Thursday, 21 September 2017

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."


When it comes to homeschooling kids you've really got to have some creativity in you yourself to keep everything exciting. We've found this mostly with Opeie's writing as although he does love writing, he loses interest pretty quick and wants to move on to something else. He has created newspapers and magazines and keeps various diaries about his interests and our day to day fun. We are always looking for new ways to keep the writing fresh though and a few weeks back a package came through the door (the usual weekly LEGO purchase delivery) and Opeie did his usual excited dance wondering what it was. It made me think about how excited I would get as a child when mail came with my name on it (I loved those Beano club deliveries). It was clear then that what Opeie needed was a pen pal, or two (or three).

I have a lovely friend who I met through Micro scooters, who's daughter is a few weeks younger than Opeie, they both love their scooters, LEGO and Superheroes, it was a perfect fit. Around the same time someone from one of the online Homeschooling groups I am part of was looking for a pen pal for her little boy, also the same age as Opeie and another fan of those magical bricks, it was like it was meant to be.

After securing two new friends to write to, Opeie got straight to work writing them both a letter introducing himself and letting them know a little about his interests. It's always lovely to see Opeie getting excited about the work he is doing and a lot of effort went into the handwriting and spelling, I know this because of the tongue sticking out of the side of his face as he was concentrating (something I always did myself at his age).


  With the letters posted, Opeie had reached a new peak of excitement and couldn't contain it for the next few days everytime he heard the mail drop through the letter box. It didn't take long for his first reply to arrive and as expected the reply spurred on an instant writing session to try and beat our local post collection. Writing can seem so daunting to some children but if you find the right outlet for it you can have them motivated in no time. Opeie has always seen both Mrs M and I writing various things for companies and publications so he see's it as the norm.

Since the pen palling began, Opeie has since secured another pen pal through one of Mrs M's friends who we are yet to write to yet but I'm sure we will be getting on with that in the next few days. What I love about this the most, is the confidence in his writing and the motivation to continue. I'm sure that Max, Daisy, Talulah will end up being the best of friends to Opeie. 



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

"Being a gentleman is a worthy goal."

There's not a day goes by that I'm not completely smitten by those two amazing boys of ours. They are by far the best friends that I could ever ask for and spending time with them is so much fun. What I really love about them both is their confidence and on those rare occasions where we are at an event full of adults, I feel that they really stand out from the crowd. We've always talked to and treated the boys like adults and in these situations that really stands out. Not only did they both look very grown up but they confidently chatted away at a recent family wedding to everyone that stopped for a chat. I couldn't have been more proud, they have become proper gentlemen.



Monday, 7 August 2017

'In a Heartbeat'


I'm not one for sharing videos on the blog unless I am writting about Opeie's music tastes but Mrs M sent me this video and I had to share. It seems that even though we are in 2017 I still hear negative comments about homosexuality weekly which can be really difficult to explain to the boys if they overhear as they have been brought up in the correct way, knowing that we fall in love with whoever we fall in love with and gender, race and all those other ridiculous things that hold some people back mean nothing. We live in an age where we should be able to embrace these things and it is great to see that short movies like this are being made to help children understand that they can be in love with whoever they choose. The world would be an even more interesting place if our hearts could physically do the hard work for us.

There is real power in video! watch it peeps!



Sunday, 6 August 2017

"Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky."


After visiting friends recently the boys came home with a drone that was very kindly given to them. I can't say that I've ever thought to myself that I'd love to have a go of one but Seth had shown a huge interest over the last year or so. I'm not sure if it was the thought of being a secret spy or just being able to film places that we physically struggle to get to, but he's been watching videos and talking about all the cool things he'd like to do with one. You could imagine the look on his face as he casually and kindly thanked our friend while desperately wanting to jump up and down squealing.


We got home from our trip and before even unpacking our bags, the drone was out and everything was being charged ready for our first flight. We were excited as the drone included a Gopro gimble and we had two GoPro's at home. Sadly neither of ours fit but as soon as batteries and controllers were charged we headed out looking for somewhere safe and fun to fly. I'm a huge fan of this sort of play with the boys because it always turns out to be a great bonding session for them both. They join forces to try and work out how to use a new gadget and when they finally execute what they have learnt there's a real sense of teamwork.


