Friday 29 July 2016

"To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude."

With the start of the school summer holiday in full swing and there being a clearly huge change in the number of children and families everywhere we go, I am reminded of how lucky we are that we have the flexibility to do fun and educational things at our own pace, wherever we please and whenever we like. Home schooling is one of the best decisions we have ever made as a family and seeing Opeie stress free and eager to learn every day is extremely rewarding. We were obviously fully aware of how busy everywhere gets during the holiday so Opeie and myself tried to squeeze as much as we could into the last couple of weeks before everything became a lot louder.

I don't fancy the idea of going camping to a family site during the holiday because I remember many of my old family camping holidays to St Ives. The fields would be heaving and the tents felt like they were almost on top of each other. I remember awkwardly stepping over guide ropes between tents to get round to the back and there also being very busy shower blocks. So we decided to make the most of a few days last week where we had nowhere to be. In Shropshire, as we were pulling away the weather was awful! rain, gloom, the sort of weather we've come to expect this year. As we reached Shell island though the sun was lighting up the sky and the big white fluffy clouds were the perfect backdrop for our camping adventures. We found a great spot in a quiet field practically on the beach and got set up.

Opeie loves being in the tent, we had camped earlier in the year and used our 2 man tent but with it being a lot warmer now I thought it would be best to try out our bigger tent. We've had it for a couple of years, just haven't had the chance to use it (until now). Opeie was a great help pegging the groundsheet and guide ropes down with his trusty mallet and once the tent was up it was time for our adventuring to begin.

I wasn't sure what the weather was going to be doing so I packed a LEGO kit to keep us entertained if we got stuck in bad weather. The weather as I said was great but Doc Ock kept Opeie occupied while I was cooking the tea so that was great.

There was no way that Opeie was going to be able to sleep at any reasonable time that night so around 9pm we headed down to the beach (with a sleeping bag) to watch the sun go down. We curled up on the sand and read The Tiger that came to tea, The Gruffalo and loads of Dr Seuss and Berenstein Bears books. It was the perfect end to our first night at the beach.

Surprisingly the bright sunshine glowing thought the tent fabric, the warm sweatiness and even the seagulls making a racket we not waking Opeie up the following morning. He slept great and had a long lie in so I opened up the tent, made a cup of coffee and sat outside taking in the beautiful morning. When Opeie did wake up I quickly realised that I hadn't packed any bowls for our cereal, so Opeie had a large mug and I used a saucepan....classy!

After our Michelin star breakfast, we took a drive along the coast to Black Rock sands as I thought that Opeie would love investigating the caves. I'd not been before but while googling the surrounding area of where we were camping the beach popped up and the photos online looked great. I couldn't have picked a more perfect day for us. I start to feel irritated when it is too warm and although the sun was bright and warm the breeze from the see had the perfect chill which kept us cool during our long walk across the empty beach.

The caves were so much more fun than any of the pictures I had seen while researching and Opeie was asking question after question which is the sort of home schooling day I love the most. The textures of the caves were fascinating, we got to see birds making nests in the rocky hillside and we found lots of Crabs, Jellyfish and Sea Urchin shells.

We spent three hours investigating the beach and the best part was that we only saw 5 other people (I'm not antisocial but having a huge beach practically to ourselves was very idyllic).

I somehow managed to get extremely lost on the way home and drove an hour completely off course. I probably would have realised sooner if it hadn't been for the beautiful scenery along the way. Our satnav lost connection and I got so drawn in by our surroundings that I just kept driving. Opeie had fallen asleep by this point anyway so I didn't feel too bad about the time it took us to get back to the tent.

We had our course taken the Micro Scooters with us and when we finally got back to Shell Island it was time to show the other holiday makers what a pair of pro scooterers were capable of. Shell Island was made for scooting, although you obviously cant take them on the beach, there are smooth path's everywhere and it is one of the fastest ways to get from one side of the island to the other, from the harbour all the way over to the impressive sand dunes.

