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%.

WAIT! WHAT!?!

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.

Life Beyond School…

So Danyal (12) and Maryam (14) are enjoying retirement (ha ha!).

Well, Danyal spends a few hours learning to code (programming), an hour or so for his languages on Skype, plays tons of football and squash, and spends the rest of the day reading, playing video games or meeting friends. He also goes for a swim with me most mornings.

Maryam has taken a liking to public speaking, so she’s doing a lot of that. She too is learning her languages, does a bit of self-defence, some coding, and spends most of the rest of the day reading – she loves reading. Of course, and I do seem to need to mention it as otherwise people get concerned – she too meets up with her friends.

Both of them are constantly looking for one-off courses or activities near us – Maryam recently entered into a debating competition, Danyal’s been playing football with some Korean team as it’s the Xmas holidays.

Sabeen (10) is studying for her IGCSE French which she’ll be taking in mid-2019 – but she doesn’t seem to be studying much – we have taken it easy with her. She’s doing her other languages too, but it hasn’t been the same push we had with Maryam and Danyal – as someone told me “You proved that it works, now you’ve got nothing left to prove to yourself with Sabeen” and there is, unfortunately, an element of truth to that. She’ll probably start studying for her A-level Mathematics pretty soon.

One thing is clear – the kids now have incredible levels of freedom and lots of time. They arrange lessons for when they want, they do what they want where they want (home, cafes, my office, with friends), and they work as much as they want.

Without the huge exam pressure we put on Maryam and Danyal a few months ago, it all feels rather chilled. And we want to keep it that way.

Else, all is well! Hope you are too…

Do homeschooled children lack social skills and emotional intelligence?

Some kids are homeschooled because they were bullied or had other social issues at school. And, from my experience, these kids do tend to be a little socially challenged. And then people observe these kids and assume it’s the homeschooling that is the cause when often it’s the school that was.

My own 3 homeschooled kids, aged 10–14, are socially fine. My two daughters are highly-confident. My son is slightly reserved but less than I was at his age – and I went to school. They meet friends frequently, but, sure, they don’t meet 500 other kids for 150 days a year like school kids do.

In fact, a reason I started homeschooling the kids was that I spent some time with a homeschooled family and was shocked by the fact the kids were so confident. It blew away my misconceptions.

You see, homeschooled kids aren’t usually bullied, so they have an inner confidence that bullying often knocks out of school kids. And that helps them socially.

One of my daughters was briefly and lightly bullied when she used to go to school – and for those few weeks, her confidence collapsed. The problem was resolved after a gentle discussion with one of the teachers, but I can’t imagine the effects it could have had if it had happened more aggressively and for years.

I believe that this inner confidence actually makes homeschooled kids better prepared for the real world than schooled ones.

Another thing. I’ve noticed my kids are softer than most kids and seem to be more loving. I sense that’s a result of them being homeschooled. When I come home, they run to greet me every time. They love doing things as a family. They really care about each other. And other people. They’re just softer than most schooled kids.

I personally think that being gentle, loving, more human is a very positive trait. But if you don’t then, yes, homeschool may let you down there. Then again, I don’t know any parent that wants to send their kids to a rough school.

The next thing…

The two elder kids, Danyal (soon 12) and Maryam (14), have been chilling out for a few months now. After their fairly intense few months of doing Mathematics we’re encouraging them to spend more time with friends, bring them back up to speed with their languages, and let them get on with coding in Python.

Yesterday, I started thinking they’ve been chilling long enough, so I came up with the idea that they might as well start a tech startup now, rather than in a few years as previously planned. I explained to them that they’d enjoy it, will learn tons on the way, and if it does well it could sort them out financially for life – possibly by their mid-teens – which is a little hard for a soon-to-be 12 year old to quite grasp!

But both were immediately sold on the idea.

We agree they will try to do all the coding for this app themselves. They’ve learned Mathematics A-level themselves, I told them, so they can do this.

So, since we came to that decision yesterday morning the kids have indeed been coding with much higher levels of intensively – I guess that purpose for coding is now there.

I’ve suggested they build an attendance app for schools, as I know there is a pretty big demand for that kind of product, and their social media presence will help with publicity (Maryam has 7k followers on Quora), and they’re up for it. It’s just an idea, we’ll explore others ideas.

So, Maryam will be the CEO, Danyal the CTO, each will own half the equity.

Their studies are over. But their education is getting going.

A-level results yet again…

Again, the A-levels were, frankly, a little disappointing yet incredible.

Danyal got an A in A-level Mathematics (I was expecting an A*), so he’s now got 2 As in his A-levels. Maryam got a B (I was expecting an A) and so she’s now got 2As and 1B.

Incredible, because they’re now done, aged 11 and 13 respectively, and they self-taught their mathematics (for which I get a lot of slack from Isabelle for as she thinks they could have done better with my help).

So what now from here? Is it worth Danyal doing another A-level to make it 3? I don’t see the point.

Here’s how we see it playing out. They’re doing their coding, learning their languages, and learning basic business skills – right now they’re on a project selling 7,000 T-shirts that I’ve managed to end up owning – it’s a long story – but they’re learning a ton about marketing – and soon they’ll go on to other business projects. And they’re enjoying their lives and spending time with friends – something they didn’t do much of for the last few months.

They’re basically spending all day doing what they want, and the great thing is most of it is productive.

If they can make a success of business over the next few years, and they enjoy it, that’s what they’ll probably end up pursuing in their teens and twenties. They’re loving the freedom they already have and I don’t think they’ll ever want anything else.

But if they don’t get anywhere in business then I reckon they’ll spend a year doing their A-levels again, aged 18, and then go to university. Universities don’t accept A-level results that are more than 3 years old and I don’t want them to go to university early – I reckon fitting in is a key part of the university experience.

Chillaxing…

Since the end of their exams the kids have been loving it!

They do their language lessons every day but apart from that it’s chilling.

Well, Sabeen, the youngest is doing a little physics every day helped by whichever elder sibling she’s not fighting with at the time and a lot of reading.

Danyal spends way too much time chatting to one of his friends in Morocco over Skype (they’ve made got a terrible blog: https://footballhub2018.blogspot.com), he’s trying to get reconnected with some of the neighbours of the same age, and he’s doing some cooking with Sabeen which they both love – yesterday they made a fantastic dinner.

And Maryam seems to be doing nothing but reading.

At some time they’ll get bored. In fact, this morning I got a call from Danyal whether he could use my carwash wax. I think the kids are going to see if they can start a carwash business to make a bit of money – Isabelle has been suggesting this to them for a while.