One Room Country School Houses Still Exist

Mary Connealy

We’ve spent the week talking about one room country schools and we’re talking about long ago history.

But I have a little different version of these tiny schools.

I went to one. My cowboy husband went to one.

Our four children went to one.

One room country school houses aren’t all buried in the distant past.

In Nebraska, and other rural states, they still exist.

In fact the school my children attended had Connealys in it going back five generations, to the founding of the school.

My roots weren’t nearly so deep in my rural neighborhood, because only my father had gone to the school I attended. My grandfather and grandmother were from nearby, but back in their day there was a school almost every mile. And many of those schools were crowded.

The real change I saw when I was sending my kids to school was how the populations in rural America was diminishing. A farm was 80 acres, a man could support his family of eight kids on 80 acres. My mother in law, who’d been in the school district my children went to for sixty years, talked of all the homes that had been. There were little houses all over in the country back then. Now a farm needs to be two thousand or five thousand acres to support a family and one man can handle it himself with a huge tractor and stunningly expensive combines and trucks and bins to store his grain. And that farmer is likely to only have two kids. The tiny schools have closed slowly and steadily for fifty years.

We live a long way out. I know people who are farther from town. In fact in western Nebraska it isn’t unheard of to have a forty mile drive, one way, to the nearest town. My children drove 15 miles every day to high school. When the distances are great, it is wonderful to have a school nearby.

The whole school

Our school, at its largest in my children’s years, had 13 students. The numbers fluxuated and at times we were down to five. My oldest daughter started school with one boy in her grade. By eigth grade she was alone in her class. There were eight grades, though some classes had no students. Our teacher had very few papers to correct but imagine the lesson plans. She had to do lesson plans for multiple grades, keep track of the progress through-out all levels of elementary school.

We had computers and the internet. In fact we had a computer for every kid in the class. I think Bill Gates donated them to us. There was a lot of paper work involved.

We took great field trips, get one mom to drive and off we’d go. We often had museums almost to ourselves.

We had up-to-date text books and access to videos and all the supplies any school has.

I’m defending the very unusual school my kids went to because I loved it. It was a mile down the road to school every morning, they often road their bikes. I had a huge amount of influence in that school, something that is very unusual in a school today where parents are invited in under very controlled circumstances only. The teacher became a good friend and we made a great team educating my children.

Nebraska Governor Kay Orr, a supporter of Rural Schools, comes for a visit

I know they missed out on some socializing, but I’ve noticed my girls have a great attitude with boys. They learned to think of boys as their friends, not as romances and not as icky. There just weren’t enough kids. They had to learn to get along and play with each other and I think that’s helped them get along in all aspects of their lives and have a healthy view of romantic relationships, too.

There was no shirking in class. If you’re alone in your grade, or maybe one of two or three, no one’s gonna slip through the cracks, no matter how hard they try.

The little blonde girl facing the governor in this picture is my daughter, now a mother of two, so it’s not a new picture. 🙂

The school my children went to is closed now, but there are still rural schools in Nebraska and other states. In remote areas it just makes sense to educate a child near home. I feel blessed that my children got this experience.I have four daughters…all college graduates. One of them had a friend who had been admitted to law school at an Ivy League college and my daughter went along to help her move in.

CLICK TO BUY ON AMAZONShe went with her friend to a ‘welcome to college’ party and every student was wealthy. Every one of them was working on their second or third advanced degree. Not a one of them had ever had to make the rent or worry about the cost of his clothes or drive an old beater car.

And she looked around at that priviledged crowd and just thought, ‘these are the people who are going to be running our country someday and none of them have one bit of practical experience at taking care of themselves.’

I told her she should have just said out loud, “You know what? I went to a one room country school house. I know how to drive a tractor. I’ve been kicked by a cow. I got out of college and had to get a job and I’m PROUD of that. I’m proud of supporting myself and hustling to find an apartment I can afford and finding an roommate to make it affordable and just MANAGING MY OWN LIFE. And guess what? I think I”m better than all of you.”

My daughter of course, did NOT say any of that. Probably because she’d been taught better behavior than that at her One Room Country School.

Website | + posts

Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

13 thoughts on “One Room Country School Houses Still Exist”

  1. What a great blog, Mary. I didn’t know that one-room schools still existed. And I love the story of your daughter.
    I went to the same grade school and high school as my mom, but the schools were small town regular size–big old stone buildings that I loved, both long since torn down. Sad.