The few hours of scooting, skimming stones and searching through rockpools really shattered Opeie out so there was no watching the sun go down on the beach that night. We were woken by rain belting off the side of the tent the following morning and I had to get the tent down wet, but we still managed to squeeze in a (very wet) walk along the beach, searching for stones and shells before heading home. It was the perfect two nights camping with my favourite little companion and it has got us both talking about going away again mid-September so watch this space.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

"Creativity is contagious, pass it on”

As part of Daddy school, a lot of our time is taken up by creative activities. It's so important to let your little ones explore their creative side, especially in the early years. Opeie loves drawing, if he sees pen and paper lying around then he'll start doodling and if there's one thing I'll take from studying art at university is that mark making, in all its amazing forms is an important start to any creative endeavour. The boys have access to a huge range of artistic media and although I'm partial to pencil, paper and hands-on craft, it's really important to be open minded to art via technology. I'm useless when it comes to using a computer this way and sadly always turn to Mrs M when it comes to creating the things I need. 

Technology plays s huge part in our day to day lives now and the last thing I want is the boys to fall behind just because it is out of my comfort zone. Seth is starting to show interest in coding and photoshop and Opeie is desperate to get involved. I'm a firm believer in gaming in education and I use lots of different games for various aspects of his learning, the obvious being reading, writing and mathematics, but also for learning strategy. There are great gaming titles out there that cover learning technology. Pokemon typing adventure has been one of my favourite for teaching Opeie keyboard skills early on and the art academy range has been great for what is almost a very basic style of Photoshop, learning to use various icons to create a masterpiece.

We reviewed Pokémon Art Academy last year and being huge Pokemon fans, the game gave Opeie a great introduction in how to create his favourite characters using shapes and techniques. Whatever we draw together I try and break down what he is looking at into a selection of simple shapes to work from. The art academy games back up my approach to teaching but digitally.

With the release of Disney Art Academy, Opeie's inner digital artist has yet again been awakened and he has been in his element recreating has favourite Disney characters. It's frustrating when you are young and struggle to draw the characters that you love. For me it was Basil the great mouse detective, I'd spend days trying to draw my favourite characters from the movie and it's where my love of drawing stemmed from. Disney art academy breaks these well-loved characters down to their most simple form making them accessible to anyone that wants to know how to draw them and this is what makes the game so special. By Taking the budding artist through each step of creating a character, their form, colour scheme and expressions, the game is building creative confidence. It's a great way of teaching that in life if you want to achieve anything you first need the confidence to attempt it.

With over 80 character drawings to attempt and a huge amount of techniques to learn along the way this game is as educational as it is playful, the perfect game for the younger generation of future artists.

Monday 25 July 2016

"Durability is part of what makes a great athlete."

With the Rio Olympic Games just around the corner it was no surprise when we found out that Nintendo had released the next instalment of Mario and Sonics friendly yet competitive take on all of the Olympic Games. Shockingly we've not played any of the previous title so the boys were eager to give the game a try. I had a vision of the game playing out like Linford Christies decathlon, a proper button bashing sports game from back in the 80's but we've come a long way since then in the gaming world.

Mario and sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games boasts an impressive 17 events for starters. As soon as we saw the BMX event had been included we were hooked. What I love about Nintendo over any other games company is the family gaming experience. The bulk of their games are none aggressive and family friendly. Mario and sonic is no different, a competitive and exciting button bashing bonanza.

 You can compete in any of the events against your friends and family but the game also gives you the option of team games where you can join forces in events like football, beach volleyball and rugby sevens (which is one of my personal favourites). 

I was really disappointed to see that the motion controls that the Wii is so famous for had been dropped but as we played through the games I found it was actually a positive. Instead of waving your arms about the game has taken us back to well timed button tapping with events like BMX and swimming. It took the boys a while to realise that you can't just repeatedly bash the buttons, and that it is all in the timing.

As with any games from the Mario or sonic range it's great to play as your favourite characters from an impressive back catalogue. This latest instalment has over 30 playable characters (some of which become available as you play the events) and you can also play as your Mii which with many of Nintendos own titles is a great touch. 

Mario and sonic at the Rio Olympic Games is going to be huge family summer event, which is exactly what I love when it comes to gaming.