Friday, April 22, 2016
I was four years and ten months old when I first began attending kindergarten. Back in the day, the cut-off date for starting school was October 31st, and I met the deadline by mere days. I believe that I was always the youngest in my school class throughout my entire 13 years of elementary school and high school. I have often wondered if this contributed somewhat to my shy and reticent nature. There was one small school district in our mountain valley with two schools. There were seven small towns and many farms in between that belonged in the school district. The elementary school served grades K-6 and the High School served grades 7-12, with the 7th and 8th graders only attending classes with others of their grade and not being allowed to dances and participation on sports teams or clubs and activities.
Most of the students in our school district were bused to school because of the 15 or more miles from the north to the south ends of the valley. Because our family farm was less than one mile from either of the two schools, our family was not technically eligible to ride the bus to and from school, but the bus passed directly in front of our house each day, so we were allowed to ride. The bus arrived in front of our house at almost exactly 8:00 AM every weekday morning during the school year. The bus ride lasted about 45 minutes and wound through a large portion of farmland and one small neighboring town where we picked up the other riders, then stopped first at the elementary school and then at the high school. The morning bell rang at 9:00 AM at both schools, usually allowing us a few minutes on the playground before school started.
Kindergarten was only half day for us. There was only one kindergarten classroom and teacher, but two kindergarten classes. Students who lived on the south side of the valley were in one class and students who lived on the north side of the valley were placed in the other class. I believe that we switched time slots half way through the year so that both classes had the experience of both morning kindergarten and afternoon kindergarten. During our three hour block of class we learned our ABC's, and how to write our numbers and our names, and other important things like colors, art, and getting along nicely with others. We had playtimes outside on the playground, and inside playtime with the trucks, blocks, play kitchen, dolls, puzzles, clay and other playthings. We had story time and snack time and nap time together.
In First grade we made the transition to a full school day that lasted from 9:00 am to 3:30 PM, with lunch time and both morning and afternoon recess time. At first I was excited to take my brand new lunch box to school with a sandwich and thermos of milk for my lunch, but the Thermos soon leaked and I tired of having only sandwiches for my lunch. For most of my school years Mums would hand us our lunch money every Monday morning and we would buy a lunch ticket that would last us all week. Hot school lunch received many a verbal complaint, but for the most part I remember very good home-cooked type balanced meals with homemade bread and rolls and desserts . . . a far cry from the pre-fabricated chicken nuggets, french fries and pizza lunches I see presented in the schools today.
First grade also brought reading and books! We had our readers to take home each night and practice our reading with our parents. We learned more about numbers and math, and history and science too. And of course we also had art and music and PE and recess. Third grade brought the introduction to cursive writing. In fourth grade we started switching classes during one or two periods each day. One of the fourth grade teachers specialized in Reading and English while the other specialized in Math and Science. That way we benefited from even more teachers and came to know even more of our classmates. One of the highlights of fifth grade was the science fair. One of my friends and I did our project on Volcanoes with a handwritten report, display board and the requisite model volcano that really erupted, with help from vinegar and baking soda of course.
Recess was looked forward to every single day, even when it was cold and snowy. On good days we would swing and slide and play on the monkey bars. There was hopscotch and four square and kick soccer. Sometimes we brought jacks to play, and sometimes there was kissing tag, "going steady" breakups, and even the occasional "weddings". There were field trips and class parties and the end of the year clean up day where everyone helped clean up the school grounds and then participated in relays and other contests and were rewarded with a walk to the drug store or the drive in for an ice cream cone.
The students in the two classes in my grade were shuffled around each year, so we were able to get to know other children from the valley very well. Of course people moved in and out each year, but for the most part we ended up getting to know each other very well.We formed friendships that would last throughout not only elementary school, but also junior high and high school and throughout our lifetimes. Many of my classmates still live in the valley towns where we grew up, and now many if not most of us keep in contact through Facebook and other social media. Even after all these years, a big part of who I am definitely comes from those long ago school days.