Hornbooks and Inkwells
By Verla Kay; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
With rhymed verse and a pair of mischievous siblings named John Paul and Peter, Hornbook And Inkwells provides a realistic and reassuring look into an 18th century child’s typical school day, encompassing a seasonal school year. Some things never change, thank goodness!
The reader may see differences as one compares their one room schoolhouse with its hard wooden benches for seating, the division of a class into boys on one side, girls on the other, birch bark paper with quills as writing implements and the assignment of wooden neck yokes as disciplinary tools for fighting. Yikes! That, I’m convinced would never fly today, thank goodness!
But kids will soon recognize that some basics have remained in a child’s school day.
History lessons, and the learning of numbers, geography, spelling bees followed by the end of day homework assignments were struggled over then as now, although the struggling took place by firelight. Recess was initially an integral part of the school day and with rousing games of stickball much in evidence, it continues to be very much a part of the child’s typical school day in 2011!
As the younger of the two boys, John Paul wrestles with reading, it may be comforting for children to see, as his brother encourages him with mom’s consoling reassuring hug matched with a “You’ll succeed,” that not that much has changed in the basic world of early academics in three centuries. The early starting point for learning the basics, opening the door to all the rest is still pretty much a mastery of what our ancestors struggled with as well.
Hornbooks and Inkwells is a delightful primer for the lesson that the “outer child” may change in dress with bark boards morphing from chalkboards to whiteboards and beyond with ever more technical learning tools, but the “inner child” with the accompanying need to learn, grow and change in early learning with the added support of teachers and family is a constant in the America of both the 18th and 21st centuries. It’s a great lesson!
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