Code, football, football, and football…

I reckon we’ve been blessed to get it pretty much spot on with Danyal. So, for those of you new to this blog, Danyal finished his A-levels, the UK exams for 18-year-olds, when he was 11 with two A-grades in Maths and Physics. By freeing himself from the rigid structure of the school syllabus so early, it allowed him to explore his passions.

Alright, so he bummed around for a year and eventually found a passion for coding. A year later, he asked to work for free at Jibble and got in. Sure, I’m the CEO of Jibble, he’s my son, it all sounds very nepotistic, but he got the job on his own merits. I mean, why would we refuse someone who finished his A-levels aged 12 and agreed to work for free? And BTW we made sure we broke no child labour laws!!!

Danyal is now a junior-to-mid level coder, he also does some product management, he built an Indonesia payroll app in his spare time, and aged 15, he’s financially independent. He is learning or fluent in 6 languages, he’s also had the time to play a TON of football, so plays club-level U18 football and is also the U16 captain.

By focusing on his passions so early he’s been able to develop them when he’s young and hungry. Given he’s got 3+ years of full-time (and passionate) coding experience and is the youngest person ever to have achieved an A in a Physics A-level, he’s got a very good chance of getting a graduate job as a developer at the likes of Facebook, Google, Tesla. He’s also in a great position to start a business as tech businesses are built on code.

Software engineering is incredibly meritocratic – I mean, we at Jibble don’t even look at degrees for our software engineer applicants, we just check out their code – and it’s a great career for those who don’t want to spend years getting degrees. Further, most coders really enjoy their work because they’re building stuff and solving problems, it’s challenging and rewarding, it can be done remotely which means flexibility, and it’s well-paid.

Listen, if your kid isn’t doing well at school, they’re not giving it their all, they’re not studying with passion, then school is a big waste of time. If one doesn’t give it their all in whatever they do they may as well not bother, that’s my own rule of life. Then encourage them to code or learn softer skills such as product design or simply understand products such as Salesforce, and if they like it, which they probably will, pull them out of school and let them loose. Within a couple of years of gaining USEFUL skills that employers value, they’ll probably get a decent graduate-level job – a far more direct route than two years of exams to get into university and around four years at university.

Yes, Danyal has no plans on doing a degree – in the world of technology they don’t have the value they once did. He just loves his life of coding, football, football, and football. With no more exam stress, plenty of money, and more options than any graduate I know, I think he’s in a good place.

A-level Accounting

I thought I’d give a quick update as I haven’t given one for a while.

So, what’s been happening?

Let’s start with my youngest daughter, Sabeen, who’s 13. She has been on a roll! A few weeks ago she found out she got an A* in her Accounting A-level! In both her modules she managed to get 300/300, which is pretty insane. She’s now got two A*’s in her A-levels.

So she’s trying out a few things, such as programming, which Danyal is guiding her with. I suggested she think about doing medicine as I reckon she’d make a good doctor – she communicates very well and has an amazing memory – but she’d rather not, and so now is her time to kind of enjoy her success and take her time in deciding what she does next. I doubt she’ll do accounting, like her mother before her, but who knows.

Danyal, 15, is now a decent coder, he’s loving it, gets up at 6am and just starts coding for hours – because he enjoys it so much he’s probably the equivalent of a coder with perhaps 3 or 4 years work experience – he’s really found his passion (for now!).

And last, but not least, Maryam, 17, after a promising start she hasn’t really enjoyed her work in my tech company – money or technology seem not to interest her – and she is considering going into teaching or academia – more details soon – but, yes, that probably means… she’ll be off to university! Oh no!!! Well, that’s her choice, and if she wants to go down that career path, a degree is what she needs and should go for.

It’s great, they’re finding out what they want to do early on their lives by exploring areas they are interested in. They have very few pressures with no exams nor competition – perhaps the way kids should enjoy their teenage years.

Otherwise, I’ve been super-busy with work (as has my wife, Isabelle), so gotta go. BTW the photo is about 4 years old. BYE!

