Minimalist Scandi? Wonderful. But my house usually looks like a colourful bomb site, so I’d better stick with the theme. I love colour and pattern and what better way to brighten up the dark winter than to gift or receive some bold handmade or vintage items for your home or wardrobe. Looking for something bohemian and folklore? Here is what I found for you on Etsy!
Just admit it, the whole idea of going into town or online looking for Christmas gifts again this year is not filling you with much joy. Or is it? Why do we do it? Why not just spend time with our loved ones, eat food and create memories? We all have so much stuff already and we really don’t need any more gifts. Certainly not anything made of plastic. If you need a gift, buy everyone books instead. Or handmade soap. Silver earrings, beeswax candles, wooden toys, tickets to the theatre. Buy art. Buy vintage. And wrap your gifts in paper.
No plastic this year, please.
Imagine how powerful it would be if we all stopped buying plastic? What a Christmas gift to nature that would be.
This year has been a year where a lot of awareness has been raised about the plastic problem. Finally, the whole plastic problem seems to become mainstream and generally seen as something very urgent by most people. This is a positive movement, because the more people feel something needs to be done about it, the more likely governments and big corporates will follow and actually change laws which would make a real impact. Only recently the EU parliament banned single use plastic from 2021. In the meantime, there are some pretty amazing people already working day and night to combat the plastic problem.
“Someone’s got to do it”. A young inventor starts the Ocean Cleanup
You may have heard of this guy, Boyan Slat, a young Dutch engineer who at the tender age of 18 invented something that could clean up the oceans. Although this was initially a project as part of his degree, six years later the idea is now a non-profit organisation called The Ocean Cleanup with over 80 people, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. By utilising the ocean currents to their advantage, their passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time. The very first prototype has just gone out for testing in October 2018. Exciting times! And doesn’t it restore faith in human beings to do incredible things, if they want to – and care enough? Being Dutch myself, I am feeling very proud of Boyan and his incredible drive to make a difference.
Micro plastics in your food
The test phase has now begun, mainly collecting all the larger pieces of plastic in the water, some smaller as well. The micro plastics are of course much harder to catch. Micro plastics are the bits that fall off the larger pieces after being in the water for a long time, the flakes, crumbs, the tiny pieces of plastic. These micro plastics are the worst, as they are eaten by fish – and subsequently eaten by us. Research has shown that micro plastics are now even discovered in many other foods and even beers, simply because disintegrated plastic becomes so small that is enters our water system. Imagine what that does to our health… It is therefore vital that we stop plastic from going into the rivers and oceans in the first place, and catch it before it starts to disintegrate into micro plastics.
I would love to see The Ocean Cleanup become so successful that it becomes the start of a real change and cleanup of all the oceans. To see this inspirational young inventor Boyan Slat and his team come up with even bigger and better ideas to help us combat the ridiculous amount of plastic that we as humans have put into the environment. Of course, this project and the ones needed to cleanup all the other plastic floating around in the seas costs a LOT of money. I for one will swap my Christmas gift list this year for a donation to this cause.
If you feel encouraged too and excited about this like I do, perhaps consider thinking outside the (gift) box and ask Santa for charity donations this year. Surely clean water without plastic is worth more than yet another posh fragrance on your dressing table. The turtles will thank you for it.
Happy birthday to me and my wee blog! I started the blog Nina’s Apartment back in 2008, can you believe it? No, I neither can I! I started the blog because I craved having an online place where I could gather ideas about styling with vintage. I also wanted to share upcycling projects and inspire readers to be more original in their interior decor choices. Ban beige! Was my first tagline.
A few years later I even had the joy of running my own shop under the same name, selling vintage furniture for four years. It is wonderful to give vintage pieces a new lease of life with paint or reupholstery. To rescue an unloved old teak sideboard from a garage, restore it and seeing a young family fall in love with it and give it a new home.
In all those years, while blogging, sourcing and selling vintage and even designing people’s rooms for them, I often got the same questions. “How do you know what vintage to buy?” “Can I make it look good with the rest of my interior?” “How do I make things work together well?” I decided to gather some of my thoughts and knowledge on it and create a little Guide for you! It’s a pretty little booklet with some great bite-size lessons and tips to spark ideas, give inspiration and help you get started on your own creative decor project.
