How is Kumon Different Than Tutoring?
It’s an experience many parents dread. Your child comes home, runs to their room, and slams the door. When you finally coax them out, you can tell they’ve been crying. They reluctantly pull a few sheets of paper, stapled together and slightly crumpled, out of their backpack. On top, circled, is a bright, bold, and red letter “F”. You knew they were having some trouble with math homework lately, but you didn’t realize how much they were struggling. Should you call a tutor?
This isn’t an uncommon situation for families. Your child comes home with a bad grade on a report card or test, and you don’t know how to help them. Tutoring is an option, but it may not solve the real root of the problem.
Toru Kumon was in a similar situation when he created the Kumon Method. His son, Takeshi, brought home a poor grade on a test and Toru decided to help. The math teacher knew that if he wanted his son to excel, he had to give him the skills to tackle any problem, not just the equations he would see on his next test. He set out to create a program where his son would learn how to learn – and tackle mathematics all the way through calculus in the process.
What is Kumon?
Kumon is an after-school math and reading program designed for students ages preschool through high school. The Kumon Instructor designs an individualized worksheet-based lesson plan that students complete at their own pace. As they progress independently, they will fill any gaps in their learning and can even advance beyond grade level. The Kumon Program will ensure they build a foundation in both math and reading while allowing them to develop the ability to learn on their own.
How is Kumon different than tutoring?
Kumon differs from tutoring in several key ways. If you’re looking for after-school tutoring, you may find that Kumon fits your needs better.
How does Kumon work? By fixing the root of the problem.
Every Kumon Student starts by taking a placement test. The test places each student at a “just right” level that is comfortable, even easy, for them. The comfortable starting point lets the child learn how Kumon works while building study skills. They then progress step-by-step, learning math or reading incrementally, ensuring that no concepts are skipped. While two students may begin at the same level on the same day, their workload will vary as their pace and abilities differ.
A student struggling with long division, for example, may conceptually understand the process of how to divide. But if they never learned to subtract properly, they’ll end up with the wrong answer. Math and reading skills build on one another, and gaps in learning compound as the topics get more difficult. Kumon ensures that these gaps are filled so that a student who is learning factorization isn’t hampered by poor division skills.
Confidence is Key
Kumon Students don’t just learn math or reading. They learn how to learn. Students begin at a comfortable starting point for a reason. In early levels, they build focus and speed, as they work to complete worksheets quickly and without stopping. They develop confidence, as they see that they can achieve 100% in a subject that may have always been difficult for them. And they learn the importance of consistency, as they experience small improvements from daily practice.
As kids progress in the program, they encounter more challenging material. They might get stuck on a particularly tough long division or fraction problem. While their Instructor will help guide them, the child will ultimately figure it out on their own. The feeling of success that comes with solving a hard problem by yourself is incredible. Eventually, your child will start to become more confident as they realize they can overcome any challenge with enough effort.
When parents look for a tutoring solution, they typically are hoping for quick results. But what happens after your sessions run out or after your child takes their test? They may have learned how to add fractions, but when they struggle with a new concept, they may need to find another tutor.
In Kumon, the goal is for students to study above grade level once they have filled the gaps in their learning. When students go beyond grade level in Kumon, they learn how to use clues to figure out a solution. Studying worksheet examples or breaking down how they solved previous problems may be just what they needed. They truly learn how to overcome challenges and develop determination.
Because Kumon Students move at their own pace, they can advance as quickly or slowly through the program as they need. Advanced students often find that school becomes easy, allowing them to complete homework in less time. This frees up their time to pursue extracurricular activities like music and sports. They also begin to excel in their other classes, as they have more time to dedicate to them, and can tackle challenging problems with ease. The potential of a Kumon Student is unlimited!
When to Consider Tutoring
Kumon isn’t always the answer. You may want to consider a tutor instead if you have limited time. Does your child have a test in a couple of weeks that they need to pass? It may be worth it to go to a tutor who can help them tackle the specific topic they’re struggling with in time for the exam. Similarly, while Kumon will help your child develop the skills necessary to succeed on any standardized test, the program isn’t tailored to any specific exam. If you’re looking for tips and tricks and to excel on the SATs, for example, a test prep course may be a better option.
Kumon isn’t a quick fix. It takes time, effort, and dedication. But the results are worth it. By studying just a little bit every day, your child can develop the skills that will help them ace not just their next test, but the exam after that, and the class after that. Why put a bucket under a leaky ceiling if you can fix the pipe?