Chronicle | The children of La Cabane

I have a weakness for people who do things differently. But sitting there, surrounded by children telling me about their Hut, I can only bow to so much creativity…

Posted at 9:00am

La Cabane is a creative family space in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie neighborhood of Montreal. From Saturday, the general public can enjoy the sites designed by designer Bruno Braën (Pullman, Hunting and Fishing, Moleskine) in exchange for an annual subscription at a low price…

And I’d say it’s worth it.

Around me: a climbing module, a slide, a reading corner at height, a large children’s kitchen, a disco ball, an indoor greenhouse, tables with adjustable height to tinker with the family with “kits creative” for free… .

Everything invites young people to learn in the community.

“We have three main pillars of action,” explains co-founder Christine Renaud. Involved citizenship, creation and a healthy lifestyle are part of our gardening and cooking. †

On weekends, everyone is invited to attend workshops on these themes or to stroll around unsupervised. Just for the pleasure of being there together.

During the week, the place is reserved for children whose parents are responsible for education, as they have chosen to homeschool. Or, as we say here, “family education”.

In fact, that’s where the whole project started, two years ago… Unless it was 20 years ago?

I did my baccalaureate in secondary education in 2003. A philosophy teacher asked us: “Who wants to start school here?” I didn’t even know you could be an education entrepreneur! I started to get interested in alternative pedagogy…

Christine Renaud

Christine Renaud went on to do a master’s degree in educational sciences from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then moved to New York, where she created a technology tool that promotes collaborative learning: Braindate. A success.

Back in Quebec, she launched the company e180 and told herself that the day she had children, she would build their dream space… Then came Nora.


Christine Renaud and Sophie Duchastel de Montrouge

Christine’s daughter quickly made a best friend at the nursery. Christine fell in love with her mother, Sophie Duchastel de Montrouge, a renowned and dedicated restaurateur.

“She became my sister, my partner. †

Sophie had two grown daughters who had studied in public. Although she sees several benefits, the entrepreneur wanted to get more involved in her youngest child’s school career.

“Childhood goes by quickly… The more you can be with it, the more magical it is!” †

Family education became a good option.

In 2020, the accomplices therefore launched the very first version of La Cabane. Three days a week, 16 young people aged 6 to 12 met in a former monastery with educators advocating for pedagogy through challenges.

In this approach, projects are defined by issues raised by children, their families and community members. For example, during the pandemic, we wondered how to have a safe Halloween…

By brainstorming, the young people came up with a solution: what if we had a parade of giant dolls?

A screenwriter and costume designer from Cirque du Soleil agreed to accompany them. The children had to write the outline of the project, devise the parade, and do measurements (and therefore calculations) before they could make papier-mâché monsters. The local residents were treated to a whole show!

Similarly, when a child said he wanted to learn more about exploring the cosmos, it was a college student doing her PhD on the cultural mediation between art and space that came to teach the little ones. †

There is an entire village that supports La Cabane.

Now that they’ve moved into a 6,000-square-foot building, the entrepreneurs can accommodate twice as many young people in family education, at a cost of $50 a day (tax relief can be granted as a conservation).

Parents can stay on site to telecommute, participate in activities or simply go away.

“It’s good to have time for yourself”, sums up Sophie Duchastel de Montrouge, whom I meet in the craft workshop offered upstairs.

Around her make about twenty children ojos de dios, typical Mexican items. It is that every month they are interested in their own culture. In addition, a communal meal was prepared for the occasion.

The tamales and coleslaw I get are exceptional. Helped children to do this? For real ?

The fact that it is Shelly Garinther (Olive and Gourmando, Rhubarb) who guides the culinary workshops probably has something to do with it…

She will also be in charge of the picnic station menu, where members will soon be able to eat and drink. The products are chosen with particular attention to organic and local cultivation. Some are even grown on the spot! This summer, the building’s parking lot will be transformed into a garden with playground equipment and beer garden…

I take advantage of the meal to chat with the children.

Henri (9 years old) is with Arjan (11 years old). They both started homeschooling when COVID-19 hit. With La Cabane they discovered a model “very nice compared to school”, they say in the same breath.

Arjan likes to meet people. Henri is glad he no longer spends his days behind a desk.

“We can be free,” he says simply.

I receive his punishment as a small blow.

I never imagined such a childhood. This model is certainly not for everyone, but it exists and I think it is beautiful.

Then Christine Renaud shuts me down by telling me that the La Cabane team just bought land in Lawrenceville. It will create an educational farm and residences for family artists there, in order to further diversify its activities…

So maybe I do want babies.

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