Confessions of a Kumon Mom

by Sandra Foyt on September 22, 2011

in Enrichment Ideas

I confess. It’s my fault that my son doesn’t like math. Before he entered 1st grade, I thought it would be a great idea to give him the same advantage enjoyed by many successful Asian mathematicians. The media often reminds us that Americans are losing the math wars, and I didn’t want his path to Nobel laureate to be hindered by a lack of mathematical skills.

The Kumon Math program seemed like a good way to ensure that he gained those skills. Kumon started in Japan, but centers can now be found throughout the US. Students visit the center weekly for testing and to pick up a packet of worksheets that they complete daily. Based on the assessment test, they are placed at a level that they can comfortably handle. The Kumon philosophy is that repetition and success breeds math confidence and excellence.

My daughter enrolled in the Kumon program late in 2nd grade, when she started doing math fact drills in school. The Kumon practice was an extension of what she was doing in class, and it really helped to reinforce her school work. She gained confidence in her math abilities because the daily practice enabled her to shine in math class.

By 5th grade, daily Kumon practice had definitely lost its allure. The 10 minute worksheets were dragged out into hours. School math was easy, so she saw no benefit to extracurricular math practice.

Meanwhile, we saw many Asian preschoolers picking up their Kumon packets and feared that her younger brother was falling behind. We enrolled my son in the program when he was in Kindergarten. Soon, he was completing worksheets with single digit addition and subtraction. This was much more writing work than the “easy” math in school. Kumon became a dreaded exercise in “drill and kill.” Eventually, we discontinued Kumon practice for both kids.

Now I’m paying for my eagerness by having to overcome my son’s  aversion to math. He just wasn’t ready to practice math facts when he didn’t understand the concepts behind the process. My daughter, on the other hand, asked to go back to Kumon. She was in a more challenging math class at school and feared that her rusty math skills were slowing her down. (Note that at that point her schedule did not permit her to return to the Kumon program.)

Learning math is like learning to play a musical instrument or to speak a foreign language. You need to build your knowledge base, bit by bit. You also need to do your daily practice. Kumon is an excellent way to provide the daily practice, but it is not a substitute for the hard work of learning to understand the ideas behind the problems.

Find It! Kumon Centers In The Capital Region:

  • Kumon Center, 265 Osborne Road, Colonie, NY 12211, (518) 453-2393
  • Kumon Center, 1407 Route 9 Bld. 1, Clifton Park, NY 12065, 518-371-4715, Center Website
  • Kumon Center – 2080 Western Ave., Suite 104, Guilderland, NY 12084, 518-596-0150, Center Website

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email:, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

JEI Mom October 14, 2011 at 9:21 am

I totally agree with Kumon mom. Kumon is fabulous for those kids who cannot remember things and seems like kid would develop a keen interest when they are doing early Kumon levels because kid is challenged. But no fun further as Kid is end up doing lots and lots of Kumon sheets just learning one concept. Kids are awesome with self learning everything else but the subject. Especially Math, if kid is not taught Math concepts and not taught how to apply them to work with problems then kid will no longer have strong basics. Eventually they stuck at somewhere. This is exactly my motivation for search of a better system. In my area school districts are not putting efforts to provide quality education. Whenever I go and ask School Head, my son was given tons of home work which are covering hard topics. What he did in school is very simple concepts. There is a huge difference between class work and home work. I explored quite few in Capital Disctrict area Sylvan, Huntington and there is a new one JEI Learning center. I was curious to know how these systems work. I visited these places and found that Sylvan had certified teachers but they have no class room education, its a group of 3 students, teacher teaches both english and math at the same time for those who is taking math and english. The cost of each session is ranging $50-65. Huntington is also better in their way, they isloate the student with Three sided cubby where student is working on his own teachers are wandering among students to answer their questions and explain the concept. That did not catch my attention as there is no iteraction between students or not a direct involvement with the teacher as well. Prices are as equal as Sylvan or may be bit low. Other hand I visited JEI in Latham. They sounded pretty confident about their system. JEI class room structure is One teacher to Five students in a seperate class room. One thing I liked most is Horse Shoe model bench, where teacher reaches every student very easily. Their sysem is very close to school grade system but very high standard and guaranteeing that child learns their level and their missing links in their subject. Sylvan, Huntington and JEI offers Diagnostic test as well. Sylvan Test lasts for 3-4 hours, Huntington is about 1-2 hours and JEI is about 1-2 hours too. Sylvan Test results are coving very broad area and it helps to package hours together and program duration etc. But it does not categorize areas that needs to be improved and it does not give me an option to analyze which program books covers which broken links. Huntington on other hand is a manual interpretation, I was not quite comfortable with that. JEI Diagnostic test was subject wise and each grade has Diagnostic test. The kid is offred his grade level test covering his gradelevel objectives, and previous grade level objectives. Based on Kid’s responses the system determines which areas that Kids needs improvement. JEI claims that there are 1378 objectives in Maths from PreK to 9th Grade, and 1320 objectives in English from pre K to 9th grade. The Diagnostic Test results are shown domains where the kid has difficulty and work books that cover those objectives. I kinda liked the pattern of pin pointing the missing links. Their classes last for One hour per week. Kid will be doing one work book per week and One hour with the teacher. Each work book has a interim test as well. I deserve the standard as I am putting extra effort to pay for these classes & programs, and time I spend I wanted to choose best one. At this point I am leaning towards JEI Learning center as their system seems to be better than existing systems. I might throw some more first hand comments soon. Good luck to all moms.

Octave Cantos February 27, 2013 at 5:22 am

As far as my experience as a parent who children are going to Kumon….they are all doing well in school after a couple of years in Kumon. At first I was questioning myself is it worth it because they are still in their math level after over a year in Kumon but after they got the hang of it it’s like Boom! They were doing math in school like a breeze! I never imagine my eldest child to get 100% in their report card but it did happen. She is now currently grade 7 but she is doing math for grade Eleven! It was not a bed of roses for her to achieve that but she was likewise determined to study. If not for Kumon I don’t think getting 100% in the report card would have been possible!

Brenda Rodriguez June 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I pulled out my kids out of Kumon after a friends daughter was molested by the owner of the Kumon center that she went to:

Kerry Lindenberg August 2, 2013 at 7:46 am

Don’t waste your money on Kumon or EyeLevel. Free worksheets are available online. Download and use. You will see better results without spending money.

tj December 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm

where can i find these worksheets you speak off? please email me the link for eye level.


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