Back to School

This morning we took two of our daughters to the high school for their first day of classes for the year.  Actually for one of my daughters, this is her first day of public school ever. (But that is another story for another time.)  As I watched my two “High School” daughters, get up extra early on their own, I could see the anticipation in their eyes of what they might expect on the first school day of the year. 


Now, I know that I am a guy, but I’m not that stupid.  (I do have other daughters who have been through this as well.)  They are certainly more interested in the social aspect of a new year than they are in the academics.  But I have studied the history of education and schooling as it pertains to our family, and I don’t take the opportunities for a good education, which my children have, for granted like they do.  


My 2 Greats Grandpa, John Smith, or Jock as he was called, had no education.  In the Scottish coal mining community of the 1820’s where he grew up, family survival necessitated another strong back to carry the coal out of the pits.  So Jock was cheated out of the few meager years of schooling that was offered to the Scottish children.  Throughout his life, Jock was reminded what a disadvantage he was in because he couldn’t read or write.  Once, after working for years to satisfy the requirements of the Homestead Act, Jock missed the posted filing date, and his neighbor jumped his claim, leaving Jock with only a notice of eviction from his own farm.


Jock made sure the schooling for his children in the 1850’s and 60’s was better than he had… a little better any way.  But public schools didn’t exist in the Utah territory of the mid 1800’s.  So only those who could afford too, sent their children to school.  Jock could afford to send only one of his children.  Robert, Jock’s oldest son attended.  When he couldn’t make it for some reason, his next younger brother, James would take his place for the day.  My Great Grandpa, Adam was 3rd in line.  So it took him a few years of substituting for his older brothers before he learned to read and write.  But Adam learned to write very well.  His handwriting was beautiful.  It puts mine, and most handwriting I have seen now days to shame.


The story is the same with many of my other ancestors.  My 2 Greats Grandpa, Johann Tillack had immigrated from Prussia to Australia.  He donated the land and petitioned his Lutheran Church to get the first school started where he lived outside of Melbourne in 1873.  That school still exists and thrives today, and is called the Bayswater Elementary School. 


So with the new school year starting, school stories from my family are on my mind.  Parents raiding the cellar for vegetables to send with their children as their part of the teacher’s salary… a Baptist church from the South setting up free schools in the poor Utah communities as a way to proselyte among the Mormons…  school teachers boarding with the families of his students as part of his salary. My dad said that changing from 4th to 5th grade was a big deal.  He said that instead of just moving over a row in the same class room, you got to change rooms to the older class in the school. Grades 1 through 4 in one room, and 5through 8 in the other room. 


So I will watch my two “High School” daughters boarding the school bus each morning, while thinking of my Grandpa, George Haroldsen, hitching up the sled and going around the rural neighborhood on the cold Idaho winter school days to give them a ride to school. 


While listening to my children complain about how hard their school work is, or of how much homework they have, or of the many other problems caused by the school or teacher, I will be thinking of my parents, and their parents, and theirs… on back as far as I have information.  They wanted their children to get a better education than they had…(and we got it), to have better opportunities (and we got that too.)  That’s the same thing I want… for my children to learn more… to get more education… to be able to have more opportunities than I have.


Yes… the start of a school year is exciting to me as well as to my children.  It’s not only a time to look forward to new beginnings and new opportunities.  It’s also a time to look back, with thankfulness, for the opportunities that I now have… a fulfillment of someone else’s dreams… my parents… and their parents… and theirs.                      

7 thoughts on “Back to School”

