17 characteristics of Kumon Learn about the world of the Kumon Method, which has a unique presence in modern examinations.


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There are various cram schools and correspondence materials available today, and some parents who want their children to study and are considering various other learning options in addition to Kumon. Among them, many people may not know what characteristics Kumon has and what kind of purpose people should attend Kumon.

In this article, I would like to thoroughly list both the good and bad features of Kumon, and then explain what makes Kumon a good choice.

Purpose of attending Kumon

There are many factors that can be cited as the purpose of sending children to Kumon, but here we will explain the characteristics of Kumon in three main categories.

Kumon allows students to learn at their own pace without competing with others.

The first characteristic of Kumon is that it does not put too much pressure on either the parents or the children, allowing them to progress at their own pace.

Low hurdles to enrol

The hurdles to enrol in Kumon are very low.

Kumon schools are located all over the country, and as of 2021 there will be 15,800 Kumon schools. This is almost the same number of classrooms as the number of FamilyMart shops. This shows how many Kumon schools there are. If there are so many that they can be compared to convenience stores, the probability that there is a Kumon school in an easily accessible location is also quite high.

The age range is also wide: there are Kumon classes for babies called Baby Kumon, where children as young as 0 years old can attend, and there are Kumon materials for middle and high school students who can continue their studies.

There is no entrance test. Whether the child is the best in the class or the worst at studying, the learning starts from a place that is somewhat easy according to the current ability. Because it is not a simultaneous class, there is no blame if progress is too fast or too slow.

The students are of different ages and abilities, so there is no common goal for all of them. If I had to say so, I would say that the aim is to develop the abilities of each individual. Even if you don't have a strong sense of purpose, you can start Kumon with the idea of sending your child to Kumon for the time being.

It can be said that the low starting hurdle in all aspects is a major characteristic of Kumon.

You can study up to high school graduation at your own pace.

Progress is not tied to an examination schedule. You can progress through the material at your own pace, and when you have a deeper understanding, you can move on to the next material. There is no deadline by which you have to master the material, so you can take your time in the areas you are weak in, and you can progress rapidly in the areas you are good at.

The Kumon materials continue until the equivalent of high school graduation. If you wish, you can even advance to the level of a university education course. You can progress at your own pace from a young age, or, conversely, you can consolidate the basics from the point where you are no longer able to keep up with school lessons.

The ability to progress according to the level of understanding is an attractive factor for many people.

Some children enjoy progressing through the material.

Because they can progress at their own pace, their progress is proportional to their own efforts. It is a great encouragement for children to receive results for their efforts, although it depends on their personalities.

Kumon has a system in which the progress of the material is shown in alphabetical and numerical form, making it easy for the child to see how far he or she has progressed. And as they move on, they may find more difficult problems, which can be as much fun as an RPG.

The freedom of self-learning and the moderate pressure of a Kumon teacher are compatible.

When deciding on a cram school or correspondence course, a major factor will be the child's motivation. No matter how proven the learning method is, if it does not match the child's personality, it is unlikely that his or her grades will improve.

A competitive child will be more suitable for a cram school, while a child who is interested in studying on his or her own will be more suited to a correspondence course. Kumon is characterised by the freedom of self-learning, but with the moderate pressure of submitting homework to the teacher.

There is pressure to submit homework to the teacher.

A key point in terms of learning style is the requirement to submit homework.

With correspondence materials, there is no pressure on the child to study if the parent does not say anything. There will be no stress, but there may not be much motivation to do homework. I have also started Shinkenzemi three times, but after about two months, I left it without doing homework.

On the other hand, with cram schools, the pressure on children increases in proportion to their enthusiasm for the examinations. At a cram school for junior high school entrance examinations, children are told that not only their class, but even their seat, is determined according to their test ranking. It would be ideal if the competitive spirit would make the child more enthusiastic about learning, but in reality, the child may become depressed, or on the other hand, the parents may become impatient because they are not interested in the competition.

