I remember all of the things you speak of Jim. I went to Noriega Home School - from Kindergarten through 2nd Grade - and I was born in 1953 - so I started there in 1958. Mrs. Chandler was the most wonderful and sweet kindergarten teacher in the world - and I remember that we did fingerpainting on large easels - using tempera paints. And I also remember making ceramic plaques and ashtrays (yes, ashtrays - all adults smoked cigarettes back then!!) In first grade, Mrs. Jessie Borge - a very stern woman - taught reading and writing with the "Dick and Jane" series of books - I was so so bored - I had already learned to read by then - my grandmother taught me - using her Catholic prayer books and the newspaper. Upon entering first grade, I came home and told my mother how stupid the books were - "See Jane run, run Jane run" There was Dick, Jane, Mother, Father, Spot (the dog) and Midnight (the cat) - I think the word "midnight" was the largest word some of the kids had ever seen - oh, how they would struggle with reading aloud - it was absolutely painful - and I would be staring out the window when the Mrs. Borge would suddenly call on me to read - and I would get in trouble for losing my place in the book. Miss Julia Merrill was about the most stilted old-maid schoolmarm one could imagine - she hated me - because I wasn't "lady-like" like she felt girls should be - and I was loud and disruptive (read troubled and creative). I heard many years later that she killed herself.
I also remember the boy who died of "old age" - and a few other kids that died back in kindergarten and first grade. Polio was still a reality back then - so were other diseases. One of my little friends, Karen Stroop, died at age 6 - all they would tell me is that she died from "painful legs" - there was a kid named Dennis Scontrino who had a terrible skin condition - his skin would spilt and crack and not form properly and he could not be touched at all.
I rememeber Mrs. Webber was one of my favorite teachers - I don't remember her being hated. In fact, most of the kids liked her alot. She had recommended that I skip a grade - but Miss Merrill vetoed the idea - even though I was scholastically way ahead of the class - Miss Merrill said I was "emotionally immature" (truer words were never spoken - LOL - I am still emotionally immature - LOL!)
Yes, back in those days education was by force - the old school way of educating children, as the song goes "Reading and writing and 'rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick." - If you didn't learn something right away, or if you were disruptive, you were either labeled a "bad kid" or "stupid" - and tracked that way for the rest of your school days - and then sent to trade school or business school, not to college. There was no real joy in learning, since we were forced to learn, and no incouragement for creativity and self-expression - remember, it was the 50's - a time of homogenous social blandness and conformity.