Friday, February 3, 2017

Amish, Education

Every week as I travel through the Amish community in Ethridge, Tennessee, I have been impressed with the education of the children.  Never once have stepped inside any of the one-room schoolhouses which dot the landscape, nor have I perused their curriculum; however, I see the results every time I encounter a child.  My only qualification for critiquing their education system is my experience homeschooling my three sons.  This is what I have observed and is my opinion only.

1.  The parents are responsible for the education of their children.  
They make sure the skills are learned to lead a successful Amish life while, at the same time, still being able to do business with the outside world. Their formal education stops at the eighth grade where they have been taught by community members who, also, only attained an eighth-grade education.

2. Business management is taught early.
Each home has some type of cottage industry which supports their large family.  They work together as a business meaning, you can tell a child what you want, then the message will be remembered and passed on to an adult. They quickly learn how to "upsell". "Corn will be coming in next week, so you want me to save you some?"  Dealing with the public is common, encouraged and part of their education.  Have you ever worked with the public?  I have and it is HARD!  People are crazy!

3.  Everyone is expected to work, even the youngest.
One day I stopped at a house with cars lined up all the way down the driveway.  The FIRST watermelons of the season were harvested and being brought in from the fields by the wagon loads.  Evidently, the family had regular customers to whom they had written letters and they were in line to pick up their orders.  (If you have never had a fresh, ripe watermelon right out of the field, you may not realize they are worth the drive.)

In the middle of the big pile of watermelons was a little girl, about two or three years old, rolling each one to the edge of the wagon for the older siblings to unload.  She was having fun and it was a perfect job for someone her size.  When she finished, she walked to the edge of the wagon and hopped into the arms of an older brother. He looked at her and flashed a big smile. He appreciated the work she had done since it saved him from bending over hundreds of times.  She glowed.  Her work was important.

4.  Math is figured in their heads. 
They do grab a pencil and paper to add up the big orders.  Most carry cash in their pockets and can correctly make change without a calculator.  I don't know if they can calculate the hypotenuse of a right triangle, perform integral or differential vector calculus, find a scalar triple product, or even evaluate one of the inhomogeneous Maxwell's equations.  Neither can I.  So what.  They still make money.

5.  When they speak, they look you straight in the eye, almost to the point of staring.  
Never have I seen one glancing at his phone or checking for a text while talking over his shoulder as they walk past you like "English" children are known to do.  Their grammar is good, not always perfect; and they do speak in complete sentences.  Yeah...umm, and well, know...uh, and like...whatever!  Amish children do not speak slang.

6.  They stop and think before replying to your question. 
I don't know if it is due to English being their second language or if it is me asking confusing questions.

7.  They know to pause and back away in awkward situations instead of being rude. 
Once I observed a kind, older lady who was overcome with the cuteness of two little boys.  She said, "You are so precious, I could just hug you."  The two little boys paused, stepped back and hesitated.  I laughed and said, "My goodness.  You are a girl and you know how little boys dislike girls."  She chuckled when she realized her mistake.

8.  An Amish child NEVER interrupts an adult when they are speaking.  They will rush up to a group of people then wait for permission to speak.  This does not apply to the small children; however, I have seen the older siblings quietly shush them until there is a pause in the conversation.

9.  Oh, how the families love to travel.
They travel the world visiting relatives as far north as Canada, way out west and even deep into the south.  They will not drive cars but have no qualms about bus rides or airplane flights. 

10.  Adult responsibilities are assumed at a young age and it seems, they are mature enough to handle it.  When each one graduates following the eighth grade, the boys assume some type of apprenticeship and girls learn to manage a household.  Many of the women handle their own small business selling homemade goods.

There are negatives about their education:

1.  They can't spell worth anything.  Brocoli, broccili, tomatoe, zuchini, zuccinni, and I won't even attempt to show asparagus.  But to be fair, none of them have auto-spell or spell-check.  I am not much better without them either.

2.  The schools stop at the eighth grade.  I am not sure this is enough time to acquire sufficient information to choose the right occupation. If anyone ever leaves the community, finding a good paying job without a high school education will be difficult.

Why don't most of the children leave after they have grown?  Why should they?  Their childhoods are safe, protected and more fun than anyone can imagine.  It is a life where they run free and play until collapsing from exhaustion.  They know their extended family and neighbors step in to help when disaster strikes.

 As they learn to work with the public, they deal with rude people, see others who can't walk ten feet from a car without a phone in their hands, or experience being left standing when a person rudely answers the phone in the middle of a conversation.  They see misbehaving, spoiled, obnoxious children playing video games in the backseat of cars unable to even look up.  In restaurants, they walk past televisions and hear what is being said, then they see magazines on the racks as they pass by the registers in grocery stores.

