Another Mathematics A-level update…

Things are not quite going to plan. Instead of pushing the kids to hit their targets for this year we’ve decided to ease off.

Frankly, it’d be an uphill struggle that would likely end with bad grades and/or demoralised and overworked kids.

Sabeen, 9, isn’t going to do her A-level Mathematics this year – her little brain is struggling to understand the concepts. So she’ll now be looking to do it next year, possibly with IGCSE Physics and French. It means she’ll have way more time for friends, hobbies, interests over the next few months to a year.

Danyal, 11, is going to have to work hard to do well in his A-level Mathematics and Further Mathematics, but he can do it. So, for the next 3 months he’s going to have to work hard. After that he’s done with studying completely, as long as his grades are good.

Maryam, 13, will no longer do A-level Further Mathematics – she will instead just go for Mathematics which she should find fairly easy for her. Like Danyal, after this she’s done with studying, subject to a good grade.

It’s exciting. The two older kids are really looking forward to getting on with their lives and not having to study any more…

After school…

When we started homeschooling, we thought our kids would do their A-levels when they were 18, like all school kids do, and then, by default, go on to university, and, by default, get a job.

But in the 4 years our kids have been homeschooled things changed. First the A-levels got pushed earlier and earlier, then we decided our kids, by default, would not go to university, and, by default, become entrepreneurs.

It’s worth realising, if you haven’t already, that entrepreneurship is just as varied as employment. There are entrepreneurs in medicine, tech, farming, retail, property, academia, sport, etc… so entrepreneurship isn’t some narrow field we’re guiding our kids towards.

Also note that this is our default position, not a decision we have made for them. If any of our kids want to become investment bankers, doctors, academics, etc… university they’d go.

So, it looks like Maryam (13) and Danyal (11) will be finished with A-levels (18+) in 6 months. Here is our updated plan for them, in each case trying to play to their strengths, interests and the advantages they each have.

Maryam: Internships at tech companies, start a startup 6-12 months later.

Danyal: Learn coding full-time, and then hopefully work on a startup with Maryam.

Now, this is our plan for them. Nearer the time we’ll have a chat and they’ll ultimately have to decide…

Mathematics A-level update…

The kids started studying for their Mathematics A-level in September 2017. That means they’ve got 9 months to prepare for the June 2018 exams.

So it’s self-teaching, although Sabeen gets help from a mathematics Skype tutor in the Philippines.

They’re working through one module at a time, moving on once they get 75% in exam conditions.

Six modules make up an A-level. So they need twelve to get A-levels in Mathematics and Further Mathematics.

Sabeen has completed C1 and almost completed C2. It’s clear that she won’t be doing Further Mathematics in 2018. Even completing six modules will be tough.

Danyal has completed C1, C2, C3, C4, M1 and almost M2. He should be fine.

Maryam C1, C2, C3, C4, and just got started on M1. It’s going to be hard work for Maryam to get there in Further Mathematics, but she can do it.

I only realised the two girls were getting behind a few weeks ago. Since then as a target they study for 3.5 hours maths per day, measuring their time on Jibble. The time target is helping a lot.

Of course, they’re fully aware that 30 mins quality time is better than 90 mins chilled time. Day-dreaming while the clock ticks is only cheating themselves.

Let’s see what they can do in the next couple of months, which is when we’ll decide what exams they’ll be entered for…

Should I let my kids play video games?

Actually, I’m cool with kids playing video games.

I devoted my life, from the age of 7 until 15, to video games, after which I gave up to focus on my exams. I’ve not bought a video games console since because I know it’d take over my life.

Revs, Chuckie Egg 2, Super Mario Brothers were games that my childhood existed for.

The price? I have a really short attention span. If a movie isn’t great I’m itching to get out half-way through. Also, I struggle in long meetings.

Big deal!

On the other hand, I reckon video games increased my intelligence and upped my grades. These studies don’t indicate causality – Smart kids good at video games and Video games mean better grades – but my guess is that causality exists.

When you’re desperately manoeuvring your car to squeeze past two others, your brain’s CPU is in overdrive. It’s intense.

In fact, there were 3 other physicists in my college at Oxford, and all 3 of them were video game junkies. Now that can’t be a coincidence.

It’s important to stop playing in the run-up to exams, but video games are great in moderation…

How to make your kids happy…

  1. Ask them if they’re happy!
  2. Ask them why they are or aren’t happy. Listen.
  3. Do something about it.

So on the drive here I asked my kids how happy they were – a mark out of 10.

Maryam gave a 7. Danyal and Sabeen gave 9s.

The kids love our cafe-hopping lifestyle. And some friends stayed over for an entire week last week.

So then I had a chat with Maryam to understand her fairly neutral score. She said her mathematics mark wasn’t improving and she felt she’s going to fail her Further Mathematics A-levels – that was her only big issue.

So I told her that it’s that very fear that will make her work, and I’m glad she has it. Not having fear, or some deep motivation, is the path to failure. When I was heading for a straight fail in my degree, the fear of failure turned it around. And it wasn’t a time in my life I enjoyed.

If she wants success, it will be on the back of struggle. Life is easy only for those who achieve little.

It’s great that she is well outside her comfort zone – that’s where she needs to be.

Also, if she’s not ready to take Further Mathematics next year, she can just do Mathematics. So the pressure is now off.

Anyway, she raised her happiness-mark from 7 to an 8. No higher because she’s still got one heck of a tough challenge ahead of her…

It’s not only our kids…

Almost 3 years ago I convinced two friends – a married couple – to pull their two kids out of one of the best UK-curriculum schools in Asia and homeschool them.

Their kids, a boy and girl, were 9 and 7.

The boy was average in his school year for most subjects including maths, according to his parents. Looking at the school’s exam record that would mean he was heading for an A in his GCSE Maths at 16.

Fast forward to today.

He’s achieved an A* in his Maths GCSE. He’s 12, and thus one of the youngest in the world to have ever done this.

He didn’t work particularly hard and his family spent much of the year travelling enjoying their new-found freedom. Oh, and he’s learning 4 languages, and a really confident young boy.

This is what happens after you drop out of a top school, imagine the improvement in average schools…