Questions and answers compiled by Homeschooling in Portugal Facebook group administrator.
If you are considering homeschooling in Portugal, you may find the information you are looking for in the frequently asked questions below. These questions and answers have been gathered from the newly created Facebook group Homeschooling in Portugal.
Since January 2021, this online group has become the space where parents can share their experience, insights and practical information on homeschooling in Portugal, thus helping other parents considering or going through the process themselves.
The Facebook group administrator has kindly compiled and shared with us all of the information gathered by the group members so far. Please keep in mind that the information below is non-official. The answers are based on personal interpretations and experiences shared by the group members.
Homeschooling in Portugal
Before going into the frequently asked questions, it is worth giving a bit of background about what homeschooling in Portugal is. This is covered in more detail in our article Homeschooling & Alternative Schools.
Homeschooling, called Ensino Doméstico in Portuguese, is any form of learning that takes place at home, in the community, in support groups, or at alternative schools.
Although counterintuitive, in order to homeschool, parents are legally required to enroll their children at school. In which case, children are enrolled as being homeschooled.
Parents may choose homeschooling for a shorter or longer period of time. It is useful to keep in mind that homeschooling is an easily reversible path, if needed. This can be particularly helpful during transition periods, such as extended traveling or when dealing health conditions, for example.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that homeschooled children still need to provide formal evidence of learning progress. And this evidence needs to match the national curriculum subjects and standards. At least, this is the case for children enrolled in a traditional Portuguese school. But this will be covered in the questions below.
You can also find out about local education in our article Schools In Ericeira: When, Where & How To Enroll?; as well as in Childcare In Ericeira: Personal Experience; and Childcare Nursery Kindergarten in Ericeira.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Homeschooling Legal in Portugal?
Yes, not only is homeschooling legal in Portugal, but it is also regulated. This means that there are certain steps you need to take in order to get it right.
Do not worry though, all you have to do is to make sure you legalize your homeschooling. In practice, this means enrolling at a school and providing evidence of learning progress.
There is, though, a requirement associated with homeschooling enrollment in Portuguese schools. And this is the requirement that the educator must have a university degree. Let’s have a look at each step and requirement in more detail.
School Enrollment is a Legal Requirement
Children must be enrolled in a school, and apply for the homeschooling modality. Enrollment could be at a public or private Portuguese school that offers homeschooling program.
However, this might be different if your child is already is (or will be) enrolled with a foreign umbrella school that offers a homeschooling program. In that case, you might have the choice to carry on without enrolling at a Portuguese school. As long as you can prove, if necessary, that your child is receiving an education.
Expat parents have reported (Homeschooling in Portugal FB) that it is easier to enroll with a foreign umbrella school from the beginning. As opposite to transferring to an umbrella school having registered with a Portuguese schools first.
Parent/Educator Must Have a University Degree
The parent that will be acting as the educator, encarregado de educação in Portuguese, is required to have at least an undergraduate university degree. Alternatively, another family member, who has a degree, could act as the educator.
Some schools state that this university degree should be recognized in Portugal. Luckily, you can have this done automatically through the DGES page, by filling in an online form. But this only works if your degree has the exact equivalent in Portugal.
Otherwise, if the DGES automatic recognition does not work for your degree. Do not panic! You will need to find a university in Portugal that offers a very similar program. In which case, we would advise you to call DGES and ask their help with finding such a university.
Alternatively, instead of calling them, you could try the DGES website search engine. However, we did find this quite difficult to use. Besides, the search engine was not much of help to us, as we could not find a university for our Physical Education Teaching degree. Also worth mentioning, this non-automatic solution will take longer than the automatic one. Usually 1 to 2 months.
Even if nobody in the household has a degree, homeschooling could still be possible. This could be achieved by hiring a tutor. A tutor is a licensed teacher who teaches a student outside an educational establishment.
This homeschooling modality is actually called Individual Education, Ensino Individual in Portuguese. It goes without saying that you would still be very much involved and responsible for your child’s education. You may contact MEL for more information on homeschooling with a tutor (Ensino Individual). However, be aware that you might actually have to pay an associate fee before you receive any information from MEL.
Evidence of Learning Progress
For years 1 to 3, progress is evaluated through the student’s portfolio. Whereas for years 4, 6 and 9, the child will take a national exam in Portuguese. Should the child fail, they can try again the following year. Falling a second time could rule out homeschooling as an option the following year.
