Tuesday, 17 October 2017

"The fruit of your own hard work is the sweetest."


Getting through work projects with Opeie can be so rewarding. He gets a real sense of achievement from his work and for me its another gold star on the decision to Home educate. It doesn't go smoothly all of the time though and it can be a struggle sometimes to keep him motivated to write, I remember feeling exactly the same way as him when I was at school. So we come up with all manner of creative ways to write, designing magazines, keeping diaries and more recently writing to pen pals. Sometimes though all you need for that surge of motivation is some fun stationary.


Mrs M is big on pens, glue sticks, fancy pencils and diaries, Seth has followed suit with his 'special pen' for school and it was only a matter of time before Opeie found something fun to write and draw with that filled him with inspiration. Thanks to ScentCo, Opeie's latest pen pal letter will not only be full of things that he's been up to, questions about his friend and a fun fact he's learned at the end... it will also smell like a sweet shop when the envelope is opened.



I remember erasers having a scent when I was younger but these awesome pens and pencils have taken the magic of sweet smelling stationary one step further. Opeie has been having a blast with his Smencils, writing and creating and the room has been filled with a sweet smell (my favourite is definitely the cola). With 'Sniff it's' (scented paper clips), a lollipop sketch and sniff notepad and a watermelon pencil case there is no end to the scented fun we can have while Opeie is being educated.

All that's left now is to let Opeie's pen pal Daisy enjoy the magic of the scented letter at her end. 


Friday, 6 October 2017

"If it wasn't for the speakers in the door Telling me a truth I hadn't ever heard before..."


I always hoped that music would become a big part of the boys lives early on as Mrs M and I formed some pretty solid groundwork for our relationship around the music we loved. Seth is yet to really find the music he is passionate about (I'm sure that will all come soon though), but he has instead gone down the playing music himself path, which we are so proud of him for and it is doing wonders for his confidence. Opeie has catapulted himself into music and it needs to be on in the background all of the time. We had bought him an iPod a while back when he was going through his 'bieber phase' (thank god that's over), he'd not really bothered with it since then but over the last few months Opeie's love of 'New Country' seems to have hit a new level. He can heard regularly through the day saying 'Oh yeah! this is my jam!'.

A few days ago he asked me if (in his words) we could "wipe all the trash" off his iPod and fill it up with the music he loves. I thought for sure that it was going to be a long drawn out affair with Opeie not really knowing what he wanted on there but he sat there and reeled off 71 songs for his playlist, artist and title. I don't think I even knew 10 songs when I was 6. As I started filling up his iPod I thought 'what a great idea for a post, I've written a few 'Opeie's top 5' music posts but for anyone out there that loves country music this is the playlist for you.

  1. Brad Paisley - Beat this summer
  2. Thomas Rhett - Star of the show
  3. Sam Hunt - Take your time
  4. Rascal flatts - Rewind
  5. Old Dominion - No such thing as a broken heart
  6. Luke Combs - Hurricane
  7. Keith Urban - Blue ain't your colour
  8. Elle King - Americas Sweetheart
  9. Dustin Lynch - Small Town Boy
  10. Old Dominion - Snapback
  11. Chris Young - I'm coming over
  12. Dylan Scott - My Girl
  13. Brad Paisley - Crushin' It
  14. Brett Young - In case you didn't know
  15. Thomas Rhett - Make me wanna
  16. Sam Hunt - Break up in a small town
  17. Luke Bryan - Huntin, Fishin and lovin every day
  18. Kenny Chesney - Save it for a rainy day
  19. Jon Pardi - Heartache on the dancefloor
  20. Brett Eldredge - Beat of the music
  21. Dan and Shay - 19 You and me
  22. David Nail - Whatever shes got
  23. Elle King - Devil don't go
  24. Florida Georgia line - H.O.L.Y
  25. Old Dominion - Break up with him
  26. Hunter Hayes - Everybody's got somebody but me
  27. LOCASH - I know somebody
  28. Maddie and Tae - Shut up and fish
  29. Rascal Flatts - I like the sound of that
  30. Sam Hunt - Make you miss me
  31. Thomas Rhett - Crash and Burn
  32. Brett Young - Sleep without you
  33. Chris Young - Lonely eyes
  34. Dean Brody - Bounty
  35. Dierks Bentley - Different for Girls
  36. Hunter Hayes - Wanted
  37. Jake Owen - Real Life
  38. Old Dominion - Be with me
  39. Thomas Rhett - Get me some of that
  40. Dierks Bentley - Somewhere on a beach
  41. Old Dominion - Written in the Sand
  42. Jon Pardi - Dirt on my boots
  43. Blake Shelton - Mine would be you
  44. Florida Georgia line - May we all
  45. Brett Eldredge - Drunk on your love
  46. Brad Paisley - Today
  47. Maren Morris - 80s Mercedes
  48. Dierks Bentley - Drunk on a plane
  49. Old Dominion - Til its over
  50. Craig Morgan - Wake up lovin' you
  51. Luke Bryan - I don't want this night to end
  52. Jon Pardi - Head over Boots
  53. Thomas Rhett - Sixteen
  54. Kenny Chesney - Come Over
  55. Blake Shelton - She's got a way with words
  56. Billy Currington - It Don't Hurt Like It Used To
  57. Brett Eldredge - Somethin' I'm good at
  58. Chris Young - Think of you
  59. Luke Bryan - Fast
  60. Leave the night on - Sam Hunt
  61. Rascal Flatts - Yours if you want it
  62. Jake Owen - American country love song
  63. Jason Aldean - Any Ol' barstool
  64. Josh Turner - Hometown girl
  65. Michael Ray - Think a little less
  66. Chris Lane - For Her
  67. Joe Nichols - Yeah
  68. Kane Brown - What ifs
  69. Yeah boy - Kelsea Ballerini
  70. Canaan Smith - Love you like that
  71. Old Dominion - So you go
I know a huge chunk of parents think they have the most amazing child on the planet but seriously I was nowhere near as cool at 6-years-old as Opeie is, I'm so proud of that little dude of mine. 


