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Jody Nova here, Founder of GamED Academy….

I would love to tell you a story about my son, the creator of this program.

Yes, you read that correctly, it was an 8 year old boy that created this company. This venture was born out of my special boy’s love for Minecraft, build challenges, and feedback from someone other than his mom on how his work stacked up.

I was a homeschool mother of 4, who was about to throw in the towel. At almost 8 years old, my son was still a “non-reader” and everyone was starting to use words like stupid, delayed, ADHD, and worse. Society had just about convinced me that I had failed and he would be better off in public school. I had become a slave to my curriculum and forgotten the joy of learning and the gift I had been given of forming my son’s spirit and love of knowledge.

Thankfully, summer arrived and we took some time off. A neighbor introduced Minecraft into our home and he was hooked. Owning an IT company, I immediately jumped in and hosted a server for him to play with his close group of friends.

All of the sudden, an amazing thing happened. It started like this…

“MOM (shouted across the house) come and tell me what Avery is saying to me”.

“I’M BUSY MAKING DINNER (shouted back from the kitchen), spell it to me.”

These types of interactions continued over the course of 3 weeks and suddenly they stopped. Realizing this at dinner one night I asked him, “Did all of your friends stop playing Minecraft?” To this he replied that 4 of them had been playing just that afternoon. “Well why don’t you try to read what they are typing anymore?”

This earned a baffled look and an eye roll. “MOM”, he said with a touch of exasperation, “I have been reading what they write forever!”

WHAT?

My son is reading?

And I didn’t’ teach him?

How did that happen?

I was perplexed and intrigued by this game that had taught him something in three weeks, where I had failed over the course of three years. My next move was to go out and buy myself an account and start playing on our server with him. I was instantly hooked. As we played, the joy flooded back into our relationship and he began to come alive again. His confidence in himself and his own intelligence was growing back as quickly as his love for the game had blossomed.

One day we were all playing on the server while sitting in my living room. (There are 4 computers in the room that serve as my office and the kids school workstations, but at that moment they were all filled with friends.)

“Mom, we need a challenge,” Xander declared as they all tried to decide what to build today.

“Well, how about the Statue of Liberty?”, I asked, since it was the first thing that popped into my head.

“The statue of WHO?”, was his smart reply.

This caused us to dive into a round of fun with Siri and soon 4 boys were fighting over the iPad as they tried to be the one to read the information out loud to the rest of us. After about 20 minutes of this silly study time, they were ready to build. The discussion quickly turned to whether lapis or diamond blocks were more appropriate. Four hours later, with much additional research into proportions and interior structure, the Statue of Liberty was standing proud on our server.

The story did not end there. That night at dinner, my usually quiet son gave his Dad a dissertation on all kinds of tidbits related to the Statue of Liberty. To the point that when the kids were finally all in bed, my husband asked, “What did you do to our son???” Well, this definitely had me thinking about the day’s experience.

Could we do it again?

How could I make sure that the fun and creativity were not lost in the learning?

Would he want to try another build challenge that required him to learn something of the history of the structure first?

That night as I lay awake thinking through all of this, I could hardly wait for the sun to come up, so I could casually ask if he had ever heard of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

Finally, breakfast did arrive, and he listened to my casual question with interest. Then he proceeded to quiz Siri on the topic. Soon he was running out from the living room asking, “Mom, did you know that the pyramid was the first skyscraper?” He was hooked.

Sadly, the summer was almost over and his friends would all be returning to school. He was miserable that their grand plan to build all seven ancient wonders would go unfinished. So, in an effort to continue the momentum of learning and joy that we had built over the summer, I offered our local homeschool support group the opportunity to journey with us through the 7 Wonders of the Ancient world. I offered to provide the server and some study material for a small fee, and was flattered when 32 kids signed up.

We had the most wonderful time! Xander and I learned so much about Minecraft Servers (lots of fun stories in that statement for later), and about creative building in game. In the end, both the kids that we journeyed with through that first class and Xander himself all wanted more.

This led Xander and I to spend a fun afternoon at the library looking for a new topic. A book on castles and medieval warfare provided all of the inspiration he needed to request his next learning adventure, Castles and Cannons.

About this time, a strange thing started to happen. I received several emails from disgruntled parents that wanted to know why their child could not participate in the program, just because they didn’t live in the same city as we did….

Wait….

What?….

We have a PROGRAM?

No

No

NO!

This is just a small server, with a co-op full of kids, journeying through some learning material together.

