At Chicago Free School, students have the freedom to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, while participating in a democratic, inclusive school community. We are guided by five organizing principles:


We respect each learner as unique; our students have autonomy and freedom.

We recognize that no two students are alike, and that each student has their own learning style and journey. That’s why there are no required classes or standardized testing at Chicago Free School. All students learn the core subjects of literacy and math by choosing activities in those subjects that meet their needs, including classes, projects, field trips, hands-on activities, and free play. Teachers guide students to find activities that are right for them, and create learning opportunities based on students’ interests.


Our students are empowered to speak up and play a role in democratic decision-making at school.

From pre-K up through 8th grade, our curriculum seeks to give students the tools they need to problem-solve, develop healthy relationships, and be accountable to one another. Students come together in all-school democratic meetings to vote on school rules and tackle challenges together.  Students run these meetings and learn how to manage a democratic conflict resolution process.


We care for each other, share with each other, and create a safe environment.

With a ratio of 10-15 students per teacher, the school environment is a family-like atmosphere that fosters empathy and trust. Students and teachers at Chicago Free School develop authentic, caring relationships, and each member is invested in creating a place they want to be a part of.


We welcome and respect everyone and seek to break down barriers that keep people apart.

Our school finds strength in diversity of all kinds. Tuition is based on household income so that all families can afford to attend.  Our curriculum includes a strong focus on social justice and anti-racism.


Our learning is hands-on, authentic, and connected to the wider world.

At Chicago Free School, students learn by exploring every day.  Whether it’s learning about fractions through cooking, taking a wilderness hike to identify plants, or participating in a peace march through our neighborhood, learning is connected to the community.

Classroom covenant in the pre-K/Kindergarten homeroom, created and signed by the children