To Kumon Or Not?

I’m not sure about you, but this topic had been a struggle for my family. If you google ‘Reviews on Kumon’, you will get a lot of positive reviews, at the same time, a lot of negative reviews too.  & if you survey the parents, most of them will agree that it is good. On the other hand, if you survey the children, most of them will tell you they hate it.

So, is Kumon for you and your child?

We tried AJ on Kumon when he was 2.5 years old. Yes, only 2.5.  He was assessed & accepted into the centre.  He was youngest student then, and in the history of that centre too. Why did we start AJ that young?  AJ exhibited some academic intelligence at a very young age. That triggered us to think whether we should have some structured learning for him in terms of Math. As first-time parents, we did many ‘trial-and-error’ because we were unsure what best fits.

AJ progressed fast in the centre.  He had enjoyed doing the worksheets given by the centre, because – they are of big fonts & printed in colours.  The worksheets for beginners were colourful and interesting, so AJ did not mind doing them.

2 months on, things changed. He dread to go to the centre. He did not want to do the worksheets. AJ was no longer at the level where the worksheets were colourful.  They had become black & white, & many boring addition sums squeezed into an A5 page. Naturally, a boy who was not yet 3 would not like.  But the centre has its KPI (Key Performance Indicators) to follow. You have to achieve good speed & high accuracy in order to progress to the next level.  If you do not, you have to repeat that level until proven.

AJ had the accuracy, but not the speed.  Not that he was not capable of, if you ask him verbally, he could give you the right answers. But writing was a chore for the little one. At that age, he could not write fast because his finger muscles were not strong. So he could not proceed to the next level even though he knew the answers.  Such was the struggle he had.  I fought for him, citing AJ’s physical limitation but in vain.  It had come to a stage where I had to place a cane on the table to get him to finish up the worksheets. It was a torture for both of us & I reckoned that it should not go on lest I kill his interest in learning. So we put a stop to Kumon.

I started improvising my own method teaching him Math.

Fast forward 3 years, the father suddenly asked ‘Do you think AJ should be given more drilling, especially on foundations pertaining to Math?’ I did not agree, but I did not want to argue.  I then told the father that I would bring him for an assessment (again) at the nearest Kumon centre & hear what they have to say.

The next day we went.  AJ was assessed exactly the level I think he should be in but the centre wanted him to start 1 level down. They claimed that this is the way that they usually do, to ensure that the students have a base to build on.  They also told me not to be too concerned, if AJ is a fast learner, he will progress to the next level in matter of weeks.

I thanked the centre supervisor, telling her that I would discuss this with the father. Of course, I never return.

This reinforces that going to Kumon centre is not for AJ & me. To assure the father that AJ is well-rooted in his foundation in Math, I got the Kumon Workbooks for AJ to do instead of going to the centre.  Everyday, he will do 1 or 2 exercises from the Workbook, topic by topic, level by level, using the methods I have taught him. We have been on this route for 4 months, both the father & the son have no complaints.  The father is glad that AJ has his foundation well-rooted, AJ is happy that he did not have to do the masses of repetition work in order to progress to the next level.  Every progress is determined by the ability to finish each exercise correctly within a stipulated time frame.  He is glad that he did not have to rush to clear all the backlogs if he is sick, or has other things that take priority. I am glad that this way works better for all of us.

So is Kumon for you & your child?  Generally, Kumon is good if you:
(1)   are very organized & disciplined;
(2)   are willing to be involved in the child’s learning; &
(3)   prefer a structure programme.

Would you like to receive an independent review of Kumon Method? If you do, please drop me an email at to join in the mailing list.

This video was taken end Feb'13 when AJ was at the last page of Grade 3 Multiplication.  
He is now in Grade 3 Division. 

Mar'13 - AJ has completed Addition & Subtraction, Geometry & Measurement, & Multiplication.  
He is now halfway through Division. We target to finish this level by middle of this year.


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