My Magic One-Room Schoolhouse


You’re in a bookstore, browsing the Education section.  An irresistible book title catches your eye: “My Magic One-Room Schoolhouse: a True Story.”  With a bit of anticipation, you draw the large format book from the shelf.

The cover photo doesn’t seem to fit with the title.  A girl who looks about four years old is outdoors, throwing leaves into the air, with an impish, excited and playful look on her face.  For a few seconds the people around you fade away as you become lost in the child’s joyful emotion.

Then your critical mind snaps back into action.  What does this photo have to do with a magic one-room schoolhouse?  Turning to the back cover, there’s only one review, in large letters: “The best book on early childhood education that I’ve never read!”  This doesn’t make sense.

Until you open the book.

Other than the title page, and the last page, the book has no words.

On one page, two girls are sitting on a log holding pinecones to their ears, chatting excitedly.  On another page, a child bending across a small pile of dirt holds a worm out to show her teacher, sharing her discovery.  Another shows a child with a magnifying glass, studying a leaf on a table.  Another shows an adult and child intently watching a beetle on a plant.  Another shows a boy and girl watering an herb garden.  Another shows a boy and adult sitting on the ground, while the child points to rocks that have been sorted by size and color into three groups.  Another shows a woman, sitting on a rock, taking notes while watching children tending a garden.  And on, and on.  All photos were taken outdoors.  All depict children and adults deeply engaged with the nature around them, and with each other.

Looking up, you suddenly remember that you’re in a bookstore, with people around you that you hadn’t seen or heard just a few seconds ago.  Looking back at the book, you turn to the last page, to see how it ends.

“Being a preschool teacher was, is, and always will be my calling in life.  For years, I had taught indoors, and watched children play outdoors in our playground.  When its play equipment was removed to make way for an “outdoor classroom,” I wondered what children would do without their beloved climbing structure, slides and swing set.  This book shows what they do.”