We haven’t had the chance to sit down and write a blog in quite some time. We have been busy bees working in our studio, connecting with parents, building community, and developing curriculum… making our learning space just right for each and every one who enters our studio. But we have missed the conversation that was started through our blog, and now have just the right blog to pick the conversation back up again for this special season we are in right now. Though this process of discovering what WonderHere should look like – exploring what we value as educators and what we believe as instructors – has been messy (as learning of any value usually is), It has been so rewarding. We are feeling ever so THANKFUL that so many lovely families have chosen to join the journey of WONDERing alongside us. So, here are some specific things we’re thankful for…

  1. We are thankful for our class size.

The amount of students in a classroom matters. It matters, because the more students within a classroom often translates into how divided a teacher’s attention has to be. No matter how excellent the multi-tasker, juggling a classroom full to the brim cannot help but limit how individualized the instruction is. At WonderHere, we strategically limit all of our classes to 12 students. And our full-time students even receive one-on-one attention regularly.  Individualizing instruction is our jam! It is what we are most passionate about. We believe each child is unique and should be treated as an individual. With that, they should be able to work on their own level, at their own pace, and study based on what is interesting to them and where their wonders begin. Limiting our numbers, especially in our full-time program, has allowed for the individualizing to take place. And it has been a beautiful thing.

  1. We are thankful for our multi-age classrooms.

Our students work in a community of learners with diverse backgrounds and with various abilities and talents. Much research supports our belief that having students work among people different from themselves (different in age and different in experiences) is both beneficial and positively impacting to their personal development. From his review of the research, Miller (1990, 7) notes, “When it comes to student affect, the case for multi-grade organization appears much stronger, with multi-grade students out-performing single-grade students in over 75 percent of the measures used.” Though data is not everything, it is encouraging to know that this concept is not foreign and also has a measurable effect on the type of learner we are investing in. In this atmosphere of multi-aged peers, children have the room to learn from peers without competing. They are given the opportunity to mentor AND to be mentored by other children. They learn empathy, self-awareness and develop a sense of belonging. This, we feel, is where much of the WonderHere magic takes place. Here in our classrooms where multi-aged and diverse children mingle, mix, and wonder.

  1. We are thankful for the freedom and flexibility to use authentic resources and curricula to teach in the most effective and inspiring way we can.

We are unapologetic about the way we do “school” and we have 16 collective years of teaching expertise to back it up with the teachers we have on our WH team. As we mentioned earlier, individualized instruction is high on our priority list. It’s a blessing to be able to use curriculum and learning resources that fits our students’ individual needs, and adjust it as they grow and develop.

  1. We are thankful we have the room for Growth & Elasticity.

With this new way to do school that we are pioneering; there is so much “figuring out” that no one can do for us, but US. It is awesome having the platform and opportunity to stretch and rethink and consider the “how” and “why” involved with making WonderHere the best…. And we are growing so much. This is how learning happens… and we too are very much in a learning season. Anyone in the business of working with the human mind (and the human child mind, at that) has to be constantly willing to grow and learn and evolve as our world does. Learning is a beautiful, breathing, fluid BIG thing and so much of it happens so much deeper than the eye can see.

  1. We are thankful for our location.

At first, when we were looking for a home for WonderHere, we were unsure of what that would look like. One thing we knew for sure was that it had to be in Downtown Lakeland. Why? Because there is something simply magical happening in our Downtown Lakeland neighborhood. We wanted our students to be a part of this neighborhood and to be in walking distance from this upcoming urban community. Then, when we first walked into our studio space, we knew this was it. We love all of our rooms, and the transparency provided to us by our random windows, and our sweet little play space where our kiddos get to be kids every day. We love taking field trips to Munn Park and the ice cream shop and the museum and Palace Pizza. This studio is home and we love, LOVE being in the center of all this electricity being generated by the glorious movers and shakers of this little BIG town.

