Learning 18+ Maths via WhatsApp…

As mentioned in the last post, the 3 kids are teaching themselves their Maths and Further Maths A-levels, the UK 18+ exams.

I’ve had a ton of parents, and some students, ask me how this is possible. It’s really easy…

Ok, they’ve teamed up with two friends, age 12 and 15, so it’s a group of 5 kids in total. We’ve set up a WhatsApp group. This makes it all a bit more social and fun. And we’ll soon have regular coffee tutorials where they will help each other with problems.

So, I set the questions in WhatsApp, the kids just do it, somehow. And that’s it!

Here’s a snapshot. You only see Maryam and myself as I’ve selected a bit where the other kids’ numbers (or their parents) are not shown.

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 11.13.07

In the first 3 weeks they completed three C1 papers. Each paper is one sixth of an A-level (Edexcel board). Just think about that! And that was them taking it easy as I didn’t know what pace was realistic.

They marked their work themselves, as the mark scheme is available, and I trust them enough to let them decide if they understand the question or not. They all appreciate that it’s their exam coming up, not mine.

It’s about making kids realise why they’re studying, it’s about making the exams their problem, not mine.

I gave them a slightly aggressive 8 days to do their first C2 paper, which they seem to be on target for. Remember, no-one has ever taught them the material in C2, and you can see how they’re helping one another by sending useful links. I will probably give them another 10 days to do two more C2 papers.

I am guessing that once they have done 3 papers they kind of have a fair understanding of each topic, and we can move on. We’ll revisit everything towards exam time.

Right now they’re spending around 1 to 1.5 hours a day. My 3 kids are working together, learning to work together as a team, but also learning to work remotely with other kids!

I’ve warned the kids that they need to enjoy the next 5 months, and they are by doing plenty of other stuff. Come 1 January 2018 the work load will start to increase. I am advising them to be mentally ready to sacrifice their lives for these exams from around April 2018…

Home school 2.0

Since starting home school our original plans for our kids have been tweaked.

We’ve decided to get their GCSE’s and A-levels out of the way as soon as possible, so the kids can focus on their passions. Exams are a stressful part of childhood, for many the worst part of childhood. The hard laborious work, constant pressure, expectations, competition, and public shaming and condescending advice if you get bad grades isn’t exactly pleasant, and nearly all the stuff learned is useless. To this day I occasionally wake up, in a cold sweat, worried that my university finals are around the corner and I’ve forgotten to prepare for them – that’s how stressful they were.

Hopefully Maryam, 11, will have finished her A-levels when she’s 13, Danyal, 9, will be done by the time he’s 12, and Sabeen, 7, should finish when she’s 12, possibly 11. The reason Maryam finishes later is because she started home school the oldest. They’ll only take exams if we feel they’ll get A*s, so if they don’t look like they’ll get the A* they’ll wait until the next exam date.

A significant benefit of doing the exams early is it sounds way more impressive on a CV, so everyone will assume they’re hyper-intelligent, when they’re not.

For those that haven’t read my earlier blogs the odd thing about this all is that my kids aren’t working hard, unless it’s the period leading to public exams. They do work intensively 7am until noon, five days a week, but that is pretty much it – they have very little homework – and so the weekends completely off. The effectiveness of 1-to-1 teaching is what is driving things. Isabelle and myself, for that matter, aren’t working hard either.

Most good schools make 9 or 10 GCSE’s and 3 A-levels standard. We’ve decided on 5 GCSE’s, and 4 A-levels.

We’ve reduced the GCSE’s because when one has A-levels, the GCSE’s become fairly irrelevant. Students do an impressive number of GCSE’s because when they are applying to universities they do not yet have their A-level grades, so universities base their offers on the GCSE grades, but if our kids apply to university, they will have already finished some A-levels.

Another thing that we’re doing different is staggering the exams. Schools make their students do all their GCSE’s at one time, like over a summer. This is just plain stupid. That’s the best way of making students do as badly as possible.

So Maryam recently completed 3 iGCSE’s – Maths, Biology, French. She’ll do Physics in 3 months time, in November 2016, and two months later she’ll do an iGCSE in Accounting (taught by Isabelle, a Chartered Accountant). Getting an A* when she’s going to be spending the prior few weeks focusing on that subject suddenly doesn’t sound so stellar. So after her Accounting iGCSE, she’ll do 2 A-levels in the middle of next year, and a final 2 the following year.

