Amish Schools in LaGrange County, Indiana Receive the Gift of Words from the Howe Lions Club

The Howe Lions Club started working with The Dictionary Project in 2007. Since then, members have donated over 1,000 books to local public and Amish schools in Indiana.

The first two years of their dictionary project, the Howe Lions delivered dictionaries to six public schools in LaGrange County. At the time, there were only eight Amish schools with about 36 students. Howe Lion James Kelly said he saw a need for dictionaries in the Amish Schools and the club decided to expand their program to include the local Amish students.

Today there are about 54 Amish schools in the area. A traditional Amish education consists of eight years in a one room schoolhouse. Because of this, Kelly noted that 15% of LaGrange public schools consist of Amish students. Amish students do not start school until they reach seven years old; to help them get an early start, many Amish families are starting to send their children to public school for kindergarten.

Amish schools teach English, reading, writing, arithmetic and history. These subjects are considered the necessary skills needed to lead an Amish life and conduct business. However, more and more Amish families are recognizing that their children are not getting the information and skills to successfully engage with the outside world. “Years ago they went back home, worked on the family farm or worked in furniture shops,” said Kelly. Now young adults are working more in outside professions. “Also, just in my lifetime, the girls are starting to go to learn some healthcare and management skills,” noted Kelly.

As our society continues to grow and evolve with new technology and advancements, the Amish community has also shifted and adapted. Kelly noted that most Amish youth have cell phones and many Amish families have generators, telephones in little shacks by their homes, and even washing machines. “I am 76 years old and I am sometimes surprised how much they have changed to survive,” said Kelly.

Although the Amish way of life might seem like traditions of a distant past, their values are still deeply rooted in American communities. “They have wonderful families and will always help one another, and anyone for that matter,” said Kelly “I am proud to have them as friends.”