And in return? It would help me so much if I could somehow earn a tiny bit of money from my blog after keeping it going and sharing my ideas for free for all those years. It’s not a lot, less than the price of a coffee and cake. Will you support me? It would be an amazing birthday gift! 🙂
E Book A Practical Guide to Styling with Vintage
A Practical Guide to Styling with Vintage
12 pages + front and back cover. Print quality, high resolution PDF.
The book includes numerous full colour photographs for inspiration, six practical styling lessons, an exercise to get you thinking and four style sheets to help you create your desired look.
Who is this e book for?
This 12-page booklet is for people who love vintage furniture and using vintage finds in their own decor, but perhaps find it hard to select the right piece or how to make it look good in their home. Or perhaps you don’t know how to combine it with what you already have. And how do you prevent your decor from looking like a time warp? This E booklet is a helping hand to assist you in styling your home with vintage finds and furniture, create balance and make it all come together.
The lessons in the book are great reminders of what to think about when buying and styling with vintage; the style sheets serve as practical guides to create a certain ‘look’ and the lists are great to bring with you on your shopping trips. It is a high resolution PDF so you can even print it out.
Let me help you create an interior that reflects who you are and what you love…and stands the test of time. Enjoy!
Or…if you don’t want the E book but would like to buy me a birthday coffee instead, then you would be absolutely amazing too! A BIG thank you for supporting me.
Buy Nina a coffee
I don't start writing before I have had a good coffee in the morning. Thank you for kick-starting my working day!
How is your day going? I am feeling a bit overwhelmed today. Trying to get my head around becoming self employed in Spain but the bureaucracy is really daunting, as expected! Being self employed in the UK is a breeze compared to here. A tax return in English is one thing to get your head around…but in Spanish? And that four times a year, with VAT and very detailed book keeping plus big fines if you make a mistake or are a day late! Eeeek! I really feel I don’t want to do it anymore. Anxiety is kicking in.
I have not felt like this for years, thought I had left all that insecurity behind by now. I mean, I’ll be 40 next year. But no. Everything feels very wobbly all of a sudden. My steady foundation has turned into jelly and I am trying to find my feet. I guess we all go through these phases in life. You feel pretty safe and secure for a while, in control even, you think you know who you are. Got life sussed. Then BAM, you get presented with a brand new set of challenges that make you question all your values and what you stand for. It can even reveal sides of yourself you never knew you had. Anxiety for example. It is confrontational to say the least. It spices things up in life, yes, but it is tiring and emotional. Oh, and did I mention the language barrier? All part of the roller-coaster of moving countries.
Leaving the comfort zone
I remember how I felt 13 years ago, on the brink of emigrating first time around. I had not yet moved to Scotland, but I had flown across from the Netherlands for my very first job interview in English ever, which I was not quite fluent in yet. It went SO bad that I wanted to dug a great big hole right there. I was very nervous, struggled with the language and felt so small, embarrassed and stupid. Out of my comfort zone in front of three people asking difficult questions. I remember afterwards I cried and thought, stuff that, I am just going to work in that cafe over there serving tea and cake! I am not good enough for these types of jobs, way too scary. Of course, a few months later, another job came up and I got it. I was so proud of myself for biting the bullet and putting myself through it again. Another daunting interview. I still feel how happy I was when they called me to say I was hired.
So here I am 13 years later in Spain and I feel exactly the same. Happy but anxious. Excited but lost. Scared. Throwing up the barriers. I want to give up, not put myself through the complicated mill of freelance life in a foreign country. I want to hide under a large sun umbrella hoping it’ll all go away.
Monsters in my head
I am creating great big monsters in my head and keep thinking:”What if I screw up, what if I don’t know what to do, what if I don’t earn enough and can’t pay the monthly fees? What if I fail?” I need to remind myself I am not the first one who has done this and that there is help out there. There is no failing, only trying. But right now I just want somebody to hire me to serve tea and cake. Por favor?