With Seth watching lots of Youtube videos and Opeie lapping up all of the information Seth was sending his way, we soon had the drone up in the sky. There is something so intense about flying them. As easy as it was to control, there is that fear of crashing them and completely destroying it.

Since acquiring this tasty bit of gadgetry I've picked up a GoPro to fit the gimbal, taking our drone flying fun to another level. I've a feeling that this summer holiday is going to be heavy on filming interesting places that the boys can come up with, so watch this space.


*Note to self: DO NOT attempt to fly the drone from the back garden! I wanted to show Mrs M last night as she had not been out with us. I thought a simple 'up above the house and back down' while she watches on the phone would be fine but the wind had other ideas and it disappeared out of site. I found said drone on the next street over casually hovering above the houses and landed it safely. I think we'll stick to large open areas from now on! 
 

Friday, 21 July 2017

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."


It is always great as a parent when your kids take a keen interest in something that you love, or something you loved as a child yourself. I think we are all guilty of introducing our kids to things that we are interested in because we either want a reason to relive them or it can just make your own hobbies a little easier, letting you enjoy them guilt free. Parenting has been one long exploration into my own childhood so far, the boys have always loved hearing stories about what I was getting up to at their age and things like base building, Lego creations and tinkering with bikes are things that have definitely rubbed off.

I loved reading comics when I was a kid and I'd get lost in the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker's complex life, juggling his everyday teen issues, School and of course his secret identity. It was something that I had hoped Seth would have got into but he's not really shown an interest as of yet. Recently though Opeie has discovered the wonders of comic books and has become quite the avid reader.


It all started with the show Teen Titans Go! Opeie loved it so much that I googled it, pretty sure that there was a run of comics to accompany it. Not only did I find that, but I also found Tiny Titans which got me thinking "what else is out there for young comic enthusiasts". So I began my hunt to find some of the best Comics suitable for an 8/9-year-old reader. I'm a firm believer that if you can install a love of reading into your children then that is the best groundwork for their education. We read all sorts of things together and have done for years but what comics have given us now is fun reading time alone for Opeie, which is great as it takes out the 'having to get it right' element and replaces it with extra confidence and more questions. "Dad what does this word mean?" etc.

Since Opeie's new favourite past time started a few weeks back I have found some great titles to add to his collection, including 'itty bitty Hellboy', itty bitty Mask, Li'l battlestar Galactica and Super Hero Squad which have been great as I've been able to get complete runs of the comics for his iPad. Our weekly trips to the library have also given us DC Super Pets (Art Baltazar), Mighty Mighty Monsters (Sean O'Reilly), Monster heroes (Blake Hoena) and the Monsters Like Us series (Steve Barlow/Steve Skidmore). 


When I think back to Seth learning to read at school, Opeies learning has cut out all those boring reading in stages books and has replaced that tedious learning with a real love for the written word.  I have always said that comics have a bad rep in the world of literature but there are so many levels to the stories and they are ongoing (like an intelligent and creative soap opera). Sure, when it comes to the super hero comics there is action and adventure (which is great) but when you start delving into the personal lives of these heroes there is a deep understanding of emotion. For a 6-year-old, Opeie is getting a great start into understanding the complexity of relationships and the way we feel through comics (and all the questions he asks about Country songs that he loves helps too). This to me is so much more important than a lot of the unnecessary academic information that is thrown at Seth.

Home schooling has so far given Opeie the chance to fully explore his imagination and pursue the things that he is passionate about learning, which for a 6-year-old is what they should be doing. This way of learning has taken out the anxiety and the stress of preparing him for standardized testing in mainstream schools, making him a far more well rounded child with a real love of learning. 'Concentrate on the reading an the rest will come organically'  is what I told myself from day one.



Wednesday, 19 July 2017

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”... and LEGO


As the school year comes to its final week I am reminded that it's business as usual for us homeschooling families. There are no term times for Opeie and although he gets to spend some awesome quality time with his brother over the 6 week holiday, our learning continues because the home education has become a way of life now. This morning as we chatted about what we were going to be doing, I said 'time for us to wind down a little this week' but with out realising we transformed our morning game of hockey to a fun spelling exercise. This is the magic of being a creative and ever evolving teacher to an equally creative 6-year-old.