Kumon combines the best of both worlds in terms of pressure. Because the basis of Kumon is self-study, it is difficult to create the pressure of competition. However, because homework has to be submitted to the teacher, there is pressure to do the homework every day. Only the pressure of the learning itself is applied, so the learning process is as stress-free as necessary.

You can learn to be self-directed.

Surprisingly, you don't have the opportunity to realise the importance of continuing to do it every day in your school life. There may be opportunities to think that homework is hard work, but few people feel that the homework piles up.

Kumon gives homework in the form of a number of pieces each day. If you have done Kumon, you know that the weight of the prints after skipping a day is quite heavy. This is simply because you have to do two days' worth of printouts. You can directly feel the payback for skipping the day.

Especially at an age when you don't have exams in mind, it is difficult to keep studying steadily with an eye on the future. No one can realise what is wrong with slacking off for the day when there is no purpose to study. However, Kumon still has no clear goal, but if you skip your homework today, you will have a hard time tomorrow. Another feature of Kumon is that you can realise the importance of continuing to study on your own every day and develop the habit of self-study in a more concrete way.

Thorough development of basic skills

So far, we have described the characteristics of Kumon in terms of motivation. The fact that children do not feel the pressure of competition greatly reduces the impatience of the parents as well as the children themselves. And yet, because there is a teacher to whom the homework is submitted, it also creates a feeling of having to do the homework.

The next aspect we will touch on is the actual skills that are acquired.

Both accuracy and speed can be acquired.

Kumon is characterised by its thoroughness in the basics.

The printouts are in five-page sheets with two sides. The system is such that if you can answer almost all of the questions correctly within the time limit, you can move on to the next one. There is no stopwatch beside you to measure the time, and parents are not informed of the approximate time, but you do not move on until you can solve the problems quickly and accurately.

The practice does not stop at understanding the formula and being able to solve the problem, but is repeated until the problem is solved quickly and accurately. The greatest feature of Kumon is that the fundamentals can be acquired thoroughly.

Become able to calculate and read quickly and accurately

The fundamentals that Kumon thoroughly covers are reading and calculation.

Reading and calculation alone may not be enough to get a mark in an examination. This is because there are many things you have to memorise in exams.

However, the higher you aim in exams, the more reading and calculation become a bottleneck. Reading and calculation are the basis of all subjects, but they are not easy to master at a high level. Without training, it is not possible for anyone to easily read ancient texts or critical texts or easily solve calculus problems. Even in science and social studies, it takes a great deal of reading comprehension skills to read and understand the questions at the junior high school entrance examination stage.

Learning the basics at a high level is not easy and takes a long time. It is not something that can be acquired quickly by working hard just before an examination, and few people can recognise that the problem lies in the fundamentals when their performance is sluggish.

Reading comprehension and calculation skills are often treated as groundwork, so being able to develop these skills will be of great significance later on.

Able to learn ahead of time

Progress in Kumon is determined by the level of understanding, not the current grade. Therefore, if you can solve problems quickly and accurately, you will be able to progress far ahead of what you learn in the current grade.

If you continue with Kumon for a long time, you can learn content two grades ahead of the current grade. If you are motivated, the ability to move on to the next three or four grades will be a big attraction. In my family, we also aim to complete the final material in primary school.

Kumon aims for the final material. A former Kumon student talks about why she wants her children to aim to complete the final material in primary school There is certainly the idea that it is no use learning factorisation in primary school. This is because there are no problems with factorisation in primary schools.

On the other hand, learning ahead of time is effective when viewed over a long span of time. Recently, integrated junior and senior high schools have shown great effectiveness in preparing students for university entrance examinations, partly because they do not have to devote energy to the high school entrance examinations and can therefore finish the high school learning process earlier. While students in other junior high schools are preparing for the entrance examinations, students in integrated junior and senior high schools are able to progress with their high school studies, so that by the time they are in their second year of high school, they have completed the entire study process and can focus on preparing for the university entrance examinations in the last year of their studies.

The same is true for Kumon's pre-school studies. By studying ahead of time, resources can be diverted to other subjects when studying for exams.

Patterns in which Kumon does not work well

We have listed the strengths of Kumon, but the good and bad sides of things are two sides of the same coin. What are the negative effects of Kumon's characteristics?