A-level Maths – Final Result…

A couple of days ago, Sabeen found out she got an A* in her Maths International A-level. Aged 12, I believe she’s the youngest girl in the 50+ year history of the exam to have done this. 🎊

Sabeen isn’t particularly good at maths (she’s clearly not too bad either!), my help was limited to an hour a week as most of the time I just told her to look things up when she was stuck, I have no teaching qualifications, and am I not a good teacher.

I’ve come to the view that schools are great for parents unable to guide their kids, but for parents with a good level of education and who are working from home, there is no comparison – and that’s before factoring the ~US$250k of school fees.

Isabelle and I went to ‘top’ high schools in France and the UK respectively, so we know what our kids are ‘missing’.

The argument that many parents make is that school is much more than grades, which is odd because those same parents will do everything they can to get their kids into schools that deliver the best grades.

Besides, homeschool isn’t all about grades either – Sabeen, for example, can speak 6 languages, she recently won a national storytelling competition, she’s a great swimmer, a fantastic cook, and she is a very confident sociable child with plenty of friends.

For parents considering, let me get this misconception out of your head – for your kids to get the stellar results Sabeen achieved (and I’m not saying that’s the right goal) one parent needs to put in ~20 minutes a day per child – once they can read, you’re mostly telling your kids where to look – textbooks, YouTube, past paper solutions, etc…

But you must get your kids’ buy-in, they must want it else it can’t work. A key reason it has worked for us is that our kids were initially sold on studying in their pyjamas, and throughout they have really enjoyed their homeschool journey.

A-level Accounting and Maths, Part I

A-level results came out last week, we were delighted to find out that Sabeen managed 100% in her accounting module, which is half the A-level, and 90% in her mathematics modules, which is two-thirds.

She’s heading towards getting two A*s, which are the kind of grades that would get an 18-year-old into any university in the UK, yet Sabeen just recently turned 12.

Isabelle taught her accounting and says she picked it up really fast. I guided her with her mathematics, not taught her as she learned most of it herself, but frankly she’s perhaps only top 30% in terms of natural mathematical ability – way behind where her elder-brother-by-two-years was two years ago.

Sabeen’s results are, in reality, the product of belief. In Sabeen’s belief, and trust, in her parents, which most kids have, and her parents belief in her.

Now, I get that many parents don’t want this for their kids, I understand that, but, listen, most children can do just as well as Sabeen, many could do much better. They do, however, need parents who believe they can.

The older I get, the more I see it – belief, more than anything, drives outcome.

All Coming Together Really Well…

I’m writing this because I have had a few people asking for an update – what have we been up to? Have any of our kids run off yet?

Ok, so it’s 10 months into when the Covid-19 panic started and I guess we as a family were not as affected as most, thankfully. It was, for the most part, business or study as usual.

What’s been pretty incredible for us is that in the last few months the whole homeschooling project, which is kind of nearing its end, or, you could say going into a new phase, really feels like it has been an overall success.

Now, sure, academically it was always a success from around 4 years ago, when the kids started doing their public exams, but here’s why I feel that in so many other ways it has been a success too…

So, Maryam (16) and Danyal (14) haven’t done any academic study for 2 years.

Maryam has been ‘working’ in the company I run, Jibble, and should, in a few months, be running the entire digital marketing of the company – and so be completely responsible for a US$400k annual budget. She’s learned things fast, she works hard, and she enjoys it.

Meanwhile, Danyal has been coding and he too has started ‘working’ at Jibble. I can see him progressing fast as he’s coding 12 x 7 – well, it’d Covid time so there isn’t much else to do!

I feel that within a few months both of them would be able to get beyond graduate-level jobs at a top tech company with the skills they will have acquired – most tech companies don’t care about degrees. We used to contemplate them perhaps doing degrees – but now we are absolutely sure there is no point as long as this continues.

