Worldschool Trip – Old State Penitentiary In Boise, Idaho.

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Outside our holiday rental.

We worldschool, and for today’s educational trip we paid a visit to the Old State Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho.  This is where we are staying for a few weeks.  That could read really strangely I know.  Just to clarify, we are staying in Boise for a few weeks, not in the penitentiary itself.

So What Is Worldschooling?

For those of you who don’t know what worldschooling entails, here is a rather sketchy definition.  It’s basically going on a whole bunch of travel and adventures with the kids.  But not only that, we also take the opportunity to learn about different cultures, places, geography, history etc, first hand.

As an aside, here is an awesome blog post from Edventure Girl about worldschooling.  I really hope you enjoy it.

Anyway, the penitentiary actually closed for ‘business’ on December 3rd 1973.  It is now open to the public as, well, a tourist attraction, albeit a pretty gruesome one.

From the death row cells to the gallows, and from the four-tiered cell block with tinier cells than most people’s bathrooms, to the teeny tiny pantry-sized cells in the ‘cooler’, I will not forget that place in a hurry.

In the cooler, also known as ‘Siberia’, the inmates could be incarcerated for ages.  The time frames went from a day all the way up to a year.  And I am not kidding you when I tell you that these little rooms are smaller in their floor area than the surface area of a single bed.  The cells are about 2ft6in wide, and about 6ft long.  Long enough to lie down in, but nothing else.  No bed .  Just bare floor.  And no light either, natural or otherwise.

One of the inmates in the cooler spent seven months in there.  When the guards released him to his normal cell after that time, he said that it felt as if he was ‘coming home’.  Imagine that.  Things are so bad, that you feel all warm and fuzzy on returning to a 6ft by 6ft space.

The cooler, aka ‘Siberia’.


The kids as usual, had a billionty-zillionty questions all the way through.  But I absolutely love the fact that they are consistently curious and engaged in the process of learning. It totally horrified them that in the squishy four-tiered cell block, all the inmates had was a bucket instead of a loo.


The bucketed four-tier cell block…two people per cell.


The display of some of the weapons the prisoners had crafted, was a real shocker.  In my mind, because I live in a non-violent bubble, I don’t automatically assume that the prisoners are this way.  Or that maybe they ‘have’ to be this way in order to survive.

I guess I just had ideas that when people commit crimes, they go meekly to prison to serve out their sentences and do their penance.  I was mistaken.  Just like I was mistaken about homeschooling.  I realise now, my naivety in thinking that homeschooled kids all sit quietly and get on with their work diligently until it is complete.

And though going there was a real shock to my cossetted little system (and Brent’s – he was really on edge driving home afterwards), the visit was a worthwhile one, and a great lesson for the kids to always make sure that they stay on the right side of the law.


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