Early January I woke up in the middle of the night, and I knew I had it!
I wouldn´t create another school. I would create an after-school program.
For several years I had been wondering what to offer teens. In a small town like Puerto Escondido that doesn´t have much else to offer than surf, the challenges for teens to develop in a healthy and creative ways are huge.
Realizing that not many families were seriously interested in offering an alternative education to their kids (very few daring to take the step and enroll them in the waldorfy primary I had created) I knew that the target group was too reduced to make any alternative school sustainable.
I had already decided that whatever it was that I was going to create, it would be something like a democratic school – but I just couldn´t figure out how to make it attractive enough to all the parents whose teens really need it.
And so, when I woke up in the middle of the night, I knew I had found the solution.
An after-school program doesn´t compete with parents´ fears of their children not getting what they believe school is offering that is fundamental for survival in this world. It complements traditional education, offering all the stuff parents wish school would really give to their kids – without them having to miss out on school.
An after-school program doesn´t need to adapt to any curriculum. It´s free to be whatever the founder (me!) chooses it to be.
An after-school program doesn´t have any problems with the Ministry of Public Education. Since it´s not a school, they don´t care.
An after-school program offers the possibility for parents to drop their kids off in a safe environment and have some extra time for work or other things in the afternoons, without having to feel guilty about not being able to hang out with their children.
An after-school program can transcend socio-economical levels because anyone can enroll, and those who don´t have the money can always receive sponsored grants.
An after-school program can offer everything I wish a “real” school would offer to a whole bunch of kids, thus bringing alternative education to the masses.
Plus: the competition here is basically zero. The only options are for smaller children (once they get older it´s only sports that is being offered), they´re all adult-directed and based upon what the adults can and want to offer. And there are literally NO spaces for kids and teens to hang out and just be.
I have to say I felt like a genius! I would still be able to offer everything I wanted and I would reach more kids, hence having a greater impact on society than any of my previous school projects have had.
It felt so good! The more I thought about it the more I knew I was on the right track. I just chose to adapt a little to the fact that my son is still not a teen and no longer in a school, so I decided I´d start by opening up to primary kids. In two years from now I will receive the teens as well.
I didn´t have a name yet, but when I was expressing to a friend what it was I wanted to offer – a place where kids could play and explore freely – it just came to me: EXPLORA (or Explore, in English).
A couple of days later, a friend of mine introduced me to the Agile Learning Centers´ network. That´s when I knew I had hit home. I had finally found the perfect format for Explora!