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Jill’s Place is a community of caring people who build healthy relationships in a “home away from home” where the children feel welcomed, valued, supported and loved.  It is a place where every child has a chance to shine every day.  We do not compare children to an unrealistic norm but instead, we measure their progress and celebrate their efforts, kindness, friendship and joy of being lifelong learners.  Our goal has always been and will always be to provide an innovative and balanced learning environment where developing character is our highest priority.

Today we welcome children from age 18 months to 7 years, in a charming villa in Carcavelos, in a cosy, familiar setting, to learn through inquiry, exploration and play. Soon, we will transition to a purpose-built, state of the art campus, where we will apply our 20 years of experience in primary education to offer an English-immersion curriculum that is built based on leading international standards and innovative practices.

The Jill's Place approach to learning

Learning is a journey embarked upon by each individual student. Students learn most effectively when provided with opportunities for exploration, critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving within authentic situations in a meaningful environment that makes them feel comfortable, challenged and happy.

The definition of learning is very closely linked to the Core Values and is derived from and built upon the following philosophical concepts:

1 – LIFELONG LEARNING:  Learning is a lifelong endeavor for everyone, including students, parents, teachers and staff.

2 – IMAGE OF THE LEARNER:  Students are capable and knowledgeable individuals who learn in unique ways. We value the fact that all students have a natural curiosity to explore the world around them and innovate.

3 – ROLE OF THE TEACHER:  Thanks to their knowledge and disposition, teachers are mentors and interviewers who create a tailored learning environment, provide meaningful experience, and guidance to build skills (intellect) and character (mindset and disposition).

4 – PERSONALIZATION:  Data is collected to assess current student skills in order to create appropriate learning goals.

5 – COLLABORATION:  Students gain confidence by participating in social contexts which enhance their understanding through sharing perspectives and constructive criticism.  We value all people and embrace diversity.

6 – HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Students strive to reach the standards expected of them in a developmentally appropriate, meaningful and respectful manner.


7 – LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Learning goes well beyond the traditional classroom, including outdoor spaces. Learning spaces are research laboratories and should be tailored to student interests, skill sets, and developmental levels.

8 – DEEP, HANDS-ON LEARNING:  The focus of learning should be depth of knowledge rather than breadth.  Students learn by doing; experiential learning takes place by creating balanced structured and unstructured activities through real-world projects.

9 – HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: Taking care of the mind, body and spirit as well as modeling sustainable practices is key to living a healthy life. By providing a welcoming and nature-friendly environment, we put our values into practice. 

10 – MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES:  Howard Gardner’s nine intelligences (Interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-analytic, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, pedagogical) are valued equally in order to develop well-rounded students.

11 – IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD:  The family and the community are active participants in supporting student learning and development, and students are active members of the community.

How it all began

« In 2000, when my son Filipe was 1, my husband and I looked for places where he could socialize and engage in meaningful, hands-on activities with peers and teachers, but we were not satisfied with the options. Some friends of ours also had a son of the same age and they were interested in forming a play group together.  Soon, there were four children spending mornings in our home playing, cooking, painting, jumping, reading and singing.

By 2005, Filipe and the original group of four were already at respective primary schools and I had a group of children whose parents had signed them up at “Jill’s Place,” named by the parents themselves. In May of 2010, Jill’s Place moved to our current home at Avenida do Loureiro in Carcavelos. The historic property has been a wonderful setting for learning, with its beautiful architecture and spacious, nature-filled backyard. »

                                                                                        Jill Hichwa, Founder 

Our offering

Our school currently serves 40 children from Carcavelos, Oeiras, Cascais and the greater Lisbon area between the ages of 18 months and 7 years.  Our curriculum is focused on the study of art, movement, nature, building, music, and language activities. We spend as much time as possible out of doors in our backyard, where we have a much-used mud kitchen, a kitchen garden and space for riding bikes, playing basketball, and reading together. We also enjoy spending time in our library, art studio and classrooms.

We provide special emphasis on getting to know each and every child’s strengths and weaknesses.  We establish developmentally appropriate goals and strategies to achieve those goals and adjust our learning environments accordingly. Small class sizes allow us to personalize experiences and create social opportunities which support learning. 

Regular child development reports share our observations, data, and interactions with the children’s families in a way they can easily understand and provide tools to enhance their roles in supporting their child’s evolution.  We create an end-of-term book for each group of children which documents the process of their project in a way the children frequently enjoy reflecting upon and learning about their shared journeys.

Our English-language program is open to children from 18 months to 8 years old in classroom sizes of 8-12 children. Classes run from 9:00 to 15:00 with optional afternoon activities (dance, drama, Portuguese, music) from 15:30 to 16:20 Monday through Thursday. We serve 2 healthy snacks and one hot meal prepared by our expert kitchen staff.

Core Values

The following values are essential to all aspects of teaching and learning, as well as operations and administration:

  • CHARACTER – Be trustworthy, responsible and empathetic. Demonstrate integrity and solidarity to build respectful relationships, celebrating diversity.
  • INNOVATION – Use your creativity to explore and engage in learning experiences. Go beyond current knowledge and practice in an open-minded, fun and playful way.
  • DISCIPLINE – Give your best effort in everything you do. Face challenges with grit, reflect upon failures and successes, and take pride in the results you achieve.
  • SUSTAINABILITY – Do your part to protect nature and save the planet. Be a proactive role model in support of a healthy environment.


We emphasize that children learn naturally through active play, recognizing that children are knowledgeable, creative, caring and unique.

We provide unstructured and structured opportunities to experience a variety of art, music, movement, science, cooking, literacy, numeracy and play activities.

We study about friends and friendship, plants and gardening, and animals and their habitats through a project approach.

About Jill

Jill Hichwa grew up riding, drawing, reading, playing sports and learning languages in Redding, CT, USA.

She participated in several foreign exchanges. Her father taught Physical Education and her mother was a teaching director of a preschool.

She has an older brother and sister who inspire her. Jill graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Wittenberg University and then moved to Portugal in 1993.