Amish School House
There’s no more industrious cultural group than the Amish. They make their own clothes, grow their own food, and even build their own houses. What makes this even more impressive is that they do most of it without the mechanization most Americans have come to rely on.
But what about community facilities like schools? Yes, the Amish build those too. Often referred to as parochial (church-run) schools, they’re places of instruction where the Amish faith and way of life are taught and upheld. Keep reading to learn more about the typical Amish schoolhouse.
What this article covers:
Where Do Amish Kids Go to School?
Usually, Amish kids go to school in their own communities, or on farmland nearby their settlements. There are times when one isn’t available, so it’s not unheard of for Amish children to go to public schools.
When there’s no Amish schoolhouse, they’re likely to be sent to nearby parochial schools. (That means any other school run by a Christian church). Most Amish settlements have a school, though.
It makes sense, as there are many children in each Amish town. Large families are commonplace here, so there are always school-age children.
Amish School Traditions
Amish schools don’t follow the same curriculum as most public schools. While basic arithmetic, reading, and writing are taught, less emphasis is placed on other subjects.
The Building Belongs to the Amish
The Amish community build schoolhouses using their own timber and labor.
They don’t rely on government funds to do so. They build it on their own land or land they’ve purchased. Sometimes, the land used is donated by local farmers.
The schoolhouse itself will be simple and functional, much like the classroom in your average public school. On the surface, there’s little to distinguish them from each other.
Grades Are Mixed
An Amish schoolhouse usually consists of one big classroom rather than multiple classrooms. The furniture will be made of wood and crafted by local Amish men. They’re known for their excellent woodworking skills.
There’ll be the usual teacher’s desk and a few wooden desks or tables and chairs for scholars. Educational charts may line the walls. All schoolwork is hand-written though, as modern technology is forbidden.
The teacher’s paperwork is stored in a handwoven Amish wicker file basket, and only a curtain or screen will separate the grades and their teachers from each other. With only a few children in each ‘grade’, it’s simpler to do it this way.
Amish Culture Is Reinforced
More emphasis is placed on Amish cultural teachings and Amish history, than world events and ideologies. Rather than the scientific curricula found in public schools, creationist teaching is favored.
Lessons are conducted in the Amish German dialect, known as Pennsylvania Dutch. English is taught as a second language, but only at a conversational level. This helps in later years if any of the students go on to work outside the community.
Amish education is meant to foster adherence to the Amish way of life. Therefore, the children will dress in their usual modest attire, and follow typical cultural norms, while inside an Amish schoolhouse.
The Teacher Isn’t Certified
The teacher will usually be female, and she’ll be someone from the community. This role is usually filled by unmarried women although one of the mothers may sometimes lend a hand.
So if you see a teenage girl or young woman riding a bicycle along a country lane, or books in her wicker bicycle basket, she just might be the local teacher.
You’d be forgiven for thinking she’s a student, but that’s not likely. Amish education doesn’t go beyond the eighth grade and while many Amish youths choose to learn a trade or admin skill through a correspondence course after school, college attendance is almost non-existent.
Boys and Girls Play Together
Although the Amish schoolhouse is small and simple, there’ll be an area outdoors where children can play during recess. They also play sports, much like at other schools. But the boys and girls play together.
Of course, during recess, girls may group together, clutching their handmade Amish dolls, while the boys enjoy time together as a group, too. Yet contrary to popular belief, they aren’t segregated.
The Day Starts With A Prayer
Unlike the classroom in a public school, parochial schools like the Amish schoolhouse start the day with a prayer. There’s no separation of church and state in the Amish community. Everything’s done per God’s Will, and this is evident in their schools as well.
Amish Beliefs About School
One of the main questions that outsiders have about the Amish schoolhouse is, why is it necessary? Why don’t they just go to public schools? Amish parents prefer their children be educated in the community, rather than the public school system.
Here in the Amish schoolhouse, their children won’t be exposed to ideas and practices that conflict with their religious beliefs. They will learn more about their history, their culture, and their faith, and they’ll be spared the scorn and prejudices that unenlightened outsiders sometimes show to their community.
This doesn’t explain why their schooling ends after eight years. Why is this allowed? It’s one of the facts about Amish schools that outsiders find the most puzzling.
What Is the Reason for This?
The US government permits Amish schoolchildren to leave school after grade 8. This was allowed because of the right to religious freedom. The Amish aren’t anti-education in principle, but they don’t see the need for further education once the basics have been taught.
The Amish schoolhouse is an important part of Amish daily life. Here, children are instructed in the norms and values of their culture, in an accepting and inclusive environment.
Aside from doing a great service for their communities, teachers at Amish schoolhouses are also intended to learn valuable lessons that will prepare them for becoming good mothers.
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