Questions and Answers on Amish Schooling
- Why do Amish finish school after 8th grade?
- Do Amish children go to high school?
- What are Amish schools like?
- When do Amish children go to school?
- Do Amish children attend public schools?
- Do Amish homeschool?
- Do Amish schools offer special education?
- Who teaches Amish children?
- Can Amish men be schoolteachers?
- Who administers Amish schools?
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Why do Amish children only go to school until the 8th grade? Amish feel that an eighth-grade education is sufficient for life in their society. Typical Amish occupations (agriculture, manual labor, craftsmanship) do not demand higher education.
Instead, Amish culture emphasizes hands-on learning outside the classroom. Additionally, Amish have concerns over the subject matter taught in high school including science and sex education. Read more about Amish educational values.
Do Amish children go to high school? As a rule, they do not, though there may be occasional rare exceptions. Amish formal education typically ceases at the eighth grade.
However, in some states which require attendance until age 15, Amish children may be obligated to attend vocational classes until reaching that age. This typically involves a few hours of classroom instruction one day per week. Read more on Amish vocational classes.
What are Amish schools like? Amish schoolhouses are typically designed to house eight grades in one room, or feature a two-room layout with four grades in each, and each room having its own teacher. Older Amish children often help younger ones while the teacher quizzes and assists groups of students by grade level. Amish scholars study a variety of subjects, including mathematics, grammar, and German.
When do Amish children go to school? Amish children go to parochial school for first grade at age six or seven. Some Amish children may have a preschool experience involving attending school a few days a week, or may be prepared at home by their parents (see Train Up a Child: Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools, Karen Johnson-Weiner, Appendix B p. 226).
Do Amish children attend public schools? In some communities public school attendance is relatively high. These include Holmes County, Ohio, and the Elkhart-Lagrange County settlement in northern Indiana, where local Amish schools take on an Amish flavor and administration is likely to adapt aspects of the school program to reflect this.
Do Amish homeschool? Homeschooling is rare among the Amish. Amish education expert Karen Johnson-Weiner suggests this is because homeschooling conflicts with the ideal of community, a key element of Amish society. Nonetheless, a small minority of Amish opt to homeschool.
Do Amish schools offer special needs education? Yes. The first such schools were opened in the 1970s in Lancaster County. Some Amish schools provide special education classes while in some cases Amish special needs students are transported to a school offering special education.
Life’s Special Sunbeams is an Amish publication featuring stories from special education teachers and parents of special needs children. Read more on Amish special needs education.
Who teaches Amish children? Amish parochial school teachers are typically female and young, though some women make a lifelong career of teaching. Teaching is most feasible before a woman is married, thus many Amish teachers are in the 18-22-year-old age range.
After marriage, and especially when children enter the picture, the norm is for women to remain at home. Amish men may teach in Amish parochial schools in some cases, though it is relatively uncommon. Rarest of all are non-Amish teachers in Amish schools, though this does occasionally occur.
Can Amish men be schoolteachers? Yes. It is uncommon because pay is typically lower, and men are expected to be the main income-earners in Amish households. Also it is typically thought of as a “female” occupation in Amish society.
However some men are drawn to teaching and are often valued instructors and are often accordingly paid at a higher rate than female teachers, in part as recognition of their need to support a family. Read more on male teachers.
Who administers Amish schools? A school board, typically made up of three male parents, is responsible for school administration, which includes the hiring of teachers.
Many Amish parents take an active interest in their children’s education, including by helping clean and prepare the schoolhouse for a new year, visiting and bringing hot lunch, and attending holiday programs.
For more on Amish school standards, see the Indiana Amish Parochial Schools Regulations and Guidelines book.
- Johnson-Weiner, Karen. Train Up a Child: Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
- Dewalt, Mark W. Amish Education in the United States and Canada. Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2006.
- Fisher, Sara E. and Rachel K. Stahl. The Amish School. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1986.
- Huntington, Gertrude Enders. “Persistence and Change in Amish Education.” The Amish Struggle with Modernity. Kraybill, Donald B., and Marc A. Olshan, eds. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994.
To Cite this Page: Wesner, Erik J. “Education.” Amish America. Erik Wesner, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. [Date Accessed]. <https://amishamerica.com/education/>.
Image credits: Schoolhouse; Life’s Special Sunbeams- ShipshewanaIndiana
If a student were to show exceptional ability in, let’s say math, and enjoyed math and wanted to do more than what’s offered in a common Amish school (what little I know is based on what I see in Lancaster County, small schools, probably one teacher per school) is there any basis for somehow helping that student go forward, even if not in a school setting, but by independent study or having a tutor a couple times a week?
Since Amish are not centered on the farm so much anymore, it seems that additional education in some cases would be able to enlarge what type of businesses might be available to the community. A K-8, one room schoolhouse, was the norm for many farm communities, not just the Amish. But the Amish don’t seem inclined to acknowledge that farming isn’t the only show in town.
Hope you can do an in-depth YouTube on Amish education, maybe even talk with a non-Amish teacher if you can find one.