WonderHere is Bigger & Better Than Ever… see for yourself!
(Photos included in blog…this one is a must read!)
We have been so quiet on the blog front lately, but that is because we have been busy working on all that is behind the doors at 115 SF Ave! It is no secret that we have well-loved our space at 111 SF Ave, but we quickly outgrew that square footage before we closed the books on our first year in business. We shared with you all last spring that we would be expanding to add an indoor play studio and urban garden, and we haven’t had a moment to stop and update you on our progress since that announcement. So, guys… it’s here! We are in our newly expanded space and can’t even remember what we ever did without it! WonderHere is better than ever before!
There were bumps along the way.
When opening a company as innovative as WonderHere, we knew classifying it properly through the city would be a challenge. Along the way, a few mistakes were made by the city that surfaced when we began to expand. This discovery nearly tripled our renovation budget and delayed our project 2 months. There were many tears shed, many meetings held with various city officials, and a lot of learning done on both sides. WonderHere is stronger for it and it appears we have even helped make positive changes that will improve the process for other companies coming behind us. To make a long story short (we will have to do another blog just on all that went down), this summer has been a growing one for us… in more ways than one!
Advocates who were working for us.
There are specific leaders in our community who were an integral part in the success of our expansion… Julie Townsend from the LDDA, Dan Gargas from the City of Lakeland Building Division, and Meg Bellamy from Catapult to name a few! These and several others were instrumental in keeping our business operating through the summer, made phone calls and held meetings that literally changed the posture of key city officials in our favor, and encouraged us onward when we were unsure. We would be publishing a very different blog if it weren’t for these and others who believed in our small business and made others believe too.
What’s behind door #2?
Now, the wait is no longer! Behold the beauty that awaits you behind the doors at suite we expanded into at 113 SF Ave. Special thanks to Meghan Hill for photo credit (www.meganhillphoto.com)!
Urban Garden…say what?
We have the fence, but here is what’s to come! The next project on our radar is the building out of our dreamed about Urban Garden. Although we wished we would have had it completed by now, it seems that the delay was a blessing in disguise… as Hurricane Irma probably would not have been too kind to the installation of our whimsical outdoor play space.
Our website has also received a facelift.
Have you visited our website lately? If not, please take a moment to look through it and click around. We have intentionally designed the site to be more parent-friendly, more informative for those of you who are unfamiliar with who and what WonderHere is, and simplified to match our studio’s aesthetic.
Are you apart of the WonderHere Movement? If not… we need YOU!
See for yourself! Schedule a personal tour to learn more about our educational philosophy and how we can help you make a positive impact on how your child views learning. Purchase a Play Pass and enjoy indoor play times held on Mondays and Fridays. Schedule a birthday party with us and have our studio and staff all to yourself! Drop your children off at Kids’ Night Out and let them experience what the fuss is all about! Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can open a dialogue with you personally.
Special thanks to our dedicated WH Families
And we cannot conclude this blog without giving a special shout-out to our faithful families that have loved us and stuck with us through this expansion. So many of these amazing moms and dads painted walls, laid floors, cleaned, and cleaned some more… all to make this expansion a reality. Those families that loved WonderHere before we even had a building, those that loved WonderHere when our building was too small, and those that love WonderHere still as we continue to develop and figure it out. These moms and dads and kiddos are the only reason we exist and the reason our team stays up late at night dreaming of what’s next, about what more we can do to serve our families and this community. Thank you all for your commitment to your child’s education and for choosing WonderHere as a place and community to partner with in your homeschooling journey. We are truly blessed and cannot wait for what else is in store! Stick around… we aren’t finished yet. Not even close!
WonderHere has grown so rapidly over the course of our first year, and we feel so honored that our beautiful Lakeland community continues to be so receptive of our unique learning style and business model. The families that we currently serve, and the many new families we are excited to welcome this Fall, are the very reason why WonderHere exists. We cannot wait to unveil all this good stuff when we reopen our doors in mid-August!
