Tag Archives: home ed

Busy, busy, busy. Work,, school and play!

Summer, huh?It was summer, right? Because right now it’s easy to forget we actually had one. Stupid autumnal weather and its precipitation!

But anyway, we did. I know we did because I have blue sky photos and memories of van trips away to prove it.

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We’ve been away twice, in fact, since I last blogged.

Firstly, we did the Lincolnshire Steam and Vintage Rally which was a great few days away and our first trip without electric, and we managed just fine. In fact, if anything we are much heavier users of our fresh water than we are mains hook up electric. We managed easily on our 12v system (even on a less-than-sunny weekend where our solar wasn’t getting as much as it could) but we had to refill our water tank by Saturday evening. How we’re using 66 litres of fresh water, I’ve no idea, but for our subsequent trip away, we took bottled for tea/boiling (which was so much nicer than tap/site water) and used a large bottle of site water for the dog. We managed better over a longer period then, so perhaps we have it sussed now.

The Steam Rally was good. Typically British weather (and particularly windy) but everything worked and held up and we got pitched (in the Caravan Club area) alongside friends which definitely gave the weekend something extra.

Sunset along the rows of caravans at the Steam Rally - August 2016
Sunset along the rows of caravans at the Steam Rally – August 2016

Only a week or so after the steam rally, we had a longer, 4-day break at Kidderminster. Jake, again, decided to stay home (being 16, he’d rather not “camp”!) so it was just the 3 of us and the dog. Weather was rain, sun, rain, sun (same old, same old!) but we had a great few days.

The first day was particularly warm and sunny and we made the 4 mile walk into Kidderminster along the tow path of the canal.

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We spent a good few hours in the town, with the dog who was absolutely no trouble whatsoever as we took turns to go into shops and he was good as gold while we ate lunch.

It was a good trip away, although we did find one van issue. Well, not a van issue but an issue we had at the site in particular: slope!

There’d been no mention of all sloping pitches in the booking details (and I’d already ruled out a different site because it DID mention it!) and we had real problems levelling. The fridge told us we were nowhere near level when it melted all our ice creams because it wasn’t working, and it took a good 45 minutes with 2 site staff and a lot of scaffold planks to get us somewhere near to level on day 2!

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We know now though: pack levelling planks as the ramps we had (visible above) were definitely NOT up to the job!

Since coming back from Kidderminster, the van went on hold for a while as we sorted Jake out for starting college. We did a few trial bus runs to check timing and walking routes (which, through Lincoln at the moment, are both a nightmare as the major roadworks of COURSE were scheduled to start right as the schools/colleges start back!)

All went fine though and, on the whole, his start at college has gone well. He’s even been nominated Class Representative. As long as he doesn’t have to actually do anything, I’m sure he’ll be fine!

Oh, and speaking of college, we had exam results, of course. Jake needed 2 C grade passes  (in Maths and English) for college and he exceeded these by getting a B in his English. Apparently though, college then made EVERYONE sit both a maths and English assessment anyway in case people had given false grades!

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Beats me why they did that. Jake was more concerned that he’d only got a C in his English one though (although he did better than his GCSE result in his Maths!) but he’s fine. He’ll still be one of the brightest ones in the class, I have no doubt.

He’s eagerly awaiting being 17 in December so he can start using his 125cc motorcycle for college instead of the bus. He’s still working at Pyramid on the days he isn’t at college so he still has some income even during the school term which is currently funding a motorcycle jacket and then trousers and, after that, fuel and running costs to get him to and from college and work.

They grow up too fast!

We are tentatively back to school with Eliot too, currently doing a bit of a maths recap with a view to slowly starting to look at GCSE programs. Hopefully, he’ll also take at least Maths and English GCSE/IGCSE to keep his college options open, but he has no clue really what he wants to do yet. He’s only 13, he’s got ages to decide anyway. Meantime he can learn life things and continue his passion for all things Japanese. We are learning some of the language and El regularly practises his sushi-making.

Eliot making sushi. The hat is just a teenager thing!
Eliot making sushi. The hat is just a teenager thing!

And obviously, he gets to learn geography as we travel in our van!

We’ve modded the van a little bit since our last trip actually. The kitchen cupboard was a pain, with the left door opening into the aisle and making it impossible really to reach over or around it to take anything out from inside. So, I requested a bi-fold option.

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It now hinges in the middle…
...and opens well out of the way...
…and opens well out of the way…
...for super duper access!
…for super duper access!

It’s SOOOO much better and I can’t wait to trial it this weekend when we’re away at the Motorhome Show (child-free AND dog-free!!)

We also added a much-needed bathroom cabinet to the wetroom

Valuable storage in the bathroom
Valuable storage in the bathroom

And, although I don’t have a photo – shocking, I know – Nik fitted an external switch for the new water heater so we don’t need to reach under the seat to switch on the mains/240v supply for it. It’d have been in the original design except the original heater was gas only so we never planned to have a 240v supply needing a switch.

