When was school ever this much fun?

Amish school gets the job done.  At the same time, the kids have a blast.  After hearing about some of the stuff they get to do, I think I’m ready to re-enroll in fifth grade.

On Friday Daniel and Mary’s kids had a spelling quiz (not fun), and made gingerbread houses (fun and tasty).  An excited Lizzie described an unfortunate scooter collision on the way home which resulted in the demise of Dorothy’s house and some serious roof damage to Elmer’s. 

Lizzie’s remained intact though, and she encouraged me to pick off a piece of candy for myself.  I chose a purple gumdrop.


At school, the teacher employs a motivational system that keeps the kids interested and doing a good job.  They are awarded points as a group for completing certain activities.  One example has to do with singing and visitors.

Amish parents, who collectively fund their schools, make time to visit and catch up with the kids’ progress.  Daniel plans to go this week, as a matter of fact. 

The kids explained that when visitors drop by they will take time to sing for them.  If the visitor approves, by saying ‘good singing’, they earn 10 points. 

By completing other exercises–reading tasks, for example–they can tally up points fairly quickly. 

On reaching 100 points, the children pop one of a number of balloons which have descriptions of different activities inside.


One of the balloons contains an activity called ‘mix-up’ day.  On ‘mix-up’ day, the school is split into two groups–grades 1-4 and 5-8.  Each student is then randomly assigned a different grade within their group.  He or she then does the work of that grade.          

Little Elmer got bumped up from second to fourth grade.  Dorothy was downgraded from fourth to first. 

One lucky student even gets the role of teacher, who herself becomes a student.  Lord-of-the-flies chaos then ensues.   

(I call it mix-up day, though something tells me this doesn’t last a full day.  But I could be wrong.  I forgot to ask).


Another balloon activity is ‘no time’ day.  On ‘no time’ day, they turn off the clocks and have to guess when certain activities, such as mid-morning recess, begin and end.

The incentive to stretch and shorten time is obvious, and the kids do their best to thwart the teacher’s sense of time.

Daniel explained how last time a couple of kids snuck a watch into the school.  The teacher was apparently aware of the watch, but never actually saw it.  The watch-keepers relayed the ‘actual’ time to the teacher.

School got out a bit early that day.   

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    1. I think I want to go back to school! Sounds like fun!

    2. Dave Carrig

      I was having a discussion with a guy at work about how the Amish schooling usually ends at the 8th grade. We both agreed that the Amish kids probably come out of school better educated than kids graduating from 12th grade in the public school system.

    3. Found your blog via another, and what a lovely blog it is.

    4. Do Amish children like school?

      The Amish kids I talk to, on the whole, seem to really like school. Despite the way the post may sound, a good deal of learning goes on as well! Lizzie was hard at work on some homework when I got in the first night–though her mom told me that she’d ‘forgotten’ to mention she’d had any when it was time to play earlier. I remember that tactic.

      Dave, in a way I’d probably agree–especially when you consider what they do and the roles they take in life.

      I just got finished listening to an interview I did on Monday with a metal shop owner. He talked about starting to learn the trade at age 16. You could tell by his tone of voice that it was a no-brainer to start that early. In fact, I am continually amazed to talk to 30-year old business owners with up to even 15 years experience in their trade. No wonder these guys do pretty well (though that’s not the whole story of course).

      At the dinner table the other day at Abe’s, Abe relayed some info he’d heard from a relative, I believe it was his sister, who lives next to a non-Amish teacher. The teacher had told the relative that some of the kids in the Lancaster public school system graduated eighth grade not knowing how to read. Often these were athletes, she said.

      The Amish in the room, meaning everybody but me, just could not fathom the idea. I tried to explain that it’s probably not as uncommon as it seems, unfortunate as it may be. The kids that did not know how to read apparently feigned illness or asked to be excused or something like that whenever the subject came up.

      Stories like that remind me to give thanks that I was given a chance to have the educational foundation that I do–ie, that the teachers I had probably wouldn’t have ever let me get away with that sort of stuff, had I tried.

    5. “I was having a discussion with a guy at work about how the Amish schooling usually ends at the 8th grade. We both agreed that the Amish kids probably come out of school better educated than kids graduating from 12th grade in the public school system.”

