Kumon aims for final material. A former Kumon student discusses why she wants her children to aim to complete the final material in primary school.


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I was a Kumon student. I attended Kumon from the fifth grade of primary school until the middle of the first year of junior high school, and quit Kumon in the middle of J (first year of high school) for Japanese and mathematics, and in the middle of G (first year of junior high school) for English.

While Japanese and mathematics became a great asset for my university entrance examinations and for the rest of my life, I was completely unmotivated in English and did not feel that it had any effect on my life. I also feel that if I could have made more progress in Japanese and mathematics, it would have had a great effect.

When we talked about having our child do Kumon, we wondered if it would be possible to have a greater effect on him. My child is about to turn three. I thought that he might have different problems from me, who started in grade 5. And in fact, there seemed to be barriers to continuing with Kumon even before I started.

This time, based on my own experience with Kumon, I came up with a strategy to help my child continue with Kumon.

The Kumon system

The main subjects that Kumon deals with are Japanese, Mathematics and English. In early childhood, the "Zun Zun" handwriting material is added, and there are also some classes that offer French and German as well.

Up to junior high school, the school year is generally structured in the way that "one letter of the alphabet advances one grade". When I was in primary school, one motivation was that if you got through the I material, which was equivalent to the third year of junior high school, by the sixth grade, you were registered as a member of the 'I-League'. Now it seems that if you get through the J material, you can register for something called 'J Friends'.

And if you progress to Q material in Mathematics, and O material in English and Japanese, you will have "completed the final material". After that, there is a university liberal arts course of study, but the final material can be considered as one guide.

Each alphabet contains 200 (some 400) printouts. When the classroom teacher judges that the students have mastered the content of each printout, they can move on to the next material.

Characteristics of Kumon

There are some distinctive features of learning at Kumon, and the following four should be understood.

The Kumon teaching materials are designed to allow students to learn ahead of time, starting with "easy areas" and then "repeated practice" [maths and arithmetic] Figures and sentences are not dealt with in Kumon [Japanese and English] Focus is on reading comprehension, with little emphasis on kanji, English vocabulary and English grammar.

1. materials are practised through repetition, starting with the easy parts.

At Kumon, the basics are thoroughly covered. Whether it is simple addition or factoring, the same range of problems are thoroughly repeated until you can solve them easily with no mistakes. Usually, if you make one or two mistakes or take a long time, you are considered to have 'got it'. The aim is not to 'manage to solve it' but to 'solve it with ease', so from a parent's point of view it looks as if they are repeating easier parts of the work than expected.

(2) Able to learn ahead of time

Kumon does not look at the current school year, but rather at how much ability the child has acquired. Therefore, if the child is progressing well, he or she can study material that is far ahead of the grade level. Therefore, depending on the enthusiasm of the child, he or she may be able to develop skills beyond imagination, while many parents compare their children with those who can be called geniuses and feel impatience and jealousy.

3.[Arithmetic/mathematics] Figures and sentences are not covered in Kumon

Kumon does not deal with figures and sentences. For this reason, some of the subjects studied at elementary and junior high school are not covered in Kumon. On the other hand, the areas studied in high school are covered.

4 [Japanese/English] Focus is on reading comprehension and not so much on Kanji, English vocabulary and English grammar.

Kumon's English and Japanese courses are centred on reading comprehension and do not focus so much on Kanji, English vocabulary and English grammar. The ultimate goal of Kumon's English and Japanese is probably to provide students with exposure to long-text reading comprehension and famous books. For this reason, it is easy to acquire the ability to read long passages at the end of the test, while it is difficult to acquire the ability to solve Kanji and grammar problems at the beginning.

Three timing points when students tend to quit Kumon.

In this area, costs in a broad sense are more or less incurred if you give your child lessons. And there are few processes where you can 'never pay' these costs, and most of the time they will be of the kind that you can pay if you work hard.

So when you lose the reason to work hard, that will be the time to quit the lessons. And there are three times when you are likely to lose the desire to work hard at Kumon

Early childhood - can't you do this much at home? Fourth year of primary schools - Kumon cannot cope with the junior high school entrance examination After entering junior high school - I can't afford to do Kumon.

1. early childhood - Can't I do this at home?

This is a question that arises from Kumon's characteristic: "Kumon materials are used for repetitive practice, starting with the easiest parts".

In Kumon, learning starts from the place where you feel you can "still do it". This is because the level of "I can do it" in Kumon is considerably higher than the standard. So not only is the starting point easy, but even after six months or a year, the child is still endlessly doing material that feels easy from the parent's point of view.

In addition, getting the child to do the prints is quite a challenge. If the child is a toddler, the parent is instructed to do the material with the child, and Kumon has daily homework. As you go through the hard work, you start to wonder if there is any point in going through all this trouble to get them to do such simple things.

For example, in Japanese, you can read the names of animals and vehicles written on the printouts together with your child. For maths, try counting the animals and vehicles together. If it is early childhood, there are materials for handwriting, so draw a line from top to bottom. Even if the child is not doing anything strange at his/her age, it is understandable that the parent may feel tired and wonder why he/she is doing this.

As a result, they quit Kumon. This is a relatively common pattern.

2. fourth grade - Kumon cannot cope with the junior high school entrance examination

This is a problem that arises from the characteristics of Kumon, such as "Kumon does not deal with figures and sentences" and "Kumon focuses on reading comprehension and does not focus much on kanji, English vocabulary and English grammar".

