Thoughts are rolling in my mind of week-long vacations at my grandmother’s farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky, Mirror Lake Farm’s name came from a small lake, shaped like a looking glass, in the front cow pasture. We used to stand on the fence and watch the herd meander in the mornings to the field and in the afternoons back to the barn.
Each day was slow paced, and no one was in a hurry.
Daddy only had one week’s vacation for a lot of years, and we always went to Kentucky.
It was a week full of visits with relatives, a day trip to Calumet Farm in Lexington, and lazy days of doing nothing. Picnics under the trees in the front lawn were fun. A night at the county fair was exciting. We made daily walks to the milking barn, and I was never successful at the task of milking a cow. Looking back, I believe that swishing tail intimidated me.
Daddy would drive around the Lexington farm on the back roads until he found a field of horses. Then he would take a handful of apples and his knife and head for the fence. Critt and I were right behind him. Calling the horses to come over for a visit, he rewarded them with apple pieces. We loved patting them and feeding them.
The Calumet Farm continues to be a place to visit. https://www.calumetfarm.com/videos/
Education was important to my grandmother Lulu. Before she married, she was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Lawrenceburg. She homeschooled her four children until they reached fourth grade. Through storytelling, she taught her grandchildren about their family history, as well as United States history.
This morning I read several articles about another Kentucky educator, Mrs. Cora W. Stewart. In 1911, she started moonlight schools in Rowan County. The goal was to “emancipate from illiteracy those enslaved in its bondage.” In the same classrooms their children attended during the day, their parents and other adults sat in the same seats and benches at night. Volunteer teachers led the classes. It was the moonlight that led them to these schools at night; hence the name.
“It was expected that the response would be slow, but more than 1,200 men and women from 18 to 86 years of age were enrolled the first evening,” said Stewart of the initial 50 schools in the program. “They came trooping over the hills and out of the hollows, some to add to the meager education received in the inadequate schools of their childhood, some to receive their first lessons in reading and writing.”
I can see those lamps flickering and bobbing in the dark as the new students walked to school. For some, only the moonlight opened those paths up. Their faces must have been intent on their mission of learning to read and write.
This movement gained momentum nationally and internationally. You might want to read more about this pioneer educator. Here are two books about this phenomenal and visionary teacher.
Cora Wilson Stewart: Crusader Against Illiteracy by Willie Nelms; Cora Wilson Stewart and Kentucky’s Moonlight Schools by Yvonne Baldwin
As John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life: education is life itself.”
I salute those teachers who are preparing to go back to school and thank you for all you do to change lives, as well as our world. What a privilege you have!