With many of the new programs that we are providing to meet the growing demand, and with the restructuring of some of our more popular programs to better serve our families, we were provided with the great opportunity to grow our team! We are over-the-moon to introduce you to these incredibly creative, skilled, and passionate professionals! We are truly honored that they’ve become part of our WonderHere Team! These instructors have been busy preparing for each of their classes and are eager to meet the families to begin working alongside each parent in helping them in their homeschooling journey.
So, here are the following newest members of Team WonderHere, as well as *returning members of our team.
*Mrs. Amanda Thenor
Lead Instructor/ Support Staff
Amanda graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and she is certified through the state of Florida to teach Elementary Education K-6, with an ESOL endorsement along with extensive Montessori Training. Before joining Team WonderHere, she taught in multi-aged classes at a public Montessori school in South Florida. She is a true believer in WonderHere and loves her time spent at the studio. When she is not teaching at WonderHere, she is taking care of her baby boy, Cameron, who is 6 months old and spending time with her husband of four years, Dimitri. She loves baking, cooking, sports, and her family!
We’re thrilled to have Amanda return with us and coach our new teachers in the WonderHere way! Her Montessori training and experience have helped (and continue to help) pave the way for our multi-aged classes!
Mrs. Autumn Harvey
Minis Instructor-Ages 3 & 4
Autumn graduated from USF with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and is certified to teach K-6. She also holds an ESOL endorsement and is Kagan trained. Before WonderHere, Autumn taught 1st grade at South Mckeel Academy. When she is not teaching the amazing Minis class, she is spending time with her husband and 4 year old son. In her spare time she loves creating items for her home business, “The Little Print Closet”, being adventurous outdoors, and watching HGTV. She also started a mommy blog and playdate group in Lakeland called “What’s ‘Happening’ for Mommy’s”. Her motto is “Don’t just be alive, LIVE”.
Autumn’s enthusiasm is truly contagious, and her creativity knows no bounds! We cannot wait to see how she extends her love of learning to our toddlers!
Mrs. Amy Sanders
Ages 5-8 The Core Instructor
Amy graduated from Southeastern University in 2010 with a Bachelor in Science Degree in Elementary Education. She is certified to teach Elementary Education K-6 with an ESOL endorsement. She had spent 5 years teaching 1st grade at Berkley Charter School before moving to Lansing, Michigan where she taught Kindergarten at a Title 1 school. Amy’s experience teaching at a Kagan model school sparked her passion for creating an actively engaged classroom where students learn to problem solve, work together, and develop a love for learning. When she is not in the classroom, she enjoys running, decorating, crafting, and traveling. She has been married for nearly 6 years to her wonderful husband Joel, and together they have a busy 9-month old daughter named Cambree.
We are blessed to have someone as dedicated and just down-right sweet as Amy teaching this class! Her experience with Kagan and cooperative learning align perfectly with our learning philosophy.
Mrs. Renata Brooks
Primary Instructor – Loosely Grades K-1
Renata graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She is certified through the state of Florida to teach Elementary Education K-6 with an ESOL and reading endorsement. Before WonderHere, she spent the past 3.5 years teaching at a local Title 1 school and two years prior to that teaching Pre-Kindergarten in upstate New York. She loves teaching and is excited to join the WonderHere community! Renata has been married to her husband Daniel for five years. They have a two-year-old son named Rowan and a Yorkie-Poo named Cozy. She loves spending time with her family, crafting, and shopping at the Target Dollar section.
Renata was made to teach this age group! Her organizational skills and ability to plan ahead will be a huge asset to our team!
Ms. Marissa Cutrone
Post-Primary Instructor – Loosely Grades 1-3
Marissa graduated from Southeastern University with her degree in Elementary Education in 2016 with Reading and ESOL endorsements. She then pursued a Masters of Reading Education from Southeastern University and graduated in 2017. Marissa is so excited to teach with WonderHere in the post-primary class and can’t wait to work with her students to create unique and engaging lessons! When she’s not teaching, Marissa enjoys going to the beach with her friends and cooking! She cannot wait to start this school year!
Marissa is truly a breath of fresh air to this team! Her passion for teaching is inspiring to us, and her dedication in pursuing her Master’s degree will be an asset to us as we develop and grow our curriculum.