The Amish are not stupid neither are they naive.  They have seen enough of our world to realize they want none of it.

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  1. Very impressing description of Amish life, Jeannie. I had also read quite a lot about these communities and their way to live.
    Hard to believe, but it is true: Germany is the only state in Europe where home schooling is strictly forbidden! There is a law since 1938. Parents who do not send their children to a public or any other school will have to pay fines or are sent to prison. Reasons why these parents do not want to send their children in a school are mostly the theory of evolution, sex education and others. This interdiction is an anachronism and should be given up. Parents are forced to immigrate to other countries. A growing problem however are
    the children (in large cities like Berlin) who skip school and will not have any school-leaving qualifications. No chances on the job market then. A very sad subject.

    1. When I pulled my boys out of public school years ago, it was because the school was horrible, horrible, horrible. My oldest was having emotional problems due to the dangerous situations he was being forced to face. After I pulled him out, all his problems disappeared in about three weeks. There was such an improvement in him, I also pulled the other two out a few months later. This was way before it was popular to homeschool so we stayed "under the radar" to not be noticed by the government. Later I had two homeschooling friends who were visited by Child Services in their homes when neighbors saw them outside playing during the day. The laws are friendlier now that it has become popular.
      I would definitely move out of the country to homeschool my boys. I applaud the families who are willing to make that sacrifice.

  2. I am fascinated by the Amish. I've read quite a bit about them, and love seeing the pictures of their schools, etc. I'm sure they have problems like the rest of us, just different, but their lives seem simpler, and that seems attractive to me.

    I think that the fact that they are such a tight community makes it easier to stay true to their simpler lifestyle because their kids are not competing with other kids to have the latest gadgets, etc.

    I've homeschooled for so long---it wasn't popular when I started either, about 28 years ago. I have sent kids to school when it seemed best for them, or me, as I have had a lot of special needs kids and can't always give them what they need. But, I've been at it for so long for most of the kids, with a few exceptions. Every time I think I'm almost done, I take on a new project. Hmmmm. Anyway, my latest student, my niece, is showing so much improvement in her demeanor, her happiness, etc. since she joined Ja'Ana in October. She just wasn't happy in school, this is working so much better for her. I'm loving how much better this year is going compared to last year--we were in so much chaos and turmoil school really suffered. This year is so much better. We are settled, not moving, and it really helps with so many steady days of school.

    1. The chaos and turmoil was also an education, an education in how to handle life's problems and you did good.

      My boys started at a small neighborhood public school that was wonderful. I sat in on those classes and could not have even begun to do the great job those dedicated teachers did. Then they were bused to a different, bigger school and that is where the problems began. Our choice was to move (no money) or homeschool. My only regret was that I did not pull them out as soon as they moved up to the problem school.

      My boys have all repeatedly thank me for homeschooling them. That has made it worth all the work.

  3. Great reflection on the Amish. We have a lot of them here and where I grew up also. They are very much living as God intended us to. The world is Satan's playtoy the Amish know that and keep themselves separated from it and that is much to their credit! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  4. I really enjoyed your post. We have had some interaction with the Amish and I think you have hit the nail on the head. I love your last sentence - they have seen enough of our world to realize they want none of it. Sometimes I feel the same way myself! Have a blessed day!

  5. I don't know anything about Amish education but since Eng!Ish is a second language then they probably don't learn how to spell English words in depth like we don't learn how to spell French or Spanish.

  6. Very interesting read! I think the idea that children are taught to "work" like the good old days is something that keeps them successful! Something our pioneering parents did as well out of necessity. Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! :)

  7. As re' #6 positive, it probably would help the world in general if most folks would stop and think before they open their mouth.

    As re' #1 negative, Amish actually have 3 languages as they also learn formal German. The church services are carried out in that, not their version of "Pennsylvania Deutsch". P.D. varies by region and order. Also school does continue after the 8th grade with vocational training and apprenticeships.

    As re' #2 negative, my husband received his GED, just as many do who were former Amish. I think most former Amish will be successful as they are not going to suddenly lose their work ethic. He bought a business when he was 18, with some help from his parents, paid them back by the time he was 20, married at 21, we've raised 5 children all of them college educated and employed. His 6 siblings are no less driven (he does have one other developmentally disabled brother who is very well cared for by family members, not the government).

    By the way, you're a good communicator and do well with the written word. I don't remember if I suggested the blog Amish in America by Eric Wesner. If you ever have questions to anything search his website.

    1. Great points! Thank you for correcting me. I did not realize they spoke three languages. I struggle with just one.

      You made a good point about their work ethic and that they will probably succeed if they choose to leave. I tend to agree now that I think about it.

      They are such wonderful people and I want others to appreciate them just as I do.

      Thank you for commenting and I am going to check out the website.