I’ve taken my time deciding this.

Well, no.
Actually, I lie.

I decided it ages ago but I’ve taken my time announcing it.

This blog is no more.

I’ve begun blogging somewhere more appropriate to our current situation and I hope that those who are interested in us will continue to follow and those who are interested in Portugal, living there and/or moving there will continue to find use in this blog as it stands.

I’m not removing it. I’m just not posting any further updates.

Just so’s y’all know.


It’s inexcusable really, and I can’t use “I was busy” as an excuse for every hour of every day, can I?
I guess it’s been a combination of not having chance and not wanting to actually blog at all.

It is so very much harder to continue this blog here in England.
It feels almost fraudulent and so I may let it slide in its current form.
But while I make that decision (which may happen during the course of creating this post), I’ll catch you all up.
I’m aiming for brief catch up, but I make no promises!

As you know, we – Nik, Eliot and I – went to Portugal for a 9-day holiday at the beginning of October.

Eliot and Nik were super-excited about it and they loved the whole trip. The accommodation was booked in the area we’d lived in so it was like being home… except when it wasn’t.

We did plenty to keep occupied as much as we could afford (holidays are EXPENSIVE, aren’t they?!)

We played minigolf. Twice actually. It’s great fun and reasonable value if you do the full 18-hole course (honestly, DON’T bother with the 9-hole unless you have toddlers)

We – well, Eliot – played in the pool. Not bad for October, eh?

He even took his skateboard (we’d had to check a suitcase in especially to take it!)

He met with school friends (I don’t think WordPress.org allows me to embed the video but Eliot has it posted  here )

We met with most of our friends we had made while out there: a shout out to Dave and Aly; Phil, Julie, Luke and Jasmine; Peter and Lesley; Matt; Antonio and Rita; everyone at The Lighthouse and apologies if I missed anyone.

“Did you eat at The Lighthouse?” I hear you ask.

Well, dur!

We ate at all the places we knew we liked to eat and went to all the places we knew we liked to go and Eliot and Nik had a fabulous time.
I know you’ve noticed by now so I’ll go ahead and answer that question in your heads: not really, no.

I think if it had been anywhere else, it would have been a holiday and it would have been fine and great, but being on holiday in somewhere that was home.
Not so much.
It felt awkward and every time they were loving “being home” I was feeling worse and worse about the decision to move back to the UK. The more they had fun, the worse I felt.

I’ve told them that next time they can go without me, and I mean it. I actually don’t want to go back to visit again.

Maybe when the campervan is done.

The van is progressing slowly. Naff weather has hampered progress a bit and, even thought we have, for the time being, moved on to internal works (we’re currently installing electrics and final fixing ceiling panels with their vinyl coverings and lights) it’s still so cold in the garage that it’s not much fun out there. We’ve resigned ourselves to being a bit out of action until after the snowy weather for now. No point making it a chore! It’s supposed to be fun!

So we’ve done some van bits and been working and schooling and oh yes, let’s have a school update then!

Eliot is coming on well. We had been concentrating quite heavily on his maths but we’ve scaled it back to 2-3 times a week now and it’s keeping the interest up.

He’s been home edding since the start of May now so that’s 8 months although 2-3 months of that has been summer/Christmas vacations, I guess, but in the 6 months we’ve been learning, his maths age has gone up from about 9yrs 10m to about 11yrs and 8m. That’s nearly a 2 year leap in 6 months which is phenomenal. I wish he could see just how far he’s come!

I’m taking a gently, gently approach with English. We’ve learned some interesting stuff, the usual yawns about nouns, verbs, adverbs etc, but more fun was trying to remember the WORD onomatopoeia (I’m going to thank my computer for its spellcheck at this point!) from one lesson to the other, and I’m currently tackling something specific that he has trouble with: comprehension.

He’s frequently said that adult conversations (and movie dialogue etc) is completely alien to him and I think he just needs to read/hear more, so I’ve started reading to him.

Yep, at 12-years-old, I’ve started reading to him! I’ve chosen a book he likes to begin with – A Minecraft storybook – but I’ve encouraged him to ask about words he doesn’t know and phrases he doesn’t understand and I think it’ll definitely help.

So that’s Eliot!

Jake – who turned 16 this December gone! –  is studying hard (!) for his Maths and English GCSEs which he is taking this summer. He’s had decent grades in his English assessments so far and we’re hopeful he’ll pass both easily enough (he’s brainy; he should!).

