French Hill School was built in rural Canada in 1900

The Village School

Built in 1900 as French Hill School , School Section #1, just south of Cumberland Village, this one-room schoolhouse provided an education for pupils in grades one through eight for nearly 40 years. French and English speaking students received a very British education with French taught as a subject. The school day began with the singing of God Save the King and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Typical of early schoolhouses in Eastern Ontario, it features balloon-frame, rectangular, one-story wooden architecture. It has shiplap siding with a steep, shingled gabled roof. The large windows, most of which are original, were needed to allow sufficient natural light for teaching. Throughout its use, the school was never equipped with electricity. Two outhouses-one for boys and another for girls-are located behind the school. The school was closed in 1936 and remained empty until it was moved to Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 1977. Most of the furnishings and artefacts date form its late year of operation.
French Hill School

Student Life

In the early 1900s, the school day ran from 9 am to 4 pm. Before leaving for school, children did chores like feeding the animals, milking the cows, and making breakfast.
This school had 20 to 40 students, ranging from grades 1 through 8. Kindergarten was not introduced until the 1940s; therefore, students began their studies at 6 years old.
Like today, English and French schools had public and separate boards. This school was an English language public school. French language students left when a French public school opened across the street.

School Bell

This 1914 bell was originally from SS No.5 and was saved from the building in 1967 when it was torn down. The bell was restored and donated to the museum in 1981.
The Village School in Canada

School Rules from the early 1900s

  1. Respect your schoolmaster. Obey him and accept his punishments.
  2. Do not call your classmates names or fight with them. Love and help each other.
  3. Never make noises or disturb your neighbours as they work.
  4. Be silent during classes. Do not talk unless it is absolutely necessary.
  5. Do not leave your seat without permission.
  6. No more than one student at a time may go to the washroom.
  7. At the end of the class, wash your hands and face. Wash your feet if they are bare.
  8. Bring firewood into the classroom for the stove whenever the teacher tells you to.
  9. Go quietly in and out of the classroom.
  10. If the master calls your name after class, straighten the benches and tables. Sweep the room, dust and leave everything tidy.

Even though children had chores on the farm, they were still expected to take responsibility at the school. The one-room school was a place of respect and learning where students didn’t challenge authority and took care of school property.

A break from chores

For some children school was a welcome break from farming and household duties. At times, daily attendance dropped as children planted and harvested crops or helped with family matters.

The Adolescent School Attendance Act of 1921 increased the mandatory attendance age from 14 years olad to 16 years old. Rural students were exempt from this law if they were needed to work on the farm or in their homes. These early steps taken by the province show how important education was to the government.

Being a teacher in the 1920s

Teachers in the 1920s had little formal training. Many teachers at rural schools were women, close in age to their older students.

Teachers in urban and rural schools had contracts with the board of education for a specific school. Students and teachers were assessed by travelling school inspectors. Teachers were also evaluated by how well their students did on their high school entrance exams.