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.

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…

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!

A-Levels

We’ve decided to press ahead with Maryam and Danyal’s A-levels despite Danyal having only done 3 IGCSE’s – he’ll probably do two more this coming November and January.

Maryam has been working on her A-level Biology with Isabelle for a few months. I’ve decided to keep the momentum (ha ha!) with their Physics IGCSE and go for the Physics A-level rather than a Maths A-level, which we’ll do later. Also, given I have a degree in physics, I feel a little nostalgic about it all, so physics it is.

We have 5 months until their Physics A-level exams – it was either that or drag it on for an extra year. 5 seems like a good a challenge.

A lot of people ask me why the urgency? My response is why the complacency? We’re not doing 12 hour days – we’re doing a total of 5 or 6 hours of study during each weekday, no homework – and there is tons of time for sport, reading, meeting friends and pissing about.

I told them on the day they started studying for their Physics A-level that the spoon feeding needs to stop – they can grab me if they don’t understand things, they have the text book, they have Google, they have each other. They work when they want, if they want. It’s their lives and it’s up to them, not me, to get the grades.

The pep talk has worked. The physics text book is 166 pages, and four days into it they have gone through 65 pages – so that’s 40% of the syllabus (hello?) – but bear in mind it’s the first 40 pages so it’s mostly covering iGCSE stuff they’ve already done – and at this stage there would be some gaps in their understanding of the material they’ve covered. Hopefully they’ll be done with the text book in another 2 weeks and then it’s just past papers, which will fill any gaps, until they do their exams.

How can my kids even have a chance of doing an A-level in 5 months? Trust me, they’re not geniuses – it’s just that they are leveraging off the power of intensity.

I’ll keep you posted on progress…

Someone has already asked me how the kids will do the practical exam. I’ve found out that although the board, Edexcel, says it’s ‘compulsory’, it is really optional – it doesn’t affect the grade, and if one does the practical they just get an extra 1 or 2 next to their grade, which no-one cares about. Do I care that the kids will not learn how to do physics practicals? No.

IGCSE results!

So Maryam, 11, got A*s in Maths, Biology and French, and Danyal, 9 got an A* in Maths.

We’re obviously really pleased!

We don’t know the grade boundaries but going on the average of past papers, all 4 A*s were comfortable – around 7-10% above the minimum required.

It’s interesting that most UK school children will study biology for around 9 years (in the early years as part of science) before they take a Biology GCSE – and Maryam took 1/6 of that. In my estimation around 30% of kids doing what we’re doing could too, with another 50% taking less than 30 months to get an A*. The remainder 20% probably wouldn’t be bright enough to get an A*, but I think most of them would end up getting A’s. Just my guess – I don’t have any stats to prove it.

Anyway, glad to get this hurdle out of the way…