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If aspirational mom-me of 2008 had met actual mom-me of 2017 she’d be pretty horrified about the whole Kumon thing.

For those unfamiliar, Kumon was created in 1954 in Japan by Toru Kumon, a father who wanted to help his son learn math. The program, which also does reading, involves daily incremental assignments and repetition to reinforce and cement concepts. Kids progress at their own pace. Today there are Kumon franchises in 46 countries around the world.

Pre-kids, the “get ahead tiger mom” association I had with Kumon sort of placed it in the same space as kids whose parents enroll them in classical violin at age 3.

I thought it was the stuff that slowly sucked a kid’s soul dry.

Why would I ever need this?

I would lovingly read with my kids daily.

I would make learning fun!

I would encourage an early love of numeracy.

Like breastfeeding, this stuff happens naturally if you just, like, apply yourself a bit, right?

Breastfeeding just didn’t happen. Three lactation consultants later I accepted defeat and pumped for 10 months for both my kids.

So back here in real life, we’re pretty sure my eldest has an undiagnosed learning disability. We’ve done a barrage of tests and still aren’t sure what the problem actually is.

Her emotional intelligence is off the charts.

But fine motor, reading and concentration?

Those are a challenge.

I’ve written before about the horror show that was the beginning of First Grade for the whole family.

Because Grade One homework?

Is also mom and dad’s homework.

And she simply couldn’t do it.

She was supposed to learn dictation words when she hadn’t yet figured out writing.

She was supposed to blend when the 26 letter sounds weren’t straight yet.

Then she was supposed to read short words when she was only just getting blends.

And suddenly sentences appeared when blends and short words were still a challenge.

And somewhere in there math was also happening.

But not really.

Because she was better at that than reading and writing.

So big picture.

But then that naturally fell further behind in the quest to figure out the reading and writing “thing.”

And that brings us to Kumon.

By spring of last year I’d finally found her a French tutor for the reading and writing.

I then discovered Kumon does math in French.

So both kids started last July and are still going strong.

On the left: My 7-year-olds Kumon homework On the right: My 4-year-olds Kumon homework – early March 2017

My four-year-old basically does it because she is there anyway and, honestly, seems to like it.

The short-term bonus there is she is already performing above level in school for math.

So we switched her to English Reading.

BECAUSE THEY DON’T DO FRENCH READING.

Hey Kumon! There would be a HUGE Canadian market if you did French reading.

As for my eldest, based on a comparison of math grades from this time last year to this year, they’ve gone up a level. I’m hopeful there will be continued progress.

I also think it helps beyond math given Kumon forces students to do a daily homework booklet.

I think the routine – and the forced “sitting down” – helps her learn study habits.

Kumon also works at the students level – regardless where it is – and makes sure they know the subject matter before moving on.

Reviews of Kumon are pretty mixed. However, I’ve been surprised when I raise the issue how many people I know have positive things to say about their experiences. For a few critical reviews and discussions on the subject online, you might try here and here.

As for us and for now, I’m considering putting my eldest in the English Kumon reading this summer to see what that does to boost her overall literacy.

Anyone out there have thoughts on Kumon, or formal children’s tutoring programs in general? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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