Note Maryam is not doing an English GCSE – compulsory in schools in the UK. I checked up with the top universities and none have it as a requirement.

For Danyal the plan is for him to start his maths A-level after he’s done his Physics iGCSE which he’s hoping to do in November 2016. So he might have finished an A-level or two before he’s done with all his GCSE’s. He’s good at maths (like his father before him!).

We don’t yet have much of a plan for Sabeen but I’m hoping she might be ready for her iGCSE maths next year, in June 2017. We’re kind of assessing her aptitude and interests.

Finally, the kids are continuing to learn their languages and play their sports, as per Home School 1.0, but once they start going for the GCSE’s and A-levels the hours are somewhat reduced, with exams the clear focus. We just want to get the exams out of the way…

Homeschool 2.0

Since starting homeschool our original plans for our kids have been tweaked.

We’ve decided to get their GCSE’s and A-levels out of the way as soon as possible, so the kids can focus on their passions. Exams are a stressful part of childhood, for many the worst part of childhood. The hard laborious work, constant pressure, expectations, competition, and public shaming and condescending advice if you get bad grades isn’t exactly pleasant, and nearly all the stuff learned is useless. To this day I occasionally wake up, in a cold sweat, worried that my university finals are around the corner and I’ve forgotten to prepare for them – that’s how stressful they were.

Hopefully Maryam, 11, will have finished her A-levels when she’s 13, Danyal, 9, will be done by the time he’s 12, and Sabeen, 7, should finish when she’s 12, possibly 11. The reason Maryam finishes later is because she started home school the oldest. They’ll only take exams if we feel they’ll get A*s, so if they don’t look like they’ll get the A* they’ll wait until the next exam date.

A significant benefit of doing the exams early is it sounds way more impressive on a CV, so everyone will assume they’re hyper-intelligent, when they’re not.

For those that haven’t read my earlier blogs the odd thing about this all is that my kids aren’t working hard, unless it’s the period leading to public exams. They do work intensively 7am until noon, five days a week, but that is pretty much it – they have very little homework – and so the weekends completely off. The effectiveness of 1-to-1 teaching is what is driving things. Isabelle and myself, for that matter, aren’t working hard either.

Most good schools make 9 or 10 GCSE’s and 3 A-levels standard. We’ve decided on 5 GCSE’s, and 4 A-levels.

We’ve reduced the GCSE’s because when one has A-levels, the GCSE’s become fairly irrelevant. Students do an impressive number of GCSE’s because when they are applying to universities they do not yet have their A-level grades, so universities base their offers on the GCSE grades, but if our kids apply to university, they will have already finished some A-levels.

Another thing that we’re doing different is staggering the exams. Schools make their students do all their GCSE’s at one time, like over a summer. This is just plain stupid. That’s the best way of making students do as badly as possible.

So Maryam recently completed 3 IGCSE’s – Maths, Biology, French. She’ll do Physics in 3 months time, in November 2016, and two months later she’ll do an IGCSE in Accounting (taught by Isabelle, a Chartered Accountant). Getting an A* when she’s going to be spending the prior few weeks focusing on that subject suddenly doesn’t sound so stellar. So after her Accounting IGCSE, she’ll do 2 A-levels in the middle of next year, and a final 2 the following year.

Note Maryam is not doing an English GCSE – compulsory in schools in the UK. I checked up with the top universities and none have it as a requirement.

For Danyal the plan is for him to start his maths A-level after he’s done his Physics iGCSE which he’s hoping to do in November 2016. So he might have finished an A-level or two before he’s done with all his GCSE’s. He’s good at maths (like his father before him!).

We don’t yet have much of a plan for Sabeen but I’m hoping she might be ready for her IGCSE maths next year, in June 2017. We’re kind of assessing her aptitude and interests.

Finally, the kids are continuing to learn their languages and play their sports, as per Homeschool 1.0, but once they start going for the GCSE’s and A-levels the hours are somewhat reduced, with exams the clear focus. We just want to get the exams out of the way…