Is it just me, or is being busy a badge of honour nowadays, not just for adults but for children too? Parents ferry their children around from one after-school activity to the next. They go to piano lessons on a Monday, tennis lessons on a Wednesday and art classes every Friday afternoon. Already exhausted new mums are putting themselves through the hassle of baby swimming lessons. Parents seem to be afraid that their brood misses out on becoming the next Einstein or Andy Murray and want every free moment in their kids’ lives to be ‘educational’. Otherwise learning apparently does not happen. And then there is of course peer pressure. How about some calm parenting?
Just playing freely without a grownup in charge almost seems rare in the lives of modern children. What ever happened to ‘freerange parenting’? Surely, most of us were brought up like that and it did us no harm. No constant supervision, no constant entertainment, no constant demand to achieve and produce visible results. Freedom to just be a child.
Today I want to make a plea for the return of mindful neglect.
It is almost impossible to arrange a play-date on a weekday, because most kids have extra-curricular activities every day of the week, on top of homework. Why? Does it really set them up to become incredibly good at anything? Develop a life-long love for learning? The full diary in their young lives perhaps teaches them that life really just is a busy to-do-list.
Calm parenting: give the gift of time
When I was little I was a stubborn little girl who didn’t want to do any activity outside school whatsoever. Not that my parents didn’t try and encourage me. They did. I just did not want to do it. No tennis, no ballet, no music lessons. Go away. Not interested. And you know what, for my parents’ attitude I am grateful. They may not have pushed me to take private sports and music lessons, and I was unable to play the piano like fellow twelve year olds, but instead they gave me time. Time to play and to be bored. Time to figure out what I like. The opportunity to learn how to feel happy in just my own company.
Natural curiosity, taking action when ready
When I was about 10 years old I eventually asked my parents if I could join the local gymnastics club. I also wanted to do art classes on a Wednesday after school. I chose my own interests, when I myself was ready and motivated. Until that moment I sat quite happily at the kitchen table drawing. No adult intervention whatsoever. I played with Lego and my barbies, built dens with my sister or played hide and seek with the kids next door. As a teenager at fifteen I discovered a forgotten guitar in the attic and taught myself some chords. I have been in bands ever since. I didn’t have to be ‘exposed’ to music lessons from an early age. No, that doesn’t make me special, and maybe I would have enjoyed music lessons at 5, who knows, it just shows a different approach to parenting. Letting things be. I was always going to find the things that interested me. And having time to figure that out, made me love it even more.
So what am I trying to say with all of this? I believe (but who am I but a mother with a humble opinion) that the rise in anxiety among even primary age children, comes from somewhere. Whether it is a crazy busy schedule, too much competition, high parental expectations or watching too much rubbish on Youtube (let’s not go into that, right), I strongly believe in free play.
Keep free play sacred
So much playtime has already been taken away from them in school, with kids as young as 3 years old learning how to write their name and do simple maths. It makes no difference academically if they would start at 6. As parents we can at least try and make free play outside of school sacred. Have them join football or do ballet, sure, if they want to – but also build in that bit of calm at home. Downtime. No matter if they lie on the floor yelling that they’re bored. Don’t worry. Bored is good. It serves a purpose.
So much research says unsupervised playtime in childhood essential. It is more important for the development of social skills than any adult led workshop or extracurricular class in childhood. Still, as a society and as parents, we believe we’re at risk of falling behind academically. Learning to read and write and count is important and schools have their role to play. But children will struggle to become independent, happy and well balanced adults at the end of childhood if they never get a moment to themselves. How will they know how to be at peace with themselves without the need for constant reassurance, distraction and entertainment from outside?
As a mother of two boys I try each day to be a good mum. Each day I wonder whether I did and said the right things and not screwed them up. It is not easy figuring out calm parenting and finding the key to motherhood. Still, instinctively I feel underscheduling is the way to go for my family. I want to encourage a calmness in my boys and an appreciation of the little things in life. I want them to be creative, resourceful and contented. Soulful living, right?
Calm parenting and creating resilient children
I hope to see more unstructured play in the park without helicopter parents trying to join in. Unstructured play in the garden without a well meaning parent leading some kind of Pinterest activity. Building Lego without the instruction book. Making stuff out of rubbish without the help of a grownup. Letting siblings quarrel without immediately trying to solve their argument. Letting them figure it out for themselves before intervening.
