School in the Old Days

The Beginnings

Usually by the time that a child was six he or she was ready to attend school. The first year was similar to the kindergarten class today. The infant school , as it was called, was filled with children six years of age and even under if the teacher could not get enough to make up the class. The children would stay here in this school until they were about eight years old and had learned their alphabet and some songs. Then they would go to either the Boys or Girls school where they learned the three R's- Reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Children responsible for firewood

Every week the teacher would assign a different child to bring in wood for the stove that was in the class room. This person was responsible for lighting the fire and keeping it in during class hours. This child had to be there before all the other children so that he/ she could light the fire and have the school warm for the others. For the smaller ones a big sister or brother would accompany them to help them light the fire. Many of the children found it hard to light the fire in the pot bellie stove.

Various Customs

The Presentations sisters were in charge of both the Infant school and the Girl's school. There were no lay teachers at that time. If the younger children were bad or disobedient the nuns would threaten to put them in the coal bin or the "Black Hole" as it was called. Others who were good or came first in their studies would be rewarded with a matchbox. In this matchbox there would be a prize for the child - either a penny, a peppermint knob, or some little gift of money or candy.
On Thursdays the children would attend Confessions and on Friday they would attend mass. On this day the rosary was said for the special intentions of the people. Some of the parents were angry because the children had lost so much of the school day. On the first Friday of every month public speaking was held for all the children from grades one to eleven. Every student would line up, older ones first then the younger behind. Each one would read a passage that they had chosen.
The children would write on a small slate about 11" X 8" with a slate pencil, which was like a pen. Not many of the children actually finished school. They were sometimes needed at home. However the children did learn the basics of school. The children would have to know different poems and they would also be responsible for geography. The boy's school was located on the present site of the Star Hall. In the girl's school they would have to wear dark dresses and a white pinafore with a pocket on each side. The dress was knee-length and touched the floor when they knelt down. Each girl's hair had to be shorter than 1 inch above their shoulders or the styles of the times allowed them to braid or pin it up. For young boys ages 12 and 13 the dress was short, knee-length pants with a white shirt and a tie. Long, ankle-length pants were worn by older boys, accompanied shirt and tie.


SOURCE Placentia Historical Society. (1973). Opportunities for Youth Summer Project ' 73.


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This Page is part of a Historical and Cultural Web Site created by students of Laval High School, Placentia, NFLD (A0B 2Y0) Updated February/2000