Re-imagining the One-room Schoolhouse

Roots + Wings with Rory Feek


The one-room schoolhouse here at our farm wasn’t supposed to happen—it was never a part of our plans. My wife Joey was going to educate our daughter Indiana. She would keep her under her wing and teach her the things we felt were important in an environment that would give her the best opportunity to be the best person she could grow up to be—Joey would homeschool her. But when she passed away in 2016, just after Indy turned two, we had to come up with another option. And so, instead of Indiana being homeschooled by her Mother… her Papa built a school for her at home.

It began with the vaguest of plans, really more of just a thought or an idea. What if we built a school here on the farm where Indiana could learn? And that thought was followed with even more: If we’re going to build one, what if it was a one-room schoolhouse like in Little House on the Prairie?… And then, what if other children could come too?… What if they could be all different ages, with learning differences?… What if the kids had their own garden?… And a greenhouse?… Animals and chores?… And in time, these ideas blossomed into something even bigger: What if we could re-imagine what school is, where the outdoors, nature, and life, is the real classroom, where kids could learn to be the great teachers of themselves?

In the fall of 2017, the spot where the school is now was just an empty field where nothing was growing. A little hay, a lot of weeds, but that was about it. And then, one day, my brother-in-law Keith and I stood in the parking lot and imagined where a building might go. We pointed and walked around and measured, then we picked up a hammer and drove a stake in the ground. Within a few weeks, that stake was followed by shovels, then a backhoe that poured concrete footers for a foundation. On top of that foundation, a floor was laid. Then, when it came time to build the structure, we raised the schoolhouse walls over one weekend and hung the roof trusses in an old-fashioned barn-raisin’ style. Dozens of neighbors and friends all worked together while the wives and children supplied meals and drinks, much like the Amish have been doing in their communities for centuries.


Rory's community surrounds him to help build his one-room schoolhouse, Hardison Mill. Barn-raising Style.


By late the next summer, the schoolhouse was complete. That one building soon turned into two, then four, then its own little piece of heaven, right here on our little piece of heaven, where my pretty wife who now resides in Heaven can watch down, I believe, smiling on it all.

Now here it is five years later, and there is so much more growing in that spot than just hay. Every spring, all around the edges of the garden, there are flowers of all kinds along with blackberry and blueberry bushes. Inside the children’s raised beds are vegetables—broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, beets, and carrots. In the greenhouse, there are seeds in trays that the kids have started, and in the little red brooder house by the playground, dozens of baby chicks that, in time, will become egg layers and meat birds. Next to the orchard, a big red livestock barn houses goats, pigs, peacocks, chickens, a turkey, and a donkey. And further back in the field, there are rotationally-grazed cows and more egg layers. When the bell rings at 8 a.m., they will be fed and moved as part of the children’s daily chores…


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Rory Feek is a world-class storyteller, songwriter, filmmaker, and New York Times best-selling author. As a musical artist, Rory is one-half of the Grammy-award-winning duo, Joey+Rory. He and his wife, Joey, toured the world and sold nearly a million records, before her untimely passing in March 2016.


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