  2. I LOVE that you and your kids had this experience, Mary. How fabulous! I’ve always appreciated smaller schools. More one-on-one attention, less discipline issues, etc. Of course it’s harder to man a sports team or have a band (which my kids love) but there are so many other advantages.

    I’m almost surprised there aren’t of these. With the big push to homeschooling, it would be fun to see a few families join forces and restore one of these abandoned schoolhouses and use it for their classroom. Talk about history coming alive! 🙂

  3. the thing I really loved about this school was, there was just NO falling between the cracks. A student couldn’t slip through the years.
    Our teacher always said, “It’s not like I can promote them and make them some other teacher’s problem. If I don’t teach them what they need to know in first grade, I’ve got to deal with that in second grade, so they HAVE to learn.”

  4. There was a story in the Omaha World Herald yesterday about a new one room school started by a small group of Amish people in Nebraska.
    I only read the headlines. WHY DIDN’T I READ THE WHOLE THING!!!!!!!!
    I think a lot of home schoolers are doing the equivilent of one room schools, just not building the buildings. They’re doing co-op work and multi-grade levels, they’re just doing it in homes.

  5. Terrific post, Mary. I loved visiting the historic one-roomer in Old Sacramento. So fun the tradition remains in your family! I’m on the fence about home schooling. I guess it’s the trained teacher in me LOL.

  6. I had no idea there were still one room school houses. I’ve visited many former, now-historical-site school houses through the years, but what a treat to know firsthand what it was like. I loved the point about learning to get along with everyone. That’s something surely lacking today.

  7. Mary, this was absolutely fascinating to read. I knew that you went to a one-room school, but I didn’t know your children did.

    The closest to a one-room classroom we have out here in California is home schooling.

    Thank you for sharing!


  8. Hi Mary – Fascinating stuff!! Loved hearing the history of the school you went to. Your children had an “ideal” education, one every parent would want for their child. I hate to say, but in grade schools in big cities, the classes have 30 kids, in high school, much more than that. It’s hard for a teacher to teach. And for the kids to learn. And I think parent/teacher involvement is a must. You and your family were very fortunate in that regard!! Great pics too.

  9. Mary, what a neat post! I didn’t realize that there are still one room school houses in the rural communities. The schools I attended were all very large with sometimes 40 or 50 students in each class. My graduating class had over 500 kids. I can see the advantages of country schools. A student gets much more attention and they don’t struggle along without help. In a big school usually by the time a teacher realizes that a student is flunking it’s too late to turn things around. Kids are so good at covering up and pretending that everything’s fine. You and your daughters have lots to be proud of.

  10. I had no clue either that they still existed. I guess there are pluses and minuses to everything but how wonderful that they had such one on one interaction with the teacher(s). I had 350 kids in my class and lots were strangers. Class sizes were 25 to 40 kids so you got very little individual attention. And I think the so called privileged class really are clueless and feel way too entitled. My 2 girls had large classes also but they also worked part time and I’m very proud of their accomplishments and work ethics. Something that I think is lacking when everything is handed to someone (in a lot of cases but of course not all).

  11. One really important aspect of a country school is the older students help the younger students.
    The teacher calls each class to the front of the room where they sit at a table together.
    Third Grade English, come forward.
    Then the rest of the school remains very quiet while class is going on, and the class is also quiet. So everyone can study. But if a younger child needs help and the teacher is busy, which is almost always is, the younger students go to teh older students. This is fantastic for the older students because TEACHING forces them to truly grasp the lesson, plus it is a constant review for them. And the more advanced classes going on are helping the younger student, without them being more than mildly aware of it, prepare for what’s coming and have a base knowledge of terms and subject matter.
    A statistic says that when a person teaches something they (the teacher) retains almost 100% of what they teach, which is logical. But to make the students teach, is a great way to make them have a deep understanding of the material.

  12. Great post! I didn’t go to a one room school house but my father did. I have a print of the school house that he went to hanging on my living room wall.

  13. I really enjoyed this post. Our area also continues to have one and two room schools. Don’t know how much longer the state will allow them to continue. The one closest to us has ten students this year with only two or three who actually live in that school district. The other students are from families who have chosen to take advantage of the one-on-one attention each child receives and send their children to the smaller school. (Some of the “bigger” schools only have 12 to 15 kids per grade. One district has less than 50 students in K-12) Our kids went to school in town 30 miles away but the bus route was 40 miles one way. It made for a very long day when they were little but they got used to it and often used the bus ride for doing homework, or sleeping on the way home.

Comments are closed.