I learned. He Learned.

Patricia Bradley Life, Uncategorized 10 Comments

The Amish culture is fascinating to me. Also fascinating are those who have left the order. When fellow Seymour Agency sibling offered to write a post on this subject, I jumped at the opportunity. I hope you find it as interesting and fascinating as I have. And for more information check out Brenda’s blog post on Amish teens.


Brenda and two of her former Amish ‘boys’

By Brenda Nixon

Through my home and heart come many who’ve left the Amish. Most are from the uber strict Swartzentruber Order but, some are from OOA (Old Order Amish). I learn about their struggles to assimilate into the “forbidden” English world, and of the life they left.

Some come for a meal or only during the holidays. God led one – Mosie – to “adopt” my husband and me as his English parents. What a privilege and responsibility. Parenting an adolescent from another culture is like riding the high wave in Hawaii. So thankful God has given me many small waves to this huge learning curve.

As you’re reading, my home is again “home” to another Amish runaway. He’s tall, slender, blue-eyed, blond, and 18-years-young. Inexperienced. Hard working. Eager to please. Naïve about life on the outside. An absolute delight to “parent.” His name is Monroe.

One morning, I walked into my kitchen just in time to see Monroe . . . removing my new metal skillet . . . from the microwave!

“What’d you just do?” I asked, fearing the answer. With wild bed-hair and wrinkled pj’s I probably looked frightful to him.

“Warmed up my sandwich,” he innocently replied looking at me with those crystal blue eyes. His Deutch accent familiar to my ears.

“Can’t put metal in a microwave.”

“Why?”  He was proud that he’d independently made a breakfast sandwich and wanted to melt the cheese.

“You’ll ruin it.”

I’d learned that Amish are visual learners – they watch, learn, and copy behaviors. Watching me, Monroe probably thought it was acceptable to put anything in the microwave, push buttons, and hit “start.”

I promptly learned that I can’t assume he knows how to revere and properly use this piece of kitchen equipment by observation alone. So, like any mom, I demonstrated what is safe to use and what to avoid when warming foods in a microwave.

“But why?” he inquired.

Well, it’s problematic explaining physics and heat conduction to an ESL (English as Second Language) student with an eighth-grade Amish education. Their school system does not teach science, history, or social studies.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief that no sparks flew and nothing exploded or caught fire. Sweet Monroe ate his warm breakfast and left for his new English job.

Days later, I plugged in my flat iron, turned it on high, propped it on the bathroom counter, and left the room. I probably had bed-hair that needed tamed.

Monroe went in the bathroom to take a shower. Several minutes later he stormed out waving his hand. “That thing is hot!” he exclaimed wide-eyed.

“What’d you do?”

“Your thing fell over so I picked it up.”

“At what end?”

“The long shiny end. I didn’t know it was hot.”

Oops, my bad. Guess he learned. Sorry it took natural consequences to teach the lad that plugged-in flat irons burn. As Amish he wasn’t allowed electricity and none of his sisters used any fangled things to beautify their hair.

I continue to learn and so does my gentle, handsome Monroe. My husband and I have taught Monroe about wearing underwear – Swartzentruber men don’t! He’s learned to use sunscreen, especially on his burned ears after he cut off his long Amish hair. Dentists. Insurance, Taxes. Budgeting. Avoiding fast girls. He now calls us his English parents, making him our second “son” from the Amish.Dad teaching about ties (2) (800x760)Amish Monroe

If you want information and education about the Amish and former-Amish visit my blog Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: True Amish Stories www.BrendaNixonOnAmish.blogspot.com

And if you have questions, leave a comment and Brenda will try and answer them!

(c)Copyright 2014, Brenda Nixon.

Comments 10

  1. Brenda Nixon

    Woo hoo, thanks for allowing me to share on your blog Pat. I failed to explain the above pictures. The first is Amish Monroe, with a tad bit shorter hair than is permitted. In this picture – he explained to me – he’d just trimmed his hair and his mom got mad because it broke the rules, so she shunned him for 2-weeks. And yes, having a cell phone and taking his picture was also verboten.
    In the lower picture is English Monroe with my husband trying to teach the boy how to put on a tie. This was going to be Monroe’s first time attending an English wedding 🙂

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  2. Elaine Stock

    No questions, but wanted to say wow–I learned a lot just now. Hmm. I guess I do have a question after all: what is the reasoning why the Amish do not teach history in their education system? That fascinates me, and alarms me when people don’t learn about their past.

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    2. Brenda Nixon

      Thanks for your question Elaine. Generally, Amish do not teach about world history, government, politics, U.S. history because it’s outside of their frame of reference, outside their immediate life.
      The Swartzentruber guys and gals I have a relationship with don’t even know about their own church history, the Anabaptist roots. One asked me, “When did the Amish move to America?” Like you, I think people should learn about their past.
      My sweet son-in-love Harvey didn’t know anything about our Civil War or Gettysburg. We’re working to teach him and others about our history and their religious heritage.
      In a book I’m writing, I share about the school system, subjects they learn, and tell stories I’ve been told from my ex-Amish “family” members 🙂

  3. Delores Topliff

    At my small 40 acre farm an hour from home, 2 Amish families each have moved onto 2 farm pieces nearby. I have more experience w/ Hutterite communities than Amish, but am looking forward to meeting and welcoming these new neighbors, offering them apples from my trees come fall, etc.

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      Patricia Bradley

      I will have to meet them when I come! There is a Mennonite community near me, and I always wondered why the men could drive new pickups and new tractors but the women had to use a wringer washer and hang the clothes on a line.

    2. Brenda Nixon

      Sounds interesting Delores. When you meet your new neighbors, it’s acceptable to ask, “What Order are you?” as it’d be similar to someone asking us, “What state are you from?” There are many layers – or flavors – of Amish. Some are quite progressive – drive black cars and use electricity – while some like OOA & Swartzentruber are punative. Beachy Amish send out missionaries. Other orders do not. Each order refers to the other as “higher” or “lower” depending on their rules, beliefs, and behavior.
      Myself, I’ve no experience with Hutterites. I believe they practice community ownership – nobody owns his own property. And Pat, Mennonites also have different layers – some are horse and buggy or dress plain while others dress no different than you and I and drive cars. One of our dear friends is a doctor, he and his wife are Mennonite.

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