Welcome to our community
We are a community of adults and children from all walks of life who are passionate about alternative education in Cyprus. We are parents, grandparents, doctors, educators, lawyers, cleaners, home keepers, office workers, shop assistants. We represent this beautiful island’s diversity and have a passion to see it flourish. The backbone of every healthy society is a robust community so we are collaborating to bring to Cyprus new education solutions.
The effort was started by Alice Christou, based in Cyprus, and Michelle Foulia, based in the UK. We now have a beautiful team of people taking on different tasks to support the goal of having options in education in Cyprus.
Here is a little about is to help you get to know us better. Please feel free to connect with us at any time, we will be glad to be of service to you.
I am a mum of two children aged 10 and 18.
Originally from Romania, I have lived for the past 30 years in Larnaca, Cyprus, long enough to embrace the beautiful Greek culture.
I have never been keen on the “one-size-fits-all” mould of education, neither in Romania nor in my adopted country, Cyprus.
We began home educating our two children in a way by accident, when they expressed interests in areas that were unavailable through the standard school system (e.g. advanced IT, English, and Naturopathy).
Our son completed most of his IGCSE’s at around 13 years of age, but due to his young age and the school regulations, we could not enrol him in higher level learning, despite his desire and his ability to do so. We felt we had no option but to keep him in an inflexible and restrictive system, simply to obtain his high school exit diploma.
I saw that my children learned so much better when given agency: deciding what, when and why to study. The more independence and control I gave them the more they thrived. They have expressed several times their dislike of the schooling system in Cyprus, from the irrelevance of the subjects they were forced to take, to bullying, and, sadly, the unsupportive and even disrespectful attitudes of certain school staff.
Because alternative pathways to education are not an option in Cyprus (excepting private schools whose costs are prohibitively high) we have managed a system of home educating our children in parallel with attendance at state schools. We did what we could to keep them involved in a curriculum they love, while abiding by the current laws as they stand.
I am partially home educated myself and credit to this experience my own confidence, independence and business skills. My children’s vision of education is learning through practice, exposure to nature, mastering new skills through real-life application, immersing themselves in subjects that interest them, being physically active and, more than anything, enjoying their childhood, because children are only children once.
The following observations and convictions are what led me to take the leap to advocate for choices in education in Cyprus:
- The state schooling system is outdated and in need of deep reform. It cannot currently keep up with the fast-evolving society we live in and the diverse needs of today’s children.
- State schools chronically underperform despite the money that is poured into the system.
- Parents are under financial as well as psychological pressure to “rescue” the schooling of their children with the common ‘frontistirio’ phenomenon (after-school private tutoring), which is attended by most children in order to make up for the deficits of the schools.
- Children themselves are pressured to perform and taught to measure their capacities by outdated and irrelevant tests, thereby missing out on the invaluable experience of explorative learning and a joyful, healthy, stress-free childhood and adolescence.
- The declining mental health of children in Cyprus is largely due to their struggle to conform within a one-size-fits-all schooling system that is unresponsive to their different intelligences, interests and pace of learning.
Cyprus is a beautiful place to live. It has the advantage of being a small island with close-knit communities, with potential for collaboration and determination to overcome challenges. It has a long history of winning against all odds and this has come through its resourceful people and their strong bonds with one another. This resourcefulness, collaborative approach, creativity, and inventive nature has not come through state schooling but through being tested in life, through peer learning in community, and through strongly held family values. We can make Cyprus one of the greatest places in the world just by pioneering new approaches to learning, reconnecting to our roots, our values and our families, and allowing space for creativity and innovation to flourish.
I am a mum of three children aged nine, 13 and 18. I was born in Nicosia, raised in Geri village and married a Cypriot from Larnaca but we live in the UK where we can facilitate our children’s freedom in education. We follow the unschooling approach and have done so for 10 years.
We began with the conventional approach of sending our oldest child to a well known and respected primary school in England. At age eight after noticing his mental health significantly deteriorating, we discovered he was being bullied severely and despite all the school’s policies and approaches, the bullying continued relentlessly. I will never forget the day I thought to myself, “I am NOT going to be one of those mothers that finds her child dead in their room from suicide due to bullying” because at the time there were many stories in the British press of children taking their lives due to bullying. My child was not going to become another statistic. Sadly suicide in children still takes place. My two sons have lost a close friend to suicide due to bullying in school, both at the age of 13. This is a tragic narrative that is widely accepted by society with no one held accountable.
We took our son out of school and placed him in a private school for one year, believing all our problems would be solved and as the classes were much smaller, that he would be happy, but soon discovered other issues that were irritating us such as the age-segregated learning environment, the hierarchy that did not model real life living, the institutionalisation of the children away form the real world and society, peer influences, the fact that my child was away from his family for seven to eight hours a day and having to then do homework, leaving no quality time for family connection, relaxation and play. The more I read about alternative education approaches, natural learning, anthropology and how the brain develops, the more I was becoming disenchanted with the education system.
