Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Necessary Rules for Children in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

When Tina Day brought Necessary Rules for Children in Pennsylvania Dutch Country to our Susquehanna Valley Critique Group, the cover and the word Pennsylvania caught my eye. I got excited looking through it. What a delightful book! Paul Breon, the editor read more
reproduced a 1764 rule book by Mennonite schoolmaster Christopher Dock. With the added discussion questions, anyone anywhere could use this book as a tool for instructing children in behavior. Tonya Wilhelm”s fabulous pictures of children dressed in 1700s garb further enhances the value.

Listen to these rules from the book: “Dear child, accustom yourself to awaken at the right time in the morning without being called, and as soon as you are awake get out of bed without delay.” Another says “Chew your food with closed lips and make no noise by scraping on the plate.” What parent wouldn’t want a child to learn those habits?

The discussion guide challenges children to think about the activity of getting out of bed by asking: “How would you ‘accustom yourself’ to waking up at a certain time if you didn’t have an alarm—or someone to wake you up?” For rules that are outdated, children can learn a little history. For instance, “Do not take salt out of the salt-box with your fingers, but with the point of your knife.” Mr. Breon wrote that people had no salt shakers in 1764, so they kept their salt in a box.

Because the rules themselves are not under copyright, parents may reproduce them any way they want. My ideas are to have older students to pick one set of rules and make them wall worthy with the help of a beautiful font on Microsoft Word or calligraphy. For younger children, make a chart of needed behavior changes gleamed from the book. Then give a star every time he performs it. After he earns a certain number of stars, give an award. Mr. Breon gives other suggestions of activities. In addition, read the book Skippack School together. Marguerite de Angeli wrote this historical fiction book for children about Christopher Dock and Skippack School.

Necessary Rules for Children in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is well done and should be a part of every public or homeschool library. I showed the book to my daughter who has a nine-month old. She said, “Save it for when I homeschool!”

Necessary Rules for Children in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is available at

See the photography on Tonya Wilhelm offers her photos for framing.

Read more about Christopher Dock and Skippack School:


  1. What an interesting way to discuss manners and history! Thanks for sharing the info. :)