone is on their studies.

  31. I remember some things happening when I was in elementary… twice getting accidentally stabbed with a pencil… listening to Eye Of The Tiger for gym class, finding a $5 bill on the playground and another kid taking it from me… just some crazy memories at a regular elementary… When I workrd at a private preschool, I remember visiting a local historical building that was a one room school house… it was pretty interesting to see how small it was and some of the items they had inside…

  32. I didn’t attend a one-room schoolhouse. The old country school in the community I grew up in from 3rd to 7th grade, was closed down and we used it for community events such as chili suppers and ice cream parties. I rode a school bus into the small town a few miles away. The first floor of the brick building that housed our school was first through fifth and the upstairs was sixth through twelfth. The bus ride was a little unusual. I can remember the bus stopping and the driving calling out “poke salad” and every kid followed him off the bus to pick the wild greens.
    Can’t wait to read your Christmas book. My mother grew up in a dirt floor log cabin.

  33. I never did attend a one room schoolhouse, but my favorite memory of early school days was buying school supplies. I loved to collect pencils and erasers. I have very fond memories of my mom taking my brothers and I to KMart of pick out our new stuff!

  34. I remember my 2nd teacher Miss Gearhart because she was tall and pretty and wore really cool clothes. We became friends after I graduated from college and remembering her smile always makes me smile.

    I never attended a one-room schoolhouse, but do enjoy my mom’s stories about her experience. I have a fun unit that I do in school about one-room schoolhouses and used to have the kids come to school for a day dressed as if in the late 1800s where we would learn Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. My mom even made me a long dress with a sunbonnet to match. Alas, I don’t do the dress-up day any longer, but we still talk about one-room schoolhouses in the spring and visit a restored school about 20 minutes away.

  35. I remember new pencils, the big fat ones. Miss Storrant our first grade teacher was mean. I mean it. It was a nice big suburban parochial school.

    But my great grandfather was a headmaster. There’s a
    fabulous picture of him in his school room…boys on one side, girls on the other.

    Have you seen the little red school house outside Santa Paula? It’s still in use.

    Good post today, Margaret.oxox

  36. I remember my daycare was so much fun! There were be games everyday and every birthdays was celebrated there, meaning we had a lot of parties and cake. Once we had a photographer come and take pictures. Each child had t ogo to the front of the assembly (it took places in front of the whole group) while we were tossed a stuffed animal to keep us from crying. That sure got a lot of smiles on people’s faces. The only one-school, historical schoolroom I have been to is visiting a historic site with my class. It was a great experience seeing how small, the school felt. There was a fireplace, wooden desks that sat two and that’s was pretty much it. I read all the Laura Ingalls books and Anne of Green Gables so do have an idea of what a schoolroom was like.

  37. Hi Margaret,
    I didn’t attend a one room schoolhouse but I did attend a school up in the NC mountains that housed grades 1-12. It was quite an experience to go from there into a high school in the city when my parents moved!
    I home school my children now so we are in a one room school 🙂
    Can’t wait to read your book. Love them all!!!

  38. I never had a school bus when I went to school so usually I walked with an occasional ride from one of my parents. In high school I had to take a public bus to get home (or walk that more than a mile lol). I do remember that in the beginning all my teachears were unmarried women – no men in grade school at all. It was all the talk when one was younger than usual lol. I also remember that all through my school years girls had to wear dresses or skirts. We would wear leggin’s in the winter lol.

  39. Interesting about the crescent moon being the symbol for the women’s out house. No big surprise that the men let theirs fall apart.
    I didn’t attend a one room school house. The thought of being a teacher with 40 students at different grade levels makes me shudder. Except for the trouble makers, it did teach cooperation and independent learning. Older children would sometimes help the younger ones which was a good review and learning tool. I wonder how many teachers today could even cook a meal for their students. I am amazed at the number of adults that cannot cook. The rules and expectations in a small contained community are very different than in large systems. Parents often are more involved in their children’s school work and more supportive of the teachers. One thing the teachers back then didn’t have was all the paperwork that takes so much time that could be spent on planning and the students.

    I see you consider home schooling a one room school. My daughter pulled her son out of school a year or so ago to home school him. He is so much happier and doing much better. I wish I could have home schooled our son. He was a bit too stubborn to cooperate, but would have been so much better off.

    I have a copy of the HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES and several other early textbooks from the turn of the century as well as reproductions of the McGuffey readers. I love books from 100+ years ago. They are such a wonderful window into the mindset of the time period. Actually, Chinese venders selling puppies and rats for food is still going on today. I never understood why the cutest puppies I saw were slated for market, why not the mean, ugly ones? I know it is hard for us to think of eating dog, but they are a protein source just like beef or chicken and actually taste pretty good.

    I love the quote from SNOW ANGEL “…stand two solid hours on Sunday morn to hear the preacher tell us we ain’t nothin’ but sinners. That’s hard enough to take sittin’ down let alone standin’.”

    Thank you for an interesting post. There are some great comments.