No pressure. Trust. Mindful neglect. Conscious neglect with the sole purpose of creating happy, mentally stable, sociable and resilient children. Kids with empathy. Kids who know the world doesn’t only revolve around them. Good humans. It seems a no brainer and common sense, but we have forgotten how to put it into practice. Or we are afraid to put it into practice. Because all the other kids…
Children are naturally curious. They don’t need to be taught how to learn. They know. Children have a natural desire to discover the world for themselves. Give them that space. Even though you as a parent may think your child is not learning much at a particular moment and you feel you need to teach them stuff, their brain is working hard. If they have questions, they will ask them (oh yes they will!).
Calm parenting: lead by example and stop overscheduling
Children learn by example and copy our behaviour. What example is a stressed out, tired parent making life way too busy? Instead, show calm. Just be. Say nothing. Trust your child in his or her own learning. Silence and time are essential ingredients for stimulating creativity and imagination and they are so precious. Childhood is short, please let’s not take away the magic.
An article that really resonated with me:
Some great blogs and Facebook pages on the topic of free play and parenting:
The plastic problem is still huge and creating big problems in oceans, in landfill and just generally making the earth look very ugly. Still, I am an optimist, and I believe change is coming, not tomorrow maybe, but we are heading in the right direction. People are generally becoming more aware of the ecological impact of especially single use plastic and social media is full of posts showing ideas of how to reduce the use of it in your own household. I am still guilty myself of doing unplanned, spontaneous grocery shopping, subsequently accepting single use carrier bags. I buy coffees on the go in takeaway cups. It is hard to be consistent and strict about these things while they are still constantly offered to us.
Last year India banned all forms of disposable plastic in Delhi. Europe is proposing a ban on single-use plastic items such as cutlery, straws and cotton buds in a bid to clean up the oceans. The legislation is not just about banning plastic products. It also wants to make plastic producers bear the cost of waste management and cleanup efforts, and it proposes that EU states must collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025 through new recycling programs.
So that’s a bit about where we are at with single use plastic…but what about turning single use carrier bags into something that is usable for much longer, while they are still in existence? I am always in awe of how creative and resourceful humans are around the world. Who knew you could knit and crochet with the stuff?
How to make plarn?
1. Make a Crocheted tote bag our of plarn
Plastic bags can be incredibly versatile and turned into very strong yarn for crocheting. When choosing bags for your project, consider color and texture. Select bags that are similar in thickness to create an overall good effect. Combine different coloured bags to create a pattern of colour, colour changes and patterns.
Supplies you’ll need:
20-25 clean grocery bags
Plastic crochet hook, size 6.50mm K
Ready to give it a go?
2. Make a basket out of plarn
A waste basket…out of waste! I love baskets for all sorts of uses, including toys, craft supplies, hats and gloves at the front door or yes, for paper waste. How cute is this one made out of plastic carrier bags? And even better, no crocheting required.
Want to learn how?
3. Make a rag rug out of plarn
Great for outdoors, at the front door or in the bathroom, rag rugs made out of plastic carrier bags make surprisingly great mats. Here is an upcycling tutorial on how to make them. No crocheting needed.
I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to scoot away on my brand new ‘patinete’ or adult scooter, when I bought it in Valencia this spring. I felt like a kid again! Living in a city where you use public transport a lot and distances are sometimes a little bit far to walk (and arrive on time), it is extremely handy to have a portable vehicle to get yourself from A to B just that little bit faster. Adult scooters are perfect for short journeys, the school run or your daily commute with public transport.
My little boys have scooters and yes, they are usually associated with children’s activities, but believe me, the adult version is just as much fun. Wind in your hair, stepping away, gliding with ease, passing pedestrians and saving time. What’s not to like?
Scooters or patinetes (for the Spanish people among us) come in all shapes and sizes, with or without hand brakes. I bought an Oxelo adult scooter from Decathlon recently, for 119 euro. No hand brakes (instead you have a foot brake – you slow down by pushing the mud guard down on the back wheel with your foot), but it is foldable with a strap for easy carrying. Even the handle bars fold inwards so you basically carry a scooter over your shoulder the size of a large bag. And not too heavy. Very useful when getting on public transport! You can get actual carrier bags too if you want to take your scooter with you on longer journeys.
