Update on the house sale and what we have been up to

by Karen
George sorting computer equipment in the loft

Well to say it’s going slowly is an understatement, just feel like we are in limbo. I got all excited and a little “OMG I have so much still to do” a week ago when my solicitor spoke to me about possible exchange and completion for the 3rd August but here we are a week and a bit later, still no confirmed date and with 3rd of August only a day away there is no way that’s happening!

What have we been doing to try and get ready for the move?

An almost empty loft space

We have finally, almost emptied the attic; only things left are some servers for George’s work which will be moving to their new home soon, an old flat screen TV we kept for some reason that is now not worth anything and empty boxes waiting to be packed. It’s been a lot of hard work and extremely hot in this heatwave we have been having, but we have got it done. Even Olivia was good enough to help and quite enjoyed walking around in the attic and passing stuff out to whoever was below.

We have also mostly emptied the shed. We took advantage of having the Ford Ranger on a test drive and took the shelving units to storage and took various tools and gardening equipment to family members who will be able to make use of them, much to their surprise. Now we only have things we may need, lawn mower, strimmer, gardening tools and a whole load of workboxes to go through and decide which are going into storage and which we are going to take with us.

The broken key for our storage locker padlock

I did have a nightmare at storage though and managed to snap the key in our Master lock.  Thankfully with a nail and pliers, I was able to get the broken section of key out and use the spare key to open it. We now have a new lock but are looking for better options.

Storage is looking a lot more packed now and I am thinking we may need to take stock of what we have put in there and see if we can reduce it at all. We still have a fair amount still to fit in but we’re running out of space. I don’t really want to get a larger storage unit as that’s more money we need to find each month.

George completed and passed his B+E training and test which we are so pleased about and I am so proud of him for passing. I might try and do the test myself at some point in the future but for now, we only need one of us to be able to tow.

As mentioned above we have test driven the Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara pickup trucks and think we have decided that we will be getting the Navara. I am quite disappointed in this choice as I had fallen in love with the idea and look of a Ranger but I am also excited.

Local Campsites

As we plan to come back to the UK to visit family and friends every so often, we have been looking for local campsites that we can stay at. We would like to be back for Christmas, and we would also like to have a regular home site that we will always stay at when we are back.Bearsted Caravan Club Site

We have made a list of sites and been on some late-night drives to see what access to them is like, as with a long vehicle some of the sites are a little tricky to access. Finding a site open at Christmas is tricky, but we have found a few sites that are open, even if only until 2nd January 2019, and a few others that could be good locations for our return visits at other times of the year.

We have narrowed them down to:

We will probably try and take a visit to each one weekend to have a proper look round each site and talk to the staff about our needs.

Education on the road

I keep thinking of the best ways and resources we will need on the road to carry on Olivia’s education. One of my biggest concerns is books, Olivia reads loads at the moment, for example, she started the library Summer Reading Challenge (which is to read six books in six weeks) on Saturday 14th July; by Monday 23rd July she had finished the challenge and had actually read eight books, and now on the 31st July she has finished 16 books since the start date. We can’t take too many books with us as we will not have space of weight availability so we have been looking into online reading options.

We have used the library Libby by Overdrive app before with mixed feelings. Some of the books are not formatted well and we have found text over the top of pictures. We have also found that not all books in a series are always available which is very frustrating. However, this app does have a lot of the authors that Olivia likes reading like, Steve Cole, Holly Webb, Jeff Kinney, JK Rowling and Roald Dahl. It is also free which is a massive bonus.

Fire for Kids Unlimited

Olivia exploring her Amazon Fire Tablet

We have also been trying out an Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet with Fire for kids unlimited on it. Fire for Kids Unlimited lets kids explore a world of age-appropriate content on their own. Parents don’t have to spend time (and money) guessing what their kids will enjoy. There are no ads and no in-app purchases in Fire for Kids Unlimited content. Now, this has books, apps, videos and access to approved websites with flexible parental controls where you can choose what content each child sees, set educational goals and time limits. You can manage these settings from their device, or remotely from the Amazon Parent Dashboard.

Well, this has taken quite a while to set up. As Olivia has a higher reading age than her physical age, we set the age range to 8-10 to get books that were not too young for her and of interest; but this meant we needed to vet all the apps, videos and books for appropriateness and is something we have had to do with her books for a while. I am also quite strict with what she is allowed to watch TV wise so I deleted a lot of the videos and apps as I just personally do not like them, think they are too silly or pointless.

The interface is a bit clunky, you can’t search by genre for books very easily so you mainly search by title or author. This, however, has meant that Olivia just mainly scrolls through the list of books and has found books that she perhaps would not have otherwise read. The vast majority of the books available are self-published through Amazon so you are not getting many of the big-name authors and we have found many of Olivia’s favourite authors’ books are not available on it.

