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.

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.