Well, trying to tell myself and everyone else that, lasted for about 1 week.
My husband suggested we put up a Facebook page just to see if others were interested in this idea. Xander clamored to know if his Castles class was ready yet, and the emails continued to pour in from friends of friends wanting to know why their kids couldn’t participate.

Xander put it best one night at dinner as we frantically tried to figure out what to do. “Mom, if all of these kids want to love learning too, then you have to teach them!”

And from that simple statement, GamED Academy as you know it today, was born.

We still have growing to do.

We still have lots to learn.

We still struggle every day to make sure that the joy of the kids stays central to the vision.

And we are thankful for all of you that have found our vision of joy-based learning and embraced it.

Thank you for journeying with us!

Ms. Jody + Xander

 

The Story Continues….
 
Moving to America from “across the pond” seemed like the perfect ( or maybe the most insane) time to realize my desire to homeschool our children, after all we had already experienced so much change and upheaval so why add a new school into the mix and so began my search for the “perfect” curriculum. At the time I was mum to three with an expanding family ( I am now mum to 8) which basically meant I was teaching varying ages all the while in some stage of pregnancy, baby or toddler hood and we all know how exhausting that can be!
 
 
If I say I think we tried it all I wouldn’t be far from the truth – workbooks, unit studies, online schools, co-ops – I thought this was supposed to be a fun, bonding time with my children the reality was that homeschooling wasn’t always the fun, joy-filled educational experience I had imagined it would be. I often felt like we were stumbling through and I hoped and prayed I wasn’t ruining my kids along the way. We finally settled into a program that was working for us and school was getting done but the joy had gone – there was no spark in my children’s eyes when they would start school each day, no eagerness to soak up all that they were about to be taught and my excitement had been replaced and schooling felt like another chore that had been added to my list each day! And then …GamED Academy! Was I really reading about an education program that incorporated Minecraft? Was this the missing piece that I had been looking for or was it just too good to be true? It had only been a few short months since Ms Jody had launched the program and if I didn’t know better I would say it was launched just for me! I was so excited and signed my oldest three children up so imagine the defeat I felt when I enthusiastically was telling my children about this awesome program I had found only to be met with..
 
” Awe Mum, not something else we have to try”
 
” I thought that what we are doing is good enough”
 
” I don’t want to add anything else boring to what we are already doing”
 
and the kicker….
 
” but Mum, Minecraft is fun, don’t spoil it by making it school”
 
I thought I had found the key to making educating my kids fun again and in less than 5 minutes my oldest four children had burst my bubble! Us mums can be quite persuasive though – right? so I told them that they WERE doing this and that they WOULD enjoy it and it would be so much FUN!!
 
I had four reluctant GamED students on my hands, there was no eagerness to log in each day, no excitement that mum had found such a fun program just groans and complaints and questions about how much time they would have to spend doing it and then they started, the work wasn’t really all that bad, they were actually remembering what they had learned in their lesson and were enjoying the build assignments and then they started to make friends on the servers. This mama’s heart was starting to warm up to hear them excitedly chatting about what they had learned today or about the new student they had met – It was happening the joy in learning was coming back to our home!
 
 
Caleb was a Junior and always our techy guy and it wasn’t long before Ms  Jody had realized that too, embraced his abilities and given him so many opportunities to grow. To cut a long story short, before the summer had even begun, we were all heavily involved in GamED both behind the scenes and on the servers. Ms Jody and Xander’s vision had now become ours too and it was a joy to journey alongside them. As time progressed, my other children grew and would beg to be old enough to start “Minecraft school” It had happened…. my children were desiring to start school! We will forever be thankful to Ms Jody and Xander for taking that step of faith and launching this platform and we too now desired to give back the joy of learning to all those parents and students who were struggling to find that spark that they too had lost. I didn’t even have to struggle to teach my younger children to read – GamED Academy did that, just by them wanting to be able to chat and type to their friends – it still blows my mind how easy it was!
 
It was a sad day when Ms. Jody felt it was time to step back from the day to day running of GamED Academy but it was a natural progression for their baby to become ours, after all we had been so involved for so long it was family to us too! Lifelong friendships had been made, we had so many wonderful memories and three out of my eight children had graduated, and we were all excited to continue the journey and the shared vision.  And so here we are and here you are – GamED to us is family – we grow together, we listen to you and most of all we are here for you as we strive to always keep the fun and excitement to learn at the core of all that we do. Thank you for continuing to journey with us – It’s because of you that we love what we do!

 

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