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This question is similar to Worried that Kumon tutoring is not working for our daughter - but different enough that the answers there don't adequately cover my problem (this is about English rather then maths, my son has never enjoyed it and is constantly being pressured to continue)

My 7 year old son goes to a good school and has slightly above average grades. but the teachers almost certainly don't realise the amount of private lessons he is taking to augment his learning. It is quite probable that without these extra lessons he would fall towards the bottom of the class.

Other possibly relevant information - My son loves reading. My son speaks English natively, and we live in an English speaking country. My spouse and other family members do not speak English natively - English is not typically spoken at home except by/for me.

The biggest problem is Kumon English lessons which he hates (and has hated for the 2 years he has been doing it) It is always a struggle to get him to do it - to the point I feel its breaking up our family. No amount of incentives can get him to focus on it. My spouse - and her community (of rich parents of the same ethnicity) is, however, insistent that my son needs to continue with Kumon.

Sitting down with him over the last few days to try do it with him, I discovered that it is extremely repetitive. I don't have a background in education and repeating the identical questions multiple times does not make a lot of sense to me - and sadly, my son does not seem good at remembering previous answers.

So My questions -

  • Is it actually beneficial to force my son to continue to do Kumon ?
  • Would replacing Kumon with reading books have a similar benefit ?
  • Are there other programs which take a different approach which may be easier and as beneficial to my son ?
  • 3
    There are a few infos that would make an answer easier: Age of your son, not exactly but if he is under 12, under 8, between 12 and 14 or 14 to 18. How are his communication skills at the moment, does he understand people around him in a way a normal native speaker does. Why isn't your spouse using English for communication, if she wants your son to learn it. And what is the goal that your son should achieve by learning more English. – Etaila Jan 6 '17 at 11:44
  • Also does it have to be Kumon? My daughter also did not like it and we switched to another tutoring centre -- ours is Sylvan, but I think it matters to match teaching style to learning style and most of the services have a specific way of doing it. Perhaps it is also the tutor. If he doesn't like the teacher, it's an uphill battle. – WRX Jan 6 '17 at 12:54
  • Why did you start him on Kumon to start with? – WRX Jan 6 '17 at 18:30
  • @Etailia - thank you - I cant believe I left his age out. He is 7 years old. He has no problem at all communicating in native English. I understand my spouse believes studying Kumon will help his test taking abilities, grammar and self discipline. (it probably also enhances his vocab, but as he is reading above his age level I believe reading would help his vocab as much). I don't fully understand, but my spouse is looking for long term benefits rather then to correct an immediate problem. – davidgo Jan 6 '17 at 18:37
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    @WarrenDew Couple of reasons - I see a lot of my academic limitations/difficulties focussing in my son (I was a below average), also my wife - who is much smarter academically then I am and also more involved in his day-to-day activities is convinced he will fall behind. (Also my son has come a LONG way compared to where he was relative to other kids under my wifes instruction) – davidgo Jan 14 '17 at 7:08
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I have not used the Kumon centers reading program, but I have used Kumon workbooks and other reading drills with my kids, now ages 4, 6, and 8.

What I have found is that the preschool levels of the Kumon reading workbooks, which focus on phonics and word sounding, are quite useful even for native speakers, which my kids are. As best I can tell, these workbooks correspond to the A levels of the Kumon centers reading program.

The grade level workbooks, which likely correspond to the Kumon centers reading levels beyond the A levels, and which I started using with my eldest child, are less useful for native speakers. They tend to spend a lot of time focusing on explicit learning of grammar that native speakers will already know implicitly by that time. I do think this material would be very good for nonnative speakers, which may be part of why your wife continues to hold it in high regard.

This does not mean I think drills or repetition are bad. In fact, after abandoning the Kumon grade level English workbooks for my eldest, I instead used a set of linguistically based drills for my first two kids, and plan to use it with my youngest as well.

What our family found was that the drills were good for developing fundamental reading skills, which the kids retain even if they hate the process. Meanwhile, reading to the kids help them retain an interest in books and eventually in reading for themselves.

Once the kids are reading chapter books on their own, I think drills are no longer necessary. One learns both vocabulary and grammar from reading.

If your son is reading chapter books fluently - which it sounds like he is, if you think he's ready for Harry Potter - I don't think he necessarily needs the Kumon work any more. Instead spending the time on reading is likely to be just as useful.

However, I would point out a couple of risks.

First, while replacing the Kumon reading work with book reading would likely be as useful, if what actually happens is that the kid spends more time in front of a screen instead, that's not useful for his reading skills.

Second, part of the reason your son hates Kumon is likely to be that he is forced to do it. If you force him to do reading, he might end up hating that too.

Bottom line: if your son is where I think he is, and if he would voluntarily spend as much time reading as he now spends on his Kumon work, just letting him read would probably be as useful. Those might be big 'ifs', though.

