We were so unbelievably lucky that Expression Educaton school started the week after we arrived in Portugal. We had a little trial lunch with them and within the hour our 6 year old was asking to stay for the rest of the afternoon and come back the next day!
The school is what we have been looking for – it’s part time hours, so J goes 3 days a week (he started with 2 but it quickly went up to 3 as he loves it so much), it’s democratic so all of the children plan and decide how the school is run, they choose what they learn, they call the adults ( not teachers) by their first names and they have no uniforms or tests! Plus there are kids there from many different nationalities – Portuguese, English, German, Italian and more!
The day starts off with the kids writing their intentions list, which for J usually includes learning maths, science, reading stories, football as well as playing with friends (of course!). The adults offer up various learning activities which they can choose to do or not and they also help the kids to complete their intentions which they move into doing and then done, which gives them a sense of achievement and control over their own learning throughout the day. They do all learn Portuguese as part of the legal requirements but they do this in a fun, no pressured way with the Portuguese teacher each morning. Plus everything in the classroom is labelled in both English and Portuguese.
I love the way the kids of all ages are together learning at different stages and encouraging each other. There aren’t many 6 year old boys that would come home from school and say he has a few best friends of all different ages and genders (from 5 up to 12!). The older kids do reading with the younger ones and J’s reading has come on unbelievably well since starting there, he really really enjoys that part of the day.
Parent’s are all encouraged to be involved too and I went in for two afternoon sessions to talk to them about flower essences. I spoke about Dr Bach, the history of how they were started, about feelings and how different plants and flowers can make us feel different ways. Then we drew our favourites and made flower essences. I am going to talk more about this in my next post. There is a real community sense developing as well and a yoga class has started after school where parents can come do yoga while the kids are cared for playing or watching a film in the next room. We are also talking about doing knitting and sewing clubs too which is quite exciting – I still really want to learn how to knit and J does too!
The families who are part of the school are all great and have the same vision for their children of wanting a place where their children can learn in a respectful, free and encouraging environment. Where what the children want to learn is valued and encouraged and what they don’t want to learn or join in with is accepted too. I really feel like this is a great balance for our family as J gets a fab school to go to some of the week and then he gets to learn at home with us on the Quinta and going on some Portuguese adventures for the rest of the week. I never thought I would be sending my kids to a private school but this one is definitely worth it and I can see us sticking around this area for a while because of it too!
With the school applying for international status in September it will probably be moving into a different building, which means it will be able pass the requirements of a secondary school and be able to take kids all the way up to 18. Although this means it might be a bit further away from where we are planning on living, I am really excited about the prospect of my boys being able to go to the same kind of democratic school, with the same group of people, all the way up to leaving school age. 🙂