‘Take a break and spend quality time with your family on a bounty-island – without you children missing out on school’. This suggestion seems harder and harder to resist for busy families all over Sweden. During the last four years the number of students in the Swedish school, Lanta Sanuk, on Koh Lanta has increased rapidly.
“The main thing Scandinavians are missing is time. By taking a few months – or maybe even a year – out of the calendar and go abroad you have the opportunity to spend time with your children – not just the few hour of “quality time” as the media sometimes calls it but actual time,” says Camilla Lebert Hirvi who is the founder and head of the school, which attracts worn-out paradise-seeking parents from all over Sweden.
“Scandinavia has never been so wealthy before and yet we seem to work longer hours than ever before. The consequence is that many parents are so much away from their children, that they are missing out on more and more of their childhood, if we do not something to prevent it” she ads.
From pressure to paradise
That is exactly what the inventive Swedish woman did herself nine years ago.
“Back in Sweden, we were so busy all the time with our job and a house that we were renovating. It actually went so bad, that my then-husband fell ill from stress. That incident made us take a rapidly different approach towards things. So we decided to sell everything and move out here,” Camilla Lebert Hirvi explains.
Soon after the small family which also counted the couple’s young daughter Thelma left Sweden to build a new life in Thailand.
“My daughter was six years old when we got to Koh Lanta, so she needed to go to school, so I started to look for teachers – and it turned out we were not the only one with that need.”
What started as home-schooling for Thelma soon became an actual school for the increasing number of Swedish children, who followed the example of the Lebert Hirvi-family and went to the island for various amounts of time. Today the school takes up a great amount of space on the beach resort, where the school for the almost 200 children and teachers is located.
Monks and mosques
Even though some children only attend the school for a short period of time, the school should not be seen as just a temporary substitute for the school back home in Sweden.
“One of the great rewards of the location is the easy access for the children to experience various cultures. Our students have been visiting local temples, mosques, churches and the indigenous tribes nearby. It is important to us that they lean something about the culture of the country they are staying in” Camilla Lebert Hirvi says.
Actually the small classes of the School on Koh Lanta can be quite advantageous compared with a average Swedish school according to her.
“We try to keep the standard of the school high, for instance our classes doesn’t exceed 12 scholars, so the number of students in each class considerably lower than a typical Swedish school” she explains.
But the children are not the only ones to get a different perspective on things on the island in the south-western part of Thailand.
“It astonishes how you change mentality when you change location. Compared with our demanding Stockholm-life, we live a much more relaxed and simple life out here. We consume considerably less and spend much more time with the children,” says Mia Jiewertz.
Along with her husband Mats she moved to the island almost one year ago with their seven-year-old daughter Alice and six-year-old Karl, who attend the first grade and the kindergarten-class on the Swedish school.
“My children have been visiting tribal people, played with local children at the orphanage and been meditation with Buddhists monks. How many Swedish first graders have done that?” she asks.