Children will find a ‘home away from home’ at the new ABC Grow With Me Playschool


Beverly, MA – Drawing on her long career as a caretaker for both the young and the elderly, Susan Marshall says having a schedule is important—but not as important as being flexible and willing to change plans. Susan will bring this perspective to the new ABC Grow With Me Playschool child care program, which will open in her Beverly home this fall.

Susan and children at the new ABC Grow With Me Playschool

Susan and children at the new ABC Grow With Me Playschool

“I think it’s good for children to be on a routine, but I also want them to feel nurtured,” says Susan. “If the kids aren’t feeling well and want to spend more time reading or doing quieter activities, that’s what we’ll do. If learning the alphabet during circle time isn’t resonating, we’ll mix it up. We will be guided by our daily schedule, but we won’t be constrained by it.” 

“Kids will be in school and working for the rest of their lives,” Susan says. “For the few years that they’re in my program, I want them to feel like they are at home. We will learn, but it will be on their terms and guided by their interests.”

Susan’s love for caretaking began in high school, when she started volunteering at Hogan Regional Center in Danvers, working with children and youth confronted by severe physical challenges. After graduation, Susan was hired by the medical facility and worked there for many years. 

“Because it was a residential facility, many of the children were placed there, and their families didn’t really visit them,” Susan explains. “So I would often take patients home with me over the holidays. Once I took a child named Michelle home for Thanksgiving. I had been working with Michelle for years, but she wasn’t able to feed herself. Then, at my family’s Thanksgiving table, Michelle used a spoon for the first time. It all happened fast, but she flashed me a smile. I was so proud of her.”

After starting a family of her own, Susan decided to become an in-home assistant for elderly patients, including individuals in hospice care. The work schedule better suited her growing family—and the job allowed her to continue to pursue her passion. “People always tell me that I have a gift for working with the young and old,” Susan says. “I suppose it’s true—I’m just drawn to the work and to caring for people.” 

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In opening her own program, Susan plans to apply the many lessons she has learned over the years: meeting people where they are and working together to learn and grow. “There won’t be any pressure,” she says. “I want the kids to look forward to coming here, and I want parents to feel like my program is an extension of their own home.”

“We’re going to have a lot of fun and learn along the way,” Susan continues. “I believe that children—and all people, really—learn better through hands-on experiences. For example, we’re going to have an herb garden in my backyard. The kids will help water and care for the plants, watch them grow, pick them, and help prepare foods, like salads.”

“I guess my approach is kind of old school,” she laughs. “Like you’re on a farm!”

ABC Grow With Me Playschool will open as a licensed family child care through the Massachusetts’s Department of Early Education and Care. Although Susan began working towards her license on her own, she quickly connected with NeighborSchools and says she has appreciated the support of NeighborSchools’ team of child care experts.

“If something doesn’t make sense or the process gets hung up, NeighborSchools has been right there to sort it out,” Susan says. “Partnering with NeighborSchools has been a huge help in moving things faster. I’d definitely recommend that anyone considering starting their own program reach out to them. There’s a lot to do, and it’s great to have a helping hand.”

Click here to learn more about ABC Grow With Me Playschool and read testimonials.

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NeighborSchools partners with experienced educators to launch world-class licensed Family Child Care programs. In supporting the creation of more small-scale child care programs, NeighborSchools helps increase access to high-quality programs. Children benefit from lower ratios, greater continuity of care, and a nurturing home environment. Parents can discover and build a relationship with a Provider located right in their neighborhood. Providers get to launch the program of their dreams and earn a living wage, while working hands-on with young children every day.  

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