Colonial Education

By: Frances Dodin &
Marta Harbuz
Why go to School?
Education was very different back then. Not all kids went to
school, we know you might think that that was just because some
kids were homeschooled and that all the kids there where rich
because after all, they did get to the colonies. Actually many kids
didn’t go to school because their parents couldn’t afford them to go.
The kids that did get to go to school, didn’t go for the purpose of
doing math and exploring literature, but they were there to be able
to read and understand the bible.
If you think about it this way, the people who could afford their
kids to attend school are the people who care enough about their
religion to spend money on it. The kids who couldn’t afford school
simply went by not knowing anything about their religion beside the
Ahh, School…
Hey, this
This is what the college of
William and Mary looks like!
Time Machine: It is the 2nd oldest college still
standing in 2011, it was built in 1693 after
Harvard (in 1636), being the first.
What was the class like?
• The “colonial school” was just one room.
• Students had to sit on hard benches.
• It would get very cold in the winter, so the children
would have to bring firewood for the fire to keep the
classroom warm. If the kids didn’t bring the firewood,
they would have to sit in the coldest part of the room as
• The classroom didn’t have blackboards, so the children
used a lump of coal or lead on a piece birch bark
because making paper was very expensive.
What did kids learn and how?
The children learned from something called a hornbook. A
hornbook was used as our everyday textbook, it was a basic
tool that the children used.
•Usually one teacher taught all
the children in all different
• Spelling was taught slightly but was
not paid attention to because the rules
were not standard, so different people
might have had different spellings of
one word.
• Penmanship (handwriting) was very
important. Students were forced to have a
neat handwriting.
As you can see above a hornbook
was a paddle with a paper
attached to it and it was covered
with a thin shaving of cow horn to
keep the paper from tearing. The
paper had the alphabet, in lower
case and uppercase letters, and a
prayer written on it.
•There were no books for
kids to study off of,
they simply used what was
written on the hornbook,
because that was what
actually mattered in
their education.
•There were no
The kids who did
not know the lessons were
called dunces. If they
misbehaved they would
have to sit on a tall stool
and wear a pointed cap on
their head. Or, some kids
had to wear signs on
themselves that showed
that they had not
misbehaved he
punishments as you can see
were not physical and
didn’t hurt, but were
hurtful to the child’s
Ok, so even though
you think all the kids
were polite and
smart……… well your
not right!
Education In the Colonies
New England
In the New England colonies, the Puritans built their society almost entirely on the
concepts of the bible. The colonists valued education because they believed that ‘Satan’ was
keeping those who couldn't read from the scriptures.
Middle Colonies
Here, education was in question. The decision of
whether to educate children was left to individual families
until 1683, when a Pennsylvania law was passed, requiring
that all children be taught to read and write and be trained
in a useful trade. Pennsylvania's first school was
established that same year.
Southern Colonies
In the southern colonies, children generally began their education at home. Because the
distances between farms and plantations made community schools impossible, plantation
owners often hired tutors to teach boys math, classical languages, science, geography, history,
etiquette, and plantation management. Most then completed their education in England. A
governess usually taught the girls enough reading, writing, and arithmetic to run a household
and the social skills to attract a husband.
Dame School
Now, you may wonder, what did
the children do before they went to
school? The boys and girls started
off in Dame schools or ‘schools’ that
were taught in a teachers home.
They would have to read from a
book called the “New England
Primer” to learn their lessons. The
children learned how to read and
write and when they were done,
they were finished with Dame
The Difference Between
Boys and Girls
The boys were generally the more
intelligent children. Why? Because the
law stated that boys should learn more
than just to read and write. Later, the
boys memorized every lesson in New
England Primer and moved on to a Latin
grammar school to prepare for college
and an eventual religious or political
career. Girls would also learn to read and
write, but the people felt that the ladies
should learn to cook, wash, and take
care of a home and a family.
Colleges weren’t as important to the kids at the time of the 13
colonies, but it allowed the graduates to get good positions in government
or good jobs depending on their skill.
Order of First Colleges in the Colonies
New College[1]
(Harvard University)
The College of William & Mary
Collegiate School
(Yale University)
Academy of Philadelphia
(University of Pennsylvania)
College of New Jersey
(Princeton University)
King's College
(Columbia University in the City of New York)
College in the English Colony of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations
(Brown University)
Queen's College
(Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey)
Dartmouth College
So, this is how the colonies’
education differed from ours!
•The School Upon a Hill by James Axell

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