There are also electric scooter available these days, which I must admit, look very attractive, especially at times when I am trying to push my non-electric scooter uphill, in 32 degrees heat. They are quite a lot more expensive, but would be a good option if you have difficulty walking long distances or need something a bit faster but still portable and easy to manoeuvre.
Which surfaces are best for adult scooters
Non electric scooters are particularly great on the flat or downhill, on smooth surfaces. Unless your scooter has big rubber tyres, don’t ride with them on old cobbled streets or very uneven roads. You get the idea, bumpetybump. Not great. Tiled paths are fine, although the bigger the tiles the better. In quiet residential streets I sometimes ride on the tarmac, as this surface is obviously ideal. Just make sure you watch the traffic and get back onto the pavement when it gets busy (yes, mum).
Wearing a helmet is always a good safety measure. If you live on a hill, it is a must. These scooters gain speed fast when going downhill, especially with a 75kg/150lbs adult on it. You really don’t want to hit a rock or curb and go flying without being protected.
Scoot to the gate: your micro scooter with built-in case
For the geeks among us, or rather the commuters who are traveling a lot, there is the Micro Luggage Scooter. No more running to the gate at the airport pulling your trolley case on wheels or clutching your cabin bag. And killing time waiting for your flight will never be the same again. Imagine the smooth surfaces in that departure lounge…
Minimalist living. Have you tried it? I have seen lot of bloggers and social media influencers pop up lately who talk about minimalist living. We all own too much, don’t we? It is suffocating. And where on earth do you leave all the stuff? I would love a house with less clutter myself. One day. Today on the blog have blogger and stylist Lisa Ramirez of Casa de Rami (www.casaderami.com) sharing some ideas with us. She’s done it. She’s cleared the clutter and feels so much better for it! How did she do it?
Lisa: I went through a major transition of ridding my home of all the unnecessary, so my family could live a more minimal life. This new way of living helped me realize that I was in fact over cluttering my home. I owned too many items that no longer served a purpose or fit in with my own style. Much of it was sadly the result of overbuying when my husband and I purchased our first house a couple of years back. Back then we felt the need to have to fill every room to the brim. But after downsizing to a smaller space, I learned that it’s not about how much you have, but what you have, and how you style it to serve multiple purposes.
From overbuying to downsizing
Styling your home in a way that makes you never want to leave is the number one goal for most of us. Displaying items and decor that speak to our personality and make us happy instead of feeling overwhelmed. Having a space that welcomes and comforts us, and doesn’t make us want to turn around and walk right back out. Those are the goals. But where do you draw the line between over doing it and getting it just right? In a society that constantly screams “More, more, more!”, how do you keep the balance between minimal & straight up too much. Here are some of the things I did to create a more minimalist home.
1.Clear out the clutter
This can be a fun process! Letting go of physical items is freeing. The more you toss, the more you gain. Make a plan and get going! Go through cupboards, closets, the basement. If you’re a family of four, you probably don’t need twenty plus coffee mugs, right? Pick through them, get rid of the ones that are chipped or broken and keep the good ones. Same for dishes, bowls, silverware. If you haven’t used an item in over six months, do you really need it?
Go through your drawers, donate clothes that no longer fit you, and toss the ones that are too broken or stained to fix. Same for shoes, and accessories you no longer use or care for. And if you share your home have others do the same. If your kids are too young to decide, do it for them, ESPECIALLY when it comes to their mountain of toys! The more you clear out, the less you have to maintain and clean up. After the clutter is gone, you’ll be left with a new found appreciation for what you DO have – all of which serves a purpose, and you’re more than happy to keep and display in your home.
2. A place + purpose for everything
Now that you’ve cleared out the clutter, you should be left with only that which you truly need, and those unique + special items you love. Display them and use them. Everything should have a spot it calls home. Whether you want to display them on a shelf or keep in a cabinet, choose a proper place for each every single item.
3. Display what you love + what makes you happy
This part should be easy seeing as how you should only be left with items + decor that you love & enjoy. Display it all proudly. Style it with other items that pair well and create a cohesive balance. You want it to not only look good, but to also create a vibe of simplicity & calm.