We’ve got another short break planned in mid October too. We’re taking the dog to the beach for his first “sand and sea” experience. In the two years we’ve had him, we’ve not taken him to the coast at all and now we can do easily, so we’ve booked 3 nights away. We contemplated going actually during half term but a) Eliot said he’d prefer to go when kids are at school and b) £60!

3 nights mid October was £30
3 nights two weeks later, during half term, £90!

We can spend that extra money on stuff to do, so it was an easy decision really. It’ll be fun.

Apart from that, nothing much else planned. I’d like to fit in another trip away this year, but I think we’ll wait and see how the van fares in the cooler weather in October first (although, if it’s anything like previous years, it’ll be nicer and milder than now!)

We’ll do a few winter trips anyway because that’s why we made the van: to use it all year round. It’s just hunting down those good sites that are walking distance to other places, rather than needing a car to get anywhere off-site, especially out of season.

We’d really love to do a longer trip, further away. Maybe a week or so. But that would mean partially closing the business for that period (and ensuring that the 16yo got himself to college from home alone) so it’s unlikely to happen.

We joked about closing down for November and driving down to Valencia for the final race of the MotoGP season. That WOULD be awesome, but it’s not too likely to happen.  It’s quiet season, admittedly, but still a scary idea!

Maybe next year…

 

A quick (probably not) update of stuff, things and whatnots

How’s that for no useful search engine keywords?!

It’s not even been a week since my last post, but we’ve been super-busy so I thought I’d update anyway.

Jake has had his first maths (higher) exam and he seemed quite pleased with how it went. There were some questions towards the end (the A/A* ones) which he said he couldn’t do but he was confident he’d done enough to pass the paper, which is the best we can hope for. Considering he’s only been studying properly since January, I’m super-proud of how he’s done. He’s got a short break from exams now (it’s half term so there aren’t any) before he has both English papers and his second maths paper the following week. There’s a bit of work to do before then, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Work is getting very hectic. It’s been pre-TT so everyone needs everything weeks ago (because, you know, their bikes won’t work without that sticker/screen/insert-random-vanity-trickbit-here)

We’ve started using “Drop & Go” at the Post Office which has definitely been a blessing. Being able to just drop the postbag in, rather than queueing, is AWESOME!

Busy work means that van business has had to wait until after tea or weekends mostly. This weekend, being a bank holiday (and, dare I say it, good weather?!) has been productive already.

We’re on lots of finishings at the moment. Wallboards, felting and suchlike.

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The overhead lockers that went in are now felted around the inner edge (and one at the back – just so we could see what it is going to look like!) and silver panelled both on the fronts and underneath. We need to run a trim along the back (wall edge) underneath and the front where the silver panels meet but it’s looking good, and we could finally mount those lights which sit above the sofa area.

As you can see, we’ve also fitted both wall panels on that side, the window trim and the inner window ledges and sides.

Wall panel with window cut-out and edging trim
Wall panel with window cut-out and edging trim
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And with its sill and inner sides
We also did the kitchen wall and window
We also did the kitchen wall and window
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Looks pretty darn awesome!

Can I just take a moment to say a little about routing?

Oh. My. Goodness! What a hugely messy job.

By our second window, we’d resorted to using multiple taped sheets, but it still got into every nook and cranny.

 

Messy, messy, messy!
Messy, messy, messy!
Man-at-work shot!
Man-at-work shot!

Routing these boards in situ is scary. One false move and the panel is ruined, so it’d be one expensive mistake if that router slipped!

Added to that, we’d had to build up the inner edge with plywood so that the cut-out was slightly in from the window itself, allowing us to add that edging on the wallboard. This also meant we had to create slightly more curvy corners out of cut wood so that the edging would go around the corners better. It was a tricky thing to do but it worked out really well in the end.

As well as walls, we also faced the kitchen unit. Another exercise in how much you have to cut out to make stuff look good!

Furniture board glued to the front of the kitchen unit
Furniture board glued to the front of the kitchen unit
and after routing!
and after routing!

Hopefully, the cut-outs will be useful for panelling other bits or that’s a lot of money sitting as leftovers!

As well as panelling, we also tested the water system. We filled the fresh water tank (mounted underneath the van) and checked that the water level registered on the gauge.

It did. Phew!
It did. Phew!

We fitted the kitchen and bathroom taps onto the pipework and pressurised the system. The pump worked beautifully filling the pipes and the hot water tank. Then we opened each tap, one at a time, checking they all worked and making sure we had no leaks.

Taps, pipes, buckets and sink!
Taps, pipes, buckets and sink!

There was one small leak on a joint in the (secondhand) hot water tank, but easily fixable.