Wide variation in quality from classroom to classroom

As mentioned earlier, there are so many Kumon schools that they can be compared to convenience stores. Furthermore, to become a Kumon teacher, you do not need teaching experience or a teaching licence. And it is not unusual for there to be only one teacher in one classroom, which can easily lead to differences between classrooms.

The content of the material and the way of teaching is fixed, and because of the self-learning process, there are not many differences in this respect. However, differences in classroom atmosphere can be surprising.

Sometimes there are too many students for the teacher.

Kumon may have only one teacher per classroom. There are no classes, and the main tasks of the teacher are grading and handing in homework while the classroom is empty. They simply wait while students solve problems, but unlike teachers who teach classes, the more students they have, the busier the classroom becomes.

Also, the time of day when students come to the classroom is fixed to a certain extent. Many students come to Kumon classes directly after finishing primary school. If this happens, a classroom with many primary school students and only one teacher may be completely over capacity at certain times of the day.

No matter how much self-study you do, there are still times when you want to ask questions when you have just started a new unit. If the teacher is full up with grading, there is no chance to ask questions and you have to keep thinking on your own. This can lead to frustration for parents, no matter how excellent the materials are.

In some areas and classrooms, it's like schoolchildren

The hurdles to joining Kumon are low. There is no entrance test and membership fees are not outstandingly high. When this has a positive effect, it is a plus for continuous learning, but when it has a negative effect, the classroom becomes like a place where children are kept.

Kumon not only has low barriers to enrolment, but also makes it easy for children to attend classes on their own. Because of the number of classes, there are often classes within walking distance of the child, and there are no time restrictions, so there is no need to pick up the child.

From a different perspective, this means that even parents who want their children to stay with them while they are working, rather than just having them study, can also leave their children with them.

Some may argue that Kumon is self-learning and that this is fine. However, if parents do not expect their children to study in Kumon, this attitude will naturally be passed on to the children. If there are some children who do not take their studies seriously and make a fuss with their friends, the motivation of the children who attend the classes will be greatly reduced.

These days, more and more parents want their children to attend private schools from primary and secondary school. This is because there is selection by examination, which greatly reduces the probability of problem children or monster parents being in the same class. However, because the bar for enrolment is low at Kumon, there is still a possibility that problematic people are enrolled.

Solution: trial classes should be used.

To avoid these problems, it is advisable to make good use of trial classes.

When attending a trial class, try as much as possible to visit the classroom at the same time as after the main enrolment. You should also bear in mind that during long holidays, the time of day when people come to the classroom will also change.

If possible, ask the teacher what time of day is less crowded. The teacher will not dare to ask you to come at a time when the teaching will be less busy. In addition, whether the classroom is run by a single person or whether they employ part-time teachers is also helpful in choosing a classroom.

If you know a child who attends a school you want them to attend, it is important to hear from them. It may be difficult to tell from a trial class if there are noisy children or if the atmosphere is bad.

The fact that there are differences between classrooms is no different for any school, but the differences definitely tend to be greater for Kumon. You can reduce the risk of missing out by getting information about the school from multiple angles.

Teaching materials are orthodox

The Kumon teaching materials repeat basic training. Rather than being designed to be enjoyable, Kumon materials are designed to be enjoyable through repetition and practice.

Although orthodox materials provide generic skills, they also have some disadvantages.

There are many similar materials available.

The orthodox nature of the materials means that they are easily substitutable.

It does not mean that the Kumon system itself can be substituted. It is Kumon's originality to emphasise the basics and to thoroughly repeat the basics according to the current level of understanding. However, it is also true that if you cut out certain parts of the teaching materials, there are many similar materials.

For example, when it comes to addition and subtraction materials, there are plenty of materials that are not different from cram schools and correspondence materials, as well as commercially available reference books. Since teachers do not give lessons, there are many aspects of teaching that parents can do themselves, at least as long as the units are within the scope of what parents can do.

It is conceivable that it is difficult to see a reason to stick with Kumon when there are so many similar teaching materials available.