During the year our son was in the private school, I read every book and listened to every podcast I could find about home education, Unschooling, self-directed education, alternative schools and natural development and by the time we were aware of the frustrations and limitations of the system our son was in, we both felt ready to try a different approach. Fortunately, we knew people in our community who were home educating and I was able to spend time in their homes observing them and asking lots of questions.
We first began with a set UK curriculum we bought from a home education organisation and followed it rigidly but soon we found our son was becoming bored and disengaged, we basically were trying to emulate school at home. By that time I had read a lot of material on the philosophy of unschooling and just knew that was the way our family would thrive. Unschooling is a way of life, not just a way of educating so we all dived in and our two younger children naturally followed this approach.
I noticed so many valuable things. Firstly, we were all calmer. There was less shouting, less anger, less conflict in the family home. We had lots of time to connect, to do fun things, to play uninterrupted, to hold long conversations and to bond deeper. Our children matured and became autonomous learners, no teaching took place, just a collaborative, smooth flowing approach to all of life. In the last 10 years I have watched my children flourish and blossom, always thirsty to learn and discover, happy, joyful, self-aware and with deeply compassionate hearts. I notice how easily they connect to people of all ages, how confident they are and how they have found their own talents, gifts and values they live by. It has been amazing. So much so, that both my husband and I changed careers, him leaving the restaurant trade and retraining as a coffee barista trainer and consultant, and me enrolling in part-time school to study psychotherapy while running a food catering business.
Truly, we have seen that age is no barrier to learning and education does not take place in the first 18 years of a child’s life but it is a lifelong gift, a natural urge when one is allowed to follow their passions and interests.
Unschooling means no curriculum, no exams, no testing, just a freedom to follow interests and passions at the pace and ability of the child, completely self led. Quite a risk you might think and yet my oldest who is now 18 has completed a three year diploma as a mechanic and is now preparing to go to University with a dream to become a clinical psychologist. He is self-taught in foreign languages, musical instruments and coding. He is mature, sociable, has travelled alone since he was 14 years old and volunteered with the elderly. At 14 he travelled to Athens and helped a refugee project and at 16 he spent three weeks in Africa on a humanitarian project. Learning has happened for him naturally, his way and in that same way he continues to take his life to new adventures. He has recently challenged me to learn a new language and has shown me a different approach, discovered by a young man who has learned eight languages in four years and who wrote a book about it. I had no idea about this and again this is an example of how I am learning from and with my children as much or even more than they learn from me. It is the way learning always took place throughout the ages for thousands of years before someone decided to create the system of schools.
My 13-year-old son has a passion for houses and has just started his own small business sourcing property for people looking to buy a home. He made his first sale at 12 years of age. Despite dealing with ADHD, and dyspraxia, unschooling has allowed him to find his way of learning with no stigma, and tapping into his amazing gifts of which he has plenty.
My 9-year-old daughter has a passion for Japanese Anime and spent the year of the pandemic and three lockdowns unable to access her dance and horse riding classes, teaching herself how to create animated videos, editing, uploading on YouTube, managing content, managing haters and suspicious posts, managing bots and dealing with fans. She has over 1.6 k subscribers and she did it completely alone. No help from me or anyone else.
All my children have hobbies and other interests, socialise with children of all ages, and are well rounded mature individuals. I consider it a privilege to have been able to offer them the freedom to be themselves and to enjoy their childhood.
I now feel called to do whatever I can to secure the same freedom for parents in my island, Cyprus; to ensure parents in Cyprus can opt for the type of education they want, one that is suitable for the individual child and the family as a whole. I advocate for choice. There is no one way that is good for everyone. We are all unique individuals. Conventional school may be the right choice for many, but not all, so we advocate for access to options and alternative solutions.
“What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and its grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible”. John Lewis
Καλώς ήλθατε στην κοινότητά μας
Είμαστε μια κοινότητα ενηλίκων και παιδιών από όλα τα κοινωνικά στρώματα και πάθος μας είναι η εναλλακτική εκπαίδευση στην Κύπρο. Είμαστε γονείς, παππούδες και γιαγιάδες, γιατροί, εκπαιδευτικοί, νομικοί, καθαριστές/-ριες, οικοκυρές, υπάλληλοι γραφείων, βοηθοί καταστημάτων. Εκπροσωπούμε αυτήν την ποικιλόμορφη κοινότητα αυτού του όμορφου νησιού και ως εκ τούτου πάθος μας είναι να την δούμε να ανθίζει, να ευδοκιμεί και να αναπτύσσεται θετικά. Οι κοινότητες είναι η ραχοκοκαλιά κάθε υγιούς κοινωνίας, οπότε μαζί συνεργαζόμαστε για να φέρουμε στην Κύπρο νέες εκπαιδευτικές λύσεις και επιλογές.
“Αυτό που προσπαθώ να λέω στους νέους είναι ότι εάν μαζευτείτε μαζι για μια αποστολή, και είναι γειωμένη μέσα στην αγάπη και την αίσθηση της κοινότητας, μπορείτε να κάνετε το αδύνατο δυνατό”. – Τζον Λιούις