It should be enough to get him into Lincoln college in September to study…well, here’s news actually… not plumbing!

He’s now decided he’d prefer to be an electrician and we’re behind him 100%. Plumbing would be excellent and he’d do well for work, I’m sure, but being an electrician could be so much more flexible. He could end up employed doing something off on a tangent from electrical work or he could ultimately become the self-employed electrician that he hopes to be, but I do think it’ll offer him many more opportunities.

Either choice is good, but electrician is the one we’ve applied to college for.

I love that he has goals!
Jake has life goals!

Sheesh, after they year we’ve had, I never thought I’d say that!

What else happened?

Jake drove his first car: a Lamborghini Gallardo at a local track day. That was fun!

And we went to the motorcycle show where Eliot could sit on any bike he wanted which was ALL of them…TWICE. He LOVED that!

We (well, in fairness, mostly Nik) removed our open log fire and replaced it with a wood burner.

We went to a gaming convention which was something of an anticlimax but Eliot enjoyed meeting Jacksepticeye (he’s a YouTuber!)

What does 2016 hold in store for the Hands then?

Well, the van is on course to be finished by the summer (of 2016, I hope!) so we’ll be using that a bit to make sure we iron out any snags before we head out into the wider Europe.

There’s school, of course. Jake has exams in May and June and we’re hoping he’ll get some work experience in over the summer before he has to go to college (we’re also hoping college accepts him!)

There’s work. There’s always work. This isn’t a bad thing when you run your own business!

Oh, and I’ve signed up for a beginners Sign Language course at a local training centre. There’s an advanced course later in the year too so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it enough to follow-up with that one and then, who knows?!

And BOY are we busy?!

As if the campervan conversion isn’t keeping us busy enough, we’re now several weeks into the new school year as well as juggling work and home.

This year is an important one for both boys really.

For Jake, particularly, it’s a huge year because he is working towards taking GCSE Maths and IGCSE English next summer. At present, I’m helping Eliot in the mornings and Jake is fairly autonomously learning in the afternoons, 3 days a week Maths and 2 days English. He’s got a lot to cover but I’m confident that, if he WANTS it, he’ll achieve what he wants (the burning question, of course, is does he WANT it?!)

Eliot’s schedule is a little less hectic but we’re coming on so much, it’s mind-blowing to think where he began.

In the 4-5 months that we’ve been home educating (and bearing in mind that we too had 6 weeks off over summer!), his “Maths Age” has increased a full 12 months.

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It’s amazing to see how much how much he’s improved, and today, for example, the exercise was mental addition of 3 2-digit numbers. He was coming up with the answers only a second after I had solved them (I blame lack of sleep…or age…or, well, I had several excuses).

There are dozens and dozens of things that he did not have a clue about before and now he can do without thinking. Even his times tables, which I haven’t put emphasis on learning, are improving. We have a chart of the 1-12 times tables to which Eliot can refer, if and when he needs to, for other exercises (not for multiplication-specific exercises, obviously) and he’s starting to refer to it less and less over time.

The Maths Whizz website is an absolute godsend. I can’t even begin to imagine how we’d have got this far without it. Their method of teaching is great and their incentives work a treat with El!

In English, I’ve had various English exercise books of various levels on the go, but I’ve decided on one in particular that we are working through gradually. It’s a Key Stage 2 book (he’s not been taught English since age 6, so he’s pretty far behind!) and it’s laid out just right for us. Some books are more designed to work alongside the school curriculum, but this one is more independent and it’s working out well. We’ve touched on prefixes, past tense, commas, speech, adjectives and more so far already this term. Usually, we do 3 topics during the week with a refresher/reminder(/test!) a week or so later after a different topic. Seems to be working so far, and more importantly, it’s sinking in.

One day, he WILL come out with the word “taught” BEFORE the word “teached”!

Apart from school (and the campervan, of course) there’s been little else going on, but we did have a little excursion yesterday.

Jake and Nik had bought Groupon offers for supercar driving at Blyton, which is only 10 minutes from here. Even as a 15yo non-driver, Jake got to drive in a Lamborghini! The first car Jake ever drove will ALWAYS be a Lamborghini Gallardo.

How awesome is that?!

Typically, the weather did what the British weather does and it rained ALL day…until we got home! Days either side have been lovely but hey ho, Jake had fun and it’s difficult to beat that for your first ever drive in a car, I reckon!

