In 1932 the Catholic church had charge of the education of all French speaking children in the province of Quebec and most of the teachers were nuns and teaching brothers except in the smaller towns that couldn’t afford to build a convent. In that case the town hired a lay teacher, often a young girl who had taken some normal courses in her eleventh year in the convent, her last year. That is how Yvette got her job teaching on the north shore, her first job away from home. Instead of sending their children to the school in town, however, the parents in smaller places often preferred to send their children away to boarding school. The convent at Trois Pistoles had both boarders and girls who went home every day. When the boarders lived close by they went home on weekends. Yvette was a boarder part of the time even though she lived on a farm just at the edge of town. Boarding school was not free but the cost was very low as the girls did much of the work of gardening, preparing meals, taking care of their rooms, even doing the janitor work and the maintenance work on the building. It was all a part of their education and, from what Yvette tells me, it was well taught. There were no gym classes but the girls got plenty of exercise. Home economics was taught to all girls as a matter of course. They all learned to cook and design and make their own clothes. If a family wanted the daughter to have special training, say in music or art, she was usually sent to boarding school at one of the convents in Quebec or Montreal.
Boys who wanted to continue their education beyond the tenth grade - most of them went to work after the tenth grade - we went to boarding school, the nearest being in Rivière du Loup to the west or Rimouski to the east, 20 miles and 30 miles away respectively. None of these schools had gymnasiums and there were no school athletic teams as there are in American High Schools. There were several boys schools in Saint Anne de la Pocatière, about half way to Quebec City, the largest being a college plus high school supervised and taught by priests. Claude and Gérard LeBel, two of Jeanne’s sons, went to boarding school in St. Anne, continuing on into the University level. Claude became a priest - he later taught religion at St. Anne - Gérard became a lawyer and is still practicing in Rivière du Loup.
I had an opportunity to examine some of the textbooks in use. Even subjects which had no apparent connection with religion, such as arithmetic, were full of examples drawn from the Bible or the catechism. The sixth year history of Canada, which one of Yvette’s used, seemed to be mostly concerned with dates of arrival of various religious orders, the Dominicans, the Oblates, the Jesuits, the Franciscans and many others, their missionary work among the natives, the construction of churches and convents, though there were good, unbiased accounts of the early discoveries and explorations of Jacques Cartier, Champlain, Père Marquette, Joliet and others about whom I had read in my history books.
The fact that not all of the people in Quebec are Catholic and French speaking has made it necessary for the province to divide the educational system in to three parts, one for the English speaking children who were not Catholic, one for English speaking Catholics, mainly Irish, and the third for French speaking Catholics. There no no English or Irish living in Trois Pistoles, which had a population of about 3,000 in 1932. It is probably not much larger today. Rivière du Loup had around 15,000. The few English speaking families sent their children away to school, chiefly in Quebec City.