Growing Up Amish
Early on, language is one of the main differences between Amish children and non-Amish. The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch (a form of German) as their birth language and learn English as they go into the first grade. English is predominantly spoken in the school, whereas, Pennsylvania Dutch is the language used mostly in the homes.
My community is made up of relocated families from various parts of the country, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indian and Iowa. They all have difference accents, with some families speaking English very comfortably and others seeming a bit more strained with it.
When kids are as young as six or seven, they have chores around the household and farm. Sweeping, cleaning, mowing and tending to the livestock are common place jobs to be shared by the youngest members of an Amish family. They don’t mind much though, because the work ethic among the Amish is so strong that it’s just a natural part of their young lives. And it’s a good thing that they’re so accepting, because as the children grow into teens, hard work and responsibility become a major part of their lives. Whether girl or boy, they’re expected to contribute to the household’s income and livelihood. After graduating in the eighth grade, Amish teens are finished with schooling and thrust into the workforce, either leaving the home for a forty hour work week or putting that much time into in a family business. Jobs include carpentry, metal work, farming and welding for the boys and butchery, bakery, woodworking, retail, teaching, child care, and housecleaning for the girls. Usually, 90% of a teen’s income is given to the family as an intricate part of the family’s financial survival. A portion of the ten percent that the teens retain is saved towards the teen’s future married life, while the rest is for their own enjoyment.
Even though Amish teens work hard, they also play hard. Oftentimes, they will take short trips with their church groups, visit relatives and friends, and participate in activities such as hunting, horseback riding and skiing. A usual day for an Amish teen begins at five o’clock in the morning, followed by prayer, breakfast and morning chores. After working an eight hour work day, the youth will arrive home to afternoon chores before dinner with the family. The evenings are playtime for the young people. They can be found at the church’s youth group gatherings, such as singings and ball games or they may be seen riding their horses or bikes on the roadways.
Most people born Amish will stay Amish, although some do leave their culture and join the outside world. More often these young people are disillusioned by what they think their new lives will be like and the adjustment is difficult. In my community, I’ve personally known several teens who have have left, only to return to the community a year or two later after they realized that the outside world wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. One particular young woman married an outsider and seems to have taken on her new situation really well.
The truly fascinating part of life for the Amish young people is that as a whole, they seem content with their lives. Once they turn sixteen, they are old enough to begin courting and they do choose their own partners. Most Amish are married before they turn twenty-one and will begin having their children immediately. As birth control is not allowed, a family will expect to have at least five and as many as twelve children.
The cycle continues on and a whole new group of kids begin the process of growing up Amish.
Thank you so much, Karen! This was a fascinating post and I cannot wait to start reading Temptation!
Harlequin Teen/June 26, 2012/383 Pages/Young Adult/Book One
** The sequel to Temptation, Belonging, comes out this May!**