Chicago Free School

All Understanding Begins With Wonder

FAQ

Q: I am interested in the Chicago Free School for my child.  How can I learn more?

A: You can email us at admissions@chicagofreeschool.org We can answer any questions you might have.  We will put you on our mailing list to be invited to upcoming information events.

Q: Is Chicago Free School a private, public, or charter school?

A: The Chicago Free School is an independent, not-for-profit private school.  This allows us the independence to maintain a student-driven curriculum without standardized testing.

Q: Where is the school located?

A: We are located in the school building at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, 1100 E Hyde Park Blvd (51st and Greenwood).

Q: How much does it cost?

A: The Chicago Free School has sliding scale tuition based on family income.  Our goal is to be affordable to all interested families, regardless of their ability to pay.  The average tuition we expect to charge is about $6,000.  The top tuition is $12,000 and the minimum is $1500 for K-8 and $3500 for PreK.

Q: Will you accept any type of voucher for PreK?

A: We are in the process of becoming certified to accept Illinois Action for Children vouches for low-income families with PreK children.

Q: Will there be a discount for families with multiple children?

A: The tuition for your second child (and each additional child) will be 50% of the tuition we calculate for your first child.  For example if we calculate the tuition for your first child to be $8,000 on our sliding scale, each additional child would be an additional $4,000.

Q: How can I register?  What is the registration deadline?

A: Registration has begun.  Go to the admissions page for information and our application.  Registration will continue on a rolling basis.

Q: Is there still space available for 2015-2016?

A: We have space in grades 4-8.  Our other classes are full but you can join the waiting list by applying on the admissions page.

Q: What does a typical student’s day look like?

A: Each student follows an individualized curriculum based on their interests, so each student’s day is different.  A typical day starts with a class meeting followed by a read-aloud and a small group reading activity, then free choice time time to play outside or work on a filmmaking project.  A student might do math independently or in a hands-on group activity before lunch, followed by more time to play outside, then an elective class about civil rights or identifying plants.  The day might end with a cooking project or time spent building with legos.

Q: Do you have a business plan or other financial documents?

A: Interested families that want to know more about our budget and revenue streams can contact us at our email, chicagofreeschool@gmail.com, with questions.

Q: Will there be aftercare or an extended-day program?

A: We offer an after-school program that runs until 6pm for an additional fee.

Q: What classes are offered?

A: Reading and math happen every day – each child has an individualized curriculum in those subjects that will include small-group classes and independent projects.  Teachers and guest teachers offer elective classes in subjects like art, history, science, cooking, dance, yoga, gardening, filmmaking, and computer programming.  Students can also request classes on topics they are interested in.

Q: If students get to choose what they want to learn, how will families know what they are learning?  How will families know if they are making progress?

A: Each student has an individualized curriculum.  All students learn the core subjects of literacy and math, but these will look different for each student based on their goals and interests.  In addition, students choose a variety of other classes and activities.  Three times a year, teachers prepare narrative reports of what each child has been learning to share with families.  Teachers will track each student’s progress through a mix of informal observation and formal assessment such as quizzes and projects.  Teachers will work with each student to help students track their own progress.

Q: If there are no required classes or topics, won’t some students just do nothing?

A: We believe that children are naturally curious, and when students are free to follow their own interests in a safe and caring environment, they are enthusiastic and joyful about learning across a variety of subjects.  The Free Schools in Albany and Brooklyn have found that in their schools, students’ curiosity often only gets deeper over time.

Q: What happens to students after they leave a Free School?  Do they succeed in more traditional academic settings?  Do they go on to college?

A: The Albany Free School and the Brooklyn Free School have found that their students leave with a love of learning, excellent critical thinking skills, and a high level of motivation.  They do well in their later schooling and many choose to go on to college.

Q: How does your school prepare children for the real world?  Will they be prepared for adult life?

A: Free School students develop their intrinsic motivation, so when they enter adult life, they are ready to pursue their own goals.  They are given many opportunities to learn in authentic settings in school, to make mistakes, and to resolve their own conflicts. Free School students tend to develop maturity beyond their years and are ready to tackle adult life with enthusiasm.

Q: What will the food be like?

A: We are investigating the process of getting a contract for food service – we expect that it will take some time.  In the mean time, students bring their own lunches.

Q: Can parents volunteer?  I am not a parent, can I volunteer?

A: Our school will welcome volunteers in a variety of capacities – from story readers to field trip chaperones to volunteers to help us with building upkeep.  Please contact chicagofreeschool@gmail.com with questions.

Q: What does the Free School look like for pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners?

A: The youngest students at our school are not expected to participate in all-school meetings.  They have their own separate classroom with close supervision.  Students still make choices to direct their own learning and spend the majority of their time in free play.  We incorporate constructive play activities, arts and crafts, outdoor exploration, and dramatic play into the choices available for young children.

Q: Can I send my 3- or 4-year-old part time?

A: Depending on available space, we may be able to accommodate part-time enrollment in pre-school.  Email us at chicagofreeschool@gmail.com for more information.

Q: Does my pre-school child need to be toilet-trained?

A: Yes.

Q: Will my 4-year-old be in classes with 14-year-olds?

A: Students are invited to join in classes based on their interests and prior knowledge, regardless of age.  Mixed-age learning is a hallmark of a Free School environment and enriches the school community.  Some classes are appropriate for all ages, while others are geared toward the social, developmental, and academic needs of older or younger students.

Q: Can your school accommodate students with special learning needs?

A: We do not have any Special-Ed certified staff, nor are we equipped to provide specialized services such as speech-language and occupational therapy.  However, all students have an individualized curriculum at the Chicago Free School, and the low student-to-teacher ratio means students can have a lot of individual attention.  Many families find that a Free School is a good environment for their child with special needs.  Please contact us at chicagofreeschool@gmail.com if you would like to ask more detailed questions about your child’s needs.

Q: How can I find out more about other Free Schools?

A: The Albany Free School has a website with pictures and information about their program.  The Brooklyn Free School also has a website. Also recommended are several books written by long-time Free School teacher Chris Mercogliano: Teaching the Restless and Making It Up As We Go Along.