Management by Freedom
A child’s optimal intellectual development takes place best with structured independence. In such a setting, children learn to think for themselves. They learn to challenge themselves and see what they are capable of accomplishing.
The process of guiding children towards this freedom begins at birth. It comes in small steps, such as learning to dress, wash hands, and brush teeth.
At Challenger, we encourage students to understand self-ownership. They build confidence in the strength of their own minds to live successfully and happily as they discover what they can do for themselves and experience the delightful freedom that comes from overcoming achievable challenges. Our teachers, in turn, nurture this independence, beginning with the first moments each child steps into the classroom.
The Difference between Freedom and Force
Freedom is the absence of coercion. Force, on the other hand, restricts children, hindering what they do by discouraging self-ownership or management.
Force does not have to be physical punishment. In fact, it is most often effected through the threat of punishment, guilt, or fear. Children taught in this manner do not have the opportunity to develop their thinking skills. They just learn to obey, driven by the fear of future punishment or the deprivation of something they value.
At Challenger, we offer students the freedom they need to explore life. Rather than using force, we manage expectations and teach students to consider foreseeable consequences in order to encourage proper behavior. We focus our effort on teaching students to perceive reality correctly so as to give them the means to choose their consequences.
Freedom, like all things, is contextual and must, therefore, be augmented as children demonstrate the ability to think and act correctly. Toddlers will not understand the danger of cars, so they must be physically restrained from running into the street. As children grow, however, they should be given more independence over their actions and their environment.
By placing reasonable and justified restraints on freedom of action, we teach students to grow and mature without being overwhelmed or taking very damaging risks. As students demonstrate to teachers what they can do, their independence rightfully increases. Students take pride in feeling capable and “grown up,” which in turn encourages them to continue to manage their own behavior and meet reasonable expectations.
Consider the Challenger class who must move from rug time to the tables for art. The teacher breaks the process down into parts, teaching the children first to wait for her instruction before picking up art supplies. They practice moving quietly and efficiently to the tables themselves. As they prove their ability to behave in a disciplined approach, the teacher lets them know that she is pleased with their progress. The students feel confident in themselves. The teacher can then relax her regulations and have a classroom that behaves appropriately despite minimal control. In this environment, children thrive.
The Impact of Force and Freedom on Education
Force and freedom both have an important impact on how children learn. Only one, however, allows children to reach their full potential.
Force encourages concrete memorization. Children do not learn to think; instead, they learn to regurgitate what they were taught. They do not make connections between subjects. They “echo” what they hear or imitate what they see by looking for others to offer them directions. This dependency can follow them through the rest of their lives. These children will become dependent on friends, family, and even the government for their very survival.
Within the environment offered by independence, children learn to think. Our students do not feel constricted by guilt or fear because our teachers provide the boundaries for them to explore their ideas. Teachers nurture a classroom that is governed by freedom and purposeful guidance. The students feel encouraged to rise to the expectations of their loved teachers. They are empowered and discover what they are capable of accomplishing.
Children learn to not only respect their own freedom but also the freedom of those around them. They learn to respect their classmates. At young ages, this includes not hurting others and behaving appropriately in a classroom setting. As the students mature, they continue on this path. They find themselves capable of listening to the ideas of their classmates and grasp how to respond appropriately to disagreements without feeling threatened by differing beliefs or opinions.
The Value of a Challenger Education
At Challenger, we carefully guide our students on the path of critical thinking and respect. With consistent expectations for behavior and by teaching correct principles, we teach children how to manage themselves within contextual boundaries. We present them with small challenges that encourage them to succeed and continually increase the complexity of the challenges and freedom of choice. We lay the framework for students to become the self-sufficient, independent adults that we know they can be. A Challenger education offers children a unique opportunity to accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
Hugh Gourgeon, Challenger CEO
2021 National Blue Ribbon School