Education in the Thirteen American Colonies

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American History Glossary
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
Daily Life in the 13 Colonies
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

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If you were a school-age person in colonial America, you might have gone to a public or private school, just like you would today. But what you learned and how you learned it have changed through the years.
  • In the New England colonies, parents believed that their children should learn about Christianity. To that end, parents taught their children to read so they could read the Bible. And once those kids knew how to read, they could read school books as well. New England villages having more than 100 families set up grammar schools, which taught boys Latin and math and other subjects needed to get into college. And although girls could read, they weren't allowed to go to grammar school or to college.
  • Middle Colonies schools were also largely religious but taught the teachings of one religion. If you were a Catholic, you learned about the Catholic religion. Most schools were private. Students also learned other subjects so they could get into college. Again, girls weren't allowed to attend, unless they were Quakers.
  • School-age kids in the Southern Colonies were taught at home, for the most part, by their parents or by private tutors. When these kids became teenagers, they would then go off to college or to Europe. As in the other colonies, Southern girls did not go to school.

Schools were generally small, not like the large ones many kids go to today. Kids learned to read from special books called hornbooks.

Kids in colonial America were taught a trade, usually the one their fathers did, so they could continue the family business when their fathers retired. Often, kids would go to school and learn a trade.

More on Life in the 13 Colonies

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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