There is something to learn in literally everything we do and LEGO has added creativity into so many of our fun activities. The building, following instructions and symmetry of many of the builds have been such great lessons for home education and the huge variety of parts, figures and animals mean that there is no end to the mini role playing we can do, which does wonders for both creative thinking and confidence building. Remember our post about the Berlin wall?



The great thing about LEGO is that they are constantly reinventing themselves with new themes and when it comes to their brand, LEGO City has for us been the strongest line for its educational value. This range has given us the chance to talk about volcanoes, arctic exploration, Space and last year the Fun in the park kit gave us such an amazing chance to talk about diversity throughout the world.





LEGO has now joined forces with National Geographic kids on their LEGO City jungle range, which has again given us everything that we need for another LEGO themed project. Weve been learning about the wildlife that can be found in the jungle, different foods that can grow in the climate and about indiginous tribes that live in these jungle areas. as with many of the newer city kits we've also been able to cover the importance of gathering information and learning from these areas and what a huge part science plays in findings.



"The partnership has come about to inspire children to explore, discover and learn about jungles and the importance of their preservation", Which really is a great reason to be partnering up. I like to think that a lot of Opeie's learning is making him more aware of his surroundings and he is also receiving a great understanding of the amazing world that is out there for him to investigate.









the new range has been a huge hit with the boys and Opeie's new love of jungle animals has got him looking at the Jungle exploration site kit and the Jungle halftrack mission kit so that he can roleplay with the new jungle cats from the range (I'd like to get my hands on these myself).

The entire range can be found HERE.

This amazing team up also offers LEGO fans the chance to win a very exciting prize with the LEGO City Jungle competition. Further details can be found at www.lego.com/jungle

Good luck to any of you entering.




Tuesday, 18 July 2017

"I don't have pet peeves; I have whole kennels of irritation."

I'd love to be able to say that I've become a real dog person since Snuffy joined the family. As much as I love that adorable grumpy faced Pug, I could happily give her away tomorrow. Its not a personal thing, I just really don't like having animals in the house. Negative feelings aside though, Snuffy and Polly have brought a lot of joy into the house and having a friend there all the time has had a great impact on Opeie, I may not notice it all the time if I'm in a micro rage and distracted by pooh in the back garden or wet patches on the carpet, but when I look back through my photos I see that maybe pet ownership isn't all that bad.



Sunday, 9 July 2017

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.


A couple of months back Opeie lost his first tooth and he was so excited about putting the lovely sparkly tooth under his pillow. There were a lot of questions being asked about the tooth fairy that day, so you can probably imagine his excitement when he woke up the following morning and found not only a cash settlement for his central incisor but also a very special note from his own personal tooth fairy, in very small handwriting...


Finding out that his toothfairy rides on a bumble bee or a ladybird when she is tired got that brain of Opeie's ticking and he had so many questions to ask. So, Opeie set about writing a note to put under his pillow for the next time he lost a tooth (which wasn't going to be too far away as he had another wobbly one). Last week while Seth was sitting wiggling one of his own wobbly teeth they both got into a 'mines going to come out first' heated conversation and before I knew it both boys were holding a tooth in their hand (never underestimate the true power of sibling rivalry). It was time to put Opeie's plan into action, but would he get the photo that he wanted?


It turns out that Penelope Sparkelbottom was more than happy to oblige and was excited that someone had seen past the money and wanted to get to know her. It made me wish I had taken more of an interest in my toothfairy all those years ago. I didn't think for one second that she would send Opeie a picture of herself, Toothfairies are very secretive right? That gappy little cherub of ours was so happy with the picture that she had sent, she really does have a dazzling smile!


I'm intrigued by the next line of questioning and Opeie is already trying to work out which tooth will be the next wobbly one.

Sending love to all those hard working Tooth fairies working those unsociable hours! x


Friday, 23 June 2017

"This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!"


When it comes to movies and things on TV Opeie can be very fragile at times, he gets easily scared,  by things that I wouldn't even think would affect him. He's a sensitive little thing. If this happens then we can pretty much count on the fact that we will be in for a rough night with him as the things that do affect him really play on his mind. You can imagine my surprise when Opeie informed me a couple of weeks back that he wanted to watch Pirates of the caribbean, I was a little reluctant (mainly due to the zombie pirates) but I thought we'd give it a go. Suprisingly he loved the film (although as expected not a huge fan of the cursed pirates) and straight after asked if we could track down some of the LEGO minifigures (I'm feeling a custom Silent Mary with a GFTP twist on the horizon).