4. Take your time sourcing new items
After your big clutter purge, you may realize that you’re left with almost zero to no decor items. That’s OK! That’s actually a really good thing. That means you never really cared for what was in your home, and now you can start building a collection of items that will create the character and space your style speaks to. But try not to buy it all at once. Sometimes when we try and do this either at one particular store or online, we get easily overwhelmed because of all the choices that are out there. Take. Your. Time. You don’t need to fill your space in record speed. It’s not a race, but a journey. Pick out pieces little by little. Think it over, and you’ll see that your efforts will create the space of your dreams!
5. Cohesiveness is key
Creating an environment that has balance & simplicity is the perfect way to harmonize a space. Pieces that blend well in terms of color, style, texture & pattern help unify a room and bring it to life.
6. It’s all in the details
Details are what tell the story of your home. A picture of your family, an inherited heirloom sitting on the mantel, a worn out dresser that’s been given a hardware upgrade – it all speaks and lives in your home. This goes back to displaying only that which you love and makes you happy. You want to be able to look around your home, and have guests look around too and think, there’s a beautiful story to be told here.
Make it cozy, make it warm, make it inviting, make it yours.
For more inspiration from Casa de Rami:
Velvet is the one fabric I can’t walk past without touching it. Can you? It is very much on trend just now and many home interior stores are selling cushions, upholstered furniture and soft furnishings in this luxurious material. Here is some velvet inspiration to soften up your decor. A roundup of some gorgeous products for the next season. Enjoy!
Velvet fabrics for soft furnishings
Rich velvet-like texture gives a luxurious look with irresistible soft to touch feel. Go for a decadent interior or bejewel a room with a few velvety touches for a must have look of 2018. Embrace the velvety look and give your living room or bedroom an on-trend plush update.
Where to buy velvet fabric?
Dekoria has a fabulous collection of fabrics that are – very useful – washable at 30 degrees. Affordable too at £17.00 / metre.
Luxurious velvet sofas
If you are looking for a beautiful luxurious sofa to make that grand statement in your interior, Graham and Green have a good selection. The one pictures shows the ‘Wellington 3-seater, a timeless sofa inspired by the classic chesterfield, in a royal blue velvet material. Luxury meets comfort here. It has beautiful scrolled arms and a plush button back finish creating a decadent focal point for your living room. Request a free swatch of your favourite colours to see and feel the material up close.
I really love this one, looking very midcentury modern and sleek. A long, rectangular 3-seater sofa from Homelia, online destination for luxury & designer homeware and furniture. The silhouette adds structure and style to a room whilst its plump back and seat cushions offer sink-in comfort as you completely stretch your legs out along its length. The small, angled legs in varnished chestnut add design-led flair.
Make a statement with a velvet armchair
If a 3-seater sofa is bit too much for you, why not go for a single armchair to add a smaller sophisticated statement to your interior? There are many shapes and sizes and with just the one chair you could go for something a bit more daring and different.
A true vintage classic, these gold Platner armchairs by Knoll. No boring interior for you if you invest in one of those. Place them around the dining table or add a single one to your sitting corner for a wow factor.
Snuggle up under a velvet blanket
Because the evenings are getting chillier, little feels more luxurious and comforting than to snuggle up under a super soft blanket. These Quilts With Printed Reverse (240 x 220cm) by Graham and Green are double sided and welcoming in every way. Besides that, the two colourways, Coral Red and Slate Blue are perfect colours for the winter months, treating your bedroom to warm tones while while the nights are getting colder. The quilt is soft to touch and showcases a neutral cotton reverse that has been embellished with hand block print work in a pale blue, inspired by floral Indian patterns. I’m sure I’d be loving these for a very long time, possibly forever.
I interviewed Jacqueline Pirtle, life coach, healer and author of 365 days of happiness and asked her about the book and what makes her happy.
Jacqueline, happiness is a hot topic right now. Everyone seems to want a piece of the cake. What makes your book different?
Are you a happy person by nature of did you become happier with time? What drives you?
is possible. Feeling good drives me. That is happiness for me.
