Colleges and Schools

Schools were different in the 17th and 18th century, and sometimes there were schools that were public that was only located in England, and then later, there became more schools.

Childhood Education

Children would be educated depending on how rich and what part of the family status that the child was in.  Most of the time, parents would educate their children, or they would hire slaves to teach their children how to read and write.

Boys were educated more than the girls were because it was thought that the girls would mostly stay home and care for the homes.

People that lived in the Southern colonies were less likely to be educated than those that lived in the Northern colonies.


In 1647 a law in Massachusetts made towns that had more than 50 families to have an elementary school land that towns that had families of more than 100 would have a Latin or grammar school.

The Latin school was mostly made of boys, and the boys would learn to read and speak Latin so that they could become part of the ministry when they went off to college.

Some of the towns made it important for both boys and girls to go to elementary school, and there they would be taught to read, write, and learn religion.


The Puritans thought education was very important even though most of this had to do with religious reasons.  They wanted the people to be able to read the Bible and to be able to talk at town meetings.

Catholic School

The first Catholic School was made in 1743, and it was established by Father Theodore Schneider in Pennsylvania.

Southern Colonies

The people in the South had very little way of education, and most of them did not have schooling until the Revolutionary Era.

Children that were of rich families would be given private tutors, and then the middle-class children would learn to read from their parents or their brothers or sisters that knew how to read.

The children that were from poor families or those that were black children were more than likely not getting any school at all.

The children in the South were not as educated, and many of them were unable to read compared to the children in the North.


In 1727, the Ursuline Academy in New Orleans was founded by a catholic group.  This school was only for girls, and is now the oldest Catholic school that is in the United States.

This school as the first school to have a female that graduated and became a pharmacist and was the first free school for ladies.  This school was also the first school that had classes for female African American slaves and Native Americans.

Other Colleges

There were other secondary schools or colleges that were found in Philadelphia, Charleston, New York, and other colonies.  These schools taught the students grammar, math, Latin, and even things such as accounting and surveying.

Sometimes the families would send their children to live with other families so that they could get their children an education.

More Facts About Colleges and Schools:

  • Some of the first colleges were Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University, and Dartmouth University.
  • Only white boys were allowed to go to these colleges.
  • Some students were only 14 years old when they would start college.
  • All of the students did the same classes, and it wasn’t until later that the students started studying different things.
  • Many of the children went to apprenticeship when they were fifteen years of age or if they were orphans. The apprenticeship taught these people how to make a trade such as sewing or being a blacksmith.
  • Most of the children in Colonial times learned a skill from their parents instead of going to school. They would start even at the age of 6 years old, learning a skill.

What Did You Learn?

What was interesting about colleges and schools during Colonial times?
The interesting thing about school were that not all towns had a school and not all children were able to go to a school to learn.

How many families had to be in a town in order for there to be an elementary school?
There had to be at least 50 families for a town to have an elementary school.

Who was given the most education, boys, or girls? Boys were given the most education because it was thought that girls would stay home and take care of their families.

What group of people thought education was important?
The Puritans thought education was important so that people could learn to read the Bible.

Who were some of the people that were not able to get any education at all?
Most poor families or black children did not receive any type of education.