It seems we had watched the film at the just the right point, although I'm not in a position to be splashing out on the latest pirate ship there were two other recent Pirates of the Carribean releases in the LEGO range. Brickheads have hit the shelves and from what I have seen online have made a huge impact. If I am honest I'm still not sure how I feel about them personally as I love some playabilty in the things that I build and Ive not been a fan of the pop! style figures that have been hitting the shops recently.


That being said though, its not all about me and Opeie absolutely loves them as they are just the right size kits for him to build quickly so that he can play with them soon after opening. Captain Jack Sparrow and Armando Salazar from the recent installment 'Dead men tell no tales' are a great start to what may end up being a Brickheadz collection, which I dont mind at all because at the price they are perfect LEGO kits for keeping the kids entertained with having to spend a large amount of cash.


The full Brickheads range can be found HERE and if you are a fan of the range be sure co check out some of the custom builds as there are some really great ones out there.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

"Oh dear," thought Snuffy sadly. "I can't help, I'm afraid, but wait... oh, yes I've got it! I'll call the fire brigade."


I cant believe it has been almost a month since I posted anything. The build up to the election was really getting on my nerves so I removed social media off my phone for most of that time and because of it I didn't really fancy writing. Add that to some new responsibilities I have around the house and its no wonder I have been quiet. Its not the first time I've gone this long without posting but other times it has been utter laziness. This time though my loafing has a face... and a really cute one at that.


Since we have been walking the dogs at our local dogs home, Mrs M and at the boys have gone into full on 'dog mode'. I made my feelings clear early on that I really didn't want a dog. As usual though my tiny voice went unheard and the hunt for 'the right' dog for 'us' began. Mrs M finally thought she had found the right dog through a Bulldog charity and it seemed as though Alma the bulldog would be finding a new home with us. The home visit went fine but we found out that she would most likely need operations due to medical conditions and we didn't feel that would be fair on the boys seeing how excited they were about getting a dog.

On the day of the home visit a very disheartened Mrs M informed me that there was a local family who had pug puppies, the mouse like comments of "I don't want a dog", "I DONT WANT A DOG!"  of course continued to go unheard and Mrs M said that she had already spoken to the 'pug lady' and could we go and see them. Push over Pauly caved (as I always do) and we were straight in the car to look at puppies. I wasn't really prepared for the puppy ambush when we sat on the floor in their lounge and we were bombarded with excitable pups. There was a faint thought of 'Smithers release the hounds' in my head as 5 fun loving pugs started climbing all over us. There was only one of the 5 left and of course that was the one that found Opeie, curled up on his lap and fell asleep. Mrs M looked across and said "what do you think?" It was at that point that I realised the trap I had fallen into, there was no saying no to that.


We visited our new family member every week for 4 weeks before we could take her home, sometimes spending 3 hours there chatting to the breeders. Opeie, Seth and Mrs M were smitten and although I still didn't want a dog I couldn't help but fall for that cute squashed up little face. 


At this point its probably important to point out why I dont didn't want a dog. I'm not some sort of animal hater or weird dog Grinch, I'm just not a fan of pet ownership. It is such a HUGE responsibility and I'm not sure anyone in the house has realised quite how much yet. I wasn't a fan of getting a cat but they are low maintenance and Polly is not interested in our attention at all, if anything she is more like a lodger than anything else. Dogs though take up a lot of time, which I have found out to the full extent over the last 3 weeks because I have done none of the things that I needed to have done during the evenings. The thing that I couldn't get across from the get go was that the HUGE responsibility is so much bigger if you didn't want the pet in the first place and when Mrs M is working away, that is all on me (maybe I am a dog Grinch).


As always though I have adapted to the change in our home life like I always do, no matter what is thrown at me and I've got to say despite my reservations its nice to see everyone in the house so happy. Someone once told me that getting a puppy is like having a baby but I would take 10 babies over the broken sleep Ive had recently. I was so exhausted a few nights back that I stood in the garden at 4am half asleep (on wee patrol) and it wasn't until I went to walk back into the house that I realised that my underwear was wide open and I was hanging out (I just hope our neighbours aren't up at that time of the morning).

