Learning Together: The Value of HFP Co-op Life

We are beyond lucky to have found a community as tightly woven as HFP. We are a diverse group of families coming together with a common goal, nurturing our children through what is the first school experience for many, laying a positive foundation for the journey beyond. Our community is strongly led by Susan whose passion and wisdom benefits both the children and their families. Co-ops can require a big investment of time and energy but the reward is so great. To all the families currently enrolled and to those who have come before us, thank you for your contributions in making HFP a rich community.  – Melisa Ferguson (HFP President)

Melisa and kids       Bart Co-op 01-15

It’s gratifying for parents to be an integral part of our children’s education.  
Together we learn through natural settings, exploring a range of materials, 
 trying new activities, and making fresh connections.  We value and discuss the differences that make us a community.  A co-op allows us to  witness our own child’s  progress,  alongside their classmates’ growth.  – Bart (HFP Vice President)

Thank you for all your time, effort and love that you give to the school and our children.  This school thrives because of you.  Our children thrive because of what we do for them.  I believe that seeing other parents caring for them as well as their own kids helps build their confidence, self-esteem and builds the foundation of how they socialize with their peers and adults.  -Jeff (MWF Class Representative)

 Co-op Life Forest       Amy co-op crop 01-15

The reasons our family has chosen HFP for four years running have grown over the years.  With our first child, the step out of the home and into the world seemed like such a huge one.  Being part of her school and in the classroom as a helper was a more gradual transition, though still a teary one!  It was tough to navigate childcare for my baby in order to be in the classroom with my 3 year old, but every shift I had, my daughter was thrilled that I spent that time just with her, and I wouldn’t have made that time if I hadn’t been forced to.  And my 1 year old proved his resilience by playing like a champ with my neighbor and new friends who I traded childcare with through HFP.    
At the end of her two years we could see even more clearly the gift that we had given to her.  At HFP her questions were welcomed and used as a springboard to delve deeper into whatever area of inquiry she and her pals were occupied with.  She learned that many adults wanted to talk with her, and play with her, explore and create together – that her teacher and her parent helpers were there to facilitate her play and discovery, not tell her what to do or think.  They are her friends and met her in the spirit of peers.  
Now that she is in Kindergarten I can see how her confidence, intelligence and joy of learning have been deeply rooted through her introduction to school at HFP.  I worry less that she’ll internalize any limitations on the part of her more traditional learning environment because she has learned to think independently and follow her curiosity.  I worry less that she will be bullied or bully others and instead reach out and make friends from different backgrounds across race and class because she has practiced compassion, talked about differences with joy and curiosity, and been encouraged to use her voice to speak up about unfairness towards herself or others.  I worry less that she’ll lose her connection to the natural world, because she has gotten down and dirty splashing in puddles, cared for little living things, and discovered the fun and mystery of our world and the strength of her own body, playing outside day in and out throughout the seasons.  

When it came time to decide if our second child, who had much more experience with childcare outside the home, and us with the experience of dropping him off into someone else’s care, should come to HFP, it was for all of these reasons and a few more.  Many educators see rowdy boys and they roll their eyes or grimace or ask them to sit still or tell them to be quiet.  I understand why this is and how we all have to learn to control our bodies and respect others.  But I didn’t want this to be the overwhelming lesson for my little boy.  Teacher Susan wants kids to move, to run, to jump, to be physically challenged, and to learn to redirect their energy to stimulating and challenging play that can also focus them on other part of their energetic, creative selves.  Susan is committed to supporting children to be fully who they are and not be limited by their gender biology or identity.  I want my son to feel strong and powerful, to be understood as trying to be big in a world that he has so little control over, to feel respected even as he is redirected, and I see that in Susan’s practice, and I have learned from her how to be a more compassionate parent. 
Many families and children, including our own, have wished aloud that our kids could just continue through school together at HFP.  Until Susan decides to launch that new enterprise, I am reassured that the gifts of HFP are lasting, irrevocable ones that my children will benefit from just like good soil for a young tree.  And for my part I know that I have grown as a parent through the community at HFP, Susan and our families, who I have worked, played, planted, cleaned, camped, sang, and hiked alongside of, whose children I have also had some small part in nurturing, and who are trying to figure out so many of the same puzzles of early childhood.  
Something  happens to us when we work together to build something important.  Not everyone has the time, ability, or interest to take part in a cooperative, and it does take time – for meetings, fundraising, parent helping, work parties, jobs within the co-op.  But choosing to make the time and commit to the HFP community can transform the experience of early childhood parenting from one that is sometimes isolating, often emotional and draining, invisible and thankless, into a shared journey among worthy fellow travelers who are celebrating the important work of raising children and building a place where childhood is truly safeguarded.  For me, as a new mother stumbling through my days with varying degrees of skill and grace, I am proud and grateful for the touchstone that HFP has become for our family.  I am so thankful to my fellow families and to the one and only Teacher Susan for making all this possible.  – Amy Dudley (Co-op Parent)

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