Mrs. Debbi Balach
Comprehensive Instructor – Loosely Grades 4-6
Debbi graduated from Southeastern University where she received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Exceptional Student Education and her Master’s of Education Degree in Exceptional Student Education. She holds a teaching certificate through the state of Florida in Elementary Education, ESE K-12, and Math Grades 5-9. She also holds endorsements in Autism, Reading, and ESOL. She considers it a blessing to have spent her first year teaching at Pace Center for Girls as the 6-11th grade Math teacher, and most recently she taught at Lake Gibson Middle School (go Sharks!) teaching 6th grade Resource and Inclusion Math. When she is not at WonderHere, you can find her spending time with her amazing husband, Rich and loving on their sweet four-month old daughter Abigail Joy. In her spare time, she loves to sing and play the piano, enjoy time with her small group from church, and journaling.
Debbi’s extensive experience in the higher grades and sense of humor make her an integral part of our team! Her personality is perfect for teaching our 4th – 6th graders!
Ms. Amanda Terry
Amanda graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She has an extensive background in working with kids from her time nannying, working at the YMCA, and interning at Grace City Kids and Florida Baptist Children’s Home.
Amanda’s ability to manage and organize helps make WonderHere a smooth sailing ship! She’s calm under pressure and is wonderful with children… so she’s just in the right spot!
Ms. Summer Adams
Minis Assistant Instructor / Mommy & Me Instructor /
Letter of the Week Instructor
Summer graduated from Lakeland High School and then attended Florida Gulf Coast University. She is now continuing her education at a local college while working at WonderHere. When she is not at WonderHere, she enjoys watching movies, spending time with her family, eating sour gummy worms, and catching up on episodes of This is Us.
Summer’s sweet disposition, coolheadedness, and love of working with the little ones is just what these programs need! We know she’ll be a hit with our toddlers.
*Mr. Jonathan Gautier
Sound House Studios Owner & WonderHere Music Instructor
Jonathan Gautier is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with an B.A. in Digital Media and a Masters Degree in Music Technology. He has taught music in the classroom as well as private lessons for 14 years. He enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and playing basketball.
We have loved having Jonathan teach our music classes, and are so glad to have him return! Our kids enjoy being able to flex their creative musical muscles in his classes!
*Mrs. Becky Yohe
ArtCentric Studio Owner & WonderHere Art Instructor
Becky graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Art Degree in Studio Art with an emphasis in ceramics. She holds a Florida State teaching certificate for Art K-12 and is the owner of ArtCentric Studios in Dixieland. She is the mother of two beautiful daughters, Avery and Haysley, and the wife of Mike. Her father is a stained-glass artist and her mother an elementary school teacher, making her the perfect mix of them both! Becky loves slurpies and kettle corn and enjoys the beach and wake boarding.
There’s no one we’d rather teach our kids art than Becky! Her passion for the arts translates into every lesson and project, and our kids love her!
*Mrs. Jessica Zivkovich
Founder and Co-Owner of WonderHere / Homeschool Enrichment
Jessica graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Exceptional Student Education. She holds endorsements in ESOL and reading instruction and will graduate with her Master’s degree in Reading Education in December. She loves to spend her time dreaming and scheming with Tiffany about ways to make WonderHere the best place possible for kids and families, as well as relaxing with her sweet husband George and their Labradoodle pup Henry. You can often find her hanging out on her family’s farm in Dade City, with her nose in a book, or binge watching whatever show she’s interested in at the time (currently, 30 Rock… subject to change).
*Mrs. Tiffany Thenor
Founder and Co-Owner of WonderHere / Homeschool Enrichment
Tiffany graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She holds an Elementary Education K-6 teaching certification with ESOL and Gifted Instructor endorsements. She loves going to the park with her little boy Jeremiah and watching reruns of The Office with her husband Jeffrey. When she is not working with Jessica dreaming up new ideas for their beautiful business, she is trying to unplug and spend quality time with her family and friends. She loves all things sweets and playing board games.