 So this is life now, cleaning up wee, broken sleep and minimal time to do the things that I want of an evening. In its place though is an adorable little squashed up face to wake up to every morning who likes to eat my beard and chew on my stretched ear lobes. I may have been converted... but don't tell anyone here I don't want to lose my Grinch like status.


Welcome to the family Snuffy.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

"Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."


The sun is out, the sky is blue (well at least it was on when I took the photos) and for us that means that the Micro Scooters are going to be hitting the streets. The scooters have always been a great distraction from any work we are doing at home and it's always fun to take our learning to the great outdoors, investigating an area or doing some sort of scavenger hunt. Today's hunt was to spot as many different flowers as we could, as we had downloaded a really interesting app called PlantNet where you can photograph plants and the app will tell you what you are looking at (Shazam for horticulture fans).

Considering we were only out scooting for an hour or so we managed to spot so many different varieties of flowers and it made for a really interesting Micro adventure.



Monday, 15 May 2017

'So awesome she deserves two mothers days'


After spotting online last week that it was mothers day on the approaching Sunday, I had a chat with mini me and he informed me that 'mommy deserves a second Mothers day'. So we decided to make her an American themed card and get her a little gift to show her how amazing we think she is. I like to think we treat every day with Mrs M like it is Mothers day but its always nice to have these moments to give her a surprise treat.

I couldn't have picked a more amazing person to have a family with and like the boys I am thankful every day for her being part of our lives.



"Learning how to learn is life's most important skill."


While I sat writing about Opeie losing his first tooth, I was thinking about how amazing it is becoming a parent and being there to experience all of their awesome milestones. Opeie's first words, steps, the first time I heard "I love you daddy", are all so special to me. I realised though, that although I've written about many of these over the years, I did miss a recent one out.

Opeie had never been interested in learning to ride his bike, Micro Scooters had pretty much dominated wheeled transportation for him and although there had been a BMX sitting in the shed, it was just there collecting dust. Two weeks before his 6th birthday though, he told me that he wanted to learn to ride his bike and he wanted to do it as a 5-year-old. It kind of came out of nowhere and the way he worded it really made me chuckle, but I loved the way he had set himself a challenge and was determined to learn this new skill. The bike came straight out and while all the kids were at school and our street was quiet we got on with it (I love the freedom of homeschooling). 


Seth had learned to ride his bike late on after a huge confidence knock when he ended up with a fractured arm but when he was 8 he decided to have a go and with a little patience, we got him riding within 2 hours which was a huge confidence boost for him. Knowing that this was how Seth did it was all the motivation that Opeie needed to get this new skill under his belt.


Day one was 1hr of trying to balance while I held him up, with tears from pure frustration but he was adamant that he could do it. Day two was a more confident half an hour of me holding him while he pedaled around and day three's hour and a half session completely took me by surprise when he held himself upright withing the first 5 minutes and I just let him go. Kids are AMAZING! I wish I could pick things up as quick as they do.

So our happy little 5-year-old had reached his goal in a few hours which was amazing. What I love most about all these new skills is the confidence that comes with it. To some people, these things may seem insignificant but I see the value in every little thing the boys pick up as they are developing. The more of these skills they acquire the more they realise, that anything is possible if they put their mind to it.




Monday, 8 May 2017

'Mind the Gap!'


Its been hanging on for dear life for weeks, but finally Opeie's first tooth has come out. Watching him trying to coax him out during that time took me right back to trying to get my own teeth out when I was younger. I'd sit there wobbling, pushing and even twisting to get that sucker out. Being woken up crazy early to give us the good news wasn't the most relaxing way to wake up but the huge gappy smile and glowing face was a fun start to our weekend.


As expected Opeie is proud of his new gap and has found that when having a chupa chup the stick fits tidily in the space. Another great thing to have come from the toothy event is that Opeie has been introduced to his own personal toothfairy Penelope sparklebottom, who wrote him a lovely letter letting him know that the tooth was very clean and that sometimes when she is tired she rides around on the back of a ladybird or bumblebee (a classy way to travel). Of course Opeie has a huge list of questions for her and has requested a photo, so watch this space (Or gap!).



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