Posts Tagged ‘England’

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 08.45.36

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!





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… although you wouldn’t really know it if you lived in our house!

The kids have now finished school for Christmas and already they are bored! Oh joy!

As you may or may not know, for the first time since we moved here, we are visiting the UK for Christmas and New Year. This means that all our Christmas preparations are not here, they’re there. Nik’s poor Mum has a room filled with presents which have been arriving steadily over the past month or so and are awaiting my attention when we arrive. I’d like to say that I can’t wait… but I’d be lying! The thought of having to sort through and WRAP everything in a short space of time is quite daunting actually, but hey, it’s for a good cause, right?

It sort of never quite properly feels like Christmas here in the Algarve, and I have a few theories why that is.

Firstly, the climate! It’s rather difficult to feel “Christmassy” when you’re sat outside the pub in a t-shirt in 25C! When we visited in mid-November, I commented on how odd it was that they were putting up decorations in the Marina already. ALREADY?? It was 6 weeks to Christmas at this point, and I had absolutely NO idea! I’ve no doubt that in the UK, decorations have been up for weeks, if not months, before that!

Sitting outside with a beer at the Marina in mid-December.

I can’t help thinking that this aspect of it not-feeling-like-Christmas will really come back to haunt me when I am shivering in the freezing temperatures of December in England. All I can say is, “Please don’t snow!”

Secondly, we work from home so there is no workplace Christmas banter, decoration or build-up to holidays. Also, we rarely visit town and we grocery shop in Aldi (who don’t decorate their store) so we don’t find ourselves lost in amongst oversized trees, baubles and tinsel.

Also, because we are not here for Christmas, we have no tree or decorations up ourselves.. Actually, that’s a little white lie. Eliot, quite put out by the fact that we weren’t getting a tree this year, asked if he could have one of the mini desktop trees, from our storage room, for his bedroom. At the same time as that was being raved out (our storage room is one of those rooms where, if you breathe on box wrong, the whole lot might go!) we pulled out another mini tree and some tinsel. So, there’s a light sprinkling of festive decorations, I suppose.

Last year's Christmas tree

Last year’s Christmas tree

As our UK trip gets closer, it is starting to stress everyone out a bit. We have so much to do and so many people to try to visit that I am slightly concerned that we won’t manage to get around to everything and everyone!

The kids both want to visit some of their English school friends: that alone will take some coordinating. Nik and Jake both want to meet up with Xbox Live buddies, and me? Well, quite honestly, I’d take 10 days locked in a room alone! Nah, just kidding. We have family to visit from all over. Nik’s cousin, Sue, and her family (husband, Steve, 10-year-old Beth and toddler Zac) are over from Australia for 3 weeks so it’ll be nice to catch up with them. We haven’t seen them since we visited for Christmas and New Year 2009/2010 (and we hold them entirely to blame for our leaving the UK and moving to Portugal!) except for a brief coincidence of visits to the UK between them and Nik a couple of years ago.

We’re also looking forwards to Boxing Day at my sister’s. She’s never really hosted Christmas (she’s been here with us in Portugal for the past 3!) and we’re visiting Boxing Day when more family are converging in one place!

It’s going to be a busy, busy 10 days, for sure.

So, those of you who I won’t see while I’m in England, I’ll see you all on the other side!





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Really, how could I have chosen anything else?

With a "home office" like this, what more could you want?

L is for Lifestyle

When people ask us why we moved to Portugal, we come out with a whole list of reasons but, for the most part, they can all be grouped under one overall title – Lifestyle.

Moving to a country which is far deeper into recession (not to mention overall poverty and disadvantage) might seem like a strange move for a young family (I’ll ‘fess up. By “young family”, I mean the children are young. The parents, not so much!)

Fortunately for us, our income itself isn’t reliant on the Portuguese economy or, quite honestly, we wouldn’t be here. There are no jobs. End of. (see my J is for Jobs post, if you haven’t already read it)

We’re certainly not wealthier for living here. Far from it. In fact we are, financially, quite a lot worse off, having lost our “benefits” that the UK was kind enough to bestow on us for being “low earners” in England. The cost of living, on the whole, isn’t much cheaper here in Portugal either. Rent is costly, utilities are about on par with England (maybe a little lower), grocery bills are about equal. Nowadays, in Portugal, we live on about 2/3 of the income we had in the UK so we have a LOT less disposable income than we had before we moved here. Yet, in life, we feel “better off”.

Our “lifestyle” in England consisted of get up, take kids to school, go to work, pick kids up, eat dinner, go to bed, start over. It’s how most people’s lives go, isn’t it?

Weather is unreliable and unpredictable so plans, for days out, are tentative at best.

Kids rarely have anywhere safe to play. No safe roads to bike. Few safe neighbourhoods to play out in. Jake was pretty much resigned to “four walls” whenever he wasn’t at school and, while Eliot would play out in the garden occasionally, his fate would, sooner or later, be the same.

We also didn’t have much of a social life. Let’s face it, once you have kids, your social life pretty much revolves around your kids and people they are associated with (kids’ parents etc) Certainly, from my point of view, I didn’t really have any “real life” friends in the UK. Friends I saw personally on a day-to-day basis, that is. I have plenty of online friends though (some of whom I have met) and, of course, I get to keep those just as close to me even after we move. Bonus! (Check out my “F is for Family and Friends” post, if you missed it earlier)

Here, everything is a completely different pace… and feel.

We would never, ever in a month of Sundays let Jake go, alone, into town in England. It was a bus-ride away (not an issue) but totally not somewhere I could even contemplate him “hanging out”.