Anyway, 3 weeks until holidays and then back to more of the same: work, homeschool, campervan building etc etc

It’s all good fun!




Strange days

You know, it’s strange.

When you’re home-educating, school holidays kinda don’t feel much different to any other time. We had intended to keep up a scaled down learning schedule over the “school holidays” but, quite honestly, I’m enjoying the break myself.

Well, the break from having to whip out the laptops and maths and English stuff each morning anyway. There’s not much else break-like going on.

Just more of the usual work stuff, I guess. Jake has been helping out a bit. He’s earning some pocket money by getting stock updated and put on the website and it’s good for him to start associating real labour with real reward, especially when he is saving up.

We’ve got all his courses sorted for September (his English course with Catherine Mooney and his Maths GCSE course, now that we’ve found a school network willing to accept him as an external candidate next summer. He’s going to have to work hard (something of which we’ve yet to be convinced he is able!) but I believe he can get good passes in both, which will put him in good stead for the college plumbing course he wants to do next September.

Now that I’ve forked out the money for the courses, he’d better work hard or I’ll be docking it all from his wages!

El’s busy being the social butterfly with regular friend meet-ups. It almost makes me glad he isn’t in school with even MORE friends! We’d never see him (or, perhaps worse, there’d always be too many kids in the house!)

He’s had his birthday since we last posted. Someone (may have been me) decided it was a good idea to get him an electric guitar for his birthday.

What was I thinking?

Truthfully though, it sounds really good. He spends a bit of time, every now and again, teaching himself something from YouTube and the guitar itself makes a good sound (used with the amp we already had for his beatboxing microphone)
I did research decent makes for beginners (on a small budget!) and managed to find a half-decent one at a reasonable price (ex-display model) so I’m glad he enjoys it.

Whether the neighbours enjoy it as much…

So, yeah. Not much else has happened really.
We’re counting down the days until we go back to Portugal for our holiday though. It feels like a long time coming. We thought about trying to book a few days away somewhere (anywhere!) during the summer but, jees, those prices?!

Even a last minute booking in some dodgy caravan park (static vans) was over £500 for the week! Sod that. I’d rather save my money!

Anyway, at least the weather is half-good. I say “half” because it’s doing it’s usual “can’t-make-its-mind-up-what-to-do” thing, as British summers tend to do, but at least we have had some nice days. It’s not like we’d be out in the sun much anyway, even if is was nice. Eliot and Jake miss The Lighthouse though. Our neighbouring pub (The Stag’s Head – it’s only about 5 doors away from us) is a poor substitute, but we have been in there a handful of times now, which we’d never done prior to moving.

It’s a handy watering hole on the way back from walking the dog…occasionally at 11pm!

This one obviously wasn’t taken at 11pm!

Anyway, only about 3 weeks and we’ll be getting back to our school/work juggling schedule again.

I’m not sure which I prefer!

It’s certainly safe to say that this year’s “end of school year” update differs significantly from previous ones.

You’d think that measuring “success” would be harder without tests and grading but actually, I think that it’s much easier. Instead of relying on a school book, a test, or a teacher to tell me, I can SEE the progress first-hand and that’s FAR better. I can watch Eliot get the answer to a sum quicker than I can (it’s happened once or twice this week, but I blame my brain having more to do than his!) and I can SEE Jake smile when he sees something he likes or watch him laugh when he plays with the dog or see the resolve in his face when he assures me things are going to get better.

That, to me, is better than a report card full of A’s any day of the week.

Eliot is stunning me with his progress. Clearly he’s ready to learn this stuff. Some of it is definitely below his age group but it’s stuff he didn’t have a clue how to do 2 months ago. According to the site stats on the website we use, his maths age has progressed 9 months in the 2 months we’ve been educating him at home and I can see the progress every single day. The mental stuff gets quicker; the times table sheet gets referred to less often; he’s learning stuff.

Praise be!

The English is coming on slowly. I’m trying not to sit and do it as one long session each day but we grab a worksheet and do “underline the nouns/verbs” or “their/there/they’re” or “It’s/its” practice. It’s the little and often approach but it is sinking in. It’s all alien to him and definitely a full lesson would just switch him right off.
It’s baby steps.

And while we have extra time to spare, we can investigate how a 3D printer works…

The newly-acquired 3D printer

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Or practise shapes and space, in the tent, with Blokus.

