Child Centered Program Picture

The Principles of Child-Centered Education

Play and Curiosity

The Antioch School is a place where play is seen to be the finest natural way of learning. Play is the center from which children learn how to get along with one another, to know themselves, and learn about the world around them. Learning through play and being curious about the world are seen as essential parts of being human. They are to be nurtured for their own sake, and as the foundation upon which a child's continued learning will be built.


The Antioch School is a process oriented place, where children discover their abilities, passions, and skills through questioning, problem solving, independent thinking, innovation, and creativity. We believe children love to learn and that this sense of adventure can be lost when a child is pushed to grapple with things they aren't ready for. Children and adults are encouraged to think flexibly. Children learn best when they feel emotionally safe, are challenged, and are supported in their explorations and experiments. The teacher's role is to support children as they try new skills, make discoveries, and take the next step.

The Whole Child

An Antioch School education is holistic. Our program incorporates a natural integration of subjects, providing large blocks of time for exploration and discovery. At The Antioch School teachers know that children grow, and learn, by using all of their senses. Children develop skills through large and small motor processes, as well as thought processes. Children spinning on the tire swing and working on jumping rope are building reading skills, as well as physical ones, and sometimes learning to roller skate is the best way to improve handwriting. Children learn that there are many ways to be smart – emotionally, intellectually, physically, artistically, and many more – and all are valued.

Choice and Consequences

The children are empowered as they take responsibility for themselves as learners and community members; with this responsibility comes freedom and trust which they don't want to betray. Teachers are responsible for creating an environment where children can experience their own choices and consequences. This is how learning takes place. The Antioch School provides opportunity for this type of learning both individually and as part of a group.

Empathy, Caring, and Mutual Trust

Children learn best in an environment where children's and teachers' ideas are respected, trusted, and treated with unconditional positive regard. The learning groups are small, with a caring teacher attending to progress and acting as an advocate for each child. Older children befriend and mentor younger children, often establishing life-long connections. Children learn to solve interpersonal problems through talking and listening, with the help of teachers when needed, resulting in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

Taking Reasonable Risks

Learning is a process of taking risks, as children work on increasingly difficult challenges. In order to succeed, children must be able to make mistakes, experience failure, and learn from that experience. In a caring environment, failure is a powerful learning tool. The teacher's responsibility is to know when each child is ready to take the next step and to support the child's initiative.

Time for Solitude, Reflection, and a Sense of Wonder

The Antioch School cherishes and respects a child's sense of wonder, providing him/her with time to think, observe, experiment, articulate and solve her/his own problem, and make sense of the world. This learning is often active and collaborative, but time is also needed for solitude and reflection. Both children and teachers need time alone for reflection, creativity, and developing their own ideas. In addition, they need time to exchange their ideas and reflections with each other. While this work is important, we also believe childhood is not simply a time to build skills for the future, but is a time to be treasured and enjoyed for its own worth.

Inclusion and Diversity – A Community of Learners

Diversity and inclusion create a depth and richness of ideas and respect for others. Learning groups are multi-age and heterogeneous, laying a foundation for building a strong community of caring individuals who respect and cherish the differences and commonalities of all of its members. Adults are referred to by first name and are an important part of this community. Parents and community members often help out in the classrooms, and visitors are welcome.

Collaborative Learning

Collaboration is a focus of the learning experience at The Antioch School. Children learn that by working together, they can accomplish goals that cannot be accomplished individually. Collaboration is not limited to individual classes, but spans the entire school community. Parents and other adults share their talents with the school community in a variety of vital ways, such as driving for field trips, helping maintain school grounds, or sharing in the children's classroom learning.

The Natural World

At The Antioch School there is an appreciation that the natural world is the foundation for the healthy and natural development of children. Even the building is designed to bring the outside in. The natural world serves as an inspiration for emotional and intellectual growth. Learning is not limited to the classroom. The outdoors is an important learning venue.


For over 90 years The Antioch School has successfully educated generations of children without using grades or tests, based on the belief that they inhibit curiosity, risk taking, and true learning. Primarily through careful observation and personal interaction, the teachers are constantly assessing the children. The Antioch School is a small school by design. We know each child intimately over time, as a student and a human being, creating longevity of assessment. In conferences with parents, teachers share their assessments of each child's progress. Assessment is done in this way to help children accomplish the ultimate goal – developing and valuing their skills of self-assessment.