Homework can be a burden

Kumon assigns homework on the premise that you have to do a set number of printouts every day. Even if there is no pressure in terms of competition with others, there is definitely pressure to do the homework.

Students can accumulate homework or skip it, which can be a painful experience, but they also acquire the habit of self-study. Naturally, however, there will be times when homework is greatly stressed in the process.

As there is no competition, it is entirely up to you to do your homework and skip it. There is no ingenious way to overcome the hassle of studying. There are many materials that make studying fun through competition and gamification, which tend to make studying feel like a chore directly in comparison.

Tendency to simple tasks.

Kumon emphasises the basics and thorough repetition. It tends to be more like simple work than creative work to solve problems.

The lack of interest in basic practice is common not only in study but in all fields. No one would deny the importance of basic practice, but no one would join a baseball or football team for muscle training or running.

Studying can be interesting if it satisfies curiosity. However, Kumon questions are not designed to be intellectually interesting. Some children, especially those with intellectual curiosity, may find Kumon a tedious, simple task.

Countermeasure: Recognise that Kumon is not about 'special things', but about thoroughness in things that are taken for granted.

When you look at the Kumon materials and the child, it is unlikely that you will think that this can only be done with Kumon. The less advanced the Kumon materials are and the longer you have not been doing Kumon, the stronger this feeling will be. This is because what Kumon does is to continue basic learning in an orthodox way. Even parents can do the same thing, if only with their own children, without any special teaching experience.

However, it can be very difficult to repeat this thoroughly up to high school graduation level, while adapting it to your own child's level of understanding. When a child is able to add, if they are able to solve problems slowly with 90% of the problems, they would normally be inclined to at least let them subtract. If there is a sloppy day, it is easy to think about taking a break from learning for a day or so. Such a little slack is not something that should be allowed in terms of building a solid foundation. If you make a mistake in 10% of addition, you are bound to make a mistake somewhere in a factoring problem, and if you are not fast, you will not be able to cope with entrance examinations with strict time limits.

The same is true in terms of fun. There are many teaching materials and apps that make kanji and calculation fun. However, materials designed to make learning fun become less and less common as the school year progresses. Many well-known reference books for university entrance examinations end up being all text. Instead of making children study by cheating the difficulty of studying with ingenuity on the part of adults, children themselves have to learn somewhere how to keep their spirits up to continue learning despite the difficulty of studying. Kumon's self-learning and daily homework assignments give the child the opportunity to do so.

Kumon materials are not specific to any examinations.

Kumon materials are designed to develop basic skills, but they are not aimed at any specific examinations. You simply develop the basics at your own pace. While concentrating on learning the basics can have a great effect, there are also situations in which Kumon is not suitable.

Specialised cram schools are good if you have a clear objective

If you have a clear exam to aim for, there are better options than Kumon.

A typical example would be the junior high school entrance examination. In junior high school examinations, you need to acquire not only the basics but also comprehensive academic skills, including application, to get a good score at the time of the examination. What you learn in Kumon is the basics of the fundamentals. If you are learning ahead of time, you may end up ahead of the scope of the junior high school entrance examination. If you want to take the junior high school entrance examination, Kumon cannot cope with this.

Some examinations, such as TOEIC and Eiken, are more compatible than others. However, it would still be more efficient to buy specialised textbooks.

Too much advance learning makes school lessons boring.

Kumon progresses according to the level of understanding, regardless of the school lessons. This is a great advantage in deepening understanding, but it is true that there will be a difference between what you are doing in school and what you learn in Kumon.

This is not such a problem when school lessons progress quickly and Kumon is used to catch up. However, if Kumon is far ahead of the school lessons, the school lessons may seem boring.

A similar problem occurs in junior high school entrance exam cram schools. The questions for the junior high school entrance exam are far more difficult than those for the primary school test, so school lessons are perceived as too easy. It may be the case that everything learned in school lessons has already been learned in cram school.

