Bridging the gap

By BUSTER WOLFE,

When Jed and Lauren Leggett moved from Montana to Purvis, they went looking for a school like their 8-year-old son, Wylie, attended in the Big Sky State. They didn’t find one.

So they decided to do what anyone else does when they see a need – they fill it. So they built The Country Schoolhouse on a 40-acre north of Purvis on land that belonged to Jed’s father, who passed away two years ago.

With their teaching backgrounds and the farm environment, the Leggetts decided to combine the two into a real education. The books are only a part of the instruction at The Country Schoolhouse.

“We are trying to incorporate the farm into this whole schoolhouse environment because we want the kids to take what they are learning in their curriculum and take it home and use it in real-life applications,” Lauren Leggett said. “A lot of the homeschooling families that we come in contact with are rural families, so we are looking at other opportunities for their kids to learn some of these skills.”

Lauren’s first teaching job happened to be in a two-room schoolhouse in rural Montana.

“They had the Little Room and the Big Room,” she said. “The Little Room was for kindergarten-third grade, and I had fourth through eighth grade in my class. We only had 10 kids in the whole school. My husband, our 2-year-old son and I lived in a 250-square-foot apartment that was attached to the school for two years.”

Lauren was pretty much left to her own devices as far as educational instruction.

“I was the supervising teacher there,” she said. “There was no principal, no administrator and I had a superintendent who was 45 miles away that I could call. She would come out twice a year. Other than that, we were on our own. We were still a public school because we were publicly funded and we had to take all of the state tests.”

Lauren became involved with farm children who were used to working with animals and crops.

“All of the kids in the school were all from ranch families,” she said. “They enjoyed the school because they didn’t have to work on the farm.”

After a stop in Columbus, Jed, Lauren and Mylie moved to Lamar County and looked for the right schooling. Although Lauren saw other homeschoolers, she still wasn’t satisfied.

“I still didn’t really feel like I was getting the resources I was looking for,” she said, hoping to find someone to discuss their situation. “No one in our church homeschools but us.”

At the same time she was looking around, Lauren was learning how to work on the farm and learn about cows, how much hay to buy, gardening and so many different things.

Lauren started remembering her time teaching in Montana.

“I just really love the model of the one-room schoolhouse – the multi-ages and the hands-on learning activities – and I wanted to find some way to for my own son, who is homeschooling, to learn these farm things that I can’t teach him,” she said. “I knew going into the first year that we weren’t going to make any money, but that wasn’t the whole reason that I was doing it. I told other people that I wanted to find some kind of way to nurture homeschool families and provide some help in this.”

Lauren said she sees little separation from The Schoolhouse and the farm.

“When you talk about the school and the farm, they are not two separate entities,” she said. “When people bought memberships for the schoolhouse for the year, part of what they were buying was access to what we call ‘farm events.’ What we have is a stocked catfish pond, so we are going to do Fishing on the Farm Days. I’m talking with different groups about bringing in speakers to do farm demonstrations. They are going to be farm events. When you buy a membership – depending on what level you are at, you can get free access to that.”

Lauren said her search for resources took a different turn when she realized that the people who are working on farms aren’t around anymore.

“As I have been seeking out speakers and teachers for these things, I am finding that some of this is a dying art,” she said. “My husband and I saw something that we wanted to preserve. We wanted those opportunities for my son, and I believe other people want that for their children as well.”

Anyone who is interested in contacting the Leggetts about The Country Schoolhouse, which is located at 70 Thames Road, can go to their website at thecountryschoolhouseedcenter.com and leave a message.