You guys might think that I’m taking it easy on them. Kids lazing around in daddy’s business, being spoilt. Sure, I’m the CEO of Jibble, but honestly they need to achieve a higher benchmark because I’m very aware of their privileges. Those of you who read my writings will know my biggest fear for my kids isn’t that they don’t inherit enough money, it’s that they end up spoilt and lazy, achieving nothing in their lives.

Part of the reason they’re doing well is that my wife and I are personally guiding them and pushing them- and we can be more direct with them than with most other employees – I mean, they’re our kids too. For example, if they’re assigned work by a manager I tell them to work damn hard and get it done well and fast – it’s like they’re getting constant one-on-one coaching on how to succeed in a tech company.

I am confident that if they maintain their drive they’ll achieve big things. So it’s odd, we have four of us – my wife, Maryam, Danyal, and myself all working really hard in Jibble.

And finally, Sabeen (12) is doing her A-levels in January (first paper tomorrow) and in June 2021 – Mathematics and Accounting. She seems to be doing fine. Like her siblings, I don’t think she wants to study further – but we’ve not discussed that yet.

What we hate about the formal exams is that they really tie us up – once Sabeen has finished her exams it’s kind of cool that we can go anywhere anytime – remember, Jibble is run remotely so none of us need to be in any office. And, frankly, I believe it’s really good that my kids won’t have a good part of their teens and early 20s ruined by mostly-useless exams – that is the way I look at it. I mean, these days they learn what they want to learn, without any exam pressure.

Oh, and one more thing, we can really see our persistence with the languages paying off – it has been a slow process. The kids are now at least close to conversant in all their 6 languages (English, French, Bahasa, Hindi/Urdu, Arabic, Mandarin) – all learned by simply chatting to someone over Skype 3 times a week, which they often do while cooking or doing something else.

Overall, the homeschool leading on to business has worked out REALLY well.

Stay safe everyone! 🙏

A different way of living…

Allow me to suggest a different way of living.

My wife and I work from home, our 3 kids are homeschooled.

But this is where we’ve taken it further…

Maryam, on the right, is 15, she finished her school exams two years ago, she’ll probably never go to university, out of choice.

She’s tried coding and data science, didn’t enjoy them, then tried digital marketing, loved it.

So she’s got a job at a startup – as startups focus on skills – and is working from home, earning a graduate salary.

So, does she meet 100 kids every day? No.

Does she have friends? Yes, plenty.

Is she missing out on her childhood? No, she’s missing out on an antiquated education system.

Does she work all day? No – she works when she wants – she’s paid hourly. She reads, rides horses, runs, learns languages, and meets her friends.

What if she wants to become, say, a doctor? She’ll do a degree in medicine.

Is she happy? Very.

No exams, bullying, drugs, 9-5 job, rushed commutes. We’re saving the planet as well as ~US$400k in education fees per child.

Yet we’re all doing stuff we’re passionate about – learning and earning – but without pressure, without rigidity.

Technology has made this possible, but few know this way of life can work. I mean, I didn’t until it just happened.

Stuck at home with your kids during the lockdown? Here’s an idea…

3 years ago, Danyal, became the youngest person in the 30-year history of the Physics GCSE (UK 16+ exams) to have achieved an A*. He was 10. His sister, Maryam, also managed an A*. She was 12.

This is them with their cousin.

So, neither had studied any physics 5 months before their exams, a two-year course, and they cleared the A* boundary by ~20%.


This is how they did it…

I got 3 past papers, grouped questions by topic – so 5 mechanics questions, 4 electricity ones, etc…

I then told them to do the mechanics questions. They thought I was mad. I told them to work it out from their textbook or YouTube.

Them struggling was crucial – it’s the best way to learn – and if they couldn’t do it after trying hard enough, I’d eventually explain.

Progress was painfully slow early on.

The alternative, being spoon-fed like at schools, doesn’t stick and later on in life that’s not how you learn. Besides, I didn’t have time to teach them!

Anyway, they did the mechanics questions and then went on to the next topic’s questions, and once they’d done all the topics they just did complete past papers.

