Home education to inspire in Portugal

Today I interviewed Clare a home educator, herbalist, Tipi maker and eco retreat facilitator from UK who moved to Portugal to live a dream life, mother to Tom aged 7 and Oscar aged 2.

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How did you start home education?

We started home education because it had always felt right, we both come from ‘normal’ families and were both schooled right the way through those years, but neither of us follow ‘normal’ life now, I’ve travelled quite a lot, lived in a lot of different places and we live a pretty alternative lifestyle (some would say) I’m a herbalist, we make and sell Tipis, live in a straw bale house which we built ourselves, run pay what you want workshops on low impact living and straw bale building, grow our own veggies etc, and living these choices means we have been surrounded by like-minded people for a long time, many of whom home school, it’s been a natural progression, just something we have always known we would do, more than a conscious decision, I suppose it started from our eldest (now seven years old) starting nursery, the feeling I had was all wrong, he only went for a few hours a week, but it felt all wrong and just confirmed my feelings on him being at school five days a week all day everyday, and so homeschooling happened 😊 as life has rolled along its become reinforced that this is the right thing to do, when making and delivering the Tipis it’s given us the opportunity to travel around Europe together without the limitation of ‘terms’ we spend most of our time in Portugal at the moment at our farm where we run the pay what you want workshop projects and our sons (we now have two seven and two years old) are getting a massive learning experience from this, learning about new languages, cultures, food, weather, geography and of course building houses too! We could never do this if they went to a normal school.

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What do you do on a typical day, if there is such a thing?

Day to day is so varied, in the uk we would usually pick a book a week, if possible something relevant to the seasons or to events happening throughout the year, as pagans we celebrate the seasons so we celebrate equinoxes and solstices, so in October we might pick something relevant to Samhain (Halloween) (last year we did ‘room on the broom’) and then we would make things, and do various activities related (loosely to the story we were reading) while being in Portugal and building the house (with a

new baby in tow) things became less organised and we let the more structured weeks go, we practically unschooled for a year, but our belief was reinforced when we realised looking around us that everything involves learning in one form or another, making the Tipis which is something our eldest often helps with is brilliant, and teaches attention to detail, hand and eye coordination and maths, he is confident with measuring things and consequently has a great grasp of various units of measurements and a good understanding of multiplication too. When we first came it was a consideration and was suggested by many people that we send him to a local school so he can pick up the language easier but this seems to be a small reason to have to go to school all day everyday each week, we are all learning together, at random points of the day I will speak to him in Portuguese and he understands me, we also bought some of the curriculum books from a local shop for his school age and work through these a little each day, we have lots of posters on natural history and space around the house, and we focus on various topics as and when they are relevant, now life is settling down a bit more and we are starting to live a more ‘normal’ life we will structure the week a bit more again and have decided to focus (where possible) on half an hour of Portuguese workbook stuff including maths in the morning and then in the afternoon we will do a little reading and wri

ting, I would like to bring the book a week back to our homeschooling as we all loved doing this, but I think time is a bit too fraught to do it properly still at the moment. Alongside more structured learning, of course there is plenty of outside fun to be had, we have nearly five acres of farm sat in the middle of a few hundred acres of ranch, there are trees, forests, rivers, lakes and hills to climb, explore and splash in! So together with out five rescue dogs we often go out and get into nature.

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What is the worst thing about HE?

I think one of the worst things about home ed, can be the pressure you and other people put on yourself, the questions about contact with other children, the questions about their pace of learning etc can play on your mind, especially from well-meaning family members, it’s becoming more accepted socially but still there are many misconceptions and I think people get hung up on targets and achievements which must be met, but the proof is in the pudding as they say, and as time is going on and people see our eldest becoming a clever, wise, inquisitive compassionate and bright boy, who can read and write without targets being set and without tests being taken and who has a greater understanding of the world around him I think faith in our choice as parents is being given 😊

What is the best thing about HE?

The best thing, well there are too many to mention, I suppose one of the best things is the fact that kids seem to stay innocent for longer, they keep their childhood as have less pressure from being with lots and lots of kids, and because they socialise with all ages together they are equally comfortable in all company, our eldest is as happy to play with a two-year old as he is a seven-year old and as comfy chatting to a four-year old, or fourteen year old as he is a forty-year old.

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Clare and Andrew run MyTipi, which is home of traditional handmade Sioux tipis.  Their tipis (tepees, teepees) are available in a variety of sizes and colours, from children’s play tipis to large lodges (that can seat hoards of friends!)…
New this year are  MyTipi Minis which are sold on a pay what you like basis! (yes really!!)
As a small family business they pride themselves on offering friendly service with quality products, acute attention to detail, and the highest quality craftsmanship.

You can visit them at Hidden Valley Farm (formerly known as the Enchanted Acres project) where they run a permaculture and skill sharing project. Set on a 1.5hectare farm in a tree lined valley in the middle of a large cattle ranch near Penamacor in Central Portugal they are open for holidays and retreats and also offer pay what you like, if you like, workshops, talks, and events so people can all come and gain equal access to learn vital skills in order to live a low impact lifestyle, rely less on money, and grow spiritually. Hidden Valley is a vegetarian/vegan space too!


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