Coordination: Esperanza Chacón

A brief history of Mila at Casa Sulà

At thirteen years of age, after spending four consecutive years at Casa Sulà, Mila decides to change her educational environment, she goes from a free school to a conventional school, she tells us, that she wants to have other experiences.

While Mila was at Casa Sulà, in the Semillero 2 environments, for children over 7 -8 years old until 16 – 17, we observed that she maintained an avid interest in the use of didactic material, especially mathematics, although her curiosity was also clear in other areas of learning.

Every day she spent time practicing with the didactic resources with curiosity, amazement and joy. In this way, she would discover the logic, the rules, the laws and, together with her tutor, she designed her work plan that would take her on the path of self-learning.

Likewise, she found a balance between individual and group activity. She gave importance to spontaneous free play, including body motor movements, contemporary dance, gymnastics, walks, and outings with the explorers’ group. She did this with ease and joy. She was an active part of work teams, developing projects with seriousness and commitment. In the area of social relationships, she was accepted by her colleagues, she maintained an attitude of respect and acceptance towards them, and cultivated friendships and promoted mutual cooperation.

Interviewer: At the beginning of the 2020 cycle, her parents together with Mila began to investigate other nearby educational centers, and visited them. They also proceed to close the process at Casa Sulà, and requested a family appointment with Mila’s tutors, during this meeting, they informed us of the decision to remove Mila from Casa Sulà. 

Q. How was your transition process from a free education system to the conventional system?

Mila.- I knew that the experience was going to be challenging in some ways because it was a transition from a free system to a conventional one. But also, I was integrated into the conventional system in a virtual way, which meant adapting to a learning that was taught 100% via a screen. On the other hand, I had a command of the knowledge and content that were required in class, and I was totally at the required level. It was never the case of not understanding a topic, or not having been able to do a job.

Q. What were the steps you followed to join a traditional school? And how did you choose it?

Mila.- Choosing an institution was not easy, we visited around 5 schools and made a comparative diagram with my parents. We finally made the decision taking into account in which school I felt most comfortable, I liked the most, and which one favored us. The first step in the transition process was to visit the institution, then, talk to the administration, and finally, take a series of entrance exams, which were not so relevant, since the school was quite open to receiving students from an alternative system. 

Q. Do you consider that you acquired the necessary tools to function in life?

Mila.- Sulà is life itself in small. Alternative schools have a more comprehensive approach, not just academic, and seek to provide tools to function in life. Some of the most important tools that I acquired in Sulà were; being able to make decisions, finding what I wanted the most, and what was best for me, so in the end, I was able to make the decision not only to change schools, but also change into a different educational system.


Q. How do you think the use of teaching material contributed to activate the logic that allows us to understand mathematics, language and others?

Mila.- The didactic material makes it possible to understand the objectives set. But, in addition to that, it activates an interest, since the topics addressed are understood, and logical thinking begins to develop. 

At school this has helped me a lot to understand the contents that are proposed, and to remind me of the importance of not only memorizing what I have learned, but also understanding it.

The importance of not only repeating, but understanding why, this is how you advance to levels of greater complexity. For me, it is vital not to settle for what I already know. But rather, to use the foundation that I have, and able to investigate a subject in depth.

For example, when using the semi-concrete material perforated table with colored beads, a perfect design was evident, and the answer was there, so it was magic! Then, it can be understood and linked with the symbols.

Each material has its codes and rules included, and by practicing frequently I can come to deduce the formulas by myself. It is necessary to do individual work every day!

What helps, is being able to practice with different materials, because that way, you have several experiences that will allow you to understand better. I love math, I really enjoyed it at Semillero 2. But, sometimes it is necessary for your tutor to accompany you in your concerns, in this respect, I had a good experience with the adults.

Q. It is believed that a free school does not provide the tools to manage learning. What do you think about developing your own work plan?

Mila.- A work plan prepared by oneself reflects our own interests about what we want to learn and our curiosities, but also demonstrates a goal set by oneself. It is not a work plan prepared by adults or teachers. It is a challenge that we set ourselves and we fulfill, not out of obligation, but out of a desire of our own. That is why I think it is so important to develop a work plan ourselves, because it reflects what we want to learn and our determination to achieve it, as well as organization with time and resources.

Tutor.– For Mila it was important to have a work schedule, she was interested in setting times and deadlines to meet the objectives and continue with other topics or deepen those that she had already started, since she had an order of priorities. When she needed information or resources she coordinated it with an adult. The follow-up of her work plan was reflected in the report that she made every day and that was shared with her tutor every Friday, in this sense it was not her obligation, but a way of sharing her progress, difficulties or questions with her tutor.

Q. What would you recommend to moms and dads?

Mila.– What I recommend to mothers and fathers, with the few years of experiences I have had, is that they give a space for their children to be free and to experiment, so that they find what they want and what they like, so that they find themselves, and then they can make decisions in life based on their experiences.

San Mateo
Costa Rica
Marzo 2021