However, in school lessons it is not necessarily important to understand the content of the lessons. The attitude to study itself is important. Even if you are able to learn ahead of time at cram school now, it becomes more difficult to learn ahead of time as you progress to high school and university. When you reach a level where you can no longer study ahead of your classmates, you may find that you lack the ability to understand what you hear for the first time in class.

Even if they don't get that far ahead, they are not encouraged to disrupt the harmony of the group because of their ability to learn. There is a possible risk of children inadvertently antagonising those around them.

As the school year progresses, there is an increased inability to continue attending.

Kumon trains the fundamentals. The basics are important, but they are not urgent and must be mastered before tomorrow's quiz.

And because it is less urgent, Kumon can easily be put on the back burner as life gets busier.

As children move up through the grades, they get busier. Studying becomes more difficult, they have more friends to play with, club activities and new lessons to learn. Time and energy are finite, so there will be a limit at some point.

There are regular exams, and you cannot simply quit club activities. The level of difficulty in relationships will continue to increase. In this situation, it becomes increasingly difficult to make the choice to continue doing Kumon. Even if you can do your best to get your child to go to a cram school for entrance exams, Kumon is an easy candidate to quit if it seems too difficult for your child.

Junior high school entrance exams are another reason to quit Kumon. It is difficult to cope with the junior high school entrance examination with Kumon alone, and it is necessary to switch to an entrance examination cram school in the upper grades. It is difficult to use Kumon together with cram school for entrance examinations, so if you want to take the junior high school entrance examination, you will have to quit Kumon.

It is common in Kumon that the circumstances in which you have to quit increase as the grade increases.

Countermeasure: Ensure a longer period of time when you can "afford to continue with Kumon".

Kumon does not have time-limited goals. There is no difference in the importance of the basics, but it is also true that urgent = time-limited events are more likely to be prioritised.

However, which should be focused on, the urgent or the important?

What parents can do is to start Kumon in the early years when there is less urgency and not put too much pressure on their children. The time spent on the basics will always pay off in a big way later on.

If you continue with Kumon over a long period of time, you will often find that you are more or less ahead of the curve. At this point, it is important not to forget that Kumon is only the foundation. Foundations are important, but they are not enough. By sharing with your child the correct understanding that basics alone are not enough, you may be able to prevent a situation where school lessons are disregarded and antagonised by others.

What is the position of Kumon?

Kumon allows students to progress at their own pace due to the low barriers to entry, the almost complete lack of competition and the fact that learning itself is enjoyable. Although it is based on self-learning, there is a good amount of pressure to submit homework to the teacher, which helps to develop the habit of self-learning. In addition, students learn the basics of all calculations - reading and calculating - at a high level of both speed and accuracy, allowing them to progress beyond the current grade level.

However, the large number of classrooms, many of which are privately run, means that quality can vary. The materials are designed to be self-learning, so there is little direct impact on learning, but the atmosphere in the classroom can be poor. This is a problem that can be avoided to some extent by making use of trial classes and discussing it with the teacher beforehand.

Another point is that the teaching materials are orthodox. The materials tend to be simple tasks as the basics are thoroughly covered, and there is a lack of ingenuity in terms of making the materials enjoyable compared to other materials. However, learning by cheating with fun is only temporary. Eventually, children need to establish their own stance on understanding and learning itself, and Kumon gives them the opportunity to do so.

Kumon is also not exam-specific, and is a learning activity that can easily be put down as a priority in some way. If there is an exam, it is naturally important to concentrate on the exam. On the other hand, if Kumon can be continued for a long time, significant long-term benefits can be expected. It can be said that parents can do what they can to prepare their children for as much time as possible to afford to do Kumon, while considering the long-term policy of their child's education.

Overall, Kumon is a learning system where parental attitudes are very important. While there is no doubt that it will help the child, the results of Kumon must be seen in the long term. Parents also need to be patient and have a strategy to give their children enough time to continue with Kumon.

However, it is not difficult to enrol a child in Kumon, and there are also measures in place to ensure that the child does not stumble out of the blue.

Start with a casual approach, continue for a long time, and you will get a big return in the end. If you start Kumon with this attitude, the Kumon Method will surely meet your expectations.