This is the first of what will be a number of posts focused on alternative schooling. It’s a subject close to my heart that’s increasingly important to many that I speak to in our community.
I had a conventional education in the UK which, I feel, didn’t serve me as well as it could. My daughter goes to an alternative school. As a result, I’m a passionate advocate for alternative schooling in Mallorca and elsewhere.
Having said that, my research and experience has taught me that alternative schooling is a complex subject which needs to be considered in depth, in a balanced, intelligent way. There are also possibilities and challenges unique to our times, to Spain and to Mallorca.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be taking a deeper dive into the subject. I’ll be profiling schools, interviewing teachers and parents who choose alternative schooling and looking at the opportunities and the challenges in more depth.
I’m also increasingly part of the broader discussion around alternative schooling in Mallorca and will be sharing the fruits of those conversations with you here.
But first, to kick off the series, let’s take a brief look at what alternative schooling is and at its history.
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 My education followed what I believe was an outdated model.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’.
Fortunately, the alternative schooling movement is growing all the time and we have much more choice as to hw our children are educated than my parents had. Mallorca, for instance, has a number of excellent alternative schools to choose from.
Thanks to online education platforms, we can also augment our children’s’ education outside of ‘real world’ schooling. 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 Steiner or Waldorf School opened in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919. Pioneering UK free school Summerhill opened in 1921.
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 alternative 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.
But, whether it’s Europe or the US, alternative schooling was born in times of crisis when enlightened educators were determined to create a better social order. The same can be said of today.
We don’t have world war — although we do have constant, ongoing conflict across the globe. But we do have climate change, the threat of viral epidemics, tremendous social inequality and a sense that the kind of capitalism that focuses on relentless consumption of our planet’s resources is a root cause of all this.
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.
Fortunately there’s now a growing movement of thought leaders in Mallorca with the resources to make their vision of an alternative way of living including schooling a reality.
These are exciting times for those of us who believe in alternative schooling.
If you’d like to join the conversation around alternative schooling in Mallorca, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org