Alternative schooling in Ibiza is a subject close to my heart, not least because my daughter goes to S’om des Bosc, an alternative school on the island. More and more Charles Marlow clients are also exploring alternative schooling in Ibiza for their children.
I’m excited to see opportunities for alternative schooling in Ibiza growing all the time.
Alternative schooling is a complex subject that needs to be considered in depth, in a balanced, intelligent way. There are also possibilities and challenges unique to Ibiza.
This is the first of what will be a number of posts focused on alternative schooling.
Along with other members of the community committed to advancing alternative schooling in Ibiza, I’ll be taking a deeper dive, profiling schools, interviewing teachers and parents who choose alternative schooling, looking at the opportunities and the challenges in more depth.
I’m also increasingly part of the broader discussion around alternative schooling in Ibiza and will be sharing the fruits of those conversations with you here.
When we talk about alternative schooling, the obvious question is alternative to what? The simple answer is alternative to the mainstream view of schooling.
It’s too harsh to say that my mainstream education in the UK failed me. But it certainly didn’t prepare me for the life I knew deep down I wanted to live and which I’m living now. My education followed what I now believe was an outdated model.
For example, I spent long periods of time sat at my desk. I did exams that tested my memory rather than my critical thinking. Separated from other age groups, I didn’t have the opportunity to learn from an ‘elder’.
In 2019, my daughter Nova was born and my partner and I moved back to Ibiza after two years away. We were determined to find a school where Nova would be offered the freedom to express herself creatively, play and begin to find her own way.
Fortunately, Ibiza has a number of excellent alternative schools to choose from and the number is growing all the time.
Thanks to online education platforms, we also have far more choice when it comes to augmenting our childrens’ education. It’s not uncommon for my friends’ children to have tutors they meet online regularly, for example.
We’ll be exploring the topic of online education later in this series.
The roots of the alternative schooling movement lie in the early part of the 20th century. Maria Montessori started her first class in a tenement building in Rome in 1907. The first
Summerhill, still going strong today, is the classical example of an alternative school. Mainly supported by school fees, it has no connection to central government. Its methods are also those of many alternative schools.
As its website says: ‘The important freedom at Summerhill is the right to play. All lessons are optional. There is no pressure to conform to adult ideas of growing up, though the community itself has expectations of reasonable conduct from all individuals.’
The history of education in the US is rather different. Many US alternative schools came out of the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The founders of these schools wanted to liberate children through education and help them learn to live in a way that reflected the democratic principles of civil rights.
Alternative schooling was born in times of crisis when enlightened educators were determined to create a better social order., in Europe and the US. Ibiza today is no different.
Ibiza is a magnet for people determined to follow an alternative path and has been for a long time. Many who settled in the 1960s and 70s came here to drop out of mainstream society and raise their children in a spirit of love, peace and freedom. Although, in practice, this often led to kids running wild on the island.
Barney Irving, son of notorious forger Clifford, grew up on Ibiza in those different times. He told this blog, ‘I would head off on my motorbike and not come back for three days. But, although life was carefree, it could be rough on us children. I have friends who grew up on the streets.’
Today, we’re also living in a time of crisis when many of us want to create a more enlightened social order. We recognise that this starts with educating our children differently while keeping them safe.
We don’t have world war — although we do have constant, ongoing conflict across the globe. But we do have climate change, viral epidemics, social inequality and a sense that focusing on relentless consumption of our planet’s resources is a root cause.
It makes absolute sense to want to educate our children in a way that helps them avoid blindly perpetuating the state of things that has caused our problems. We also simply want them to grow up joyful and happy.
Now there’s a growing movement of thought leaders in Ibiza with the resources to make their vision of an alternative way of living including schooling a reality.
The alternative schooling movement in Ibiza is growing all the time because there’s so much demand. These are the schools I know of.
S’om des Bosc, where Nova goes, is a natural education and self-care project aimed at children from three to six years old and their family. Its main objective is to allow people to know themselves.
L’espai Gran de Eivissa is a forest school for children up to six near San Rafael that encourages play and is grounded in the principle of non-violent communication.
Mandala is all about helping children arrive at a set of values that will connect them to the most important things in life. The school guides children towards understanding their interrelationship with the planet. They learn where their food is grown, how it’s made, and where their clothes come from.
There’s also The Learning Project, a free and open school that gives children a say in their own education. Instead of set lessons, they ask for those they want. Children at The Learning Project also learn by play with the school encouraging their natural curiosity.
It’s rumoured that The Green School, which began in Bali and is turning into a global movement is opening a school in Ibiza. They may also do the same in Mallorca.
John and Cynthia Hardy, entrepreneurs, started The Green School. After homeschooling their daughters, they wanted them to go to a school whose methods they believed. The Green School is already in New Zealand, South Africa and Tulum as well as Bali.
Oriented towards nature, as the name suggests, Its mission is ‘to create a global community of learners, making our world sustainable.’
The Green School is likely to appeal to parents who want a more holistic approach to alternative schooling. But one that keeps some of the more conventional educational structures in place.
Although Ibiza appears to encourage freedom, real life in Spain is rather more governed by legislation than you might think. Alternative schools opening on the island will have to navigate plenty of red tape.
It’s also technically illegal to homeschool your child in Spain. There are also questions around alternative schooling and children’s relationship to the wider society in which they live. In the posts to come, I’ll be addressing some of these.
I’ll also be offering a platform for some of the different perspectives on alternative schooling in Ibiza, for and against.
But, right now, I look at how happy Nova is and how happy that makes her mum and me. I compare her experience of school to my own, and I’m grateful, yet again, that I live in Ibiza.