Wednesday 24 October 2018

"Read enough about the dung beetle, and a picture of its character emerges: patient, optimistic, uncomplaining."

Home educating Opeie has really helped me embrace our day to day adventures and I couldn't be happier with how it's turning out. Over the last few years I have been regularly reminded that you never know what is around the corner and some of our home ed days out have taken some pretty amazing and surprising turns. Last week we ended up on an unexpected trip to Oxford, as our friend Charlotte was dropping off some of her amazing work at the Ashmoleon. The plan was to have a look around the museum, visit the natural history museum and then the Pitt rivers museum too (pretty awesome day out I thought, little did we know where the day would take us).

The Ashmoleon was fab and was a great help for Opeie's current Egypt project. We spent a good couple of hours taking it all in. Opeie was pretty eager to get to the natural history museum though and who could blame him, our last visit had been such a great day out and Opeie and his friends had found it fascinating. We'd only been in the museum 5 minutes when we noticed a chap with a tray of beetles, as expected Opeie was super excited so we went over for a chat. Darren had us completely mesmerised from the moment he started talking. An expert in all things 'Dung beetle' and so passionate about his field, I think we could have sat and listened to him all day. I love a 'come on! lets sit on the floor and chat' kind of person too.

Darren had me and Charlotte standing in the middle of the museum pretending to be trees as he explained why dung beetles were so important and Opeie loved every minute of it. I asked him where the best place would be to go and see a large Coleoptera collection and he said 'Here!' then continued to explain just how many beetles they had behind the scenes. Thats when he said 'Meet me at the main doors in 20 minutes and I'll take you backstage and show you some beetles', well it was like Christmas from that point. Opeie was so excited, I was trying to stay calm but was doing cartwheels inside and Charlotte had picked up on us nerdy boys getting into it and was loving it all too.

Darren took us to his office and showed Opeie some beetles under his pretty impressive microscope and even had Opeie help him identify some of the beetles that had been sent to him using an extensive collection of books on dung beetles from around he world. This is the sort of thing that would never haver happened so organically had it not have been for home ed, and being in the museum midweek. It was lovely to take a step back and watch Darren really take the time to talk to Opeie and explain in detail what it was that he does and how he got to where he was, with stories from his own childhood and his interest in beetles.

One of the things that really stuck out for me was when Darren told Opeie that he hadn't really done very well at uni but his passion for Dung beetles got him to where he was. From a home ed point of view that really summed up how I feel about Opeie's education. Ive always said from day one that if theres one thing that I want Opeie to come away with from this, its a passion for something, whatever it is. When I left school I had no passion or motivation for anything because not a single thing had inspired me.

After identifying some interesting beetles Darren took is further into the backstage area of the museum to where there were an insane amount of cabinets full of beetles. From the always impressive Goliath beetle to a beetle that was the size of a pinhead, it was fascinating and I would love an afternoon there going through each and every cabinet looking at each tray of beetles. This for me was the Most perfect (and unexpected) home ed day.

As we left, Darren gave Opeie his card and said that if he ever wanted to chat about beetles or if he was struggling to identify one then we could email, which I thought was so kind. After such an amazing visit to the museum we wanted to do something to say thank you. Opeie wanted to write a letter and Charlotte (absolutely loving being a part of a home ed adventure) asked Opeie to draw a beetle picture so that she could print it onto a travel mug at her studio to send to Darren as a surprise.

A gift from us wouldn't be a gift without immortalising the awesome chap in LEGO, a full on team effort by the three of us. Complete with a dung beetle and ball of pooh to roll around. I'm not sure that all of Darren's talk of rummaging through pooh has got Opeie to that point in his beetle loving adventure yet, but his passion and excitement has definitely pushed him that little bit further.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

"Music can change the world because it can change people."

Blogging has opened up so many interesting doors over the years, We've been invited to so many amazing events and have reviewed some really interesting products. One product though has stuck out above all of the others recently because of the huge impact it has had (and will continue to have) on Seth. Back in 2016 we had an email asking if we would be interested in reviewing a pBone, the first professional plastic trombone. If I'm honest I read the email and had a little chuckle to myself at the sheer randomness of it, but I was also really intrigued, so of course I said yes. The pBone arrived and we all had a little toot and followed it up with a review. As much as I loved the idea of the boys being musical the following few months left the lovely purple pBone collecting dust in the boys room.

Then another email came through from pBone inviting us to one of their events at the symphony hall which had a real impact on Seth and catapulted him into the amazing world of music. He left the event feeling inspired and asked if he could start trombone lessons. I'm fully aware of the fact that I have covered all this in previous posts but stay with me because the pBone adventure just gets better and better. I wrote about the event and Seth began his trombone lessons at school. He said he enjoyed the lessons but he never seemed to practice at home and I genuinely thought it was going to be one of those things that eventually fizzled out. Until one day he came home and told us that he was playing a song at his schools music show. As I hadn't heard him practice at all I was worried that he may have jumped in and offered prematurely to be a part of it but on the day he completely shocked me and played in front of his peers and the all the parents, with all the audience getting involved and clapping as he played we will rock you. It was one of those moments where a wave of pride washes over you as a parent. So this is where I have covered before in previous posts.

Seth has just finished his final year at primary school so the last few months have been pretty busy with sorting out the transition to secondary school. Seth (like all of the kids in his year) had been visiting schools trying to work out which was the best fit for him. Which, after viewing quite a few was made really clear to him early on. Unfortunately the school was out of our catchment area and we were pretty sure it was going to be a no go. The school however is big on music and their many bands travel all over the world for shows and when entering the main doors you are greeted with cabinets full of the trophies that the amazing children have won over the years. Seth had his heart set on the school. Despite being out of the catchment area the school offered a handful of places for musical children to join their bands. To be in with a chance Seth had to attend an interview and complete a musical aptitude test. On the morning of the test Seth was so nervous but  he went in and gave it his all. Weeks passed and a letter arrived through the post. Obviously you know whats coming, I wouldn't be writing about the failings of an 11-year-old.

Seth had been accepted, which was amazing news. He had only technically been playing a few months but they had seen something in him that they were looking for. Part of the acceptance letter stated that he needed to start taking lessons at the school on Saturday mornings on the run up to the summer holidays to get him ready for the musical side of his secondary school experience. So, he started attending the Saturday classes which he enjoyed and on his third week they asked him to stop the lessons and move into the schools big band. Which again was the most amazing news for Seth and us ever doting parents.

Within a couple of weeks of that his teacher just casually threw in his grade one trombone exam without telling him which he passed no problems and although he came out from his class trying to play it cool I could see that there were secretly fireworks going off inside. Its amazing to think that all of this amazingness has come from a chance email sent our way, for something that we would have never even thought about looking at had it not had been pointed out to us. 

I always wanted the boys to try and take up an instrument because despite wanting to when I was younger it was never an option. Every moment of the pBone being introduced into our lives has been an amazing experience for me as a parent. Not only has it boosted Seths confidence more than I could have ever imagined, it has also ended up putting in some serious groundwork for Seths transition into 'big school' helping him to meet new friends in the band before he had even reached his start date in September. Since starting his first term he has now also been invited into a second school band, adding to the excitement of it all. Watching his big brother learn to play an instrument has also given Opeie the passion for learning to play an instrument and he has started drum lessons too. pBone has had such a huge impact on us all as a family and I can see that its going to get even better. 

Seths passion for the instrument has also got him desperately wanting to share what he has learnt and I find it so moorish that Ive even considered getting one myself (I quite like the pink one) so he can teach me too and we can play together, watch this space.

Thinking of getting your kids into music and want to find out more? Visit the pBone website here.