  1. what a perfect blend of past and present…  I like the fact that YOU are excited for them…and that you recognize the great blessing of an education…to read and write being the two most important skills we can acquire.  After that it is so imporant that we actually explore our world with those tools….so many educated people do not explore…they settle into a comfortable zone in which they are fed information from the most convenient sources…I think that there are some who just thirst after information with the same love of learning that you have for your family history…  you made me think about the things I love to explore…the education I still expand by reading …I love to read…Discover magazine is my favorite read of the month…National Geographic….wonderful novels that focus on social problems in all societies…Astronomy and the universe in all its wonder…nature, history, books that explain how things work…why certain chemicals react to each other…the human genome….plants and how they grow…psychology,  philosophy, humor, music, drama, ohhhh there is just so much to learn, create, discuss, DO, and admire….the best part of going to school is that it prepares you for so much more than getting a job…in each week of 168 hours we sleep 49 (leaves 119)….personal care and eating 12…work/travel 48…(leaves 59) community and church takes up maybe 7 more… 52 for leisure….things we choose to do….write…read…watch…study…physical exercise…Travel…paint… play…hobbies galore…of all the classes I took, those that instilled in me the love of learning…the desire to learn how best to make the REST of my life a marvelous adventure were the ones that meant the most…how lucky I was to have realized early on that what I most needed to learn was the application of the subjects in an every day setting…balancing the check book… doing REAL story problems… solving the riddles of life, whether for interpersonal relationships or calculating the path to a profit.  All those who believe that the BASICS are all we need to learn are in some ways right…but the ONE basic that is simply indispensible is that we can find what interests us and those things we need to know for our own joy and survival…and become SELF TAUGHT in those areas that are compelling to each of us. Anyone can lean a profession…which is a good thing…but few take the oportunity to learn different ways of THINKING which enables us to perceive the world in ways that open new and beautiful vistas…which we can comprehend on a learning curve that is EXPONENTIAL until our minds start to fade in the winter of our lives.   I just love it when I read something that excites my curiosity and wonder  so much that I just have to tell everyone I see of my new found realization…Is there anything more beautiful for a  parent than to witness curiosity, and sociability, and creativity and physical prowess, and deep inner strength, and pragmatic understanding in their children?….well maybe only that moment when they first noticed such things in themselves…

  2. I used to teach high school math, so I am able to look at school from two perspectives.  I loved school, every aspect of it.  That is the reason I became a teacher in the first place.  As Americans we take school and education for granted…not so in other countries and other times, as your blog entry shows us.  Both of my parents were not able to graduate from high school.  My father quit school after grade 8 and my mother after 11th grade.  School can be a haven of learning for some students and for others it becomes a prison.  I have had both types of students.  You just never know.The first day of the school year…still gives me goose bumps.  It is for me what New Year’s Day is for others…a new beginning each and every fall.  What a gift!

  3. Well, you know how I feel about education… I wish so much that I had seen the value of it when I was younger….. but now… the most important is to instill that in my children…. so they can have that… so important to me.   Wish some times we had the "hindsight" beforehand.  Vallerie

  4. From your article,i can see that sending your daughter let you think about your ancesters and  you in the past.
    In fact,Young people should appreciate the chance.For you,I think now there are many ways to learn in the information  world,right?

  5. As always it is interesting to come here and read your stories bringing the past to meld in with the present.  Education is a valuable tool, however, it doesn’t just begin and end in the classroom.  My dad, having to work on the farm, first generation in this country .. did not finish high school as he was the oldest.  My mother was a teacher after completing 18 months of college beyond high school.  Her father was a man ahead of his time.  He wanted his daughters to have an education and an occupation that went beyond just a farmer’s wife.  Well, mom taught for six years and married my dad and became a farmer’s wife who definitely carriend the value of education through.  Have a wonderful week and enjoy those kids coming home with their tales of school.  lottiemae

  6. Hello Ron, what a nice surprise for for you to stop by, glad you enjoyed the potato story, lol. I have not posted lately as had problems with my space as those trying to get to me, was wandering if you had any problems?~~ Also was surprised that you were Val’s husband, The story teller, just as your daughter says you are great with your words and are a great story teller. Love to hear about your family back ground.~~ My Dad came over here from Germany as a child, later met my Mom who was born in Corning NY, with a back ground of Dutch, English and Seneca Indian. It is interesting to hear the stories of long ago. My Mom’s Dad was a one room school teacher, very musical inclined, you could say gifted as he could not read music, put played piano, violin and all wind instruments so Beautifully. I used to love going into his music room when I was a child and wished I had his gift. But thank God I had a voice to sing, as that was my gift. You are so lucky to have so many pictures of your family to carry through the years ahead for you children and sharing their stories keeps that connectivity to the past, and for them to carry on.~~As an only child I was shy also, if I knew you well that was different. I believe having children helped me come out more and the older you get seems easier, at least for me as I love people and love to talk, have no problem making friends. Just be you, can’t please every one, learned that early. Well was nice visiting, your welcome any time and if you want to be my friend, no problem. Have a Great Day! Your Friend Deanie

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