Or make a Lego holiday home!


Or sneak off on the motorbike while the sun shines!

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Or to Blyton Raceway to watch Supercars (there were Lambos, Porches, Audis and even a Maclaren on track but the boys have photos of those!)

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Or study the friction of the different tyre types on Playmobile vehicles!
(Yes, I lost!)

So yeah. What with kids and school and work (and an impending VAT return due), it’s been pretty busy.

On the non-work side, we did get the garden pretty much finished. Gravel is all done, shed is built and in position, greenhouse is moved etc. We need to sort the decking out really but that’ll probably wait until next Spring now, I think. It’s “possible” the oil tank may be leaving us so that’ll free up another area of the garden which we can use somehow. We’re just waiting to see how that all pans out before doing anything much else.

Meantime though, I think it’s looking pretty good 🙂

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What else have we done?

Well, we’ve booked a trip back to visit Portugal in October. It’s just Nik, Eliot and I (Jake is being juggled amongst family members back here) but it’ll be great to get back for a trip. Eliot is super-excited about re-connecting with his school friends and Nik is just glad to be making a(nother) trip back.
Me? Yeh, it’ll be nice. But I’m OK anyway. Hopefully the weather will hold out. It’s before half term (when it usually rains) so fingers crossed.

Something else Eliot is super-excited about: it’s his birthday tomorrow!

My baby will be 12.

My baby who gives me this…


and this…


and this…


He’s smart and opinionated, passionate and enthusiastic, utterly, utterly bonkers and drives me totally crazy, but we love him anyway!

So I’ll just finished with a Happy 12th Birthday to my boy.


If I thought for one minute that things would be back to ‘normal’ when we came back to England, how completely deluded I was.

I suppose, it depends on your definition of ‘normal’, but ours (well, mine) was working from home, kids at school, same old same old just with fewer sunshine and beer breaks (booooo!)

I guess I was partly right.
I was also dead wrong!

After a shaky start with Jake in (or not in) school, we settled into something that works for us for now. Jake does 2 hours (ish!) of Maths in the morning and then 2 hours currently learning coding or 3D design in the afternoon. He’s signed up to a great Maths website that he seems to be getting on with OK (after trialling several) and he’s working his way to starting GCSE Maths study, alongside English next year or soon after.

Exams weren’t in our initial plan, but then Jake decided he wants to do plumbing. That’s all well and good but he’s going to need him some GCSE Maths and English passes to get into college and so that’s what we’re working towards now. Whether it’ll be next summer or after that, I don’t know, but it’s a target and, much more importantly, an ambition. That’s quite huge for us actually. It’s certainly not even in the ballpark of what we’d have expected Jake to show an interest in, but hey, world needs plumbers!

So we have a sort of plan for Jake. That’s good.

And so on to Eliot.

He settled in well at school. He’s a social sort and made plenty of friends. And that’s all well and good but… it’s difficult to know how to get down how things went in my head but I think it boiled down to two words: Parents’ Evening.

Eliot was excited for us to come and especially so because the first teacher we were seeing was the dance teacher and he was loving dance, having been asked to join the lunchtime dance group. So we trotted along to see her and that’s about where it all started to unravel. The one thing she had to say, which seemed to take up her EVERY last word about Eliot and dance, was homework.

I mean, honestly. Homework??
Now, I have a beef with homework at the best of times, but seriously? In Dance class?

I expected to hear the same from every teacher but didn’t really. Lots of how Eliot is a ‘very sociable and popular child’ but he ‘needs to focus more’, is ‘very easily distracted’ and should ‘concentrate in class’ and blah blah blah yada yada.

Quite honestly, what they want is for Eliot not to be Eliot but to be some good little worker bee to line up with the rest of the hive and enable them to churn out one more obedient sheep at the end of year 11.

No. Thank. You!

Eliot has never been the best in school. Anyone who knows him will know this, but he’s not stupid. Not by a long shot, and school was making him seem that way. It made him feel incapable and dumb and, coupled with the fact that he was so very clearly 4 years behind in the important parts of Maths and English from being in Portuguese school, it didn’t bode well for the long-term.

He may not be academically gifted but the boy is clever and he needs to see it. We needed to get back to basics and school wasn’t doing it.

