Asked by Rena

Q: One discrepancy from what I thought, is about homeschooling. I understood homeschooling to be an anathema to the Amish because they make their decisions based on not individualism, but bringing community together. Obviously, you heard about an exception, or exceptions.

A: Hi Rena–The problem with trying to define the Amish culture is that there are over 40 different sects of Amish and within each sect are multiple individual churches. Each church votes on their own particular church rules (their Ordnung). This set of rules can be over things as picky as how many pleats a woman can have in her dress, or something bigger like whether or not a farmer can use a tractor in his fields instead of horses. Apparently this applies to homeschooling as well. In the Old Order Amish sect that I usually visit in Holmes County, Ohio, several Amish mothers home school. In fact, one of the mothers took me with her to another Amish woman’s garage to pick out homeschooling material. It was one of those in-home stores that so many Amish women run. It was filled with shelving and every shelf was filled with homeschooling books for various ages. When I asked my homeschooling friend why she did this when an Amish school was just down the road, she said that her children were growing up so fast, she just wanted to enjoy spending as much time as possible with them.

Thanks for the question Rena!


Asked by Cora

Q: I recently read a report on sexual abuse in the Amish family. How accurate is that account?

A: Hi Cora–I don’t know which report you read, so I can’t address that one specifically, but sexual abuse definitely exists within the Amish culture. As far as I can find, there have been no studies to discern how prevalent it is, as in whether or not it is more or less prevalent than in the non-Amish population. Considering how private the Amish are I’m not sure such a study is possible. However, a downside of the huge extended families is that the opportunity for a sexual predator to find prey is probably easier than in more isolated communities. An outside social agency prepared a booklet about sexual abuse a while ago entitled Strong Families, Safe Children, which has been widely distributed by Amish church leaders. There are also booklets distributed about the explicit psychological damage that sexual abuse causes that has been widely distributed. An Amish periodical, Family Life, that is in nearly every Amish household I visit, has had many articles on abuse, trying to inform families and help victims. There have some solid attempts by some of the leadership to educate and warn their people about the existence of sexual abuse in their community. Whether or not this will have an impact, I don’t know. It would be wonderful if they could find a way to completely eradicate sexual abuse from their culture. It would be wonderful if our non-Amish culture could do the same. One child who has to endure this is absolutely one too many. 

Thanks for the question Cora!


Asked by Alex from OH

Q: A store clerk told me the other day that the Amish don’t have to pay taxes. That doesn’t seem fair. Why does the government let them get by with that?

A: Hi Alex! That isn’t true, but your store clerk was voicing a common belief. The Amish pay all the same taxes as the rest of us—except for one. They are exempt from being taxed for Social Security. The government allows this because the Amish refuse to draw from it. They believe in the family and church taking care of one another instead of the government.

Thanks for the question Alex!