How to Help Your Early Learner with Kumon
You’ve enrolled your early learner in the Kumon Program – what a wonderful journey you have embarked upon! Young children love to learn and are naturally curious. As you may have already seen, young learners naturally focus on what interests them. Your Kumon Instructor has the privilege of developing your child as a lifelong learner, but there are also ways that you can support your child at home.
Here are tips to help your early learner with Kumon if they struggle with things like starting, focusing on, and completing their worksheets.
Set up an appropriate workspace
Desk height is an important, though often overlooked, consideration. As most early learners are still developing pencil skills, it is important to keep in mind that the ideal desk height is just below the child’s sternum. This will allow the elbows to rest against their body, rather than resting on the desk spread open. When the elbows are planted on the table, the writing wrist naturally comes up to make movements possible. This can lead to students adopting a wrap-around pencil grip (more common among left-handed students), with which it may take longer to develop pencil control.
At home, students might be working at either the dining table or kitchen counter, which is often too high for them. Students developing pencil skills should have a child‑sized table and chair at home. This can allow them to work with a proper writing posture.
Keep an eye on their writing skills
With some students, great differences can exist between their ability to read and their ability to write. The pencil skills worksheets can be a fun way for students to practice their writing and develop their fine motor skills. Since it is preferable for the wrist of the writing hand to be resting on the page, try to ensure that the elbow is not planted on the table. It should be able to move freely, especially when doing Level Z worksheets.
Here is a graphic showing the progression of movement when writing, from the initial use of their shoulder, the most basic movement when starting to refine motor development, to dexterous use of their fingers, which is a fine-tuned skill indicative of more precise motor skill development.
Ensure they’re using the proper writing utensil
When using a pencil with the paper worksheets or a stylus with Kumon Connect (digital worksheets), students should use a writing utensil that is appropriate for their hand size. The triangular Kumon “6B” pencil is a wider and shorter writing implement. This is perfect for students who have never held a pencil before or are learning the correct pencil grip. The lead is softer, allowing for easier marks and less need for pressure, as that is still developing. For very small hands, even the 6B pencil might be too long for students to hold comfortably, so consider the length of the pencil. The lightweight feel of the 6B pencil will allow for fluid movement while controlling pencil turns and making complete stops.
It is not recommended that young students with undeveloped dexterity use a traditional #2 HB yellow pencil. For those students using a stylus, there are pencil grips that widen the utensil to allow for a more comfortable grip by smaller hands.
Give only one task, one expectation
Have you ever felt overwhelmed when you have a project and there are many tasks, with many expectations? With young children, it needs to be simple at least to start. When they sit down to do their Kumon, think of one thing you want your child to do that day. They can practice that one thing over multiple days (or weeks). When you switch tasks/expectations, remember to still focus on just one.
For example, a student may be new to writing their name and the letters introduced in the daily Kumon packet. Instead of correcting the student on how they form all the letters in their name or correcting stroke order on every letter on every page (which can be very demotivating), focus on one task. It could be writing the letter ‘b’ with the correct stroke order from the dot to the star, or in math, writing an ‘8’ without lifting their pencil as per the arrows on the worksheet.
Set a Kumon time, but be flexible
Now that you have a Kumon space, with an appropriate-sized desk, and the proper writing utensil, you can set a Kumon “time.” It should be a time when your child is well-rested, not hungry, and has enough uninterrupted time to complete the worksheets. This could be any time of day that works best for you and your child. If they are consistently fighting you to do the work, consider an adjustment in their Kumon “time”.
However, it is also important to be flexible. Aren’t there days where you’re not motivated to do something in the morning, but find you have the energy and motivation to do it in the evening? Children are the same way. If you normally do Kumon in the morning but one morning you oversleep and are rushing, or if your child wakes up on the “wrong side” of the bed, it might be better to do Kumon later in the day on that particular day.
Talk to your Instructor about the aim of each level
Each Kumon level has aims that are associated with it. For example, one of the aims of Reading level 7A is to repeat words, phrases, and short sentences. Because the aim is to have students repeat, you will want to try model reading to your child. If this is not possible, you can use the supplementary CD. On Kumon Connect, students can press the speaker icon at the top of the worksheet to have the worksheet read to them. The words are read from left to right and top to bottom to mimic the reading direction in the English language. You can have your child repeat one word at a time, two words at a time, or four words at a time – it should be individualized to their ability. Try to maintain a consistent pace when model reading to your child.
In Reading 7A, students should not be made to sound out the words. The task should be to simply repeat after you. If they are having trouble repeating, you can use the “I say, we say, you say” method. This means that you say the word first for your child to hear, then you both say it together (which will support them if they are shy or if the word is new) and then they can say it by themselves. Eventually, you can move to “I say, you say” which eliminates saying it together, meaning that your child is now comfortable hearing the word and immediately repeating it after you. Additionally, the lower-level worksheets contain footnotes with an “Attention Parents” byline (pictured).
Be sure to read these instructions when working to help your early learner with Kumon at home.
Realize that repetition may be necessary, and even welcome
Repetition of the lower-level worksheets serves several purposes. Besides exposing your child to content that may be new to them, it can also help to develop their focus and maintain their motivation. Young students can enjoy the familiarity that comes with doing something they already know. If your child gets the same worksheet packet several days in a row, the worksheets will become familiar, allowing them to develop an “I can do it!” attitude. They will be more confident in completing them on their own, or at least with minimal support.
As students develop their independence, concentration, stamina, and routine of doing Kumon, little by little these small attainable goals can build to larger goals. This could include entering the centre independently, separating and previewing their pages, writing their name (when they are able), and starting the work without guidance or prompting.
Celebrate the “wins”, no matter how small
If your child was not able to sit down for even 1 minute before starting Kumon, and now, after one month (or several) they can sit for 10 minutes to do their Kumon work, that’s a huge win! You are starting to see tangible changes in your child that will grow and set them up for success. When you praise them, remember to be specific. “I like how you were able to sit for 10 minutes today!” “I love how you remembered to hold your pencil properly while working this afternoon.” Your genuine and well-timed praise is an important part of tapping into the potential of your child and helping them develop a lifelong love of learning.