You are originally from Switzerland, have lived in various other countries and now live in the US. Do you see big differences in happiness per country? Can you give examples that have inspired you or perhaps shocked you and given you a wake up call?
I love to really, really experience every single thing and make it part of who I am. Here are a few: in Switzerland I learned about feeling safe, that staying private is nice, and to celebrate beautiful nature. Italy taught me about the essence of living a life full of beauty, food, and laughter. In the US I learned about thinking “big,” that “everything is possible,” and to “just go for it.” In Asia I learned about mindfulness, deep-ness, kind-ness, and whole-ness. In Madagaskar I learned about simplicity, nature, and smiles. And on every beach I was, I learned about simply “breathing” and “being.”
Are you ever miserable? When feeling low, what do you do to cheer yourself up?
you can shift yourself to feeling better with whatever you need to do for yourself.
I believe happiness has a lot to do with counting your blessings and not sweating the small stuff. If you had to bake a cupcake of happiness, what would be your three main ingredients?
365 Days of Happiness is available on Amazon. Order the book
*Disclaimer: in return for writing this interview I received a free copy of the book. I only review books and products that I feel suit the topic and ethics of my blog. This book made me very happy!
Moving abroad with children means making important decisions around schooling. Choosing a school in Spain means getting to grips with a whole new system, and lots of choices. Do you put them into a local school or a more international one? We moved to Valencia earlier this year and had to make decisions about schools in Spain for our native English speaking 4 and 6 year old sons, who had no Spanish whatsoever. Here is some information about schools in Spain and the different aspects to think about. *I am of course no expert, so this information is purely my personal experience and knowledge.
Choosing schools in Spain: preparation
Before the move we had done some research into choosing a school in Spain and particularly schools in Valencia. We visited a few too while my husband and I were over for a recce trip. Were we going to go for an English, bilingual or Spanish school? And what curriculum is best? It is hard to know where to start and like most expats, we looked at the best known private international or bilingual schools first. This was only because they are mentioned most in forums and on expat websites. There are so many
other choices which could be much better suited to your children and your lifestyle. It is worth ‘shopping around’. They may also save you quite a bit each month if you don’t have the funds or the desire to commit to private school fees.
Schools in Spain: Public, semi-private or private
I was blown away by the vast amount of schools Valencia. They range from public schools, semi-private schools (‘concertados’) to private schools. Many schools have nursery, primary and secondary school/baccalaureate all in one building. That way your child can stay in the same school their entire childhood. No wonder parents get quite anxious about finding the right school.
Public schools are state-run, Spanish, and many parents are happy with their children to go here. They are free, but you pay monthly for the ‘comedor’ or dinner hall at school. That is if you want your children to eat at school and not come home for lunch. The public schools, there are of course many, are the trickiest to select as an expat. You just don’t have any knowledge about which ones are good. Also, if you don’t know where you are going to be living yet, it is pointless trying to enroll them since you need a postcode within the catchment area. But if you are looking for a way to get your children to speak Spanish as quickly as possible, going to a local, Spanish school is a good option.
Semi-private / concertado
The semi-private, or ‘concertado’ status means that they are run and paid by the state but as a parent you contribute a monthly fee to receive the extras that a school offers. This could mean perhaps an extra teacher per class, more freedom in terms of their curriculum and how they design their classes and activities. A lot of the semi-private schools are religious (Catholic). And whereas some of them charge about the same as most private schools (which is around a minimum of 300-400 euro per month per child, often more), others charge very little and are in fact very affordable.
Private, English or Spanish schools in Valencia
There are also a great number of private schools in Valencia. Some are small, other very large, and they are based on either the Spanish, British or American curriculum. The best known among expats are the Amercian school, Caxton College, British School of Valencia, Cambridge House and Mas Camarena. There is even a French Lycee. But there are smaller ones too, such as Los Olivos.
Even though a lot of the private, bilingual or English speaking schools call themselves ‘international’, almost 100% of the pupils are Spanish children. Many Spanish parents nowadays want their offspring to become fluent in English. Future job prospects are important in a country where unemployment rates are still at almost 25%. Being English speaking therefore has advantages. The ‘international’ part has mostly to do with the fact that half or almost all lessons are taught in English or the curriculum is based on the American or British system. It also means for many of these schools there are waiting lists.
what language: Spanish, English, bilingual or…Valenciano?
