118 Old-time Schools and School-books
thinly populated districts, and most towns distributed a part of the money in equal sums among the districts, and the rest according to valuation or number of school children. That there were great inequalities is shown by the fact that as late as 1844 several Massachusetts districts were reported to receive less than ten dollars with which to provide schooling. Each district aimed to get the most for its money,and quality was apt to be sacrificed for quantity. The cheaper the teacher, the more weeks of school.
In the larger towns school kept almost continuously, but as a rule the towns were content with a master's winter school of ten or twelve weeks attended by the older children, and a summer term of equal length taught by a woman, chiefly for the benefit of the little ones. The poorer communities had to get along with a single term of two or three months, or possibly of only a few weeks.
The winter term invariably began the Monday succeeding Thanksgiving Day, and preparations were made for it by giving the schoolroom a thorough cleaning, and getting fuel ready. The cleaning was done by the local women with the help of the older boys and girls. None of the scanty school money was spent for janitor's work. The big boys took turns during the term in opening and heating the schoolhouse, and the larger girls alternated in sweeping out. Attendance was irregular, there was much tardiness, and many scholars did not come for some time after the term began because they had to wait until shoes or other articles of clothing were ready.