Since 2016 we enrolled our firstborn child when he was just about to turn 5. Then we enrolled our next 2 children when they were around the age of 3.5. All three of our children are still currently enrolled as Kumon students, and whether you’ve got younger children or older children Kumon can place you into the program at any age.
With our youngest two starting at an early age they were able to begin at the foundational basic math units of Kumon’s course. However, when our eldest child began he undertook a test to determine his grade level and to assess a comfortable starting point into the program best suited to his abilities. By performing these tests Kumon can determine what a child’s needs are and whether there are any gaps in their learning.
The Kumon learning method is fairly simple and straightforward. They work on the principle of small incremental steps and mastery of concepts through repetition (or rote memorisation) before progression. New concepts start at their basic level and incrementally get more challenging as you progress.
By having the students learn math skills by small incremental steps it takes the burden of having to teach the child each lesson. It also helps the child become an independent learner as they can grasp new mathematical concepts quickly due to the small changes.
For example, when a child is learning the concept of addition the Kumon program uses objects for the child to count. The child counts the number of objects on the page and writes this number down. As the child continues through their workbook the questions begin to change by moving from all objects to count to a number and some objects to count. Eventually the child has completely moved away from counting objects and is now counting numbers. Then they’re adding larger numbers and learn the concept of carry.
By making these small incremental changes within the workbook, or over several workbooks the child can learn and perform the work at the their own pace. Being independent can help remove the load from the parents on having to teach and instruct the child each time they do their Kumon work.
The work students undertake is a workbook a day. A workbook consists of 10 work sheets and some parents may elect to halve this early on to help their child get through the work.
Each booklet can contain anywhere from 20 questions on a single sided page (40 in total on the complete page), to one or two questions. Depending upon the type of question asked some questions require additional working out, whereas others just need a simple answer.
We have undertaken both the Kumon math program and the Kumon reading program. The only difference in workload with both programs is that the Kumon reading program requires the students to read their booklets which are chapters from popular books, as well as perform comprehension and spelling work in another booklet. Therefore, students can be given up to two booklets with the reading program.
Kumon Learning Centres
Within the Kumon centre will be a director who is likely to be the franchisee. A good learning centre will have a director who sees the franchise more than just a business and has a passion for helping children to improve their math and reading abilities.
Helping the students within the centre progress through the material are likely to be students who have either gone through the program completely, or are still progressing through, and helping other students, or parents who have a passion to help children with their education.
Depending on the individual centre it is like having your own private tutor and math teacher with the help the students get as they progress through their workbooks. However, I’m also aware that centres who are run as a tight business do not receive much tutelage, putting the workload back onto the parent to help their child progress.
It’s important then that you check the credentials of the centre and if they have gone through the program themselves.
You would also want to find a local Kumon centre nearest to you as you will have to visit up to twice a week for as long as 30 minutes each program. For example, if you’re enrolled in the math program and the reading program you will have 1 hour each session.
But does that mean it will be a worthwhile fit for you and your family?
We have found Kumon Math & English beneficial for our children and the evidence of their progress is seen both with their achievements in the Kumon program and at school.
Ok, so it seems to work for you. How do you make it work?
There are several aspects that make Kumon worthwhile, but these are the biggest factors which help to get the most out of it:
1. Time Is Needed
If you don’t have the time to help guide and motivate your child to do the work it will be quite a painful ordeal for your family.
You could drop your child off at your local Kumon centre have them do their testing and work, but if you’re not available to help guide and teach them when they do their work from home throughout the rest of the week then it will not work for you.
As with any worthy pursuit in life it’s going to require some sacrifice and diligence in getting through the work. Some days will be amazing and your child will shine through the workbooks, and then there will be other days where you think you’ve picked up the wrong child from school.
Some days will be, what we call, write-offs .
Your child’s brain may be in a bit of a fuzz, and the level of output shows it. While you don’t want to have too many write-off days, be mindful they will occur and you’ll need strategies on how you’re going to handle those days.