  40. Catslady, I, too, remember wearing dresses to school. When I came home I had to change out of my school clothes into play clothes. Can you imagine wearing holey jeans and skimpy T-shirts back them? We would have all been expelled.

  41. Hi Margaret,

    I was born in Piggott, Arkansas 64 years ago. For a time, we lived in Palmyra, outside of Star City, with my grandparents while my dad sought work in the oil fields of New Mexico. The three of us attended a one room school house with about twenty other kids from surrounding farms. There were five grade levels. The older students helped the beginners with reading and spelling. The teacher monitored all grade groups and taught math and a general lesson to all students. One day the general lesson would be geography, another day history, and so on. I don’t remember any grammar lessons as such. That was mostly incorporated with the reading. The noon meal was brought from home lunch boxes, no hot meals, no free breakfast. The wood stove was tended by the older boys in the winter. We used hand-held fans in the summer – with an advertisement for the local funeral home on one side and a pastoral scene on the other. Wow! You have brought back some wonderful memories. Thanks.

  42. Margaret,
    WONDERFUL post! I loved those facts about the one room schoolhouses. My parents went to one of those–that’s where they first met and were boyfriend and girlfriend from “way back”. SNOW ANGEL sounds really good. I can’t wait to lay my hands on that anthology–I love anthologies and this looks to be a fantastic read.
    Cheryl P.

  43. Hey, Margaret, You know I love anything about the days of yore……I kinda wish the rules for teachers was still active when I started teaching…would have saved me a lot of trouble…and aggravation! But I digress…..sooo, girlfriend, when are you going to get going on another series of cowgals and hunky cowboys? Ya just gotta love a cowboy…..and they all look like Tom Sellack……woohoo!
    Glenda McCool

  44. My early school days were good, but not one room. My first grade teacher was a classmate of my mother’s and our school was 3 stories high. I got paddled for drawing on my desk in crayon! My mother said I was so skinny and poor looking, she hated to send me off to school! I even fell asleep on the bus once and the driver found me after he got home and then brought me home. He was our neighbor and knew who I was! I hated school, though, cause I wanted to stay home and play with my little brother and my cousins, who stayed at my house during the day.

  45. These were very interesting facts. I certainly didn’t know about the stars and moons on the outhouse doors! I didn’t attend a one room school house though our school was pretty small. I remember learning to read about Dick and Jane, Tip and Mitten in first grade.
    My daughter Sarah and I really enjoyed “A Lady Like Sarah” and “A Suitor for Jenny.” We hope to be able to read more of your books.

  46. Although it wasn’t one room, it was very small. It may have been the first day – or close to it – the teacher had to drive me home because of tummy troubles. Another… memory…I categorically refused to get on stage for the play. I wouldn’t even stand in the back row as a tree. Third memory…My teacher told my mom I was very quiet and shy. My mom said, “Are you talking about MY daughter?”

  47. I grew up in New York City so we didn’t have a one room classrooms there. I remember always loving to read books about kids who went to school in one room school houses and lived in rural areas. That always appealed so much to me.

  48. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for posting all of the fascinating facts about one room school houses. Interesting how female teachers weren’t allowed to marry and they had to prepare a hot lunch too! And of course the wage difference…I don’t understand their reasoning behind not wanting a married female school teacher…

    I wish I had a story for you about a one room school house but I don’t.

    Have a great evening,


  49. Hi Margaret,

    I am working on my first western historical that I am targeting for the Inspirational market. However, it is my understanding that an Inspirational publisher won’t consider an author who has been published outside the genre. In other words, an author has to have written Inspirationals from the beginning and never written a book in which a love scene was presented on camera. I have had 5 e-books published in which there were on camera love scenes. They were not erotica.

    Thank you. Sorry to veer off topic.

  50. To Cher Gorman: I published more than 20 books (some for Harlequin) before writing inspirational novels and my love scenes were on camera big time. I didn’t have any trouble selling to an inspirational market. I know many writers who went from mainstream to inspirational, so you’ll be fine.

  51. Ah, Glenda, you’re going to love the special week planned here at the end of the months–hunks galore!

    The first book in my new series Dawn Comes Early will be out March 2012. That’s practically around the corner!

  52. Stephanie, loved your tree story. I was once a Star during a Christmas pageant. Since I was the brightest and shiniest thing on stage I thought I was the star of the show. I was really upset to find out I’d been upstaged by a baby.

  53. My aunt’s first husband grew up in a small rural town in North West Ontario and he was in a one room school house.. In fact it is still there today.. thanks for the info Margaret…

  54. Once upon a time there was a one room school on the land our family owns. My husband attended walking across the section to school.

  55. Thank you, Margaret! You have no idea how relieved I am to here that. I was preparing myself to mourn my Inspirational as never having a chance. You’ve put a smile on my face this evening. :))

    Thank you so much 🙂



  56. I didn’t attend a 1 room school, but one not much bigger. It was when I started 8th grade, and it was so much different than the one I’d attended in a larger city. It was quite interesting to have the teacher teaching other classes when you were supposed to be studying.

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