Things That Make Me Confused: Kumon Edition

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kumon, oh Kumon. What is Kumon you ask? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Kumon world, let me introduce you to the "coolest" way for a kid to learn, and enhance their math and reading skills. Kumon is a learning center based on a method of teaching that was created by some Japanese man who was disheartened by the fact that his son was struggling in school. Apparently Kumon has been around for about fifty years, although I had never heard of it (or seen anything relating to it) until about five years ago, but anyways. They also have bunches of workbooks available, if for some reason your child feels like doing even more work... for fun. I'm not quite sure when the Kumon bug hit (or if it is this popular in other parts of the country), but around where I am from it is all the rage... and thus this is where I start to get confused. In general, as a concept, Kumon makes a lot of sense... and I am pretty sure it probably works too. Kids even get excited to learn, as they are rewarded for every aspect of their progress with stickers, trophies, and prizes. However, around here Kumon is not exactly used to help improve your child's skills, it is really used more as a tool to catapult you into the cool category. If your child is in Kumon you are somehow a parent God, belonging to some strange group of "cool" parents. Parents seem to be jumping on this bandwagon not because their child is having math or reading issues, but because they want their child to be better than their friend's and neighbor's children. Kumon is popular for all the WRONG reasons, and it is like a cult... I kid you not. It starts when you join, and you are immediately welcomed into the club with the above pictured Kumon box (designed to hold all of your daily Kumon work). This box will stay with you for the rest of your Kumon life... or until you reach the much coveted level G (the levels go through the alphabet starting with A, and if you get to G you are on your way to genius-hood) when you will be presented with a blue and silver box so that you can then brag to all your Kumon buddies. As a child in the program you will be forced to do daily pages of work so that you will get the basic ideas of math and reading drilled into your head. You will hate being forced to do extra work on top of your school homework, and in the end you will become resentful of your parents (while I can't prove this I am pretty sure it will happen). The thing is, you will then become so good at your math and reading that you will outsmart all the other non-Kumon kids in your class, and then what is your teacher to do when you are in the 5th grade, but you are on highschool level math. Seriously, our school systems can't be that bad that it would warrant such a big surge in Kumon goers simply because no one is learning how to read and do math. I get it, if you are struggling in these fields, which many are, then Kumon WOULD be a great way to help your child grasp these concepts. But what many need to realize is that by applying to the cultish version of Kumon you are creating a child SO good at their math and reading skills that the child then becomes oddly displaced. The child becomes too advanced to be helped by their teachers (and often times their parents as well) and is so far ahead that they probably aren't getting too much out of their schooling either. Sure, I bet it is pretty exciting to be able to say that you are 10 and doing algebraic expressions, but honestly how much of it are you actually grasping due to the fact that this skill relates to NOTHING in your daily life at home or at school. OK well now that I have gone off on this subject (and could for a lot longer it appears), I seem to have forgotten what my actual point was in blogging about Kumon, so I will simply leave you with an apology... for boring you to death with my ranting (thanks for reading though)!