When my daughter was two and a half years old, I noticed that she’s become so bored at home and that she’s outgrown our routine of circle time, reading and music. I searched for other ways to stimulate her and my one year son, trying to hit 2 birds with one stone. But soon, I realized that my daughter is really ready for a different learning environment- one that is more structured and planned, unlike the hodgepodge-style learning we do at home (i.e. a little coloring, some reading and music time, building blocks, etc.). So after talking with some mommy friends, I decided to check out our local Kumon center. After meeting with the director, I had a really nice feeling about the place and the center’s commitment to helping young children develop their academic skills.
Coming from a culture where rote learning is appreciated and honed, I was immediately attracted to the program’s goal of teaching through repetition to achieve automaticity. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… What about creativity? As an educator myself, I am always trying to thinking of opportunities to foster learning and creativity but at the same time, I see the value and benefits of a structured learning environment like Kumon as well. So after four months of Kumon, my daughter who is also now in preschool, is talking up a storm and learning to count to 30. Here are five significant things I learned as Kumon mom:
- Practice makes perfect, but it’s a long arduous road. If you’re a Kumon mom, then you’re familiar with the number of worksheets that come home with your child/ren after each session. During the summer, when my daughter started Kumon, this was all the structured activity she had. Sitting down to do the pages and pages of worksheet was not a struggle. In fact, it was so enjoyable that she asked to do it every day. But then school started, and Kumon became an additional activity for her to do. Then doing the worksheets became a bit of a struggle. So I had to think of ways to encourage her to do her worksheets (e.g. doing a page from a sticker activity book after finishing 2 worksheets). I also admit to dreading the voluminous worksheets a few times as well. As a multitasking mom, when work collided with a long stressful day, the last thing you want to do is sit down and do the worksheets with your child. Practice makes perfect, but this takes a lot from both the parent and the child. Kumon is really a team commitment, which leads to # 2.
- Know when to dial back. Like marathon training, I know that each worksheet is designed to reinforce the concepts in math or reading. I love learning so I don’t want to scare my children off from this beautiful thing that’s why I’m constantly checking in with myself/husband if we’re overextending our daughter. After four weeks of intense schedule of adjusting to a new preschool and missing her usual afternoon naps, we decided that it’s best to take a little break from Kumon. So we’re going to take a break so my child can get used to her preschool routine and revisit going back to Kumon in the near future. Perhaps cutting down to one subject instead of doing two would work better for us moving forward. Throughout this process, the center director has been so accommodating and understanding, which I as a first-time Kumon parent really appreciate. I don’t know how long we will persist in Kumon, but learning that I could dial back when things got too intense will prevent us from quitting altogether. I guess, this does also applies to other activities which we will pursue in the future like music, dance, etc.
- To each his own. I thought that when I had my 2nd child, everything would be so much easier since I already had a “formula” which I had learned/figured out from my eldest. This is true to a certain extent. But each child is unique and their needs are different. I quickly realized that my son, did not have his sister’s sustained attention to last a 30 minute Kumon session. Will I send my son to Kumon at 2.5 years old? Definitely not. I probably would not attempt Kumon until he’s 3.5 or 4 or even 5, because I think he would not be able to gain much from the experience anyway when he’s not developmentally ready to learn (and would not enjoy doing so).
- Other Kumon parents are a good resource. In fact, I secretly enjoy the 30-45 minute adult time I have with other Kumon parents (mostly moms) outside the center while waiting for my child during her sessions. This is the time when we moms gather outside to talk about everything- from checking in with our kid’s progress, to learning about what other extra-curricular activities our kids are doing and what make us happy moms (e.g. shows like Scandal and app games like Candy Crush). These social conversations allow me to keep in mind the things that other parents are doing with their kids and also consider other activities that are worthy of exploring someday. Parenting is hard as it is. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I take this time with other parents as a social learning experience- I learn a lot just by listening to their narratives. As a new parent, I am always learning something new. I take these conversations as opportunities of learning discovery and friendship.
- I am deeply invested in my children’s learning. I have seen my daughter’ progress and I admit to wanting to quit Kumon a few times when our schedules got too intense. But I saw the value of her pursuing to learn and there were several moments when this feeling was reaffirmed. One time we passed by the dental office going to the Kumon center. Peering through the glass door, my daughter without batting an eye counted that there were four people in the waiting area. Now I didn’t hear her count out lout to four, nor did we stand there long enough for her to do so. But it was such an immediate reaction that I stood there rooted for a second and realized that this maybe what we’re aiming for, at least at a young age, achieving automaticity in foundational math.