Jacqueline had such a wonderful experience for the third year in a row. She didn't stop talking about it for 4+ hours! She's already looking forward to next year! What a special time... what a special week.
Tara -- 2015 ~ more letters from participants ~
The Country School Farm is located in Holmes County, Ohio, where today’s Amish live much as they did a century ago. Located on forty-two acres of hills and valleys adjacent to Troyer's Hollow on the Doughty Creek, the farm is comprised of hayfields, sheep pastures, and homestead with house, workshop, orchard, vineyard and organic gardens growing annual and perennial herbs and vegetables. The nineteenth-century barn houses a herd of Nubian dairy goats, storage for hay, straw, grain, a summer meeting place, and is home to bantams, layers, barn swallows, a dozen beloved barn cats and three cherished pugs. Free-range layers and cheviot sheep occupy nearby pastures.
Woodland, thicket and hollow enclose the farm in a wildlife-sustaining ecology tucking it away in a cozy corner of the county. Wildlife sighted include deer, raccoon, groundhog, muskrat, countless frogs and pond fish, box and snapping turtles, red fox, cottontail rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, blue heron, Canada geese, mallard ducks, owls, pheasant, wild turkey, and red-tailed hawks to name a few.
Home to the world’s largest Amish settlement, the area supports a vigorous community of small, tidy, family farms. And, while the Barkers are not Amish, they enjoy many benefits from living among them. The neighbors adhere to a set of principles that inadvertently result in a society that is "people scaled." The assumptions of life are clear and relevant to everyone. People know what is coming next and, because of this, growing up is relatively stress free. Everyone is accepted for his or her own strengths and weaknesses. No one feels left out. The Amish live among people they can trust. Crime is almost nonexistent. Cradle-to-grave security is, for most, a reality. Sacrifices, perceived as germane to their way of life, mean that few join them voluntarily. Yet, living near them indirectly offers positive lessons that influence everyone at the farm.
The natural world is our earliest and most efficient teacher. Children are attracted to both the meaningful activity of the farm and to the involvement with living things that it implies. The experience of farm life is appropriate in these complex times and serves to link wilderness with civilization. For the child it points to "where things come from" and fosters a respect for nature, observational skills, foresight, a sense of responsibility, patience, and a deeper understanding of one's place among people. In the words of Maria Montessori, the child
"...relives the cultural history of man who passed from the natural state to the civilized state through agriculture. When he discovered the secret of intensifying the production of the soil, he obtained the reward of civilization. This same path must be traversed by the child who is destined to become an adult."
Young farm visitors actually live this reality. This is not a demonstration farm or camp in the traditional sense, nor is it for troubled children. Each contributes to the well-being of all, developing the ability to work with others while fostering habits essential for membership in society: a sense of honesty and fair play. Those who join the Barkers enjoy animals and the out-of-doors. Livestock include rabbits, pigs, dairy goats, sheep, dogs, cats, ferrets, peafowl, guinea fowl, free-range layer hens and bantams. Other activities include the garden and orchard, food preparation, farm repairs and improvements. Hay is brought into the barn, firewood is made, ear corn is shelled and winnowed. Visiting children gather wild berries and herbs, experience sensible land, water, and waste management and enjoy plenty of time to just be on the farm. For the well-being of all, the rules are clear yet the perception of freedom is great. Children recall tales of the farm throughout the year.
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