Want to learn more about Amish traditions, culture, and heritage? Want to see how The Amish Village changes over the seasons? We pack our blog with helpful articles all about the Amish culture and some news about The Amish Village.
Education in the Amish Community
Drive on any backroad in Lancaster County long enough, and you will see one of the most iconic images in Amish Country: the one-room schoolhouse. (With over 254 Amish schools in the area, they’re hard to miss!) But what goes on inside those walls is part of what makes the Amish community so unique. While the Amish believe strongly in education, the way they educate their children is vastly different than how most “English” (or non-Amish) schools do it.
One-room schools are typically built by the community on donated land. The grounds usually include a softball or baseball field as well as some playground equipment and outhouses.
You might think a one-room schoolhouse filled with 30-35 students – most likely all siblings and cousins – is strange. But, prior to the 20th century, that is how everyone attended school. When schools started consolidating into larger buildings located further from students’ homes, the Amish stayed with the one-room schoolhouse. This keeps school more local to the area’s families and community. It also made it easier for students to travel to the school by foot or scooter.
Teachers and Curriculum
Amish students attend school from age 6 (1st grade) through 14 or 15 (8th grade). Their teacher is usually an unmarried Amish woman who also has an 8th grade education. She teaches all 8 grades herself, though she might ask older students to help with the younger students. Because it is easier to be a teacher before she is married, teachers are typically between the ages of 18 and 22.
The Amish school day typically starts at 8:30 in the morning by reading a section of the Bible, reciting the Lord’s prayer, and singing some hymns. However, “religion” is not something they teach in school. The Amish community considers religion a responsibility of the students’ parents.
Instead, the Amish stress the basics, such as reading, math, writing, and penmanship. They are also taught some history, geography, social studies, art, and science. Students learn three languages in school, including Pennsylvania Dutch, High German, and English. Each of these classes are designed to help students be successful in their Amish communities, as well as equipped to do business with the outside world.
Part of an Amish student’s education is learning responsibility. Students will often have chores as part of their school requirements. (Also, Amish schools do not have a janitor, so students need to help out.) Daily chore schedules might include cleaning the chalkboards, bringing in firewood, sweeping the floors, emptying the trash can, wiping desks, or checking younger students’ workbooks.
Amish Education Values
The biggest differences between Amish education and “English” education is based on what each society values. For example, the Amish emphasize collaboration and cooperation. Amish curriculum and practices discourage competition or trying to get ahead of the other students. In public education, however, schools push students toward individual advancement and independence. Another example is that Amish schools stress accuracy and correctness. They emphasize memorization and completing work neatly. Public schools are known to stress speed and critical thinking, where getting the right answer might not be as important as how a student thinks through the problem.
Another important value is how MUCH education is required. Traditional public and private schools educate students through 12th grade, while Amish schools complete education in 8th grade. After students complete their schooling, education becomes more informal and geared toward preparing for the adult world in the Amish community. They might focus on agricultural or craftsmanship training, with hands-on learning or apprenticeships. A more hands-on approach to learning a particular skill has helped the Amish be successful in business as well as an effective means of passing on valuable skills.
If you want to learn more about the Amish curriculum or Amish educational values, take a tour of The Amish Village and ask a guide about it! See for yourself what a typical Amish one-room schoolhouse looks like. Sit at an Amish-made desk and even look at some real examples of Amish classwork. See tour options.