The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. ~Aristotle
Kyle, my nephew has always had good grades for the most part, specifically having a fascination and an attachment for math. When he was a little tike, around three years old, I bought him addition and subtraction flash cards. My thinking was, “What’s the harm? So he might learn something”. He did! Kyle loved those flash cards and he loved to learn. He wanted to push his knowledge and show it off. Subtraction was a little more challenging but he certainly enjoyed the attention he was receiving from me and the idea of learning. What a little a sponge! I know I’m probably being bias, but Kyle was always pretty bright. He’s a logical thinker, which I still see to this day.
When Kyle was in second grade, his report card grades dropped across the board one quarter. I knew he was smarter than that, and I was not going to stand back and let this situation become his new standard, nor was I going to idly stand-by while his future education was being compromised. Really? Did anyone think I was going to accept his grades as they stood? Did Kyle really think he could fool me when he said he was “Trying his hardest?” Nope, nope and heck no! I knew better and I believed in Kyle! Unfortunately, being Kyle’s aunt I don’t have complete privilege to his teachers or daily homework, only once a week and on the weekends. Roadblock!
To be honest, I was utterly sick over the situation. It was that bad! Not to mention I had no idea why. There had to be a reason for such a sudden change. I asked Kyle if things were good in school, or if there was bullying going on, or anything. He really had no idea what I was talking about. He felt bad that I was really upset over his grades but he was also basically saying “O well, I tried my hardest.” That is until I grounded him. Boy did he change his tone. It’s amazing what taking away video games and TV time will do to an attitude. I never did find the reason for the sudden downward spike in grades, but we did get past it.
Granted I know the days of Kyle learning for fun were over, or wore they? Now me being me, I decided to take this upon myself and help this child out. I’ve always purchased workbooks for Kyle and helped him uncover the knowledge in the pages. He used to love them, but the times-were-a-changing, he was giving me resistance with workbooks and flash cards. Yikes! It started to build up fights between us, unnecessary ones. The last thing I wanted was for Kyle to really hate school and learning. I also didn’t want there to be constant struggles with our time together, which was a huge concern of my mom’s. Mom was the one who kept saying, “You need to make it more fun for him.”
Since Kyle is a logical thinker, usually explaining things to him helps to turn on his light bulb. Not this time. I explained why I was requiring him to do the extra work. I even threatened him saying the school was going to hold him back if his grades didn’t improve by the next quarter. And to be honest, if his grades kept up in that direction, it could have happened, especially since he was the youngest in his grade. For the school, that would have been a logical step. Nope! Not on my watch. He was bright and he certainly could do the work without much effort. I will admit Kyle was lazy when it comes to school work, only doing what is needed and going through it half way. I’m guessing he’s not alone in that manner, but I’m not responsible for other children, or so I thought initially.
During this time, we went to visit my sister, who lives in the D.C. Metro area. Like every visit, we always do something new in Washington, D.C. This time we decided to go into the Spy Museum. Wow, that was cool! I really enjoyed reading about the spies and seeing the spy “tools” or what I like to call them, spy toys. My sister, dad and my mom walked through, reading and taking in the knowledge displayed everywhere, while Kyle and I acted like spies ourselves. The museum had an air-duct type of display, allowing visitors to climb in and spy on the people below. We had a field day! When possible, I would read the information displayed on the walls. Sometimes Kyle would stand still long enough for me to read to him and explain the story at hand. I must say Kyle made the museum more exciting.
Well, needless to say that visit sparked an idea, unbeknownst to me at the time, that would turn into something a lot bigger. From that moment on, the wheels were in motion for the birth of SpyRing.
SpyRing was originally created as a scavenger hunt for Kyle. I designed it to reinforce school subjects in a fun and interactive way. Kyle and I would take Scooby up in the woods, (Seven was not apart of the family yet) and we packed our book bags with the spy essentials and headed out on our missions. We would make our way through the woods and track our progress by creating a map of our travels. Along the way, I made up questions that led to other questions. Kyle answered the trivia and occasionally he would pull out his binoculars or something he brought along to really play out the spy story. We both had a blast! The scavenger hunt not only reinforced what was being taught in school, but it also got Kyle off his backside to stretch his legs. This relatively simple action with a little effort, not only helped to create the SpyRing scavenger hunt, but it helped to build our bond. I was no more, ‘Mean Aunt Heather making me do all this extra work’. I was ‘Fun Aunt Heather who loved hanging out and learning was something fun’.
It wasn’t until my cousin Casey and I took Kyle snowboarding that the idea to take SpyRing to the marketplace really became a serious thought. I remember distinctly Casey saying, “Why don’t you sell the game?” At that point it was a custom scavenger hunt made specifically for Kyle. I knew I needed to develop it into a game for all kids no matter where they lived. My goal was to allow other kids to reap in the benefits of learning in a fun and interactive way. During this time, it was interesting to run into other parents and listen to them discuss their child’s struggles and challenges in school. This is when I knew I could help.
Suddenly it hit me like a ton bricks! I woke up one morning and I knew how to make the game assessable for all children with a reasonably low cost investment. God must have been working overtime to plant these ideas in my head. Knowing initially it was going to be a card game, I went to work on actually developing the structure, build the contents and establish the design. Kyle worked with me on the development of the game, even helping to create some of the questions. Throughout the process I tested Kyle’s skills on ALL the information. Pretty amazing, I set out to help Kyle with his schoolwork and we were doing just that, intensified. I must say it was a fun process. Kyle was apart of something bigger. He knew it and he loved it every step of the way. This is when Kyle’s business side of the brain was revealed.
By the next report card, Kyle’s grades had jumped. Some grades where back to where they began and others were slowing moving up. Kyle was proud of himself and now understood what needed to be done and how to do it. Or least what I expected from him. I believe without setting expectations, children will not know what to strive for and the right direction they need to move towards. You see I believe parents are like coaches. They know how to push their players to get them to strive for excellence. That is their job as coach, to never settle for average or ‘just ok’. They need to know the limitations of their players, but also know how to overcome them. However, coaches also know how to work with their players and set them up for success. It certainly takes effort from both parties to make this happen but when the game has been won, everyone benefits. Children should be respected and shown they are important and smart. They should also be given the opportunity to learn, excel and shine in this world.
Sometime during the developmental stage of SpyRing, I was discussing the game with my sister. She instantly loved the idea and believed in the goal, to help reinforce education for children. She went to work and started The Piper Corporation with the flagship product being SpyRing. As of now SpyRing is an interactive card game of questions and answers, however we are now developing the SpyRing scavenger hunt, as it was originally created. Thrill of the Hunt, another division of The Piper Corporation will be hosting a SpyRing scavenger hunt called Your Passport to Education this Saturday at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe, PA. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to help rebuild Playland! Stop by!