We have not yet used the educational goals and time limits but may try this next week. The goals are limited to just ‘read for 30 minutes’, so they aren’t as granular as Amazon lead you to believe.

Fire for Kids Unlimited is a subscription and is £3.99 monthly for one child and £7.99 a month for up to four children. If you are a prime member if is £1.99 a month for one child and £4.99 for up to four children.

You then need a device that it works on such as Fire tablet or a kindle. If you use just a kindle, then you only get access to books. These are some of the tablets that Fire for Kids works on:

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Overall, while we started out pretty sceptical of the service, and were disappointed in the interface, we’ve found that it really works for Olivia. She’s finding more content through the interface, and we don’t have to be concerned about what she’s going to see on there. We paid a reduced price on ‘Prime Day’ for the HD 8, and while it’s not as good a tablet as an iPad, it’s still pretty fast and has been stable, so we’re keeping it!

Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service from Amazon which gives you access to well over a million books to read on a Kindle. A subscription is about £7.99 a month at the time of writing, and if you’re an avid reader, it’s worth considering – but tread carefully. Unlike the Kids Unlimited subscription, there’s no parental controls or anything on this service, and the content is far more geared towards adults.

We are considering getting the Kindle Unlimited subscription but have held off for the moment. The main reason for this is that we don’t yet know how much we are going to get to read on our travels. Hopefully, there’ll be lots of opportunities to read, but for the moment, we just don’t know.

The other reason is the available content; “Over 1 million titles” sounds awesome, but from what we’ve read, only about 5% of that content is books that are widely published, the rest are exclusive to Amazon and many are self-published. Now, there’s nothing wrong with self-published books, but if you’re getting Kindle Unlimited in the hopes that you’ll get to read the latest books on the cheap – you’re out of luck. Why would a best selling author, with a regular publisher, allow their content to be almost free on Kindle when they can sell digital copies for £10+?

The other issue with the self-published books is that they’re normally pretty cheap anyway. Right now the first recommended Customer Favourite in the store is ‘The Retreat’, by Mark Edwards. I haven’t read it, it’s probably a great book, however, it’s only £1.00 to buy outright as a Kindle book purchase. In fact, of the first 6 books listed, only one cost over £1.99 to purchase outright, and that is £3.98. At £7.99 per month, you’ve got to read a lot of books before you start to reap any benefits from the subscription system, and if you stop paying, those books disappear.

So we’ll carry on considering, the options, and see how much we read; but I think we’ll stick to the free library apps or outright purchases for quite some time.

Research and Planning

We have been doing more research and planning and have added all the locations we would like to visit onto a map using Google My Maps, which is proving to be an awesome tool.

Planning our destinations on Google Maps

Google allows us to pin all the various locations, giving them an icon which identifies if they are a hike, museum, amusement park or just a town we wish to visit. We are then able to add all the campsites that we know take fifth wheels. This shows us areas where we do not have places to visit and enables us to kind of plan a route and see which campsites will be the best locations for us.

Also, Olivia is part of the Children’s University, which is a charity that works in partnership with schools and home educators to develop a love of learning in children. We do this by encouraging and celebrating participation in extra-curricular activities in and outside of school. The impact of these activities is proven to be positive which is why we’re committed to creating a level playing field of opportunity and opening up access to children of all backgrounds. We participate in a lot of their local activities and their seasonal challenges and want to continue this as much as possible when on the road which they are very happy for us to do. Recently they have put together an app which allows us to find all Children’s University learning destinations including the destinations abroad. So we are currently looking for places within the countries we will be visiting to see if we can visit them, take part in the various activities and gain European credits.


Olivia clutching her skis

Olivia is still extremely excited about travelling but is getting very fed up with the wait, so are we to be honest. She is helping loads and even encouraging us to clear out more stuff.  Always keen to help empty the loft and go to storage, though I think she just likes riding on the large trollies! She has gone through all her books and is giving a large box of books which she has kind of outgrown to her cousin. She tells people all the time that we are going travelling soon and regularly lists off places she wants to go and things she wants to see. Olivia has also passed her level 4 skiing so she is now able to go to free practice and ski without an instructor which is fantastic.

All in all, we are getting as much stuff done as we can and are progressing amazingly with emptying the house, but still very much feel in limbo and just wished we had some fixed dates. I don’t feel like I can really start packing the house up until we have those as we still need to live and still need to use so much stuff, especially with home-schooling and George working from home. So we are just trying to carry on with our lives, packing and selling stuff we feel we don’t need and enjoying the homeschooling adventure and the wonderful weather as much as we can.

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