We also tested filling the bathroom sink and draining it to see if the waste pipes worked OK. The bathroom sink and shower waste actually merge before going through the van floor to the waste tank and despite our efforts, we were worried that the sink, when emptied, would flow back through the shower waste and up the shower plug hole.

We were right to be concerned.
It did!

So, one non-return valve ordered and the problem will be sorted. At least we know now.

So we have a felted bed-end, walls, windows and overhead lockers.
So we have a felted bed-end, walls, windows and overhead lockers.

That photo was taken before the overhead lockers were done underneath, but it’s certainly starting to take shape.

And there’s a whole other day tomorrow!

Tomorrow’s plans are to finish the underside of the overhead (still with me!) lockers, to fit the kitchen strip LED lighting and to felt and panel the side sliding door. I insulated the sliding door today (which is why we’re working ’round the back of the van so the side door can be closed) so it’s ready for covering.

We’re felting it around the edges and into the window (because old work vans looks dinted and bumped!) and then we’ll panel where the van panels have been in the same board as the walls so it’ll all coordinate with our “lounge” area. The removable table will probably be stored here too so we need to sort out how we’re doing that too.

So much to do…so little time!

It’s all looking a bit grey ’round here

And I’m not (yet) talking about the weather.

 

Both bunk sides are covered now.
Both bunk sides are covered now.

The back end of the van is coming on nicely. Obviously, we’ve a storage unit to building under the bottom bunk but that back end is a nice boost when the front end tries to convince us we’ve still a long way to go!

It’s all a matter of insulating and covering for that back third of the van really and, once we’ve done routing the water pipes, the walls for the wardrobe and bathroom can go back in (remember those?!)

A quick recap!
A quick recap of the wardrobe/bathroom side of the van!

To the left, the storage/wardrobe (which now accommodates that water filler hose too) and then, obviously, the bathroom minus its front wall (yet to be built!)
It seems like a long time since it looked like this!

Now, apart from fitting the gas connections, it’s mostly prepping for final finishes, such as insulating walls, and rasping and sanding any woodwork that needs felt covering. Such as the beds.

What the un-prepped wood looked like...
What the un-prepped wood looked like…
After rasping...
After rasping to round off the harsh corners and edges…
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After sanding to make the finish a bit more felt-friendly…
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Cut felt to size and spray glue on!
It even stretched quite nicely into the cut-out for the internal handle for the back door.
It even stretched quite nicely into the cut-out for the internal handle for the back door.

I’m quite pleased with the end result. The felt is actually quite hard to work with though. It’s tough to cut (and wrecks the blades quickly) and its stretch is both a blessing and a curse: when you’re trying to lay along a straight line and DON’T want to stretch, it’s difficult!
Still, it’s getting easier the more we do and there’s still plenty to do!

What else has gone on?

Jake has got exams upcoming so he’s just finishing off his courses in time to do some final revision and mock exams beforehand. It’s cutting it a bit close but I think he’ll be OK. As long as he realises he needs to knuckle down.
But he’s a teen, so who knows?!

Work is busy.
Busy is good (of course), but it is hampering our efforts to get stuff done anywhere other than in the office during the sunshiney daytime! However, we cannot complain about busy because busy is mortgage paid and food on the table.

It’s not long since I updated really, so not much else has happened.

We spent Sunday enjoying the weather round at my Mum’s, clearing her garden and noshing on BBQ. As the weather is due to change, it was a nice opportunity to be out in it.

Hopefully the upcoming non-summery/spring-like weather is just a blip and we’ll be back to working on the van in the sun again very soon.

You never know, we might even finish it before the Dutch… German… British MotoGP…  end of the year…

I have my optimist’s hat on!

 

Summer lasted an entire weekend! Did you enjoy it?

