Friday, July 10, 2009

Kumon, You're Killing Me!

When I tell you we’re doing Kumon this summer, you will have one of three reactions:
1) What took you so long? You should have had her enrolled before she started kindergarten!
2) Are you kidding? What do you want - a little robot? It’s repetition. Rinse, lather, repeat.
3) Kumon? What is that? Does it come with wasabi?

Usually the third response comes from people without children or non-Asians. Kumon is extremely popular among Asian parents because it reflects the method of teaching effective in Asian countries. Memorization and repetition is the way many people were taught. One million Asian engineers and techies can’t be wrong, right?

In our public schools, EveryDay Math is being taught. We were confused by subtraction methods this year, and asked the teacher about it. She pointed out they show children different ways to tackle a problem and one method may work better than another for the child. So many options! So many confused parents!

I resisted Kumon wave for some time because I didn’t think it was necessary to pay $100 a month for 1st grade math. If I have to sit with my daughter to make sure the work is done, we can just do worksheets. However, second grade moved quite quickly and the teacher emphasized the need for her to solidify her basic math skills. Her report card reflected this as a weak point. So I conceded. We want to make sure she stays at the right level, consistent and confident. If she gets discouraged now, it’ll be a hang up for always (actively raising my hand as someone who knows!) Plus, in 3rd grade, the standardized testing will start and she’ll need to perform well within a timed situation. She can’t daydream her way through this.

Other parents have told us how their child surpassed their peers thanks to Kumon. Others raved over the structure and discipline, which helped set the foundation.

Our friends’ daughter works at the local Kumon center as a teaching aide. This would be one positive aspect for my daughter feeling comfortable there. The deal with Kumon is that there is homework every night and center visits twice a week. There’s no vacation from it. There’s always homework, which takes about 15-20 minutes.

The reality is that it’s really tough. The homework is annoying – 4+6, 5+6, 8+6. There are 10 pages of the same problems. So, obviously she complains she’s tired of 6’s. They start the child at a lower level so they can build their confidence.

She hates Kumon. She’s whined, cried, stalled for time, offered to help me pull weeds instead. Yes, just about every trick possible. I’m trying to use some of our positive motivations from Suzuki violin. I don’t want the “Just do it because you have to do it.” I don’t want her to feel like this is a punishment.

Some things that have worked:
- chocolate cake, ice cream or a dessert at the completion
- reciting the answers aloud (she does different accents)
- using the timer on my iPhone (I would surprise her with different ringtones at intervals)
- sitting with her and doing the same problems and comparing answers
- doing the homework into different rooms, changing up the environment.

I don’t see this as a long term commitment as I’m taking one session at a time. Let’s get through the summer and maybe a month or two in the fall. Yes, she doesn't like it and I probably sound like a mean parent. But, seriously, I used to have to sit with my father at night to review fractions and math problems, all the way until high school calculus. I hated it, but I needed it. I do want her to find the drive herself to want to do it.

I’ve been greatly disappointed that I haven’t found any resources online for Kumon parents. If you have suggestions, please let me know.


Anonymous said...

Try to split her work in 2 halves and work in 2 short sessions. Less is more! I had my 2 children work at 5 minutes per session in the first few years. After that they set their own time and they lasted from addition to calculus. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

What about flash cards? Those are fun and different. it will be like a game. You can use flash cards during dinner, (since you are sitting with her anyway) .....

Not sure what field she will be in, but I know now....I certainly do not, nor did I ever need calculus. I wish I paid more attention when it came to percentages. ("so if I buy this dress for 40% off the retail with an addition 50% off and I have a 15% coupon off your purchase of $100 or more, how much will it be?" that to me is everyday math.)

Indigo B. said...

Well the best part about this is I'm reaching for a calculator less! I'm trying to do more mental calcs than before, which is a good thing.

And, whether you use math or not in every day life doesn't matter - you need it at least for the next 10 years till college. (or in case you go on Jeopardy! and you can respond, 'what is the pythagorean theory, Alex?"

Unknown said...

Kumon worksheets are so much more helpful than flashcards because they employ patterns to link number facts together. Flash cards are like putting a noun with a verb to call it a sentence but it may not have meaning for the speaker to use in conversations. Number facts must have intuitive connections to be useful to recognize patterns in problem solving or in working with fractions to find common denominators, for example. Also, your child may be more proud of her advancement when she returns to school in the fall and has the expreience of greater strength in school. Talk to your instructor or other parents in the waiting room. They always have great support ideas and stories.

