Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What I Think About Kumon Part 2

Well, this is a complex issue, but I'm going to help you sort out whether or not you should do Kumon. 

#1  The practice and mastery is not enforced in school and is necessary to perform in  high school AP (advanced placement) classes (which for the rest of the world are NP - normal placement).

I think people acknowledge that daily reading is important for a child, but this daily practice applies double to math (which is much harder for some), yet who asks their child to pick up a worksheet each day?

#2  The best elementary school math program is University of Chicago's Everyday Math, but kids not in the top 1% to 5% forget how to add and subtract as they go through the curriculum.  It emphasizes conceptual frameworks and deep understanding but sacrifices how-to.  Basically, kids forget how to add and subtract by the 2nd grade.  Thus Kumon as the gap filler.

 #3  In Kumon, the child takes a challenging subject (Math) and starts out struggling with easy problems.  A year or two later, the child can see for himself that he (or she) can now do much harder problems quickly.   All because of the child's own efforts.

That's why I like Math so much.   It's not necessarily what the child wants to do for the rest of his/her life, but it shows the kid that they can master a difficult/baffling/impossible subject on their own.  Later, turn them loose on other topics - science, literature, history, solving poverty, world peace....

#4  No one likes to practice the piano, but everyone likes to play Bach or The Piano Man in concert to rousing applause.   Same for math.

#5  The math standards in this country are abysmal, and I think statistically, most schools fall short.  Then your child gets to upper grades, or high school, and are shocked at how hard things are.

I think Kumon addresses each of these well.

OK, now the darker side.

#1   What's the problem with people?   Why do they have to pay for everything, and who in their right mind is going to outsource parenting?  What ever happened to saving?   People can't even make a cup of coffee anymore.   On this topic, coffee, when did the world decide that it must have gourmet everything?  What ever happened to saving?

#2  Next, discipline.   Do you as a parent have the discipline to turn over the TV and get your whiny complainy child to cry through 15 minutes of math a day?   Because if you do, I guarantee that 3 months later, if you show that you expect this from your child, they will do the work silently without complaining in about 2 or 3 months.

These are the big issues.   In my situation, I have 3 years of graduate math and my wife hates TV.  You on the other hand, may have strengths in different areas and therefore might need a little help in this one.   In this case, I think Kumon might fit the bill.

And for 2 working parents, you only get about 3 minutes of downtime with your kids from the time you get home, make dinner, do school projects, bath, getting ready for bed, and reading to your child.  By the time you get to the worksheet it's 8:00 p.m. and the child is tired.