I went to a private school as a girl. It wasn’t a large school, only a couple of students, but it was legalized and I have a copy of the Board of Education’s recognition of it as such.
But despite not being a large school, it had all the trimmings. We had a School Mascot (the Mustang), we had school colors (black, maroon, navy), a school flower (the magnolia). We had regular classes, or what I assume is regular because it was normal for us. We had our subjects and the tests for those, book reports and writing classes, schedules for tutoring, though we didn’t call it tutoring, of course..
We had very few sick days because there were so few of us, so it wasn’t like the flu came in waves or anything. We never had to deal with a lice scare, and we had both inside lessons and outdoor lessons. I learned how to balance a checkbook, how to build an animal pen, how to make a quilt; complex mathematics, base sciences, human history. When we were done with class for the day, we were cut loose and left to our own devices. We had our field trips– one time, we went to an auction in another state. I saw a zebra in real life.
During the summer, the local public school had a type of summer schooling, which any child that lived in the area could attend. I only went one year due to the difficulties caused by it, but it provided me with more than enough social interaction for several lifetimes. Those of my school were outliers to those of public school; they did not take kindly of us, and we fit in none of their pre-established dynamics.
Our school didn’t have dances. I went to one at the public school, invited by a young ma’am who attended, and I had one dance with a young man who also had no date. I bristled at a lot of people. It was strange. Not really a dance, not really a party, just… a bunch of awkward not-yet-teenagers. Three teachers tried to get me to change schools, further making it more awkward.
When I graduated, I spent the next year or so trying to figure out how to test for the GED. Some businesses counted my diploma as sufficient schooling, but a lot of them called private schools as fake, accepting only diplomas from the local public schools. No college in the area would accept it at all, since my school hadn’t been required to do standardized testing and we didn’t have GPAs. The Adult Education Center gave me the run-around on GED testing, asking “why was my primary schooling not sufficient?”
We never got Letterman jackets (a fact which I hope to rectify, eventually) and we never got high-school rings.
I remember all of these things when I write a character. The character’s history matters. From where they were born to where they went to school to the school colors and school pride they carry. Sometimes it’s just a token, a throw-back to way back when, but the little details are important too. Even if we never use them in story, it’s nice to know a little extra color about your cast.
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