Monday, 2 October 2017

"These beetles are amazing. They're special. Spend some time with them, and you'll see."


I feel so lucky to be homeschooling Opeie every single day, our days are filled with adventure and there is something to learn around every corner.  There are an endless amount of resources throughout the UK and we are doing our best to make the most of all the ones that we find relevant to Opeie's interests at the time. During the early days, I would panic about child-led learning, worried that I wasn't covering things that needed to be covered but I would always come back to a thought of being around 8-years-old, fascinated by a dinosaur project that we were doing at school that only lasted a couple of days. The project ended and it was never touched upon again and I was so disappointed, I don't want that for Opeie, his interests are so important to us.


Opeie's current interest is 'beetles', thanks to our friend Jamie buying the boys a copy of 'Beetle Boy'. Jamie worked with the author M.G. Leonard and had written inside the cover that she was "Beetle Mad". So it quickly became the book that I was reading to Opeie (we always have at least one big book on the go). Not only did it kickstart his new love of Beetles but the story had us both hooked from the first few pages.

We inevitably started our own beetle hunt and managed to find a few but none that matched up to Baxter the intelligent Rhinoceros beetle in the story. What was awesome, was that when we struggled to find the name of a beetle we had found, we contacted M.G. Leonard online and she got straight back to us with the answer we were looking for. In Opeie's words "she's amazing!"


To continue our hunt for the ultimate beetle it was time to take our beetle hunt on the road and while searching online for a suitable place to visit I was greeted by a place I remember as a child. I have fond memories of sitting on the bank of the river Avon in Stratford-Upon-Avon, picnicking on the grassy area, a stone's throw from The Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly farm. They have a Mini-beast Metropolis which I took to be a sign, so that is where we planned our next beetle adventure. 


There is something quite magical about being in a room that is filled with butterflies. Everywhere we looked, there were beautiful colourful wings fluttering by and it was quite the experience for Opeie. We learned all about the tiny scales on their wings and how they fed on nectar, it was great to see so many different varieties. As stunning as the butterflies were though, we were there for another (more important reason).

Before we could got to the Mini-beast Metropolis though we were greeted by Mark who had been described to us as the "Beetle Nerd" and most definitely lived up to his name. Not only did he talk us through the beetles they had on show but he also showed us behind the scenes at the Larvae and the Pupa which was very exciting for Opeie and fro an educational viewpoint this was as good as it gets. We even got to see and learn about the outer shell created by the pupa from soil and secretion. It was fascinating to see, and Mark made it all even more interesting, the guy really knew his stuff.


The star of the show for us was definitely the Goliath beetle, as big and awesome as he was though, Opeie informed me that "he's still not as big as the Titan beetle, they can grow to the size of a big ruler! they are my favourite". Another amazing homeschool outing thanks to the Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly farm and their staff, education through experience is what it's all about. Next on our beetle adventure is to find somewhere we can see both a Titan and a Rhinoceros beetle. (if you are reading this and know of somewhere in the UK let us know on Twitter @pirategifts).

Who knows, Entomology maybe something that Opeie goes into later in life, it would be so exciting to be able to look back at all these things and know that this is where it all started.




"Whatever good things we build end up building us."



I loved growing up in the 80's/90's. Childrens TV and Movies these days don't seem to have the magic that they had back when I was young and impressionable. I would get lost in Saturday morning TV, and films like The Goonies and Back to the future must have seemed to my parents like they were being played on a loop. One thing I would have loved from these days back then though are the LEGO movies. The movies are a constant flow of building inspiration and some of our custom builds have come from watching these amazing movies.

The LEGO movie opened up all sorts of building fun for us, with its series of fun mini figures and its creative kits to coincide. As soon as it came out on DVD it was nearly always on in the background while we sat building together. The LEGO Batman Movie came out and instantly became the top building inspiration movie (in fact we watched it this evening as we built). The Batman Deathstar came off of the back of this and ended up being such a great build. 





And now we are weeks away from the release of the LEGO Ninjago movie, With some interesting kits and an amazing Minifigure series to get us all inspired again. With the release of all these fun movies, this is such an exciting time for LEGO and I'm excited about what we could possibly end up building together after the boys have seen the movie.




While we wait for the upcoming release though we have been feeling up bags collecting the Minifigure series and building a couple of the kits. There's nothing quite like a great selection of products to get you revved up for a movie release and the Manta Ray Bomber (70609) and Master Falls (70608) have done just that as the boys are desperate to know how they fit in to the movie.




With a huge selection of new parts from both the series and the minifigure range, LEGO have again added to our ever growing brick empire at home and we couldn't be happier about it.

The boys have got their eye on the LEGO City 70620 kit, which as awesome looking as it is, is sadly another of those LEGO kits which is a little out of our price range. Thanks to the online instructions though I think we may build our our own but in a completely different style... watch this space.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie hits the cinemas on October 13th



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.


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