Keeping going with Kumon, even over the summer

We’ve partly started down the home schooling route by way of the Kumon system recently and are just beginning to settle into it.

Basically we started looking around for options to get James’ reading & writing back on track after the mess that was made of it by the French school system. Although he should now be finishing P3 in fact his reading level is around mid P1 level. The school he’s now in have been doing lots of work with him to get him back on track but clearly he needed a bit more than they were resourced to do which is why we’ve ended up with Kumon.

The Kumon system at first sight doesn’t look like it could possibly work. All that’s required is about 10 minutes a day five days a week and two class days of around 30 minutes each per week. How could that possibly get kids from reading though to calculus?

The thing is though that is does work or at least we are already beginning to see improvements in James’ reading and that’s after just a matter of weeks. How come? Well, the “little and often” approach means that there’s very immediate feedback on the child’s work, it’s marked by their parents (thereby reinforcing the importance placed on it by them) and it’s easy so they succeed almost all of the time.

That last aspect is one of the more important ones as it means that the child gets constant praise and there are all kinds of ways that this is shown from the little stickers that they get for each piece of work they return in class through to large prize giving opportunities for completing a level in the system. Now whilst it might sound crazy to have so many reward systems built-in in fact that’s a very important part of the education: if you receive praise you tend to work to get more of it.

Ah, but it would take forever to learn anything if you could only do the easy stuff, wouldn’t it? Although the Kumon system is designed for the long term in fact it doesn’t take that long before children start performing well above the level of their normal classes. For example, starting pretty much from scratch it’s looking likely that James will start on P4 level work early next year and there’s a chance that John won’t be that far behind him by then.

Of course, the question at that point is whether we should continue on with those classes and potentially see him doing P12 work around the time he’s in P5 or P6? Or for that matter what if he were doing A level maths in the early years of secondary school? Much as it might seem ridiculous to think that the 10 minute a day approach would produce results like that I suspect that it might well do.

The other oddity in this is that Kumon is a 365 day a year approach. Those 10 minute lessons continue right through the year, or at least that’s the idea. We’re currently sitting with about an inch of the worksheets taking us through to the end of July and will be getting another consignment before they run out to take us up to September.

Cost-wise it’s an affordable £50 per subject (they only do maths and English) per month which is around the level that you’d be paying for the local private schools. In the short term we’ll be getting double the value from that as John’s been wanting to do “his homework” after James has finished his although we’ll likely formally enroll him this October.

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