Each community's school calendar was governed by the needs of the families there. In rural areas, children were needed during planting (spring) and harvesting (fall). The number of days that city kids attended school was sometimes double what their "country cousins" did.
In 1880, urban schools in thirty two of the thirty eight states were open for more than 180 days per year. The national average was 130 days. A school term in many rural schools was often only a few weeks.
Many people believe that children knew exactly why they went to school: to learn to read, to write, to do arithmetic and to understand discipline. Many of the lessons from the Bible served as subjects for English composition and penmanship practice. Moral issues like honesty, patience and humility were woven throughout the school curriculum.
Library of Congress