Published with Permission
Written by Shannon Swanson

Envision this . . . You wake up every morning, before the sun rises. The animals need to be fed, cows need to be milked, and eggs need to be gathered. In just a few hours, a very big country breakfast will be served back at the house, prepared with what you have gathered during the early morning hours. The entire meal will be made without the use of electricity, food processors, microwave ovens, or running water.

The remainder of the day will consist of much physical labor for the men, while the women diligently tend to household chores and prepare meals. The work will continue like this until the sun sets, late in the evening.1

Although this lifestyle may seem old-fashioned to you, it is quite up to date—maybe not for you and me, but in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this is the only way of life for the “Plain People,” also known as the Amish. The Amish people have the satisfaction of living a simple yet fulfilling lifestyle. They grow what they eat, sew what they wear, and take care of their community—together. They are self-sufficient and find their dedication and hard work quite rewarding. The Amish do not let the distractions of modern life get in the way of their purpose, which consists of practicing virtues such as honesty, diligence, and generosity.

The concepts of home/family values and their religious beliefs are extremely important to the Amish community, taking precedence over all other concerns. At an early age their children are taught the significance of Amish ideals. The Plain People regard their modest style of clothing as an expression of their faith, encouraging humility and separation from the world.

There are more than 150 one-room Amish schools in Lancaster County today. Each school has an average of thirty students, and schools are within walking distance of the students’ homes. Amish teachers are usually women who teach from a basic curriculum: reading, writing, math, geography, English, and German. Religion is taught in the home, because it is considered too sacred to be taught in school. People who hire the Amish have frequently commented that their eighth-grade education is superior to that of some public high schools.

While you are visiting Lancaster, I guarantee that you will become quite fond of the Amish cuisine. I vividly recall one of my dining experiences in the Amish country. We were seated for lunch at tables resembling picnic tables (only longer with thicker wood and held together by pegs). At an Amish restaurant, customers are never seated with just their party but are seated with others. The meal was served to us without us placing an order, as we would have done in a typical restaurant. The meal is prepared for you as it would be prepared in an Amish home, and you serve yourself, as you might serve a typical home-cooked meal.

The food was extraordinary (I suggest picking up a cookbook while you are in the area; you will miss Amish cuisine when you leave), and we made new friends as well. This experience allowed me to experience a “taste” of the togetherness that the Amish emphasize in their everyday lives.2

Of course, the Amish are not perfect, but they are indeed an amazing group of people and an extraordinary example of a strong, focused community where family is a priority. Horse and buggies, quilting, barn raising, and brightly colored hex signs adorn the Amish countryside. The Amish are united in their community by their adherence to a set of rules that define how their behavior must reflect their spiritual values; this is known as the Ordnung. It is their way, their path.

When things seem to be out of control, take a step back. Try not to let “things” stand in the way of what is really important, in the bigger picture. Think of the Amish and their ways, and who knows, maybe it will inspire you to strive toward attaining the Amish ideals of simplicity, humility, and necessity.

Shannon Pelletier Swanson is passionate about learning and teaching, and she loves homeschooling her 12-year-old twins. She is a published freelance writer and owner of Shantytowns Sweets, a made-to-order, boutique-style bakery. Shannon lives in Apopka, Florida.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.


1. There are Bed & Breakfasts that can offer you a real glimpse of what it means to be part of a working farm. Check here to learn more about opportunities to be a part of this life for a weekend:

2. Check out for more information.

Amish Funnel Cakes

Servings: 6–8


4 cups flour

3 eggs

2 cups milk

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Powdered sugar, for topping

Oil (for frying)


1. Beat the eggs; then add the milk and sugar.

2. Add 2 cups of flour to baking powder and salt.

3. Add dry ingredients to the milk, sugar, and egg mixture.

4. Mix well, adding more flour to the mixture until it becomes a smooth batter and not too thick.

5. The funnel should have at least a ½-inch opening and be able to hold a cup of batter.

6. Put your finger over the tip of the funnel and fill it with approximately 1 cup of batter. Remove your finger and allow the batter to pour into the center of the oil. Be careful; the oil may splash.

7. Gradually “swirl” the batter outward in a circular motion or criss-cross back and forth to make a cake about 7 to 8 inches around.

8. Check it by lifting it with a pair of tongs, and turn it when the bottom becomes golden brown.

9. A funnel cake is usually pretty fragile and will probably try to break on you when flipping. When both sides are done, remove it and place it on a paper towel to drain excess oil.

10. You can top the funnel cake with powdered sugar, syrup, etc.

11. Eat up!

This recipe will make about 6 cakes.

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