I was in a Facebook group for Alternative Families in Portugal recently and I was asked a question – How did I see living in Portugal would be for my children in the future when they grow up or would it only be for when they are small and would we then plan to move back to the UK. They wondered about how I (and other families) felt about brining their kids up off grid and if we thought about their future opportunities.
I wanted to write about this as this is something we have thought about and to us we think of opportunities for our boys in a different way. We don’t consider living somewhere where jobs and earning the most money are the focus for secondary and higher education an opportunity as such, although that isn’t to say that our children might choose themselves to go down this route, which then we would support them to do so. We think the opportunity for our boys to see a different way of life is more important. We feel living off grid (knowing how to provide their own power and have their own water supply) and surrounded by people who have chosen to make their dreams happen, will give our boys a massive opportunity to be able to also do what they enjoy in the world and to become self sufficient themselves. Our area in Portugal is very unusual with people moving from all over Northern Europe to take over the abandoned land and start many interesting projects and I feel in 10 years time it is going to be a really special place.
Community is so strong and important around where we live in Central Portugal too and this is something I feel is really special for the boys to experience too. They can see that if we are stuck on our quinta with a popped tire, our friends will come and help us and we help them in return. They see people doing work swap days, swapping home grown, home baked or fermented food, they experience many festas (local celebrations) in the villages and towns nearby and they feel part of something. This to us is also a massive opportunity or them and I really hope that all these young children moving to rural Portugal from all over Europe and the world will take over the agriculture and abandoned land again but with more respect for it, as they will learn new ways of working with the land that isn’t so disrespectful and damaging.
Our vision and hopes for the future includes setting up our worldschool retreat, where the boys will be involved every step of the way and involved in all sorts of eco building, permaculture, gardening, arts and music workshops. They have already and will in the future meet lots of talented and creative people who are travelling the world and have lots of interesting things to tell and have been involved in some eco projects already. They will know a second language. Our hope is to travel and world school the boys when they are a little older so they will feel comfortable travelling and know a little bit about the world and then eventually we hope that the boys will, if they want, be able to build their own small home on our land from which they can come and go and explore the world as they wish. To us this is the life and the opportunities we want to try and build for them.
I have thought though what if they do want to live back in the UK or a major city and get a job in an office or as an academic of some sort and I am actually confident that if that is what they want to do, they will do it and as a family we will have to make choices for them around whatever it is they feel called to do. I have a friend who’s child went to school in Portugal until the age of 14 and then he said he wanted to be a micro- biologist, so she found out this is something they could not achieve easily in the Portuguese system and moved back to the UK to complete his studies. I know mine aren’t in school but I feel confident that they will be great learners and problem solvers, as they already are and whatever they are interested in they can choose and we will support them to find their way with it.
Maybe the opportunities that people think the current education system provides isn’t actually real as now many students come out of university to no job and are in debt. To me, learning from my experience of this in my early twenties, where I was anxious and depressed at university, then landed a job in London with a great career ladder ahead of me yet I was miserable. I just really want my kids to know the world and how its changing, be able to be self sufficient (if they wish to) and mostly know themselves and what they enjoy doing and spend their time focusing on that. To be honest that is my main focus and drive behind our project and to provide other like-minded families a place to meet and talk and find ways together how to provide this.