Friday, October 3, 2008

The Findleys Strive for an Education . . . August 1922

I have found a wonderful book. It is called, "Little House In the Ozarks" edited by Stephen W. Hines, but authored by Laurua Ingalls Wilder. It is full of wonderful short articles that are incredibly applicable to life today. I believe Laura Ingalls Wilder would have been a wonderful blogger. I had to re-print this story here.

“We are putting what we earn into our children’s minds, instead of into houses and clothes,” Said little Mrs. Findley as she smoothed the hair of small Ben, who leaned against her knee. “We think it a better investment.

“Oh yes, my husband agrees with me! He didn’t at first, He said we couldn’t educate the children because we were poor, but now he is as ambitious for them as I am.”

“Tell me about it,” I said, and this is the story she told me as we sat on the shady porch one pleasant afternoon.

“When I was a child we lived back in the woods, and father was poor. My own mother was dead, and while my stepmother did the best she could for me, there were smaller children to take care of and always so much to do. Father wanted me to go to school, but when I was needed at home to help, he could never see any other way but that I must stay and work. Then too, he hadn’t money to buy my school books.

“When I was twelve years old, my brother rand I chopped a load of wood, hauled it to town, and sold it for money to buy a grammar and history. We hacked the wood up some, but we got it into sticks and we got the books.

“It was that way when I needed the first book for my children, Glen and Joette; there was no money to buy the book, so I took in a washing and got the money. I’ve always been ashamed of that work. It was not well done, because I was in such poor health that I had to hold myself up by the tub while I scrubbed; but that book just had to come and it came.

“You see, after I married, we lived in Joplin and my husband worked in the mines. Jess had been earning $4.50 a day, but it took it all to live; so when we came back to the hills, we had only our bare hands.

“Well, I started the children to work in their new book, and every day we had lessons. I taught them first a word, then the letters in it; and they had them ready for use in another word. When they learned a name, I showed them the object; when they learned an action word, we acted it. For instance, when they read the word ‘jump’, we jumped; and how they did enjoy saying their lessons to daddy in the evening, especially when he’d let them beat him.

“When Glen was seven years old and Joette six, I started them to school ready for the fourth grade work. The superintendent could not think it possible and insisted that they begin in the third grade; but after only one day there, they were promoted to the fourth.

The first year they went to school only two months, then finished their grades at home. The next year they went two months and finished at home. The following year they went four months and were obliged to stop because of sickness, but again they finished the grades at home. Since then they have gone regularly, and at thirteen and fourteen years old have finished the first year in high school and the fifth set in bookkeeping.

“Violet and Ben have had the same training at home that the older children had and sew, at six and eight years old, are ready to start to school in the fourth grade.

“Violet has been more difficult to teach than the others, because she likes to sew and play with her dolls better than to study. People said she was stupid and that I never would be able to push her as I had the others; but she was only different and just as smart, if not smarter. She just would not keep her mind on her books until she found she must and would be punished if she didn’t. I know what her talent is, but has to have her books too; and she will sew all the better for having ‘book learning’.

“Besides, I had made up my mind that through my children I would raise the standard of the family. It couldn’t be bettered morally, but it could be raised educationally; and so Violet, as well as the rest, must study her books. I knew her well and gave her special attention so she is going right along with the others.

“I believe it would be much better for everyone if children were given their start in education at home. No one understands a child as well as his mother and children are so different that they need individual training and study. A teacher with a roomful of pupils cannot do this. At home, too, they are in their mother’s care. She can keep them from learning immoral things form other children. At home the expense is much less, for in school there are a great many expenses that are difficult for poor people to meet.

“The children are well started in getting their education. None of the family has ever graduated from high school, but my children will, and some of the will go to college too.

“Jess says I aim too high, but I tell him I’ll shoot straight; for when a thing has to be done, it’s done. And if people say the Jess Findley family were poor they’ll say too, that the children were well educated; for that is where we are putting our life’s work – into their heads.

“We are doing something worthwhile, for in raising the standard of our children’s lives we are raising the standard of four homes of the future, and our work goes on and on, raising the standard of the community and of future generations.”

When Mrs. Findley had finished her story, I mentally took note of one thought which has escaped so many of us. It was not the old story of an education always being within the grasp of those who really seek it; but that in raising the standard of the Findley home, the standard of four homes of the future had been elevated to the point which we like to think of as a representative “American Home.” Here, mother love had combined with the vision of future usefulness in the country’s citizenship, resulting in the finest service to which any parent can aspire.


1 comment:

Prairie Rose said...

It's funny you should say that, about Laura would have been a good blogger -- when I read her Ruralist articles, that's exactly what I feel like I'm doing -- reading someone's blog!! I've been thinking of posting that very thing for a long time now and never have done it yet. But one of these days... :o)