Here, pretty much since we moved here (at age 10) he has been cycling into town on his own.  He’s done errands to the supermarket and newspaper shops and cycled to the other side of Lagos to meet and spend the afternoon with friends. It’s a million worlds away from our life in the UK, just on that issue alone.

Even Eliot takes himself out and plays. He’ll often be seen running around our “Urbanização”, dressed as some superhero or another, fighting invisible enemies and keeping the peace. Or riding his bike round the block. Or taking the recycling to the bins on the other side of the estate.

My little Superman. Keeping your streets safe!

Our day-to-day pace of life is completely different here too. Nik and Eliot very often go for unplanned cycles to the beach after school. It’s part of the beauty of the place that, for 90% of the year, the weather is favourable enough to do that!

Nik and Eliot cycle to the beach after school

An unplanned visit to "our" beach in November. Almost deserted AND warm enough to be wearing just short sleeves!

Of course, as we are lucky enough to work for ourselves here in Portugal, we are able to take advantage of the occasional *cough* cafe visit during the week too. This is purely to “fit in”, of course.  It’s what the locals do etc. etc. When in Rome ‘n’ all that!

Hanging out for a coffee and/or beer. As the locals do!

It’s not all “sun, sea and sangria” though, of course. Life certainly isn’t one long holiday like some people might imagine (or perhaps hope!) it is. Sure, we do our share of “touristy” stuff when we have visitors over, it’d be rude not to but, for the most part, we do work. The Portuguese (those who are lucky enough to have jobs) work very hard for little pay but even they, in these “gloomy times”, enjoy a 2 hour lunch break where they can relax, kick back, eat good food and be social. A far cry from sandwiches at your desk in 30 minutes, eh?

Lunch special at the Waterfront Café in Portimão

Work hard, play hard. That’s what we’ve been enjoying here.

It’s a far cry from the work hard (?), moan a lot mentality.

I know which I prefer.

It sure is a tough life!

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Ok, so we’ve been back from England for a week now but has been a busy week with catching up on work etc

We did manage to get done most of what we wanted to get done, while in the UK, I think! It was good to be around all the family together as this rarely happened even before we left. With Nik’s sister now living in England again and with my sister up, from London, for most of the week we were there also, it meant that we really were all in one place which was a rare treat! Eliot’s birthday BBQ was the usual “iffy weather” affair but it was lovely that we were all there, regardless of the fact that the parasols became umbrellas once or twice!

I think Eliot enjoyed his birthday but it didn’t really go to plan for any of us. Actually, I don’t think we’d plan to be there for his birthday next time. I think he’d prefer to have someone here instead. We’ll see. He was happy with his presents though, especially his army outfit (which he’s wanted like forever!)

The boys had lots of time to spend playing with their cousin too. Jake enjoyed this hugely and even spent a night staying with them. For the most part, we were split between 2 houses. My Mum’s and Nik’s Mum and Dad’s house. Both could only really accommodate 2 of us (Mum’s particularly once Wendy arrived too!) and so we rotated kids once in a while. It was a bit hectic but worked for the most part.

The boys had a disappointing visit to school though with various children absent or busy but I think we pretty much managed to make up for it with various other meetups. Eliot and 2 of his friends had a ‘play date’ at a local playzone and one of Jake’s friends came along too. Jake was also a bit disappointed that he hadn’t been able to meet with one particular friend (who also wasn’t available on playzone day either) so he spent the following morning catching up with him at his house instead. All in all, I think they were ok with it in the end.

We had many other errands to do such as visiting our garage, visiting the bank, seeing the accountant etc but they all seemed to get done, I think. Put it this way, no one has called and said “you missed our appointment” yet so I reckon we did ok.

My Nan was brought up to see us, for the afternoon, by an Aunt and Uncle. That was lovely as obviously she’s someone we don’t see much now. She lives about 90 minutes from where we were in England anyway so I didn’t see her too often but it was nice to see her as always. I need to try to work out how/when I can see her next though. It’s tricky!

So, with to-ing and fro-ing and visits and appointments (not to mention the seemingly endless cadging of lifts from people!) the week went fairly quickly.

England didn’t disappoint though. It was miserable, threatened rain most days, rained some days and was windy and dull. Needless to say, if we needed reminding why we left, it was all packaged up neatly in a parcel and confirmed a hundred times over when Nik and I walked into town (this is Gainsborough!) one evening. I won’t go into detail, suffice to say, we don’t regret moving for one second!

Surprisingly, even the boys were keen to get back home (that’s home – Portugal, btw 😉 ) to sun, sea, sand and lovely places (oh, and Xboxes!)

Eliot has started at the local kids’ club this week. He seems to be enjoying it but he’s concerned that going every day is like “school”. I’m sure he has much more fun at kids’ club than he does at school and I’m also sure that he has a lot more fun at kids club (and probably at school!) than he does at home (especially when we’re working) but we have agreed to compromise and he has Wednesdays at home to break the week up a bit into 2 lots of 2 days instead of a 5-day stretch. He seems ok with this so fingers crossed! I’ve booked Wednesdays off (or less on than usual) so I’m not trying to work around him.

I think that’s enough for now.  We’re off to a BBQ this afternoon with friends who live locally here so the boys are all looking forwards to that (and hopefully Eliot won’t be bored there!) and I’m sure the fact that they have a small pool there isn’t influencing them in any way!

Good food and good company. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

It was nice to be amongst family and friends all together but I really don’t want to go back for a while, thanks! Meantime, we have plenty of visitors books (free space starts in October, guys, if you want in!) who can come and enjoy 🙂

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