Overall, Kumon seems to be designed with university entrance exams or post-university study in mind. In maths and arithmetic, some of the elementary and junior high school range is skipped, but the entire high school range is covered, and in Japanese and English, what is ultimately required is the ability to read papers. So while they may give you the basic skills required at university, they will not be able to cope with the junior high school entrance examinations.

Therefore, in order to take the junior high school entrance examination, it is necessary to attend a cram school for junior high school entrance examinations separately from Kumon. However, the amount of self-study and the progress of Kumon are directly related, and the amount of homework at the cram school for junior high school entrance examinations is not likely to be enough to allow even one hand to do it. As a result, they quit Kumon and concentrate on the junior high school entrance examination. I think this is one pattern.

In addition, families who understand this trend from the beginning also finish the "F materials (equivalent to grade 6) by grade 3" and switch to junior high school entrance examination cram schools from grade 4. Pre-emptive learning is another characteristic of Kumon, and it is an advantage to have high basic calculation and reading comprehension skills at the time of entering a junior high school entrance cram school. This is one clever way of thinking.

3. after entering junior high school - there is no room for Kumon

Then there is after entering junior high school. I am busy with middle school activities and cannot afford to do Kumon. This is also the reason why I quit Kumon.

In junior high school, club activities start in earnest. Tests are also named "regular tests" and "final tests", and many people prepare for tests more thoroughly than they did in primary school. Relationships also become more complicated, and it is hard to imagine that junior high school would have been easier if you had not taken the junior high school entrance exam.

They are not old enough to listen to their parents, and they become more emotionally unstable. In this case, a great deal of motivation will be required from the student in order to continue with Kumon.

However, the volume zone of Kumon students is primary schools. It may depend on the classroom, but there are few opportunities to see students of junior high school age and above. Add to that the sense of shame and it becomes even more difficult to stay motivated.

The first two quitting times are based on the parent's decision, but this is more likely to be based on the student's own decision.

What conditions make it easier to continue with Kumon?

Based on these 'when to quit Kumon', what stance should you take as a parent?

The first step would be to understand the characteristics of Kumon. Especially in early childhood. By familiarising yourself with the Kumon concept of thoroughly understanding the basics, you can lessen the sense of discomfort you are likely to feel in the early years. I have the impression that children who started Kumon in early childhood and continued until primary schools make rapid progress. Whether or not you think it is worth the effort is the difference between success and failure.

On top of that, the stance towards the junior high school entrance examination is an important issue. It is indeed not easy to hear that a child has finished the final Kumon materials in grade 3 or 4. It would also be difficult to suspend Kumon during the junior high school entrance examination and resume it in junior high school for the reasons mentioned above. The role that Kumon can play changes greatly depending on whether or not students take the junior high school entrance exam. It is important to share this understanding with your partner and children.

Continuation of Kumon in junior high school will be more difficult. Even if Kumon can be continued in the first year of junior high school, the children will have to take high school entrance examinations as they move up through the grades, and they will also become core members in club activities. If they are to be able to continue, they will need to have strong motivation to continue Kumon.

And what motivates children is the results they get. In extreme cases, if a child has only one more alphabet to complete before entering school, he or she will probably be motivated to do his or her best to finish. What is necessary for them to think that way is that they are making progress in Kumon. I think the fact that you are working hard on Kumon is the key to continuity here.

What kind of strategy should you have in place?

In my family, we plan to avoid taking the junior high school entrance exam. Therefore, we can see Kumon as a main line of learning, not as a supplement.

And the secondary school we are likely to attend is likely to focus on study. If there is a lot of homework at school, it will gradually become more and more difficult to continue with Kumon, even if the club activities are not serious.

This is why progress is so important. Just as sports and games are more interesting if you win, Kumon will become more interesting if you can make a lot of progress.

The aim should be to "complete the final material in primary school". This is one goal.

This is an effort goal. You don't actually have to progress to the final material, but ideally you should progress to the point where you can see the final material at that point. Even if the end is not in sight, if the child feels that Kumon is making a positive difference, he or she is more likely to want to move on after entering junior high school.

And in order to move ahead with Kumon, it is advantageous to start learning early and to have Kumon in their lives at an early age. If you understand this, it will be easier to find meaning in Kumon learning at an early age.

Why do you want them to continue with Kumon to such an extent?

This is because of the benefits I have received from Kumon.

I learned Japanese and mathematics from grade 5 and English from grade 1. I think that this is a late age to start Kumon, and it is not a long period of time.

However, the assets I acquired during this period were immeasurable. I was originally a type of person who was "rather fast in calculation but also made many careless mistakes", but with Kumon I became "quite fast and made almost no mistakes". In Japanese, I used to like novels, but I got hooked on critical writing when I read "The Structure of Amae" in the Kumon materials, and I was able to broaden my reading world. Above all, the habit of self-education and the realisation of the assets that can be gained by training the basics have had a great effect on me in my later life.

These abilities are the kind that are difficult to train intentionally, but they can be acquired through Kumon. I am trying to devise ways to continue Kumon so that my children can also acquire these great assets from me, which I believe will add to their lives.


In this article, I have written about our stance towards Kumon at home. After having a good overview of Kumon and its features, I listed the costs of Kumon and the reasons why I would have to quit, and then the goal I considered for continuing Kumon was "completing the final material at primary schools". This is a goal to strive for rather than a goal to achieve, and it is only a roadmap towards that goal, but I think it is not wrong as a direction to aim for.

I hope that they will enjoy Kumon as we work together from now on.