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Why you should attend Hawthorne Family Playschool’s Open House on Feb 12th

 Hi Urban Mamas! It’s school choice time again and many of you are trying to decide where to send your preschooler.  I was fortunate enough to find Hawthorne Family Playschool or "HFP" when our firstborn was ready for school two years ago.  At that time, I knew I had found a really special, sweet place for our child.  My daughter thrived there and I did too, making wonderful connections that came from being part of a deeply involved community of parents and children.

This year, our daughter started kindergarten and our son finally got his turn at HFP.  It’s been an eye-opening year for us, as we faced, at times, serious culture shock in the Portland Public School system.  In contrast, we have witnessed some of the most child-affirming moments at our preschool:  Children with intense separation anxiety gaining obvious confidence and showing wonderful growth in their relationships with other children…  A new student whose parents switched to our program because he was dreading school sharing that his favorite part of the day is going to HFP…  The day my son was having an off day and just wanted to “be alone” and we built him a little cave/fort inside of the hollowed out tree trunk in the loft room and gave him the emotional space and support to work through his temper tantrum (and he emerged as his normal, happy self a short while later, dying to check out the marbles and soapy water in the sensory table.)  Simply put, we have come to realize just how wonderful our preschool experience has been.  We are so happy to give our children this experience during such an important stage in their development.  

I don’t know for sure if our school is right for your family, but I feel certain that it is one of the best early childhood programs available and one that everyone should seriously consider.  In my mind, it’s a bit of a hidden gem, and I’m hoping my firsthand experiences, above, and the following information will encourage you to check out our Open House on Saturday, February 12th (10am to 1pm).  We do give enrollment priority to families who attend, so mark your calendars!

I’m sure you’ll come with lots of questions that we’re happy to answer, but here are some of the important things to know about us:


Hawthorne Family Playschool or “HFP” is a small, mixed-age cooperative preschool, just south of the Hawthorne Safeway in southeast Portland. Being a cooperative, HFP is a great place for families that want to be active participants in their child's early development. 

We have the smallest class size of any of the eastside co-ops, with a maximum of 14 students with at least three adults (one teacher plus two scheduled parents helpers).  We also enjoy additional support from interns and benefit from a culture that encourages parents to participate.

Our teacher, Susan Eisman, has been working with children for more than twenty years and, in addition to holding a degree in art and women's studies, has completed master's level work in human development with a focus on the stages of childhood.  She draws her philosophy from many quality programs like Reggio Emilia and Waldorf without being overly dogmatic.  She is a deep thinker and a sweet soul, and she encourages us to think and talk about why our kids do what they do and how we can be supportive in their discovery of themselves as individuals and part of a group.

We are a diverse community of parents who place a high value on creating an environment that supports a preschooler's natural curiosity.  I was initially drawn to the school because I loved the emphasis on natural materials and getting fresh air and exercise without pre-scripting play with traditional play structures.  Our kids climb hay bales, balance on boards, scale our branch wall and have pretend tea parties in tee pees.   The Oregon Environmental Council designated HFP as an eco-healthy preschool and our kids enjoy healthy, vegetarian snacks each day.

Our program is heavily play-based, which I wasn't sure about at first, but I have come to appreciate the fact that 3, 4 and 5 year olds learn much of what they need to know from play and personal discovery.  I wondered if a play-based preschool would adequately prepare my children for kindergarten, but I now firmly believe that being part of a community like ours lays the foundation for lifelong curiosity and learning.  I also see how much better high energy kids like my son thrive in an environment that supports their need to move their busy bodies.

I encourage all of you to come visit HFP at our Open House between 10am and 1pm on Saturday, February 12th and meet Susan Eisman, our very special teacher, and our community of deeply involved parents who are the other ingredient to making this a great environment.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about our school or the co-op experience.


Shannon Rhoads

Membership Coordinator, Hawthorne Family Playschool

Email me at:  membership at hawthornefamilyplayschool.org



We love HFP and Teacher Susan! We've been part of the community since the fall, and feel really lucky to be part of such a supportive group of people who care so much about their little ones.

We were a founding family at HFP and still have wonderful memories of this warm place and special teacher. With our kids in 6th and 3rd grade now, I know that play-based learning gave them confidence and creativity in their own self-teaching skills and a love of learning. A co-op taught me that there is a wide range of development and lots of good ideas to use at home.

We are the new family that switched because our son spent all week dreading the two mornings a week he went to school. That was complicated, and all tied up in our family’s story and our son’s personality, but in this short comment space I want to share two things with those of you starting out on this journey: (1) I really truly believe that HFP is indeed a treasure—a wonderfully safe, loving, playful space where our kids can continue to discover who they are, how their world works, and what it means to be a part of a healthy community. Teacher Susan is amazing—she truly respects and honors each child’s differences and strengths and helps each of them to continue growing in all of the ways they can grow, wherever they are along their path. Ditto for those of us on this wild ride called parenting—and all of the children and the parents at HFP love and trust and respect her for that. I think that HFP has really taken to heart the ideal behind what being a co-op is all about, and everyone there joyfully and willingly walks the talk—even when (especially when) it feels hard. I have toured a number of co-ops and had a pretty in-depth experience at one before coming to HFP, and I am really feeling that difference and am grateful for it. (2) Speaking of differences among co-ops: Yes, each has its own personality. If you’ve seen one co-op, I’ve come to believe, you’ve seen one co-op. So even if you feel committed to the idea of a co-op (but especially if you’re still on the fence), come check us out! Whether we’re the closest one to your home or across the river (as HFP is for us), Portland’s a small city—and it’s well worth visiting a number of them so you can get a feel for where your family might feel comfortable. I know that when we toured co-ops last winter, we instantly fell in love with HFP during the open house. We just felt comfortable here. In retrospect, after ending up somewhere else and now finally joining HFP and feeling like we’ve come “home,” that feeling spoke volumes. So stop by on the 12th – even if we’re barely on your radar screen right now – and take a peek. It’ll be fun!

This is our 2nd year at HFP. This preschool/community is everything we wanted our son to be exposed to. We wanted his preschool experience to be a place where kids socialize, move, play and learn to love school. I had done some research before choosing a preschool and it was important to us that our sensitive, kinetic and active son would be allowed to function at his own natural development. What he needs at this age is to feel accepted for being a normal, loud, and active boy

Teacher Susan appreciates the ways in which boys and girls express themselves. She understands real learning occurs when all kids can touch, smell, move, and taste in a play based environment. Our son thrives because she consciously accepts and loves our kiddo for who he is naturally.

We feel so blessed to be a part of this community.

Good stuff as per usual, thanks. I do hope this kind of thing gets more exposure.

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