Kids In Colonial America Endured ‘Grueling’ Conditions In School That Would Never Fly Today

School can be tricky for anyone, regardless of what year it is. But without modern-day conveniences to rely on like buses, smartphones, or, well, any technology at all, colonial-era schooling in America was definitely a challenge... and not only in an educational sense. From mile-long walks to school to super-strict teachers, kids in Colonial America had to endure some pretty tough schooling conditions.

Education is survival

Before education became a normal part of life for kids, childhood was all about work: working on a farm, working at home, working as an apprentice; you get the idea. Life was more about survival than education... until people realized that education is a vital part of survival. By the mid-1800s, public schools rose in prominence in the U.S. Thanks to tax payments, kids from all over the country could attend free of charge. Before that, though, it was a very different story.

Putting down roots

As the colonization of America began in the 17th century, the settlers didn’t establish any schools for their children to go to. It’s hard to imagine a time without them, right? But everything changed going into the 1630s. At that point, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was formed by English Puritans. And putting down roots for schooling was near the top of their to-do list.

A strong belief

Why’s that? Well, when the Protestant Reformation movement was created many years before, its earliest followers believed that they could speak to God if they read the Bible. And that line of thinking carried over as the Puritans arrived from England. To go into more detail, an expert spoke to in September 2022. His name is Edward Janak.

“Religious element”

Janak, an “educational historian,” told the website, “Literacy took on a religious element. If you look at the New England colonies, the construction of schools outpaced all other types of buildings. That tells you the value they placed on reading.” After all, in order to read the Bible and follow its teachings, you have to know how to read! And the settlers' educational priorities didn’t stop there.