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.

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