Every Other Day School
Every generation and culture has unique school experiences. Here is one from the past that might be interesting.
When my mother started school in Norway 70 years ago, she went to school only every other day through 7th grade. She attended a small rural school. There were only 12 or 13 students in each class. Her favorite teacher was a farmer who made financial ends meet by teaching. During class he would leave once in a while to feed the chickens. To the joy of the students, he often came back to class with chicken feathers and droppings on his hat. While the teacher was at the farm tending to his livestock, my mother and her classmates were absorbed in their work and were well behaved. My mother said she loved school. She really couldn't understand why her five American children disliked it so. On the other hand, I wondered why she liked school so much. I finally asked her about her school days and found out why.
My mother's school day was filled with simple hands on activities and subjects that reflected her culture. After each subject, the children would get a short recess to run and play. Her subjects included religion and hymn singing, math, earth science, English, art, hand sewing, knitting and woodworking.
She said that knitting introduced basic math and geometry. Mom would divide stitches, add stitches, and subtract stitches. They didn't use circular needles so the students had to divide the items into equal parts to make a circle. Also, the strings of yarn would turn into shapes. Knitting in Norwegian culture was very important. When women got together everyone would knit and talk. The big thrill was to use a compass in art class. The children made interesting circles, flowers, and other patterns. She colored the shapes and started her life long love of designs and color. It was also her creative introduction to geometry.
Science was the study of their local environment, which included bees and their life cycle, flowers, trees, animals and habitats, birds, weather, the sea, and landforms. She even remembers studying about atoms.
On the students' day off, the children played about what they had learned. They spontaneously studied flowers and birds, and other local flora and fauna. School encouraged the children to know all aspects of their surroundings and culture.
Also, the students who wanted to go on to the gymnasium could go to English language class. My mother speaks, reads, spells, and writes English almost perfectly. The approach they used was singing English songs without any musical accompaniment. Steven Foster songs were sung at every weekly class, mom still knows all the words and tunes.
Most of the subjects taught were connected with Norwegian culture. Much of Norwegian folk art is based on woodworking, painting patterns, and knitting and handwork. Folk dancing, music, and local costumes also were a large part of Norwegian society. Folk costumes were worn for wedding dresses and special occasions. They were homemade masterpieces with beautiful embroidery. Also, religion was a part of the students' school, home, and weekend activities.
You would think that this easy going school would produce non-academic students. The opposite was the case. At the end of the year testing, the rural school always did better than the city school. People were amazed because the country students only went to school every other day and had very simple items for learning materials. The students at the city schools attended every day with modern approaches and new supplies.
Lastly, I asked my mom what she liked best about school. She said she enjoyed the fun activties, the simplicity, and that learning was exciting. Most importantly she said, "There wasn't any pressure to perform." My mother went on to the gymnasium after graduating from this simple school. Her school years at the gymnasium were eventful as well because it was the beginning of the Norwegian occupation during WWII. But, that's another story!
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