Choosing schools in Spain, and Valencia, comes with another question. What language will my child be taught in? I believe that the younger the child, the less important it is what the main language is they are taught in and whether or not it is a British (or other) curriculum. Obviously children will learn Spanish much quicker with full immersion. Most expat parents with teenagers say their children adapted better to their new environment in an international school with a curriculum similar to what they were used to back home, especially if exams are on the horizon. A toddler? They just want to play and within weeks they’ll come home using a handful of Spanish words already.
Bilingual schools in Spain
There are a lot of bilingual schools (English and Spanish), with some following the Spanish curriculum, some the British. Some are 100% English spoken schools and then there are some other foreign languages with their own schools too (French, German). Last but not least, this is Valencia and they have their own language called Valenciano which is a bit like Catalan, although I am sure the locals will tell me otherwise.
Valenciano as a compulsary subject
Valenciano is compulsory in all schools, private or not, with a minimum amount of hours per week. It is a political thing, and depending on who the mayor is in any particular year, the hours could go up or down in the curriculum. Most schools choose to teach subjects like music, religion or science in Valenciano in addition to the actual Valenciano language classes, to make up for the required hours.
Creating multilingual children
A lot of expats freak out about the whole Valenciano thing and get frustrated that their kids have to study it, but to me it’s just another language. This is my humble opinion. Surely it can only be beneficial for a young child’s brain to learn plenty of different languages? The biggest argument against Valenciano I hear all the time is that “they only speak it in the Valencia region so what’s the point?”. Now I am Dutch and Dutch isn’t actually spoken anywhere else in the world other than the teeny tiny Netherlands and a few old far away colony islands in the Caribbean. Any expat child moving to the Netherlands has to learn Dutch if they are not in an international school. Also not particularly useful as a world language.
Your child may not stay in the Valencia region when he or she grows up, but they’ll have had the benefit of studying another language. They will pretty much be able to understand Catalan too as a bonus. Just my personal opinion, you may feel differently. The only advice I can give is to ask the school if it is possible for your child not to get Valenciano lessons until his/her understanding of Castellano is good enough.
How to get a space in a Spanish school?
When you choose schools in Spain, the next question is, how to get your child in it? Now this is the tricky bit. Like everywhere, good schools are hard to get into. Almost all bilingual or fully English semi-private and private schools are very popular among the Spanish parents. They all want their brood to speak decent English. This means it is not easy to get a place.
Spanish parents often start looking at their preferred school almost as soon as their baby is born. Then they enroll their kids as early as they can possibly start. In Spain this is the year they turn 3 and in the private schools that are offering preschool childcare, they even babies accept babies. So by the time you arrive from abroad with your 4 and 6-year old, especially halfway through the year, classes are full. You may find yourself having to put your kids in a school that wasn’t even on your shortlist.
School enrollment times in Spain
Enrollment time is usually mid May and school websites and the local municipality publish the exact dates on their websites . To enroll your child in a public or concertado school you need to live in the right catchment area to score enough points. Other factors are whether you already have siblings in the school and some other criteria – check your council website for the details. For private schools the postcode area is not a concern, but they may still have waiting lists. Many private schools have school bus transport around the city.
Choosing schools in Valencia: ask other expat parents
I hope this post has been somewhat useful for those of you thinking about moving to Spain as a family. It is tough knowing whether you are doing the right thing for your children! At the end of the day, you can start with one school and change down the line if it is not working out for you. I have heard that many people do this. It is also a good idea to join some local Facebook groups and check other people’s opinions on schools. Without one central international school in Valencia, expat children go to many different schools everywhere around town.
Be aware though that asking about schools on these forums is a bit of a mine field. Everyone has their own take on things. What suits them may not suit you and your family. Some love the all singing all dancing international private schools with the beautiful facilities and the matching price tags. Others sing the praises of their little local public school in their own neighbourhood. “The facilities may be poor but the teachers are fabulous”. If you have time, ‘shop’ around. You may just find a hidden gem.