Education and the Farm

Here on the Farm we have not been homeschooling the children in the new sense of the word. That is, not sending them to public schools, but teaching them wholly at home, as I was, and my sisters with me. We have, however, and will always, teach the children at home. We encourage them to read, help (but do not do) with their homework, provide copious art supplies, and more.

This last weekend they got to go down in the woods with Grandpa, gather sticks, and have their dinner over a campfire. This coming weekend they will help with cleaning out and planting in the greenhouse, learning about some edible wild plants as we go. There are weeds in the greenhouse, and some of them make yummy stir-fry!

Yesterday I read a blog post by Sarah Hoyt, over at her blog, and then last night a friend emailed me the 8th grade final exam from 1895… so I had to share both. I’m so exasperated with what public education has become, and I believe that the best way to make the roaches scatter and be able to clean a dirty house up, is to have enough light. So, I am shining the light on the subject.

This is what Bill Taylor sent me:

“Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents only had an 8th grade education? Well, could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895? This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.




8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS – 1895 

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.

2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.

3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph

4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,”play,’ and ‘run.’

5. Define case; illustrate each case.

6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.

7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.


Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.

2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?

3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?

4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?

5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.

6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.

7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre?

8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.

9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?

10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt


U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided

2. Give an account of the discovery of   America by Columbus

3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.

4. Show the territorial growth of the United States

5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas

6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.

7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?

8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.


Orthography (Time, one hour) 

[Do we even know what this is??]

1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication

2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?

3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals

4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’ (HUH?)

5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.

6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.

7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.

8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.

9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.

10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks

and by syllabication.


Geography (Time, one hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?

2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?

3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?

4. Describe the mountains of North America

5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco

6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each..

8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?

9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.

10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.

Gives the saying ‘he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. peggey
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 09:28:32

    I could actually answer a lot more of the questions than I thought I might. Orthography, not so much, but it was not a subject I was exposed to intensely (or by that name). Similar questions on computer use I could manage, though.

    I was amused by the “name the republics of Europe”–I recall most European countries at the time still being under royal rule, as opposed to being republics. But I could be taking that question out of the context in which it was originally framed…. I would not classify England as a “republic”, despite its parliamentary system.

    Good stuff!


  2. Sean
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 11:15:23

    Okay..I’m curious now..I’m gonna go see if I can find one for Texas. 🙂


  3. Sean
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 11:16:13

    Oh and I actually had to look up what Orthography means. good grief.


  4. mountainswest
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 17:36:43

    I have a couple of themes written by your great grandfather when he was in 8th grade, probably in 1919, and shared them with a couple of teachers. I was told that students just can’t write that well now. They were very imaginative and descriptive.


  5. mountainswest
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 17:51:28

    One story was about a wildcat that got into the henhouse, and how he caught it with a large fish hook; and the comedic happenings when the wildcat came down the chimney hanging by the fish line, kicking things all over the place in the dark cabin.

    He was a fascinating story teller, and later in life, wrote a book of true stories about the necessary activity of hunting in the remote area where he lived; and fishing, trapping and life in genereal in the early 1900s. Don’t be put off by the title, Confessions of a Poacher–he chose that title because 90% of the men hunted year-round to feed their families.


  6. Betty Jo
    Mar 13, 2013 @ 01:55:03

    Oh no, I’m not smarter than an 8th grader.


  7. Douglas Fales
    Mar 13, 2013 @ 11:04:46

    I can’t help but wonder how many University or College Instructors would be able to pass an exam like this today. I know I’m not even close, regardless of what I might preffer to believe to the contrary.


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