My brain coped with about one more week of school and then it spontaneously combusted and, after a long heart to heart with Eliot (who was very mature in his reasoning for staying in school as well as being out of it) we de-registered him too.

It’s been a rocky start but we now have some sort of thing going. We found an absolutely awesomely fantastic maths website called Maths Whizz which is perfect for Eliot. It assesses as it goes and has been brilliant at filling in some really fundamental gaps in his knowledge. We’ve lots more to do but the fact that I’m even managing to get him to do an hour each morning on it during school half term speaks for itself!

It’s quite ingenious really.

If I could find an equivalent site for English, that’d be even better! Currently, we’ve worked on Nouns and used the free Grammaropolis Nouns section as an aid. It was a bit of fun but rather too childish really. Not quite what we’re looking for and I’m undecided whether we’ll pay to use the rest of the site. It worked, I suppose, but I’m still looking.

Meantime we’re still bouncing back to nouns every once in a while and I’m tackling his spelling (which is , quite honestly, atrocious. Partly due to not being educated in English for 5 years and partly due to the only reading/writing he had done in that time being picked up from chatting online: definitely NOT the place to learn!)

So anyway, it’s an hour of Maths, 15 minute break and 30-45 mins of English each morning – the important academic stuff – and a less structured couple of hours in the afternoon doing science or something more fun! He’s doing well with it so far and I’ve been amazed at how quickly he’s responding to learning this way. I can see huge progress already and, perhaps as importantly, HE can see real progress and achievement. It’s measurable in his Maths and it’s lovely to see.

That’s huge too.

So, I’m juggling my days with helping Eliot in the mornings and fitting work in before that, during the boys’ lunch break and after 3 when they’re both finished. It’s tricky sometimes but it’s working and it’s definitely beneficial.

What else?

That’s all so big that not a lot else has gone on really. Nik went back to Portugal for a week for the Jerez MotoGP (the git – we all went last year) and I had a very long weekend away at Wendy’s when we both went to Nottingham for 3 days to see John Barrowman Live. It was great!

See how close we were?! Second row!

We ate lots, drank lots and loved the show! Music was great and John is a great entertainer (and very, very funny!)

It was a fab weekend!

Oh, other news. We’re having solar panels fitted to the house. Slight irony really that we’re having them fitted here after living nearly 5 years in a country with a zillion hours more sun, but we were looking at financially viable ways to provide us with more economical power and this is the first step.

Our oil central heating (we’re off mains gas here) is not cheap to run. We went through 500 litres of oil (about £350-400) in less than 6 weeks when we first moved back in and that was with the heating on 6-10am and 6-10.30 pm. So we were STILL freezing in the office all day! We had to bump the heating down to 2 hours morning and evening instead (did that while it was still cold: mid March, I think) and so now we’re even colder in the office all day but we’re not using so much oil. We’re hoping that, with the solar PV panels, we can run any excess into a storage heater for the office (usual approach is to run it to the immersion, and we may or may not use that option instead) but either way the money we save/earn on electric, we can use towards our oil.

We’ve gone with WeRSolarUK by personal recommendation. We noticed that one of our nearby neighbours had panels fitted (last summer) and he’s said the benefits have been very good. He recommended the company and, even though we did shop around and get another local quote, we were certainly impressed with what WeRSolarUK could offer for the money. I’ll report back with an update at a later date!

We’re also looking at getting out oil boiler replaced with a more efficient one and sorting out our whole hot water system which is horribly inefficient at present.

It’s all a work in progress but it should result in a nicer, warmer workplace without increase in overall cost beyond our initial loan payback. We’ve borrowed over 4 years, but the system should pay for itself in around 6-7 (based on our home in particular) and carries on paying out from the Feed-in-Tariff for 20 years in total giving an overall return on investment of a considerable amount higher than having it sat in the bank!

It’s been a big step for us: borrowing from the bank. Mortgages aside, it isn’t something we’ve ever done. We’ve never had a personal loan as a couple (Nik had one before we met) so it’s been actually quite nice to know that we’re still credit-worthy!

We’ve been spending some time working on the garden here too now that the weather has improved. We had a huge (approx 70ft) Christmas Tree removed that had been in the garden for over 40 years and was causing a nuisance both our side of the boundary and next door. The needles made the garden a mess and the thing was enormous! We got it cut down and spent some considerable time clearing away branches and needles.

Under the tree : Before

You can see how big the job was! The debris filled the garden!

