The time is 8:30 on a cold wintery morning. The school buses have been out for over two hours picking up the children from the area surrounding Edgerton, Minnesota. They now deposit their precious cargo at the various schools in the town. The last deposit is at the Free Christian School. It is small, twenty-eight pupils all told, but it is very precious and many sacrifices must be made that its doors may remain open. The children are rural; each carries his own lunch box.
The name, Free Christian School, deserves an explanation. The word “free” means this school is free from church control. The school is governed by a society of Reformed people. Presently, all society members are Protestant Reformed; hence, all subject matter is taught from a Protestant Reformed point of view. The prerequisite for being a member of this society is subscription to the Three Forms of Unity.
The purpose of my article is to explain the history, the life, the advantages and future of the Free Christian School at Edgerton, Minnesota.
The history of the Edgerton school system must be divided into two periods, namely, the pre-schism and post-schism periods.
The pre-schism history started back in 1940 during the pastorate of the late Rev. Wm. Verhil when a school society was formed by the members of the Edgerton Protestant Reformed Church. During the pastorate of Rev. Gerrit Vos efforts were put forth to erect a school building, but the society could not see its way clear. In 1948 under the pastorate of Rev. Peter DeBoer the society decided to build a school. It is a brick building consisting of six rooms, i.e., two classrooms, an office, a furnace room and two bathrooms. The eight large lots surrounding the building afford more than adequate playground. Instruction is given in grades one through eight. The first enrollment was between fifty and sixty students. A bus was bought to solve transportation problems.
The instructors from 1950 to 1954 were John W. Vis, principal, Beth De Boer and Josephine Mesman, the other teachers in respective years. John W. Vis and Josephine Mesman taught the 1953-54 school term as members of the schismatic church. But as Divine Will afforded, the members of the true Protestant Reformed Church had the majority of the votes in both the society and administrative board. At this time the name and what it stands for had special significance. Since our school, as was pointed out above, is entirely free from church control; it could not be taken into the courts along with the various church properties.
The post-schism history showed many changes. First, the positions of principal and teacher had to be filled. Mrs. Herman Veldman became principal, and Mrs. Eghert Gritters became the other teacher. Next, the 50% reduction in enrollment had several effects: (1) the bus was sold because it could no longer be run economically; (2) the maintenance of the school was placed on the shoulders of eight families instead of sixteen; (3) the children grouped together and became as one big happy family.
The next principal was Herman Woudenberg with Mrs. H. Veldman as the other teacher. Following these two were Dale H. Kuiper as principal and Sylvia Brummel and Evelyn Huizenga as the other teachers in respective years. The present principal is the undersigned with Evelyn Huizenga as the other teacher.
The life in our school is very similar to the life in the country schoolhouse of years gone by. As in the little country school, we have four grades in each room. Also all the children come from rural homes which makes life at times very interesting. Examples of this is such conversation: “Joey, how many pigs did your dad’s sows have last night?” or “Say, Miss Huizenga, my pet cow Gloria had a calf last night,” or “Mr. Huisken, Bobby won’t be in school today because he sprained his ankle when one of our horses threw him last night.” A farm is a place of endless activity and children being endlessly active. I agree wholeheartedly with the English Romantic who said: “Every child should be born and reared on a farm.”
This system of education has several advantages. The first and far most important being that these children have more individual help than in a departmentalized system. For example, in a departmentalized system the teachers have an average of 30 pupils, 360 minutes of school time, giving each student 12 minutes per day. On the other hand, in a combined grade system the teacher has an average of 15 pupils, 360 minutes of school time, giving each pupil 22 minutes per day, practically double the time in the departmentalized system. The next is that the parents and the teachers have more rapport because of the smallness of the group represented in the school. The effectiveness of our recent P.T.A. conference has well proven this fact.
Looking to the future most of our graduates have received or will receive their high school diplomas. Several in the near future will graduate from college. Soon we hope, DV, to add the ninth grade thereby taking the first step toward adding the latter three. This year marks the twelfth year of our existence-nine years since the schism. But we do not forget, “All things work together for good for those that love God.”