We believe that our learning style and the programs we offer are both innovative and necessary, and that they are making a beautiful difference across the landscape of education. These instructors embody everything WonderHere stands for, and our team is stronger and more creative because of these additions and returning team members. Please help us in welcoming each of these instructors when you meet them at our studio! The very heart of WonderHere beats to cultivate the love of learning within each of your children, and our team is ready now more than ever to serve your family and encourage each young student to wonder and grow in wisdom. Thank you for dreaming and believing with us!
March snuck up on us, and we can hardly believe this school year is more than half way over. Each day is filled with laughter, memories, friend-making, and intentional and lasting learning. We are loving doing “school” with our students, and our moms and dads and we have been working hard to make sure WonderHere is as wonderful as the students and families we serve. That is why we are just over-the-moon to share with you this most wonderful news…
WE ARE EXPANDING BOTH INDOORS AND OUTDOORS!!!
(This AWESOME sketch of our expansion was done by the one and only Beck Yohe from Art Centric Studios!)
Now, we know what you are thinking… expanding? To where? No, we are not moving. Instead, the business to our left is. And with that, we believe that this is the perfect timing to expand our walls so that our students, both current and future, have the space and room to continue to grow and play, create and explore. This decision was not an easy one, but we know in our hearts it is the right one. We love being a part of Downtown happenings and we couldn’t trade it for anything. But, we have been listening to you and knew that our location limited us on some necessities. So, we set to work on problem solving, and the solution was right in front of us… well, right beside us… all along.
A major part of our vision for WonderHere is to revitalize and redefine play in our community. We believe that the best learning a child can do happens through laughter, games, imagination, and creativity. We wanted to be the space where kids came and learned new and exciting things without desks and tests and the “scary” things traditional school has to offer. An indoor playground is an essential part of that, we just didn’t have the square footage to make it a reality from the start. BUT… now we will 🙂 HOORAY!
In our new space, we will develop a “deconstructed playground” of sorts – a place where slides and swings and climbing equipment is matched with inventor’s tools, fashion designing sketch and development materials, technology and a creation station. A place where play meets creating meets inventing and exploring. A room where kids can climb and chase, sit and read, or think and create something new. This room will be the place where the real WonderHere “magic” will show, and we cannot wait to get the doors open and have our kids step foot inside.
Now we have been listening to our sweet mamas who have asked us to solve the outdoor play aspect of our studio stat, and we didn’t think a viable solution would ever present itself in our location. But, we have a big God and the most wonderful property managers and have been continually shown favor by them, which we are ever so thankful for! When we take on the next-door space, they have given us their blessing to fence in the back parking lot area so that we can create an outdoor oasis… the WonderHere Urban Garden!
This quiet, green space will give our children the much-needed opportunity within their learning day to sit under the open sky and extend their learning, creating, and exploring to the great outdoors. We will have free time outside, frequently hold classes in the garden, and give our students plenty of time to explore the raised beds, vertical garden, mud kitchen, sand box, and all the play elements incorporated into the garden design.
Now, since we are expanding the square footage of our building, that does also mean that we now will have the space to offer additional classes. Beginning this upcoming 2017-18 school year, we will be extending enrichment classes to Friday, providing classes for students ages 0-14, and also moving our enrichment classes from a subscription-based model to a one-time payment per selected 6-week learning session with each week class lasting 1 ½ hours. Some of these changes are major, but we know that they were necessary to offer the highest quality learning opportunities to our Lakeland homeschool population without having them need to commit to an entire school year or go outside of our WonderHere facility to get what they are needing for their child learning-wise.
This expansion is slated to begin immediately following the close of this school year in June and we are confident that it will be completed before the end of summer. At the end of this blog is a portion of our vision board, and we would love for you to explore it so that you can get a glimpse into what our space will look like next school year.
If you have any questions regarding this expansion, our current programs, or next year’s enrollment which is now available online. Please email us at info@WonderHere.com or come to our next Open House, Wednesday, March 29th between 5:00-7:00. Space is limited… there are only 10 spots left in our full-time program, 7 spots left in The Core (reading and math), and 6 spots left in the Minis Track (3 & 4 year old program). So secure your spot today!