But you will need to help guide your child and this requires time especially when you start the program .
Don’t think your child will magically become Einstein after doing one workbook, and especially don’t think your child will love to keep doing the work after completing a couple of workbooks.
While being consistent is the key to success in this program, getting that inert brain into motion is the hardest part – especially when you’re starting from a young age.
We have started 2 of our children from the age of around 3-and-a-half (one boy and one girl). Our daughter was naturally inclined to do the work, and it didn’t take long for her to undertake the work by herself with minimal supervision.
However, our youngest, who started at the same age as his older sister has been more resistant to undertaking the work than her sibling sister.
While this is still a work in progress, we hope by starting young and steering him to perform the work himself he will be able to complete the workbooks by himself. We already have seen him complete several books now that he is 4, but supervision is required.
Therefore, in concluding this point, if you have the time to assist your child with completing the workbooks you will see your child grow. The assistance will be needed more if you’re starting with a younger child (pre-school years), and at the start of the program while your child establishes a routine with completing the work.
At least one parent needs to be committed to the program.
It helps if that parent has been through the program they will likely know the extent and length of the work and can help motivate their child to keep progressing.
It also means that if at least one parent is committed to assisting the family with the progress of the children through it, the other may be doing duties to assist at times when the other is busy. For example, if the wife is the main parent assisting the kids in the program and does other house duties, the husband may have to step up and help out with duties not done around the house (cooking, ironing, etc).
If both parents are committed then the duties will be shared and it would be wise to plan and communicate who does what around the home and with the kids.
3. Find A Good Centre
You’re in partnership with the coach and staff at your local Kumon centre. You’ll therefore want to work with an experienced team who has been through the program and can help you as the parent.
As Kumon centres are franchises they are businesses. This means they need to make a profit for the owner. If there’s no profit, there’s no Kumon centre.
While we understand the basic business principle of the centre being open and remaining open, you’ll want to make sure your child is given enough challenging work.
If you find your child is progressing quite rapidly through the material then you’ll want to notify the local centre and have them tested.
If you find you’re struggling through the material then you’ll want tips from the centre on how you can help your child through these concepts.
What are some questions you can ask a prospective centre in the interview?
- Make sure you speak to the head instructor or owner. Who will be delegating the work to your child?
- Listen to the feedback through the free trial they offer on where your child’s ability is at. Does the person convey an understanding of your child’s ability, or are they just relaying statistics?
- Have they personally done the program when they were a child, or have had their children go through the program? What insights can they provide for parents if they themselves haven’t gone through it?
4. It’s Not Perfect
If you’re looking for the perfect maths program that will set your child’s mathematical abilities on fire and they will become an instant genius after completing 4 workbooks then you have unrealistic expectations.
Kumon is a marathon, not a sprint.
Many programs will try to sell you on either speed, performance or entertainment, but at the end of the day you just need repetition to keep those mathematical concepts in their head.
The problem with school and life is that there are millions of other things to do and to distract your child from fulfilling their mathematical potential, but Kumon focuses on math drills with a little problem solving along the way.
The benefit of this type of rote learning is that it’s consistent in approach, easy to follow, easy to mark and easy to provide feedback to your child on their progress.
Besides the work your child will after the completion of about six months of work have a rank where they can see how their work is performing against other Kumon children at the same age. This can help spur the child to do better, if they are falling behind, and give the parent some idea on their child’s abilities compared to others.
Kumon is an excellent program with the right commitment with time, attitude and perspective. It slowly builds in difficulty through the main mathematical concepts and provides regular tests to check performance of your child.
It doesn’t matter whether your child is struggling in elementary school, kindergarten, or high school students can benefit from the teaching methods used by Kumon’s material and staff to help achieve success and mastery in math and reading skills.
We have certainly found our children are at a higher level in their math school programs than they would have otherwise been without Kumon. In fact, when our eldest child started school they didn’t achieve the school’s enrichment program, but within a couple of years of Kumon they are now one of the brightest in the math enrichment program run by the school.