I had the privilege of being invited to an Amish 8th grade graduation recently. Since formal education ends at 8th grade, this is a really big deal in the Amish culture.
The graduates are (by law) within 3 months of their 15th birthday when they finish school. The next year is spent mostly at home for the girls, often working as a “mother’s helper” for women nearby who have recently had a baby. The boys sometimes work informally for their father or an uncle or neighbor.
By age 16, many have full-time jobs, learning skills that will suit them for a life in the Amish culture. Age 16 also means “rumspringen,” and for the boys, their own horse and buggy—and now dating is allowed as well, and attendance at the Sunday night singings. But, I digress.
My friend Queenie and I arrived in the only car to be seen (as I expected). I had a little time to wander, so I took this photo of the three alphabets the “scholars” master in their eight years of formal education. The third one is Old German—the language of their Bible and hymnbook. It is mostly a written language, but they also learn to speak it. (Their daily language, “Dutch,” is mainly a spoken language, and any writing they need to do is done in English.)
There were perfect attendance certificates posted on the board, along with essays written by the older kids about their recent field trip to visit other schools in the area.
Each teacher’s desk was loaded with simple gifts from the students, as seen below. The school board also traditionally purchases a gift for each teacher—usually something worth a few hundred dollars. This year, the gift was a really nice poly outdoor chair that rocked and swiveled.
The ceremony itself consisted of songs and poems and recitations by each of the grades, followed by the four graduates (all girls in this case) taking the stage with their diplomas and red roses and performing for the last time as “scholars.”
Afterwards there was a potluck meal to die for! And that was followed by the traditional students vs. parents baseball game. This game is taken very seriously, and both teams were outside doing pitching, fielding, and batting practice after they finished eating. I didn’t stay for the whole game, so I don’t know who won this one, but typically they can go either way. I did snap one stealth photo before I left.
It was a wonderful day for the girls, as they transition from, what in their culture, is essentially childhood to adulthood. They were proud and excited, and so were their families. I’m glad I could be a part of it.
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I wrote more about Amish schools in a series of posts beginning with this one.