Anonymous said...


Indigo B. said...

Ok, then. Are you in the math or the Reading/Spelling one?

Anonymous said...

I am trying to decide if I will put my child in rhe reading program or not. She is behind and I have asked numerour people about different programs to help my child get to the next level. I found out that the way we are taught to speak growing up plays a big part in the way we write and spell. I have found that all these things play a very important role in reading and comprehending what yo read. I hope it be a great success for my child and the only thing you can do is just give it a try. What is bad for someone else, just might be good for you.

Anonymous said...


Chanel said...

This is awesome!

Anonymous said...

I was a student of Kumon of Howell, NJ. The teacher Connie Schmidt was mean and crazy. She did not care about me or other students. I hated going to her center and only went because my parents wanted me to. Finally they realized that Connie Schmidt had psychological issues and got me out. I am a happy camper now.

Aynon said...

The problem with Kumon Math & Reading is that sex scandals have been perpetrated by the Kumon family themselves. So who can blame many of the franchisees for sex crimes?

When my sister first opened a Kumon center in Atlanta the son of the founder of the Kumon Math & Reading company was involved in a major sex scandal with a franchisee Debra Tajiri, who owned two Kumon Math & Reading centers in Manoa and Kailua. She later claimed that Hiroshi Kumon had ruined her life after they had an affair and began asking him for money over a 21-month period beginning in March 2002. An employee of Debra Tajiri, the Kumon franchisee, later allegedly extorted $150,000 from a son of the founder of the Kumon learning method in exchange for 2,000 “compromising” photos. Debra Tajiri and one Sean Yonehiro, whom she hired to work in her centers as an assistant, were later arrested and faced a charge of sending international extortion communications which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Both were arrested after Yonehiro met with an FBI agent posing as Kumon’s attorney at Ala Moana Park and took from him a bag containing what he believed to be $150,000. At the time of the affair, Hiroshi Kumon was Director of Kumon Institute of Education in Japan, the parent company of Kumon North America, one of five regional headquarters worldwide responsible for operations in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

An individual who went by the name “Max Lee” and who had been e-mailing Hiroshi Kumon while he was in Japan threatening to release compromising photos of Hiroshi Kumon if he didn’t pay for them. The complaint does not describe the photos but does say that Lee threatened to release the photos if Kumon also did not send more pornographic pictures of himself. More than five years after their affair, Debra Tajiri (the Kumon franchisee) allegedly began e-mailing Hiroshi Kumon asking for $500,000 to remodel her house, the complaint said. In those e-mails, she allegedly told Kumon that “you have taken a lifestyle from me,” and that she was considering filing a lawsuit. She also accused him of infecting her with a venereal disease and said that he should pay for her medical treatment. Kumon allegedly paid her more than $350,000. Later Debra Tajiri, the Kumon franchisee, allegedly continued asking Kumon for money, saying electricity at her home was shut off and that she could not pay contractors to finish work on her home. Debra Tajiri, the Kumon franchisee, e-mailed Hiroshi Kumon again, saying she needed $550,000 to secure a building contract. When he didn’t respond, she e-mailed him saying her life was “hell” and was over, and asking him why he had not sent money. Investigators learned that the e-mails sent by “Max Lee” came from an account belonging to Debra Tajiri and from her Nipo Street home.

One of three vehicles spotted at Kumon franchisee Debra Tajiri’s residence was a white Ford pickup truck that was later seen at the Hawaii State Library — the first meeting Lee allegedly requested for Kumon’s representative to bring the money. A man was seen walking around the library on that day before leaving in the white truck registered to Yonehiro, who lists a Nipo Street address as his residence.

Anonymous said...

Kumon is not for me or my kids. My solidarity and sympathies go out to all children who have been molested by Kumon teachers at Kumon centers and their parents.

Anonymous said...

We quit Kumon! We didn't want Kumon pedophiles and child molesters at the Kumon learning center touching our children. We don't trust the Kumon tutors so much so as to endanger our children. bye bye

Kristine Aander said...

Most Kumon centers are run by Asian bitches who don't speak English and try sell an English tutoring program. Their math is atrocious and the whole Kumon thing smacks of a big scam. I think it is just a front for pedophiles and child molestors to attract children and them systematically molest and rape them.