Note that none of this is applicable to the Kumon math books, which I have found to be very useful through the grade 3 level, and have every reason to believe will be useful through the grade 6 level.

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The first question to ask is "Why does your son not like Kumon". (Also, does he go to Kumon for more than just English? If so, how does he feel about the non-English portions?)

Some possible reasons (by no means exclusive):

  1. He does not feel that he is benefitting from the tutoring, that he is earning his grades despite, rather than because of, the Kumon tutoring. Do not dismiss this, it is quite possible he is correct. I can speak from experience, as someone like your son, who loved to read, that I was ahead of my peers (I did not receive tutoring of any kind until I went to college). I also felt (and still do) that the way English is formally taught is backwards. This was backed up by my getting A's, despite completely ignoring my English teachers.

  2. He may feel that he is being "robbed" of his time (i.e. he is required to spend the required 7 hours in school, and then forced to spend time taking more "school". Compare a child who has no interest in playing an instrument, but forced to take music lessons.)

  3. He may dislike some aspect of Kumon's tutoring regime.

After you have talked listened to your child, and determined what his issue(s) are, you can address them. Keep in mind (and keep in your spouse and in-law's minds) that Kumon is not the goal: it is merely a tool, and there are endless alternatives.

If he does not like something particular to Kumon, choose an alternative. If he his objection is something akin to the first or second ideas I posted, consider allowing him to stop Kumon, contingent on his grades maintaining an acceptable level. (Also, note that your son's idea of acceptable is not necessarily those of you, your spouse or his grandparents).

3

Okay, I am not a big believer in homework in the elementary school system. I think it should be used if and when a student does not do what they are able to do during class. For example everyone else finished work in class and this one student was fooling around and did not complete the task s/he should have to finish the work out of class -- homework. Reading for a half hour or being read to is a good family-type of homework. In my school (I am a retired teacher) we assigned 1/2 hour of reading for Jr Kindergarten to Grade 3 and then 45 minutes where at least 15 minutes was reading to self for Grade 4-6. We also assigned projects at the start of each of the 3 terms to be complete for the last week of term. There could be family involvement, in fact that was encouraged.

My own 16 year old does homework with me also working at the table. We may or may not discuss what she is studying, but homework time is a family affair. We take at least an hour, sometimes we read or write in our journals or help each other do research. When she was in elementary school, we still spent at least an hour, but it included 'read aloud to each other time' and talking about school. Everything from 'he said/she said' to 'my teacher was mean'. She always knows we are interested in her and what is happening and that we are on her side. She is teaching me maths, which have changed a lot since I was in school.

My daughter has a learning disability and we have found that though I could be the one tutoring her, it is much better if someone else gives her that help. She attends a learning centre once a week for an hour and does no other homework on that day. The entire point is to keep her reading skills sharp -- she has a severe form of dyslexia and yet is still doing well in school. She is a straight B student and works really hard at it. We are extremely proud of her.

So, in my opinion, tutoring and homework are not the best plan for 7 year olds. They would be better off playing and if they really do need help with a specific problem and you honestly cannot help him yourself, then go for tutoring.

LINK about homework

  • Homework for kids works when it isn't the standard "do those five exercises for tomorrow". The school my gifted 7-year-old attends uses the idea of bigger, more significative projects on a bi-weekly schedule, including on summer break. One of her last projects included a somewhat different kind of book report which could be based off any media which did contain a significative narrative. She played through Fallout 3 with my SO and used that as her material for her homework. Seeing her taking notes while playing to later explain the story as requested made me compliment her teacher personally. – T. Sar Jan 9 '17 at 19:02
  • I'd agree, if the family has time to do things besides TV and dinner. Also most schools in North America are not set up to be innovative. The opposite is often true -- large class sizes and no failure means children are not learning as well as they could be. So teachers compensate with busy homework. – WRX Jan 9 '17 at 19:13
  • We don't watch TV at all at home for that reason. We always squeeze up at least two daily hours for Kid's Time to do stuff with them. Sure, we can't do lots of things we want to, but it pays itself in the end tenfold. – T. Sar Jan 9 '17 at 19:16
  • @TSar Then it sounds like you have found a great balance. – WRX Jan 9 '17 at 19:20
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Reading is different from math in a lot of different aspects and teaching these subjects doesn't mean using the same exact method. Some math facts will help you if you memorize them (reducing the time for you to count on your fingers etc.) but there are a lot of more ways to learn how to read. For example, memorizing sight words or playing sight word games, listening to stories while following along or even working on simple CVC words etc., can and will all help with building reading fluency. I don't think Kumon is the only option when it comes to reading. We've used a few games, sight words and definitely worksheets to help with reading comprehension and most of the worksheets we've used are from Beestar. Sadly I wish I had the time to create my own but overall I've highly recommended Beestar cause I do enjoy using their resources.

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