Chicago Free School

All Understanding Begins With Wonder

School Philosophy

At the 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.

Our school is organized around five principles:

  • Choice – students have autonomy and freedom

There are no required classes at the Chicago Free School.  Students choose an individualized curriculum that includes classes, projects, field trips, hands-on activities, and free play.  All students learn the core subjects of literacy and math by choosing the classes and activities in those subjects that meet their needs.  Teachers guide students to find activities that are right for them and create classes and activities based on students’ interests.

  • Voice – students have a voice in democratic decision-making

Students get together in all-school democratic meetings to vote on school rules and tackle challenges together.  Students run these meetings and also manage a democratic conflict resolution process.

  • Community – the school environment is safe and caring

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 develop authentic, caring relationships.

  • Inclusion – the school community welcomes everyone.

Our school offers sliding-scale tuition so that all families can afford to attend.  Our curriculum includes a strong focus on social justice and anti-racism.

  • Exploration – learning is hands-on, authentic, and connected to the wider world.

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