Despite this, we have received some optimistic feedback from a [Homeschooling in Portugal Facebook] group member:
“The World doesn’t end if a child doesn’t pass an exam… the authorities won’t swoop in, given that the children are new to the country. What they want to see is that the child is safe, happy and is being educated.”Parent at Homeschooling in Portugal Facebook group
Besides, arrangements can be made for extra support or Flexi-Schooling (attending school a few days in week) if needed. The key is to have the children at least trying to learn the language. Perhaps by joining clubs and activities, although this would not be possible during the current pandemic.
We are under the impression that, if aware of any concerns in advance, most head teachers would understand and be helpful. But, on the other hand, no learning progress and no effort to liaise with the authorities might lead to a different scenario all together. About which we have not heard in our Facebook group yet.
Here are the sources providing legal framework for homeschooling in Portugal:
- MEL MEL – Associação Movimento Educação Livre (you will need to become a member in order to receive any information. Fees €5 + €30/year)
- DRE Direção Regional de Educação
- DGE Direção-Geral da Educação
How to Register for Homeschooling via a Public School?
You can go to the nearest school and speak to the school secretary. Ask for an appointment with the teacher in charge of homeschooling, because other teachers and staff will not be able to help much.
Then gather all of the required documents listed below and bring them with you to the appointment. Alternatively, submit these documents to the secretary of the school by email. The school should reply to your request within 15 days.
Here are the (bare minimum) documents you will need in order to enroll your child:
- Degree certificate of the parent. If this is not Portuguese, usually, a translated and notarized copy will be required. Additionally, for some schools, the degree should be recognized in Portugal;
- NIF numbers – child’s and parent’s
- Passports and passports copies
- Residence permits and copies
- Homeschool form, explaining the reasons and who will be the teacher
- Learning Project, describing the curriculum you will follow (basically copy it from the Portuguese curriculum with very small adaptations allowed), methods of teaching, how you will evaluate the work, record the progress (usually via a portfolio) etc.
Extra Documents You May Need
Personally, we have been able to enroll our child at school using only the documents listed above. However, to actually formalize the enrollment and do things properly, we have had to present the extra documents listed below.
In our particular case, the municipality in the country where we come from, have requested that we present an Enrollment Certificate. To produce the above mentioned document, our local Portuguese school have asked that we formalize our enrollment by submitting the ‘missing documents’ listed here below.
- A form provided by the school
- National health system number (Cartão/número de Utente de Saúde) -done by registering at your local health center
- Social Security number (NISS)
- Vaccination card, or a health certificate from a local doctor – you can book an appointment with a local private clinic. Tell them the purpose and they will do a check and issue a certificate, which costs about 60 euros.
What About Private Schools Offering a Homeschooling Program?
There are private schools that do offer a homeschooling program.
Usually, these private school programs follow a Portuguese curriculum, in which case children will sit the Portuguese exams. Whereas, in the rare cases in which other curriculum is followed, students should sit the exams that are part of that curriculum.
Unfortunately, that we know about, there are not many International schools open to homeschoolers, apart from Colégio de São José, via Conclara, and the International Sharing School that offers an online education option – not sure which curriculum this would be.
We do not have any further information about this at the moment. If you do, please get in touch and leave a comment!
What About Online / Umbrella School Homeschooling Programs?
Another option is to enroll in an online ‘umbrella’ school that allows parents to set their own curriculum, such as Conclara. Note that this is not illegal in Portugal but it is not legally regulated either.
If you homeschool via an umbrella school you will need to keep notarized (and if needed, translated) copies of all transcripts etc. in order to prove that your child is being appropriately educated. Consider joining MEL for more information or legal advice.
How do I become a MEL associate?
You can fill in a form, pay the fees (€5 + €30/year) via a bank transfer and send the payment confirmation to their email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can my child take other exams, for example GCSEs, A levels, SAT, or others?
The American SAT can be taken at Carlucci American School (who to contact?). If you know of institutions where other international exams may be taken, please get in touch or leave a comment.
Do you have any experience with homeschooling in Portugal yourself? We would love to hear from you! Please share any tips you have in the comments below. Thank you for your support.