      Where are the Amish docters? Scientists? Writers? Physicists? Engineers?

      What is the level of your education? Would you gush like this if your child ended their formal education at the eighth grade level?

      Do you have any idea what it is that you are romanticizing?

    6. Hi msdramateacherlady, very nice to hear! I hope you enjoy what you find here!


    7. Amish expansion through Lancaster County

      Not to change the subject, but as someone who is formerly Amish I would also be curious to hear your opinion on what you feel will be the biggest challenges for the Lancaster Amish as they continue to grow and expand in an already highly populated county. I recently had an interesting chat with a local about this topic and with the Amish population doubling every 20 years and land becoming so expensive, as you know the Lancaster Amish have had to take measures to deal with the situation, particularly migration/founding of new settlements and shifting from agriculture to business. We can’t predict the future but I’m curious how you think the county/settlement will look in 20 years time, if you don’t mind sharing your thoughts.

      And easy, I won’t speak for Dave here, but in my opinion to me it sounds like you might be placing your own personal system of values on a culture that does not necessarily appreciate the same things you do.

      By that I don’t mean that the Amish do not appreciate and take advantage of the services of the professionals you listed, but rather that they don’t place a high value on having such individuals within their own culture.

    8. “Easy, I won’t speak for Dave here, but in my opinion to me it sounds like you might be placing your own personal system of values on a culture that does not necessarily appreciate the same things you do.”

      If Dave wants to criticize public schools, he can have at it. Suggesting that Amish eighth graders are better educated than non-Amish 12th graders is ignorant.
      If he wants to talk about whether Amish kids seem better prepared for their future than non-Amish kids, he may have a point. But if he’s going to pretend that this point can be used to make a legitamate critique of public education, he also needs to denounce the benifits of higher education if his arguement is to have any merit.

      Otherwise he’s just exploiting my peeps to make his cheap shot.

      And you know we just can’t have that. Not on a nice blog like this.

    9. The biggest challenge the lancaster county Amish face is their unity, or the lack of it. Can they sort through their issues with out spiritual fratricide? If there are going to be schisms, will one solve it, or will one just be the fodder that ignites twenty more.

      They are a parallel microcosm of the larger society in that there constantly exists a struggle over identity and who gets to determine it. You know, conservative versus liberal.
      They may avoid the mayhem, cheers for them if they do. But an authoritarian society dosen’t foster the requisite skill set.

      Here’s one of their sticklers, sorry don’t know how to provide link

      RNS Article of the Week

      September 13, 2007

      Growth of Evangelicals Has Some Amish Leaders Worried

    10. The other issue that’s a ticking time bomb for the lancaster county Amish is economic disparity. The rise of a business class and the impact that will have on unity amoung the congregants.

      When I was a kid, my older brothers told of an Amish horse trader who had not recieved payment on a pair of mules he sold to another Amish man. The narrative of this story focused on the response of the horse trader when he was asked if he wanted the church to intervene in this situation. He uniquivically rejected the idea that the church should get involved. This incident happened over thirty years ago, but I believe it’s representative of the path that business owners have chosen, ie (what happens at work is separate from what happens on sunday). At the same time these wealthy entrepreneurs have ingratiated themselves with the general Amish population by investing in farmland and other “pillar of the community” type activities. This has the effect of making them “untouchable”. Oligarchy comes to mind. The challenge for them is, can their communal values system process and deal with the issues brought on by this wildly different social structure?

    11. Liz

      I think that not sending their kids to public high schools is the biggest favor that Amish parents can do for their kids. Our public high schools are messed up, confusing, and demoralizing places. Even though I got good grades in high school I don’t feel like I actually learned anything – except how to feel stressed out about peer pressure and what its like to be surrounded by lost and confused, immature teenagers who have no parental guidance for most of the day. Teenagers influencing teenagers creates standards of behavior that are low.

      I understand that some people would like the option of furthering their formal educations after the 8th grade but I would’ve preferred learning a trade over going to university (which is what my parents wanted).

      From what you’ve described above, Amish one-room schools sound like a good balance between serious learning and having fun.