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Going back to school…Bob White Ridge School

Photo by Christy Porter -- The senior classroom at the Amish Bob White Ridge School, where learning is pursued.
By Christy Porter

Managing Editor

After many long years, I recently went on a field trip…back to school. It was a natural and much appreciated step in my journey of researching one- and two-room schoolhouses in this area. In my ongoing quest of interviewing teachers and students and visiting remaining vacated one-room schoolhouses, I had yet to get the concept and continuity of one or two teachers educating grades one through eight simultaneously. It is often hard to describe one’s way of life in detail as so much of it is routine and done without ‘thinking’ about it, so I logically surmised that perhaps visiting an Amish school would be the nearest I could come to experiencing this type of education. I inquired and gratefully accepted an invitation to spend the morning attending school at Bob White Ridge School.

Nestled in a small Ozark valley in northwest Texas County, outside the city limits of Licking in the historic community of Kinderpost, is a two-room schoolhouse, the Amish Bob White Ridge School.

On a bright, sunny day, along with Susan Schwartz from Deason Store, I attended morning classes at the

Amish school. The children arrived on foot, in a buggy or in a car with a driver that is hired for those coming a longer distance.

By the entrance of the school, there are pegs for the children to hang their head coverings on. The boys wear straw hats during the summer and knit caps in the winter, which are removed for classes. The girls arrive at school with their “outside” bonnets covering a kapp, an indoor head covering. The bonnets are hung, while the kapp is worn throughout the day.

Photo by Christy Porter -- The Bob White Ridge School students
hang their hats and bonnets before the school day begins.
The school day began for the approximately 60 children with the ringing of the bell at 8:30 a.m., followed by the singing of a song.

We started the day with Mahlon Neuenschwander, the senior teacher, who teaches grades four through eight. This is his first year teaching at the school. The students’ lessons are listed on the chalkboard by grade level, and there is a chart schedule of which subjects are studied on each day so the students know what to expect on a daily basis. The students were neat and orderly and applied themselves to their lessons. This particular morning, they were working on math. Neuenschwander answered questions and quietly walked through the aisle, checking their progress and helping some individually. The classroom is exceptionally quiet. The students checked each other’s prior day’s work by passing their notebooks forward, with the front children taking theirs to the rear as Neuenschwander verified the answers. “They are good kids, and I really like teaching,” says Neuenschwander.

Before moving on to another subject, the students sang another few songs. They have beautiful, full voices and harmonize incredibly well. They are taught to sing and harmonize when they begin talking. It was evident in the performance that morning.

At mid-morning, the students are allowed a recess break at which the boys immediately grabbed their baseball gloves and headed out to the schoolyard. This gave me the opportunity to visit with the girls, who politely answered questions and asked questions of their own.

Photo by Christy Porter -- The younger students eagerly
participate in their activities of learning in this
classroom at the Bob White Ridge School.
The second session of morning classes were spent with the junior class, grades one through three, which is taught by Esther Schwartz. Schwartz is beginning her fourth year of teaching at Bob White Ridge School. Says Schwartz of her teaching position, “I enjoy every day.” It is apparent in her friendly interaction with the children.

Schwartz adeptly started all three grades with their assignments. Grade three worked on history while grade two did math. The younger students require more hands-on instruction and supervision. The first grade came in groups to the chalkboard to practice writing, and one lesson was conducted in the form of a game. Schwartz continually rotated the aisles, answering questions and checking progress for all three grade levels. As one grade completed their assignment, she started them on the next. The students eagerly raised their hands for questions and answers. They also raised their hands when their assignments were completed, at which time Schwartz quickly checked their work and allowed them to put their workbooks in the proper place on a shelf. The younger students also took time to sing a couple of songs. My personal favorite was The Finger Family Song.

Their school day continued with lunch, which was brought from home, more classes and an afternoon recess. Subjects for the students include Reading, Math, Penmanship, History, Geography, Spelling, English, Vocabulary, German and Health. The Golden Rule is posted in both classrooms, and it was evident that it is followed.


Photo by Christy Porter -- The school sign alerts motorists
to the Amish schoolhouse located on a country road in
Texas County.
The students are responsible for helping to keep the schoolhouse and grounds clean and orderly. Both classes have charts where the chores are rotated among the students. Classes are dismissed at 2:30 p.m. The students have no homework; when the school day is over, schoolwork is done. Classes are held from the end of August through the end of April and are in compliance with state regulations regarding school attendance.

Photo by Christy Porter -- The Amish Bob White Ridge School
 is a two-room schoolhouse located in Kinderpost, northwest
of Licking.
The Amish have no electricity. The schoolrooms are cooled with open windows at which white curtains blow with the breeze. Handmade folded paper fans are also tucked in many desks and are brought out as needed. During the cold winter months, the rooms are heated with a wood-burning stove in each room. A clock in each class chimes the hours. There is a center gathering room where head coverings and coats are hung and a hand-washing facility is located, as well as a large wooden table for playing games and eating lunch.

The children are learning what will be needed to continue in their lives as part of the Amish community. Most importantly, they’re learning how to be good people. Being Amish is not just a religion; it is a way of life.

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