We want to extend to you the warmest thank you for cheering us on as we continue to walk this road, and please continue to send all your prayers our way. We are so excited to see WonderHere take on its new shape and form, and strongly believe that each member of our WonderHere family has had a hand in lifting this company up and carrying us on. We look forward to sharing our new space with you when it’s ready!
– Team WonderHere
Indoor Expansion Photo Gallery
Outdoor Expansion Photo Gallery
Hi WonderHere friends & fam!
So, this is not the blog post I originally intended to post today. However, my heart is so full that I just had to write this and get it out there. Full of what, you ask?
Full of gratitude for all that’s happened within the last year…
especially getting to know and partner with our amazing WonderHere parents!
From the beginning, Tiffany and I said we want WonderHere to be more than just a place where kids learn and play. We want our little corner of Lakeland to be a place where genuine community happens… with our kiddos, with our parents, with our team. We want everyone who walks through our doors to feel like they belong… because they do! We’ve been intentional about making this happen on a daily basis, and we’re blessed to serve families that make it easy to be in community with.
One of our favorite things about our day-to-day operation is that we have no car line for drop off / pick up (it would be impossible to do so in the bustle that is South Florida in downtown), so our parents come into our studio to drop off their kids in the morning and come back in to pick them up in the afternoon. We LOVE these parts of the day. We love chatting with parents in our lobby, checking in with them as their child lingers to play just a bit more, joking around (our parents are HILARIOUS), and teaming up with them on a consistent basis to provide their kids with the best learning experiences possible. We’ve also loved hosting fun family events like our Friends-Giving and Christmas party. Doing life with these people has been a joy 🙂
As awesome as it’s been from the start, we feel like our parents have taken their commitment and support to a whole other level since the start of this semester… and I think it’s because we’ve allowed them to. We must admit, Tiffany and I tend to try and do everything by ourselves. I don’t know if that’s just a teacher thing… we’re used to working in isolation, and we know (through experience) that it’s “easier” to do things alone than have to explain to others what needs to be done and feel like we’re burdening them with extra tasks. We also wear a lot of hats lately… business owner, teacher, mom, student. Sometimes it seems simpler to power through and get it done than rely on others.
Well we’ve been dead wrong, and it’s taken our super mamas stepping up to prove it to us.
You see, a year ago today was WonderHere’s debut as a legitimate business when we had a booth at First Friday for the first time ever. We were so excited… Tiffany and I took a personal day from work to prepare everything. It was exhilarating! We met so many people who were excited about what we were starting. To talk about WonderHere to strangers and get positive feedback meant the world!
Since then, we’ve obviously transitioned into actually running WonderHere, and towards the end of last semester our stamina began to slow down. No longer could we take the day off from work to prepare for an event… we’d simply push through, just the two of us, tackling anything and everything alone. Our parents began to notice how full our plates were. After attending our vision casting meeting and hearing our BIG, EXCITING news (that we can’t share publicly just yet… but wait for it!), they understood that we can’t pull off something so big on our own. They also heard in passing that we weren’t going to be at the next First Friday because of how tired we were. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands and create a Parent Involvement Committee.
In a short amount of time, they organized a huge yard sale, they’ve brainstormed fundraising ideas, they completely planned and ran last night’s beautiful First Friday booth (and wouldn’t even let us stay the whole time!). They’ve met together multiple times already to put into action our vision for 2017 and think and create on our behalf. Most importantly, they’ve breathed new life into us.
Our parents truly share from the gifts and talents and resources they possess. Some mamas volunteer their time to watch the kids during lunch so Tiffany and I can have a quiet lunch time. Others bless us with a stock load of cleaning supplies and ink from SAM’S Club and new vacuums. Some bless us with their daily words of encouragement that fuel us more than they could ever know. Some have taken on the huge responsibility, alongside their son- our esteemed student body treasurer, to raise funds and awareness towards our school being built in Guatemala. Some bless us with their artistic skills, others by helping to spread the word about what we’re doing. I can’t think of one WonderHere family that doesn’t give back in some way. All differences aside, they have one common trait: they bless us by trusting us to teach and care for their children, and they help us be the best we can be.
So, parents, all this to say… WonderHere would not exist without you.
Cheers to you 🙂