My wife runs a Kumon center. This is a supplemental Math and Reading program that starts a child at slightly below her ablity and grandually, through a researched program and some repetition, drills home the concepts in a young mind. As the child becomes comfortable at the level, they proceed to the next granular level. Typically, you will see Kumon students excelling in their school grades as after a year or so they start to do work above their grade level. The program is a self-learning program where there is no tutoring but the instructor is available if the child needs any help.
No statistic is perfect. So you will see that some students not always reach their goals in the program. I started to help out at the center and have noticed a few things. All these basically are keys to success not only at Kumon but also applies to other areas that student gets involved with elsewhere.
Keys to Success
Hard work:. Obvious one. There is not substitute for hard work. The beauty of the Kumon program is that hard work comes about involuntarily i.e., work sheets need to be finished every day. This takes about 20-40 minutes based on how many subject the child is enrolled in (1 or 2). However, unknowingly the child is putting extra effort outside of school in learning and this is hard work.
Committment: Every success takes committment. That is, committment over a longer period of time. If you work hard for 1 or 2 months, then you really don’t get to see the results you aim for. It takes time to get into the groove (the unlearning phase where you do things a tad differnt), some more time to start getting comfortable (the time when the concepts are nailed down in the mind), and then the challenge phase where the child starts to get challenged. Many students and parents want to see results quickly and after 2-3 months, they feel the child is putting time but not seeing differences in their grade. Rama says it takes six months before they start seeing results. The child and the parents need to understand this before they start the program. Else, they are wasting their money (which is surprisingly inexpensive for the efforts spent on the child) and the efforts of the Instructor.
Parents Involvement: A child cannot proceed on his own without the efforts of the parents. The parents are there to provide motivation and help when necessary. Also, the parents are supposed to grade the children’s work at home. This gives the child immediate feedback. A key point. If the the child gets feedback at the center days after doing work, they probably won’t remember well what they did and the feedback is less effective. Thus, the parents are spending efforts and getting involved in their child’s success. Many parents take the involvment seriously. They probably know what it means to achieve success. Some parents are too busy to get involved. They have other things to tackle. Both are fair. However, without involvement in their children’s activities, it is important to note success doesn’t come to the children. A parent is there for a reason. Be prepared to involve yourself in the upbringing of your child. There is no better return on effort that seeing a child grow to his/her potential. No business profits, no stock market returns, no fantastic vacations – nothing, compares to the good deed you did to your child.
Recongnition: As students complete a work book and they get graded, they see two aspects of their work. The score and the timing. The more accurate the score in the standard completion time (SCT) is the better. The child as they finish each workbook, see their own progress. Their SCT is improving and the number of mistakes is decreasing. This is instant gratification and motivation. Also as they finish work at the center, they get stickers which they paste on a chart. Once the chart is complete, they get recognition. One way is as Rama does. They get to pick a prize. What prize (anything small is fine) it is doesn’t matter. I can see the sense of pride in the little children as they jump to the prize stash. Also I see them exclaiming ‘I did it in 12 minutes!’ or ‘There was no mistakes!’. Such positive re-inforcement at a young age is what every child needs.
Honesty: When it comes to grading at home, many parents do a great job. They follow guidelines and grade correctly. This is important as we give the right feedback to the children. Some parents, however don’t grade at all or they grade incorrectly. I have seen parents mark 100% when in fact it isn’t. This will definitely hurt the child’s progress. The child won’t be learning correctly first of all and they will get to a higher level and face more challenging work and they tend to see more mistakes that de-motivates them. Not doing your work well, in this case the parents not grading, is a disservice you are doing to your children.
Integrity: Children are given grading workbooks to use for grading at home. As the level gets higher, the grading books get thicker. These books not only have the problem but also the solution. This has enticed very few parents stopping the program after the child completes the first few worksheets. They are supposed to return the book, but few don’t. This sends a wrong message to the child, definitely not worth teaching.
Success is not easy. But there is no better thing as success. It takes a lot to get there and get there the right way.