  1. Lakeland Community

We can say with confidence that WonderHere would not be a reality without the support of our community. There is such an intense entrepreneurial energy in this community that makes you feel like you can succeed as a small business. But it doesn’t just stop at the “feeling” of success… there are actual supports put in place for us to succeed. Organizations like Catapult, We are Curio, and State of the Spark (just to name a couple) are experts at coming alongside and championing people to make their dreams come true and make our community better. Then, we participate in events like First Friday and The Big Event and we’re re-energized all over again. The educational community is strong, too. The homeschool community is getting stronger by the year, and we are hopeful that the newly elected life-blood in our School Board will help our public schools thrive in a new way. This city is home!

  1. We are thankful for our WH Parents.

We could spend all day talking about how amazing these parents are that have partnered with us this school year. We are loving the connections we are able to have as we work together as a team to make learning really catch fire for their children. It has been so fun developing plans for each child, discussing new class ideas and catching up and checking in regularly during drop in- and pick up. We can say with sincerity that we have a genuine relationship with each and every one of our parents! They continuously bless us with their support.

  1. Our Team (In Studio & Extended)

We mentioned that one of the things we’re thankful for is our Lakeland community. Well, it just so happens that some of the best businesses in the community are in our corner! We are so grateful that We Are Curio and State of the Spark have taken us under their wing… they keep us inspired, fueled, and seeing the bigger picture. We’re also grateful that we’ve gotten to team up with Art Centric and Bricks for Kidz to provide awesome learning experiences for our kids! Then, of course, we could not do what we do without the people who put in the work every single day… our Amandas! Amanda Simone is the most kick-butt studio assistant we could ever dream of. She’s a master multi-tasker and does whatever crazy thing we throw her way with a smile. She’s our arms and feet so we can focus our brains on our kids. Amanda Thenor is grace personified as a teacher. She’s so gentle and patient when she works with our kids, yet the learning she facilitates is so deep and meaningful. Whenever we walk into her classroom when she’s teaching, we just want to pull up a seat alongside her and join in! We love our team to pieces J

  1. Our Family & Friends

Taking a risk as big as leaving our secure teaching positions to take part in revolutionizing education could have never happened without the support of our family and friends. We remember holding our breath after spilling our crazy idea to them, but being met with nothing less than support and affirmation and encouragement to chase our dreams. Of course, it’s easy to support a dream when it’s in its beginning stages, but our families (husbands in particular) support us each and every day. On great days, on hard days… we are so thankful that they believe in us.

  1. Each Other

I am oh so SO thankful that I get to do this with one of my dearest friends, JESSICA! She is one of the very best educators I know! She is creative and compassionate and she eats, sleeps, and breathes WonderHere. When she is teaching, the children are not just learning “stuff”… they are learning how to love LEARNING. She takes the additional time it requires to make the learning hands-on, and she is not afraid of doing what is messy and time-consuming (both in prep and in planning) in order to make a lesson really STICK for the students. WonderHere is not a job for her…. It is her passion. Without Jessica, this studio would not be even half as great as it is. NOT to mention all of the beautiful graphics and marketing images she creates. She is so talented and so humble and so “boss” and I am so lucky to get to dream, create, and build alongside her! – Tiffany

When I say WonderHere wouldn’t be a reality without Tiffany, I literally mean it. It would still be this grand idea floating around in my brain. I’m grateful for a friend who is bold, who I can dream with and take risks with. Tiffany is one of the best teachers I know. She cares so much about kids and seeing them reach their potential. She doesn’t accept anything less than the best from them, but the best thing is she makes them believe they can be the best. She is great at connecting with families and making WonderHere a collaborative effort, and her ideas for community events are brilliant. She is my better business half, but more than anything she’s my best friend. We pick each other up when we’re down, and we whole heartedly celebrate our successes. I’m so thankful for her. -Jessica

We are mostly so thankful for the opportunity to educate your children, to be a beacon of hope for the world of education, and to exist in this community.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

WonderHere Blog - A Learn and Play Studio