Raising Children in the Early 17th Century: Education
Along with practical skills, it was also important that Plymouth children learn to read, as Separatists emphasized personal study of the Bible. However, there was no grammar school in Plymouth Colony for many years. According to William Bradford, in the first years parents taught their children themselves, the colonists having neither a suitable teacher available nor the money to support one. By 1633, that apparently changed, as least for young children. Samuel Fuller’s will written in 1633 contained the line, “It is my will that when my daughter Mercy is fitt to goe to scole that mrs Heeks may teach her as well as my sonne.” Margaret Hicks may have run an informal school in which she would have taught at least the basics of reading. She might have taught writing and “casting accounts” as well. Children could start school at a very young age; Samuel Fuller’s son referred to above was four or five in 1633. NOTE: While a law was passed in 1658 that each town in the colony should have a schoolmaster, Plymouth did not have a free school until 1672. In that year a recent Harvard graduate with the unusual name of Ammi Ruhamah Corlet kept the school “now begun and erected.” Barring the references above, there are no details about schooling in early Plymouth, so the following text refers to common practices in England. Many schools in England were begun as charities, and affiliated with the church. Their chief purpose was to create good Christians, who would also be loyal and dutiful subjects. The teaching materials therefore included catechisms and other religious works. Students were also brought to church services by their teachers, where they took notes on the sermons to discuss in class. Small free schools in villages, supported by bequests, were often taught by the local curate and held in the church.While the instruction itself was free in this type of school, entrance fees, purchases of books, ink paper, etc....
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