The sanded floor served as blackboard, and the same rod that struck terror to evil-doers made a very good substitute for a crayon, a bit of birch bark or a broad chip made an excellent slate, and charcoal was as good as chalk.
The home, which with their descendants seems to be so fast dying out, was the centre and source of their whole life.
‘It was the conviction,’ says Mayo
in his ‘Public Schools in the Colonial Period
,’ ‘that every child born into this world is the child of God, capable of becoming a vital and useful member of society; and the corresponding obligation of the community to give to it the opportunity of that training at home, in the church, and in the school, which should send it forth at early manhood or womanhood a self-directing competent person and a reputable citizen of a self-governed state, that was at work silently and persistently below the surface.
This conviction was the corner-stone of every respectable New England
home, and explains, as nothing else can, the domestic life of that people.
And out of the New England
home, not from church or state, was born the early New England
Here was the beginning of the American
common school, the most precious gift to the Republic
from the genius of New England
,—the stone for two hundred and fifty years so persistently rejected by the builders of other commonwealths, but in these later days now recognized as the head of the corner,—the corner-stone of the new republic that cannot be broken, but upon whomsoever it shall fall it shall grind him to powder.’
Their ideas of education were crude, doubtless, but they were fully abreast of the times in which they lived, when only the preacher and the politician, the doctor and the lawyer, needed to know more than to read and write; and when, if a girl knew how to spin and to rock a cradle, she had all the education that was good for her. ‘Of the women,’ says Martin
, ‘whose names appear in the recorded deeds of the early part of the eighteenth century, more than sixty per cent. made their mark.’