Oh the needles. We have gravel directly beneath where the tree stood and 10 years of needles (since we put the gravel down) had fallen in amongst the stone, making it squashy, dirty and grow weeds! (in the needle mulch itself)

After the tree and branches had all been cleared from the garden (luckily, our garden is very long itself), we set to sieving the gravel. We sieved about 10 square meters of gravel and it’s so much better now. We certainly cleared a LOT of needles! I’d guess about 6-8 big green garden wheelie bins worth! Back-breaking and time-consuming work but it looks SO much better for it.

While the tree itself didn’t shade us from the sun (it did next door though!), it did, of course, cast shadow and significantly obscure the skyline. The difference now it’s gone is amazing! The garden feels even bigger and lighter and much less claustrophobic for having it gone.

Now we’ve got that sorted, we’ve replaced the shed (building new one afforded us both the opportunity to get sunburnt on Saturday!)  and just need to clear the old one and shift the greenhouse off the decking and into its final place next to the new shed.

It’s getting there.

Anyways, that’s probably enough waffle for now.

Suffice to stay we’re still here, and we’re hoping for many more sunshiny days like Saturday!

Now isn’t that just the million dollar question?

If you’d told me 3 months ago that I’d be sitting typing this from our old house at Knaith Park, I’d have laughed at you. Hard.

And then laughed some more.
Because it would have been a ludicrous thought.
And I’d have told you so.And then I’d have laughed a bit more.
And probably drunk some more wine.

Yet here we are.

Nik is working on his ‘new’ van in the garage, I am on the laptop in the office, El is at school and Jake is…not.

We did get them both registered in the local school at they started back in January. Well, I say ‘they’.  J never really started properly. It very quickly became apparent that just expecting him to pop right back in to an English school – ANY school – was really not going to just happen.
And so he isn’t.
In school, I mean.

Currently, he is on a 4 week study-at-home period and school have sent work home for him to do while we wait(ed) for an appointment to come through with CAMHS. Well, they sent some ridiculously long maths sheets, and a couple of other things which I can only assume are perhaps English stuff (one definitely is, one I’m not sure what subject it originated from! It’s more like Business Studies!) which he’s worked through gradually, but oh my god how DULL! To be sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end doing maths worksheets? Really?

I mean, I love maths as much as the next maths geek but even I’d get bored with it (J actually doesn’t mind), and really, what are we achieving? He’s missed term 1 of year 10. He’s missing term 2 of year 10. Even if CAMHS could work a miracle, I honestly cannot see him going back to school this year, let alone this term!
And then where are we?A teen in year 11 having done NO GCSE work in school whatsoever.

No, I’m sorry, but that won’t do. The timing is all icky and it just won’t work.

That leaves two options.

1) Assuming miracle cure from CAMHS, he starts back a year at year 10 again. This is a bad option because a) miracle cures don’t exist and b) who wants to go back a year.

2) We homeschool him. (That hyperlink probably answers a whole ton of your questions right now!)

There, I said it.

The more I research it and talk about it, the more it seems like the only option. If he were in year 9 even, it’d be less of a problem but he stands more chance of learning anything properly if we’re doing it at home than the way things are going currently.

Exams are dependent on finding a school that will allow private candidates to sit them (a lot do but we may need to look at Lincoln or Scunthorpe) but it’s doable.

I can do Maths with him. I’m fairly certain we can get through Maths GCSE (or IGCSE) between us. We’re both strong in that area and I’m confident he can do well.
For English, I will source an online GCSE course such as Catherine Mooney. Her course comes highly rated and recommended. It’s not my forte, and I would not feel at all confident judging/assessing any written work.

We might look at a combined science GCSE but we might not. I’m more keen, from an exams point of view, to concentrate on areas in which he has genuine interest. We’re looking at IT-related courses. Perhaps ECDL and following some courses based around 3D design and printing. Something that he might have actual enthusiasm about.

Makes sense, right?

We perhaps don’t need to go quite THIS far back to basics!

Part of me is sad that my bright teenager has ended up losing the opportunity to excel in school.  I know he would have done, under the right circumstances.

But these circumstances aren’t the right ones.
I honestly believe that he WILL still excel, but in his own time; on his own schedule and not in some school-timetabled-cookie-cutter-universal time-frame.
We’re having to look at ‘education’ in a whole other way, and I’m using the opportunity to create something for J that he can USE, something he can be interested in and about excited about doing each day. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but the status quo isn’t working so why keep fighting it. The outcome could be a lot worse if we do.

