Living Our Values
At Chicago Friends School, Quaker values guide our instruction, culture, and the ways we engage with the world.
Every child has a gift to give the world
“Friends believe that each person has the capacity for goodness and a responsibility to attain that goodness. Friends schools believe that education is preparation for the whole of life: the lively development of intellectual, physical and social-emotional capacities as well as those of the spirit.”
— Friends Council on Education
Our deepest calling is to grow into our authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks — we will also find our path of authentic service to the world.
— Parker J. Palmer
At the heart of Quaker beliefs is the idea that regardless of accomplishment or status, every person is worthy of respect and love. Everyone has a unique gift to give the world.
At Chicago Friends School, we see our job as helping children to grow into their full selves and preparing them for purposeful lives. Our whole-child curriculum embraces linguistic expression, quantitative reasoning, creativity, and investigation, while engaging the child’s body, mind, and spirit. An interdisciplinary approach helps students to develop different skills as they solve real world problems. We teach emotional intelligence, service, and interpersonal problem-solving to help them have the skills they need to get along with others and help their community.
Quaker values shape school life and instruction
There is no curriculum for values. They gradually emerge over time through students’ interactions with their fellows and through the impact of their environment and their experience, until their values become part of them, and they feel them in their bones.
— Stephen G. Cary
Quakers have no formal creed or dogma. Instead, Quakers have a commitment to a set of core values, sometimes called the Quaker testimonies. Sometimes referred to by the acronym SPICES, these are simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and service.
Simplicity. The Quaker commitment to simplicity means that we strive to focus our time and effort on what is most real and meaningful rather than being distracted by consumerism or superficial concerns. In keeping with our commitment to simplicity, the school tries to model sustainable living, composting food and garden scraps, using reusable materials such as cloth towels, and growing and consuming our own vegetables in the school garden.
Peace. The classroom environment is a pivotal place for children to begin to understand the importance of peace and conflict resolution. Our staff encourages, models, and teaches nonviolent, nonauthoritarian modes of conflict resolution. By talking through conflict, children begin to understand the needs and feelings of others, develop tools to prevent conflict, and successfully integrate resolution dialog into their daily lives.
Integrity. The Quaker value of integrity helps students to begin to develop and nurture meaningful and trusting relationships within the classroom and the community. By being true to ourselves and others, we can create positive interactions with everyone.
Community. Community is achieved through many different experiences. Students interact daily within and across different classrooms, through joint study and reflection, and through activities such as field trips. Students interact socially at shared recess, community outreach, and service events. The larger community comes together for activities such as potlucks, garden picnics, and other annual events and traditions. Parents support the school community through volunteering at social events, chaperoning field trips, or assisting in community outreach activities.
Equality. Quakers believe that all people should be treated equally no matter their race, color, ethnicity, religious background, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical ability. Rooted in our commitment to equality, Chicago Friends School’s classrooms nurture cooperation and collaboration and become a safe place to learn, dissent, and question. Teachers and students work together in conversation and investigation to build new knowledge.
Service. The school community does service in many ways. Students do service that is connected to everyday instruction and the school’s annual theme. For example, in 2018-2019, our instructional theme was Machines. Students learned about the components of computers and phones, and their impact on the environment, then did a technology recycling drive. For our Water -themed curriculum year, students learned about the global water crisis and helped to raise money to build a well in Africa. For our Trash and Treasure theme, students cut patterns for shoes out of gently used jeans to send to Jinja, Uganda, where local shoemakers finished them with recycled rubber bottoms. These recycled shoes protect children and adults from parasites.
Once a month, students visit The Admiral at the Lake, a retirement community in the heart of Edgewater, where students create relationships and experiences with residents through crafts, games, and stories. Having the opportunity to help others by reaching across social and geographical boundaries helps students develop the awareness, understanding, and vocabulary to become better citizens and future leaders.
Welcoming to all faith traditions
It is notable that families of various faiths or interfaith families choose to send their children to Chicago Friends School; there is an intersection of spirituality and humanitarian appeal. This ethic, as expressed through Quaker values, distinguishes the choice to send a child to a Friends school rather than other options available in the independent school realm and is a legitimate foundation upon which to build a viable, vital student body.
— Chicago Friends School parent
While we are a Quaker school, most of our families come from non-Quaker religious backgrounds or do not practice a religious tradition. We respect all diverse religious feelings, thoughts, and commitments within our community and create a space for students to learn and reflect while honoring different expressions of spirituality or faith.
We do not teach dogma or have specific religious instruction. Chicago Friends School families find the fundamental Quaker values to be consistent with their religious teachings or guiding principles.
Exploration of Quaker values is approached communally through our weekly community meeting. The Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and service — and their value on a personal, community, or global level — are reflected on and discussed. Participants are free to share within the meeting their own personal relationship and experiences with these values or can simply reflect quietly and independently.