By Marcia Eichhorn
Prior to moving to Shipshewana to build my home and operate Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast, I taught 4th & 5th grade students for 30 years in Elgin, IL, so it’s not a hard stretch to understand why I have found Amish Schools and Amish education so fascinating. Education of Amish children is often a topic for discussion around the dining room table with my guests.
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Families in the Shipshewana area decide if they want their children to go to public school or an Amish neighborhood school. The Amish school is a one room school house, with two teachers, who also attended an Amish school. The school is for 1st through 8th grade. An average school size is 32 children. Reading, writing, and math are stressed. Some children entering school speak only Pennsylvania Dutch (a slang of German), the spoken language at home. By the end of 2nd grade they speak English very well, totally bilingual.
Education-A Family thing
Parents are very involved in their children’s education. They take turns being on the school board. The board make decisions regarding curriculum, guest speakers, and selecting teachers. School is in session from 8:30am to 3:00pm. Riding bikes or driving buggies is the mode of transportation. There is no problem getting parents to attend parent conferences, or taking turns providing a hot lunch once a month. Usually teachers do not give students homework, because chores are waiting for them at home. Their test scores are above average and time on task is excellent. Reading is enjoyed, along with creative arts; such as memorizing for skits, singing songs, and learning a bit of German. They love playing softball at recess. At the end of the year there is a school picnic. Often the 8th graders challenge the fathers in a game of softball. They usually get out of school by the end of April, but start in August.
Public Education and Amish children
Not all Amish children attend parochial schools, about half of the children in our area, attend public school. Just like “English” children, they take the school bus, learn computer skills, and participate in after school sports. Amish young people love to attend public school basketball games. One evening I counted 75 buggies parked in the school parking lot.
Meet Alvin & Katie
If you have read my previous blogs, you know I like to introduce you to my Amish neighbors. I want to introduce to you my neighbors Alvin & Katie. They live on a farm just south of me and have 12 children. Katie walks by my house two times a day to the phone shanty, where the Amish call and receive messages. We find a little time to visit as she passes by.
They have an organic dairy farm. I am fortunate to get eggs from her for my breakfast dishes. Katie cans apples, peaches, vegetable, meat, rhubarb drink, and much more in 2 quarter containers. The whole family is busy peeling, chopping canning all summer and fall. When getting ready for their daughter’s wedding they had over 70 quarts fresh strawberries in the freezer over winter to use at the spring wedding. (I rent freezers to some of my neighbors.) They have 6 boys and 1 daughter living at home. Their boys are employed at a buggy shop and a hardwood flooring shop. The daughter is a big help to Mother. They all provide many helping hands to plow, plant, cut hay, and harvest corn. What Amish children learn at school is applied to their every day life in the skills that they are taught at home.
Katie has shared delicious recipes with me. This pie is my favorite:
Shoe String Apple Pie
2 ½ c. white sugar
2 T flour
3 eggs, well beaten
4 T. water
4 c. shoe string apples (This is the way you cut them)
¼ t. salt
Unbaked pie shell (1 large or 2 small)
1. In a bowl, mix sugar, flour, eggs, water.
2. Fold in shredded apples and salt.
3. Pour in unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle with cinnamon on top. Makes 2 small pies or one large.
4. Bake 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then 325 degrees until done.
Families are very important in the Amish community, and that is why you’ll find that Amish parents are involved in their school education, as well in educating their children in life skills at home. It makes for a well-rounded education, and children with good work ethics, something that this retired teacher appreciates very much.
Marcia Eichhorn is the owner of Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast which is nestled in Northern Indiana Amish country among beautiful Amish farms. Her guests often ask questions about the Amish & Amish recipes and she is happy to share what she has learned throughout the years from her Amish friends and neighbors