Aaaaaanyway, on a chirpier note, El has settled well into school. He’s made new friends and has a few favourite subjects (Drama, PE, anything in which he can make a mess (Art, Cookery, Tech generally)) and seems OK. Some days he’s loving it. Others he’s tolerating, but I think he will be OK for now. He takes the bus to and from school each day and seems to have grown up quite a bit with the move. I need to keep reminding myself to keep a reign on him though. He’s such an independent little thing that it’s easy to forget that he’s only 11 (I forget, he forgets, it’s a group thing!)

So we are sort of settled. Business is good, and we have lots of ideas to make it better and grow. We have J’s initial appointment with CAMHS. We’ll see what they say about him. It won’t change my school decision but I will discuss it with school so they understand the problem. I can’t see them being able to accommodate him and keep him on track, even if he does find himself able to return.

If you’d told me 3 months ago that I’d be sitting typing this from our old house at Knaith Park, I’d have laughed at you.
If you’d then told me that I’d be planning to deregister Jake from school and homeschool him, I’d probably have called the men in white coats for you and helped them load you into their van!

Funny how life goes, huh?

I have a spare while, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to update the blog.

We’ve been back in the UK since Sunday, and can I just take this opportunity to say “Brrrrrrr!”?

If you’re not used to the freezing cold, winter is really not the time to be moving back! That said, the whole Christmas holiday period certainly does help. It’s quieter for us with work, and there are more opportunities to catch up with family and friends, which all goes to soften the blow.

A bit.

It’s a shock coming back. That’s obvious, I’m sure. But what surprises me more is how much relief I feel already. It’s almost as if I’ve spent 4 years in Portugal holding my breath and NOW I can exhale. What’s weird is that it didn’t feel like that at the time. Maybe it’s just the accumulation of stresses and issues that led to our return that have amplified that feeling so much, I don’t know, but there’s a huge sense of relief that I feel right now, which is so completely opposite to how I felt when we initially left on Sunday.

It’s not all over, by any means. We still have big hurdles here. School, for starters. I’ve sent off their mid-year admissions forms, and I’m now playing the waiting game to see if any of our chosen schools have vacancies. I am hoping that our first choice will – because I really didn’t have a second or third choice – but what will be will be. It can only be better than what they have been through. (I’m saying that with a certain amount of denial, by the way)

Likewise, we have other challenges. Car insurance has been difficult, and even our home isn’t available to us for another couple of weeks (in the meantime, we are blessed to have a very accommodating family) and even then we have to completely redecorate before we can move in. That’s quite a job, but it’ll be so much easier to do while it’s empty. Unfortunately, it also means that we’ll be spending the Christmas and New Year period with paintbrushes in hand. Again though, the quieter work season helps.

What won’t help, however, is our new addition!

Meet Zac. How completely adorable is he? We’re hoping to pick him up on Monday. Nik has wanted another Springer Spaniel for years, and Eliot has ALWAYS been desperate for a dog. Nik grew up around working Springers, training and breeding them, and he has always said that, as soon as we lived somewhere that would accommodate one, he would get another. Well, it might be a little premature from the housing point of view (and he probably expected that the “somewhere” would be in Portugal, not the UK!), but some things are just meant to be.

He was only 20 or so miles away, and for a 5 month old Springer, his temperament was lovely. He comes from good pedigree, show grandparents and a working line of gun dogs with good temperament, and he is utterly gorgeous. Eliot and Nik were instantly in love, and I have to admit that even I was taken with him. For a pup, he was so well behaved.

We had already arranged to have a night away tonight so we couldn’t bring him back right away, but we’ll fetch him as soon as we get back. And we’ll make the most of what will be our final night away until he’s older, fully trained and vaccinated and able to be put into kennels!

For Nik in particular, he will soften the blow of having to come back to England. We’ve got to make the most of it, and this is our start. We have lots of business plans and ideas that will help us too: things we couldn’t have done from further away which we can do from here.

The boys are both so much calmer already. Granted, they haven’t started school yet, and that will bring a whole other set of stresses as they settle in wherever they are, but Jake already seems like a different person. It’s baby steps. One issue at a time, and we’ll deal with what’s left when we’ve tackled the first layers.

