Monday, May 23rd, 2011
As more parents worry about how their growing toddlers will survive the educational system once they enter school, they’re enrolling kids in after-school tutoring and learning centers such as Kumon. The New York Times recently wrote an in-depth profile on how Kumon is becoming parents’ defense against a changing educational landscape that focuses more on studying, memorizing, and taking standardized tests for reading, writing, and math.
Originally started in Japan during the 1950s for school-age kids, Kumon has expanded in the U.S. since 1974, where it grew in popularity among mostly Asian students. Now, kids of all ages and ethnicities enroll in Kumon to help them get a leg up on school work and studies. In recent years, a Junior Kumon program was created to enroll children ages 3 to 5, though toddlers as young as 2 are welcome. Junior Kumon lessons cost about $200-300 per month, and toddlers and preschoolers are tutored twice a week for one hour each.
Some parents see Kumon as a necessary means to building their children’s self-confidence and academic skills; a way to give them the means necessary to advance later in life. (In addition to starting them in sports classes or having them read chapter books.) Others, particularly child experts and educators, aren’t convinced programs like Kumon are enriching experiences that will help kids become innovative, vibrant, curious thinkers; instead, it only stresses memorization, repetition, and a linear way of thinking.
When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I remember weekend afternoons at my local Kumon, huddled around tables working on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and long division on numerous worksheets. I remember storing my worksheets and multiplication charts in plastic pouches Kumon provided us. At that time, Kumon only focused on math, not reading. Of course, as a kid, I didn’t enjoy working on endless math sheets. And ironically, despite all the math lessons, I grew up to work in a field that focuses just on reading and writing.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t intrinsic value in enrolling kids in Kumon, though 2 years old may be a bit too young. There are still other ways to teach kids how to achieve their truest potential, as the Tiger Mother debate has illustrated. But, then again, who knows where I would be now if I had enrolled at 2 years old?
Would you enroll your kid in enrichment programs like Kumon? Are toddlers ready for the pressure to succeed?