Erm, that’s how they did it, and it is essentially the same method that I learned physics at university.

And both went on to get A’s in their Physics A-levels (18+), still aged 10 and 12, which they taught themselves in 5 months.

During this lockdown why not encourage your kids to learn one of the most powerful and empowering life skills of all? The ability to self-teach.

Do Homeschoolers Lack Confidence?

In my experience, and contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers tend to be more confident than school kids.

Why? Because that’s what a loving and secure environment, free from bullying and namecalling, gets you – confidence, tons of it.

And, for this reason, and there is evidence to support this view, when homeschoolers go out into the big bad world they deal with it better.

Anyway, to help dispel the myth here’s our 11-year-old Sabeen narrating a story in a story-telling competition.

BTW – it’s a FICTIONAL story with a message, so none of it actually happened – she doesn’t have a phone, let alone an iPhone 6, and I don’t talk to my wife over the phone when we’re both at home. Well, not usually.

This performance took her to the final, where she had to speak in front of over 200 people.

And in the final, she won!!!

Software Business…

I guess we’ve had a great last few months, but not without some issues.

Sabeen (10 – pictured with me) recently did her IGCSE French, and now she’s working on her Mathematics A-level, which she’ll probably do in a year. After that, like Danyal, she’ll probably do one more A-level and then that’d be it for her.

Maryam (14) and Danyal (12) have been getting on with their programming and spoken languages at their own pace – and of course meeting friends, sports, etc…

They’re trying to learn how to code but it’s been tough for them to learn without any structure, without any particular goal. In fact, it became increasingly obvious that Maryam, in particular, was beginning to hate it. I think they’ve been too much theory – so they apparently know a few languages fairly well – Javascript, HTML, Python, CSS, but they can’t actually code – it’s like they how most schools teach French – they do the theory but if the kid went to France he/she wouldn’t be able to ask for a tea!

So a few days ago I said forget it, let’s just start a software business and they’ll learn to code as they go along. One learns so much faster if one has a goal one is desperate to achieve, well that’s the thinking anyway.

They immediately loved the idea of starting a business, became really excited, and Maryam’s energy levels since have literally gone up 50% – I mean she is just so much more excited about life – I didn’t realise it but coding was beginning to drain her.

It’s been fun dreaming what our software could do, what we’d do better than our competitors, our pricing strategy, etc…

A programmer-friend and business-partner of mine will guide them on the coding side and put in half the money (less than US$5k), I’ll guide them elsewhere and put in the rest of the cash.

We won’t need much cash because Maryam and Danyal will do most of the work themselves. Maryam will be the CEO, initially focusing her work on coding and marketing, Danyal will do most of the coding (it’s his strength) and accounting.

We’ll each own 25% of the business – it is an absolutely serious venture – we’ll get cracking within a few days, and let’s see how that goes. Oh yes, and I’m just as excited as they are!!!

Sabeen’s Physics IGCSE…

Sabeen just found out that she got an A* in her Physics IGCSE (UK 16+ exam).

Aged 10, she’s the youngest girl in the 30-year history of the GCSE to have achieved this!

But, and if you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know this, Sabeen is no genius – in fact, she isn’t even particularly naturally talented at physics – she just used a technique that you too can use in your work and life.

Essentially, it’s the same technique Tiger Woods used to become great at golf, Albert Einstein leveraged for his physics, and Jeff Bezos used to become the richest person in the world.

So, Sabeen did the 2-year course in 5 months – studying around 3 hours a day, 7 days week – she put in enough hours per day which rapidly increased her rate of learning. 1.5 hours a day for 10 months wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

For the most part, Sabeen just did past-papers – practising what she wanted to become good at – and looking up stuff on YouTube when she was stuck. And that’s another part of it – she had the drive to go figure things out. If you aren’t driven, nothing will work.

But at its basic level the technique is incredibly simple – to become great at something focus intensely on it – and actually do it rather than observe.