When the Lewis County school board voted last spring to close the elementary school in LaGrange, Mo. (pop. 1,102), most parents figured their kids would soon be riding a yellow bus to the big, modern facility in Ewing, 17 miles away. “It’s the trend to run schools like factories,” says Bob Wyatt, 50, recently retired after 29 years as a school librarian. “But I guess I’m a traditionalist.”
And what could be more traditional than a one-room school-house? Thus inspired, Wyatt—an antiques collector who had already built a small, replica 19th-century village on his property—launched Cedar Falls School, an as-yet-unaccredited private academy that charges $5 a day. Though the teacher provides his 17 grade-school pupils with antique desks and teaches some math lessons with an aged cash register, the school’s 10 computers and satellite dish prove he’s in touch with the modem world. “I keep my ear to the ground to learn new ways of doing things,” he says.
Wyatt conducts two four-hour sessions daily (younger kids in the afternoon, older ones in the morning) and earns high marks from parents for his reading, writing and arithmetic lessons—and for occasionally teaching history in period costumes and encouraging his students to follow suit. “He’s made my little girl love learning,” says Sherry Strong, who directs career counseling at Canton’s Culver-Stockton College. “I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
Neither could her 9-year-old daughter Colette. Why? “I’m going back in time!” she says. “And it’s funner here.”