Maybe it was just our time, but I actually don’t feel like we’ve made the wrong decision at all.

And who’d have ever thought I’d be saying that from 2 degrees C in the UK in December?


I got told off last week for my initial post being too brief. I think the main problem was that, because I didn’t do much explaining, Nik then spent several days answering the same questions over and over.
So here’s a proper explanation.

We are returning to the UK for two reasons.

Firstly, school.
The boys have coped here. Barely.

Jake started off OK but it the last 18 months or so, he’s begun to really struggle. Unfortunately, being a teenager, he’s not really told me that. He’s your fairly typical non-communicative teen, so I’ve found out by regular reading of his school books. Despite his obvious difficulties, he seemed OK at school so we were content to let it go in the hope that, if he really had a problem, he’d tell us.

Eliot has never thrived at school, in either country. He’s about as non-academic as they come and so scraping through has been his norm really. Long-term, he worries us less. He’s one of those people that you just know will be OK.

However, this (school) year has been a whole other beast. Eliot has struggled to cope, even suffering with panic attacks at times early in the term and, while he has friends there in school who he chats to in fluent Portuguese, his abilities in the classroom are lacking. He is pretty much illiterate in the language, being mostly unable to read and spell it. At this stage of school, it isn’t going to get any better. Even he has confided in me that he struggled in class, and when my outgoing and confident 11-year-old is breaking down, I know it’s bad.

Jake is another matter entirely. He’s one of those kids who says little and just goes about his day with resignation. He gets up, showers, goes to school, goes to class with barely a mumble or an objection.

That said, we’ve noticed a change in his behaviour. He barely eats, sleeps poorly and just hasn’t been right for a while. We suspected he was suffering with depression, but it is difficult to tell the difference between “normal” neanderthal teenager and depression. Turned out we may have been right though when he came back from walking to the school bus in complete meltdown and started talking. Really talking.
Enter reason two for leaving and our proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

It didn’t take a genius to work out what we needed to do next.

Returning to England won’t fix everything. We all know that. Eliot won’t miraculously become some genius in school, and Jake won’t suddenly turn into a bouncy, bubbly teen. What it will do, however, is give them a chance.

It will remove a huge stresser from Jake’s life and that will go some way towards helping his mental health. There may well still be work to be done in that respect, but we shall tackle what is left when we know.

It’ll be a difficult transition back into English schools for both of them, but I’m fairly certain now that it will be for the greater good. For them both.

Neither boy is really thrilled about the move back (and it goes without saying that Nik and I aren’t). Eliot is quite excited about it, although he is anxious about changing school. Jake is being Jake and not really talking to us about it, but even he doesn’t really want to go back. I think it’s just change in general rattling him. I’m hoping that once he is settled into school, he will feel better about the decision.

And if one good thing has come from the last 5 years, it’s that we were right about one thing. We DO want to live here in Portugal, or somewhere like this. When Eliot has finished his eduction, we WILL be back. We are counting down the days!

Funny story: both boys have always been adamant that, when they’d left school in Portugal, they would be moving back to England again. Strangely, since deciding that we are moving back now, Eliot says he might move back to Portugal (with us) when he leaves school in 6/7 years.

Who knows what we will all be doing by then though, eh?

There’s news.

Some people already know, most don’t: we are moving back to England.

We don’t want to. None of us want to, but we have to salvage the boys’ education before it is too late. If we had more time or more money, we could probably sort it here, but, at this stage of Jake’s schooling, it’s too late. The only way we can pick up the pieces now, is to get back into the English school system as quickly as possible with the hope that the boys then manage to get through with some qualifications – ANY qualifications – because, at the stage they are both at right now, it’s more than they will manage here.

So, that’s what we are doing: returning to England. Soon. Like, next week.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rash or sudden decision.
It will seem like it to everybody else, but it’s been something we’ve been quietly handling for a while, and with the addition of some health problems that one of us has been suffering with lately, it’s time.

So there you are.

The lorry is (all being well) picking up our stuff late next week and we are flying over soon after.

We have a ton of stuff to sort. The apartment this end, our house at the other end (it currently has tenants who now have notice), moving temporarily into the home of a family member who has very kindly offered us the use of her home until ours is vacant again, not to mention getting the boys into school.

So much to do.

So I’d better get back to packing boxes.

See you on the other side.
Maybe I’ll be able to get my thoughts on “paper” (virtually speaking) better then.

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