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 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 for 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 a run remotely.

Oh, and one more thing, we can really see our persistence with the languages paying off. The kids are now at least close to conversant in all their 6 languages – all learned by simply chatting to someone over Skype 3 times a week.

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

Sorry for any typos – I’m short of time. Stay safe everyone! 🙏

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.

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…

A Morning Run…

Yesterday, Danyal put behind him a pretty amazing chapter in his life. He finished his A-levels (UK 18+ exams) aged 11.

So, he taught himself Mathematics mainly from YouTube videos, and, of course, last year he did his Physics A-level and got an A.

This morning we went for a run and discussed what he’ll do next with his life. He’s thinking about a combination of:

1. Play football up to 3 hours a day to see if he has a realistic chance of playing in the Premiership one day.

2. Try to get his squash to national-level.

3. Try to break the world record for 5km for an 11-year-old – he’d have to go damn intensive as he’ll turn 12 in 4 months.

4. Become damn good at coding – to start a tech startup.

5. Brush up his 6 languages – some have been very low priority in recent months due to exams.

6. Spend a lot of time loafing around with friends.

Now, all of this was possible because my wife and I just decided to TRY to homeschool our 3 kids 5 years ago. We just gave it a two-week TRIAL after which all of us loved it.

If we hadn’t TRIED he’d still be learning algebra at school.

You gotta try in life. And keep trying. Sure, trying usually gets you nowhere but if you keep at it, embrace it in every aspect of your life, it will eventually pay off in ways you never imagined possible.

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…

Focus…

We’ve scrapped all goals for this year, except one – Maths & Further Maths A-levels. If you read my post about the kids’ A-level results you’ll understand why.

So I’ve decided that the programming, business, sport and language goals are scrapped. They’re still going to do the sports and languages, but without goals. No programming or business at all until they finish their Maths A-levels.

BTW the girls have given up badminton and are playing squash instead.

Sabeen is struggling to keep up with the maths with the other two, so she’s now doing it her own pace. She may well just do the Maths A-level in 2018 without doing the Further Maths A-level. I want her to enjoy it, not feel under any pressure – she worked hard for the last two months of her IGCSE Maths and it wasn’t fun.

So Maryam and Danyal are teaching Sabeen her maths. It’s quite funny watching Danyal struggling to teach Sabeen. He once said “she never understands anything” in frustration. I said “Danyal, she’s the youngest girl to have ever got an A* in her GCSE. Have you ever thought that perhaps you’re not teaching her properly?” He didn’t have an answer to that!

One last thing, I’ve hired a tutor in the Philippines to help Maryam and Danyal with maths. Basically, I’m too busy with my business to help them. The tutor charges US$12 an hour, and whenever the kids are stuck on a question, they set up a Skype session with her. And if they’re stuck with any topic they can arrange one-to-one sessions. So it’s pay-as-they-need. This seems to be working out very well, but early days as they’ve only had one session.

IGCSE Maths result…

Sabeen, who’s still 8, got the A*!!! That puts her in the top 6% of UK 16 year olds for maths.

She is probably the youngest girl in the history of the GCSE to get an A*. There have been two of boys that have done it when they were 7. And there could be a couple of kids that haven’t publicised their results.

And very honestly, it really wasn’t very hard work.

Anyway, a great result, and we’re all overjoyed!

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.

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…

Self-Schooling…

Ok, since we’ve come back from our trip to the UK, about 3 weeks ago, it’s been chill out time!

Just before we left for the UK the kids wrapped up their exams. For Maryam, in particular, it was tough. She has worked about 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for about 3 months. She didn’t meet many friends during that exam-intense period – and so she wasn’t the happiest girl in the world.

But all bad things come to an end (I just made that up). Now there are no exams for almost a year! Things feel really relaxed, they’re meeting friends regularly, watching plenty of films, the kids are enjoying it.

The kids know what they need to do now, and getting on with their stuff.

What is amazing is that Isabelle and myself are essentially out of the picture. It’s no longer homeschool – it is self-school. Our kids are educating themselves.

Hey, what?! Yes, they’re educating themselves, and here’s how:

  • The kids are working together, teaching themselves Maths A-level, with two other kids that have joined in. I set the past papers, they do it. When they get stuck they ask each other, Google it, or if that fails, they ask me via WhatsApp group we’ve set up.
  • They’re teaching themselves coding, to build their game app. Plenty of resources online. I asked a coder who used to build games to give them some guidance over WhatsApp. Any questions, they can ask him.
  • Maryam is trying to start her business – but she needs so to figure it all out herself (it’s an online business). She asks me things once in a while.
  • The language-learning is now pretty much all online, and they have their schedule to stick to.

So Isabelle has taken a full-time remote job as CFO of LaunchPad, my tech venture builder, and all she does homeschool-wise is take the kids to their various group activities – football, art, study groups, and visit her friends that have kids of a similar age to ours.

And I play squash with the kids every morning. That is it!

If you can teach your kids to teach themselves, but it has taken us almost 4 years to get here, it all becomes VERY easy. We’re now doing next to nothing.

And everyone still tells us we’re such dedicated and committed parents that have made huge sacrifices for our kids!