Life at the Green School Bali for five years with three kids!
Profile: Natasha, John, Freddy, James and Checkie
Originally from: Sydney, Australia
Arrived in Bali: August 2014
Home in Bali: Pererenan
What made you move to Bali?
We were looking for a new adventure and a friend told us how great the Green School would be for our kids. John and I had been to Bali many times on holidays before the Bali bombings and to be honest after I had kids I wasn’t attracted to Bali for a holiday destination for years. I always loved Bali but I was also a bit scared as well.
Then it happened very quickly it was coming up to winter and we thought lets go skiing and take the kids out of school for a term, (I had two in primary school and one hadn’t started school) do a season at the snow and then on the way home go somewhere warm to relax which turned out to be Bali.
Originally we weren’t sure what to do with the kids in Bali for a month but then we remembered about the Green School. I knew it would be a great time to move while they were young and not too hooked onto their friends so we just thought lets give it a go and make it a plan instead for about 6 months (a full semester). My husband thought a year away in his head but 6 months was all I could comprehend at first!
So it was a quick decision, within about 3 months, we packed everything up, stored our furniture and enrolled the kids and off we went.
Was it difficult to find a villa?
We found that tricky because we didn’t know how to find a long term villa from Sydney. We were looking up holiday rentals online and we ended going through a company called Bali Luxury villas and negotiated on a beautiful villa in Pererenan for our first 5 months. It took us about 35-40 mins to commute to the Green School. Back then there were only a handful of Green School families in Perenenan as most were in the Ubud area.
How did you get around?
We didn’t drive because we were given a full time driver as part of the villa package. This villa also had a chef, house cleaner, gardener and pool cleaner.
How did you settle in?
Back in 2014 when we arrived, the Green School didn’t have a buddy system or an induction program like they do now. It was hard as we had to work out things like where to shop, the best doctor, how to pay staff etc so it took us a while to find our feet and the 6 months went by so quickly. Then we moved to another gorgeous villa and hired a seperate driver who was amazing and became part of our family.
The Green School was obviously a big part of your Bali life, please tell us all about it!
We loved it and I am really glad the kids got to experience not only the school but the move, the culture and the friendships we formed.
We couldn’t get more opposite to the school my children were at in Sydney – no school shoes, no uniform, classrooms made out of bamboo which had no walls, the way they learnt and so much more.
The Green School community was very international, for example in my daughters’ class she was the only Australian child with 10 other different nationalities. There was a mix of families from celebrities to entrepreneurs to those saving hard to give their children the Green School experience. Still a very transient community with people always travelling for work. The class sizes were between 12-20 kids depending on the year with three teachers in each class. A western teacher (could be from Australia, America, South America, Canada etc ), an educated Indonesian teacher and then an Indonesian helper.
The Green School is famous for their incredible assemblies – they were so amazing! The place where they would have these assemblies, meetings and productions was called the Sangkep. They were always very warm and welcoming and the kids would really get into it. The school also attracted some great visitors to these assemblies too – like Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (security was so tough!) and other famous people like world No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic. These meet and greets were created for the kids to have people to aspire to.
It was great to also see lots of the school kids become young entrepreneurs and start their own little businesses in Bali.
Being “Green” the school had no flushing toilets and they were wholly made out of bamboo. During the wet season you would have floods down the school on the pebble pathways. We were in the jungle so you can imagine what that looked like! The pathways would turn into rivers but the kids thought it was unbelievable, they would have so much fun. What school in the world could you go sliding with no shoes on and get covered in the mud!
The academics are different to back home as there was more freedom to do what you want, be who you want. The Green School makes up their own curriculum based on all the other schools and they follow the European and American holidays.
The food was amazing as the school had their own kitchen and everyday the kids could have a Western and Indonesian lunch. Lunchtime was in the ‘heat of the school’ (which is the heart of the school), and children would sit on special low bamboo tables. Their plates were handmade of baskets with banana leaves and they would have a choice of delicious fresh food, buffet style – so no packed lunches! There was also the Kul Kul farm next door to the school so a lot of the fresh produce came from there. As the school grew we also had a coffee stand, an organic farm stand to buy produce for home, and a raw food stand with delicious salads and desserts.
The school has a local scholarship fund for every year level so one or two Balinese children can attend who normally couldn’t afford the school. Next door at the Kul Kul farm they also have set up a lovely program where parents can volunteer to teach English to the kids from the local village.
Now when you arrive at the Green School you are given a whole booklet on what to expect in Bali (how much things should be, where to do your shopping, best hospitals etc) and they have a great induction program for new parents. Plus the amazing parents already at the school would offer some great talks on topics like dengue, what to do if you get a dog bite or what to do in an emergency.
In the spirit of experiencing an entrepreneurial community and getting inspired by sustainability at the Green School, you also became an entrepreneur and created a fantastic swimwear brand Olga Valentine – tell us how that started.
When we first moved to Bali it was a struggle to find any decent swimwear and the kids would go through so many swimming costumes being in chlorine everyday. So I started making some for my daughter and soon friends would ask for them too. With the Green School influence, I then started looking at sustainable ways to produce and print on recycled materials. It took a while to find suppliers. Originally I couldn’t find recyclable fabric that you could print on and it had to be brought in from Java. Now I can get it in Bali where it is also produced and stitched. Olga Valentine is a mix of swimwear and accessories for both boys and girls up to age 14 years. I have a collection once a year and apart from the online store I also have agents that supply stores worldwide.
What do you miss about Bali?
I miss a lot about Bali! The lifestyle, friends, the community and the food! I miss the staff that became our family. Hope to get over there again when we can!
Do you have any advice for families considering the Green School?
I would definitely recommend the Green School against other schools in Bali because it is so unique and different. It would be the place to go for a great change from your ‘ground hog day’ life if you were looking for a one year adventure or even shorter like a term.
No other school has to offer what the Green School does! Your kids will learn in a totally different way, not your average academics. For example, you may learn maths differently by going outside and building a water feature and work out all the measurements needed and how the water is going to fall etc Then of course the sustainable influence which is so important in all our lives. I think what kept us there so long was the community. It really was amazing.
To understand more about schooling in Bali and the different school options around the island get in touch with us.
To experience the Green School another way, I also suggest checking out their great children and family camps or even just book a tour. Below are some photos I took when I did a tour of the school with my children.