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.

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