We should at least be grateful it landed on a weekend though, eh? If it’d been, say, a Monday/Tuesday, we’d have been mightily peeved!
We did take the opportunity to get stuff done on the van though. If anything, it was TOO hot for such work, but we certainly weren’t going to let that stop us.
We’ve got several “main tasks” on the go at the moment. Firstly, the gas. We received our 4-way gas manifold so now we can get sorted with copper pipe and fittings and get the gas lines running through the van to the cooker, hob, water heater and fridge (yes, fridge. A 3-way fridge can run on 12v (leisure battery), 240v (hook up) or gas!)
4-way gas manifold
4-way gas manifold to isolate each gas line in the van
In the meantime, seeing as we didn’t have the manifold in time to make the gas our weekend project, we continued felt-lining, working on the bed end of the van. Unlike the main living area, kitchen area and bathroom, which all have finishing boards for the walls, the “bedroom” ends are going to be carpet/felt-lined for comfort. There are some big panels to cover, as well as around the already-covered back doors and, ultimately, the bed sides will be covered too.
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Doors, door surrounds and one side panel covered. The tops of the sides will also be done; the bottoms are in cupboards (why waste fabric?!)
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Of course, behind every panel, felted or not, lots of insulation is required. 
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The beds took a bit of getting back in! The bed ends will be rounded off before being felt-covered themselves (where visible) and the white area around the back doors is where the rubber door seal fits.
There’s quite a bit to cover with this grey stuff: the bed-side wardrobe wall, the main sliding door inner and the tops of the bed ends but hopefully we have enough carpet felt left!
We’ll probably be tackling the gas as the next project though. The fridge vents and flue are marked to cut out and we can get the kitchen built-in once the gas pipes are run.
That’s definitely a milestone!
Apart from that, we’ve not done much. Work is busy, business is picking up for the summer (which is both good for our business and good for Jake as it means there’s work for him at Pyramid too!)
Customers all want it yesterday though, of course. Despite our 28 day warnings!
Eliot has been practising his writing a bit. He learned how to use a dictionary in order to spell a word you don’t know, and he wrote a nice (and quite neat!) piece about Redstone (it’s a Minecraft thing!) which I was impressed with. He’s very talented with redstone and often takes hours and hours building contraptions that really require some thinking “outside the box”. It’s something I tend to encourage as it’s education without him realising it!
Shhhh, don’t tell him!
We’ve not renewed the Maths Whizz subscription.
I don’t think we have another 12 months use left in it, and Eliot does appear to have lost interest in the way it teaches. It was excellent while it lasted and I cannot imagine that I could have taught Eliot all that he has learned any other way. We’ve moved to workbooks but the improvement in 12 months is clear to see.
Yep, it’s really been 12 months since Eliot left school. In that time we’ve managed to rescue his “maths age” by 2 years. That’d never have happened in school. We also read quite regularly (Minecraft-related books – whatever piques his interest works for me) and that’s improving too. It can only help his spelling and vocabulary.
I had a discussion with him the other day about going back to school in September. He was sort of interested but didn’t want to and I think it would be a backwards step if he did (I didn’t tell him that, obviously!)
There’s so much that his peers will have been taught that he’d have missed that he’d quickly get behind again and unfortunately, once behind always behind in classes of 30+ kids in schools with targets to hit!
Anyway, we’re getting on OK. It’ll be all change again when Jake starts college in September so who knows where life will take us then!

Meet “The Hands” and a first post

Well, I posted an “About us” to the blog which pretty much covers the intro bit.

If you’ve read that, you’ll know that we’re a home-educating family of 4. Me (Tracey), Nik (the long-suffering hubby), Jake (16) and Eliot (12)…oh and not forgetting our slightly bonkers 18 month old Springer Spaniel, Zac.

Say “Hi”, Zac.

(As an aside, you would not BELIEVE the hassle it was to try to get that image in there! WordPress is seriously playing up today!)

So, that’s Zac. He makes us laugh on a very regular basis. He’s WAY more entertaining than telly!

So the boys have been coming on well. Jake is plodding on with his coursework. I’ve set him a kind of schedule so we can make sure he gets through his course materials in time to get some revision and mock exams in before the real ones (I might do a blog post about those sometime)

He recently did a week of work experience at a local business. One of our local suppliers (who just so happens to also be one of Nik’s ex-employers!) agreed to have him for a week and it was lovely to see him so social. He’d come home from work “buzzing” from being in a work environment and he was able to experience a whole range of business activities from inputting data (which he is good at but didn’t enjoy!) to visiting bike shops, packing stock and translating to and from Portuguese!

He seemed like a different person that week and it makes me excited for how he’ll be when he’s out and about living his own life.

Eliot is still an enigma. He swings from being enthusiastic and capable to stubborn and, well, more stubborn. Thank goodness nobody is having to teach him alongside 30 other kids, is all I can say! Every day I am reminded how much better he is here at home.

The improvement is visible to all of us

We have a new home ed group parkour session actually this week. Thursday afternoons in Lincoln, one of the fitness centres has a coach who will be starting home ed parkour. Eliot is super-excited about it. I only hope he isn’t disappointed! We shall see.

Work is busy. There’s always a quiet lull between October and December, but when January comes around business picks up again.

The campervan (which I haven’t mentioned previously) is on hold right now. We’ve been out once or twice since our last blog update** but weather is really putting it at the bottom of our to-do list. We’ve things to get finished in the house in the meantime. Things that don’t matter if it’s raining or freezing or dark!

I’ll try to keep updated fairly regularly as and when things crop up or occur to me.

Meantime, we’ll be plodding along. Learning, working and generally just being at home!

**Note, the campervan blog is currently offline after Facebook decided that its image links in my public album would not be permanent and broke ALL my images. I haven’t yet decided whether I can be bothered to fix them!