Your Child Hates Kumon? Try This

I got this interesting question from a Maths Insider reader, about Kumon:

Hi came across your site and would like to thank you for this. I have a 5 year old boy in reception class who also attends Kumon. He has been doing Kumon now for 8 months. I find it very difficult to get him motivated to do his Kumon intially this was not a problem but for the last 3 months I feel he has become very bored. He has started addition on the +1 and if in the mood can complete this in a matter of minutes but when not in the mood which is now most of the time it can take upto 45 mins but we normally stop him after 15 mins as advice given by kumon instructor. The Kumon instructor has now taken him back to repeat previous number worksheets to improve his handwriting. This worksheet is v easy for him. I have had a chat with the instructor and raised my concerns but he has told me that he needs to get his handwriting correct before he can move on. His handwriting can be good  when he wants it to be but when he is bored his handwriting suffers.

What do you think should I stick at it or what I am now really frustrated. Please help.


Thanks for your question, I know how difficult it can be being a Kumon parent, it wasn’t much easier for me even though I was an instructor and knew the system inside out! However based on my experiences as a Kumon instructor, a Kumon parent (my youngest started Kumon at 3 years old) and the articles I’ve been reading about maths education since starting Maths Insider, there are 4 different options:

1) Stop Kumon

Creative Commons License photo credit: Afroswede

Stopping the Kumon would be the easy option, No more complaining from your son, no more marking those workbooks and no more fees to pay out. However since it’s likely you started your son on Kumon to support and or extend his maths learning then you’d want to replace it with something else. If you do 10 – 15 mins a day of maths practice using workbooks from the bookstore, an online maths program (I like Maths Whizz) or practical maths games this will help your son do well at maths.If you want the lightening fast arithmetic, you’ll need to replicate the 100 arithmetic questions or so each day, although doing these orally or on a computer may be more appealing. Also by not doing Kumon, there’ll be more time for your son to work on his problem solving skills (which Kumon does very little of)

2) Follow the Kumon instructors advice

Creative Commons License photo credit: Frodrig

Moving your child back to an easier level is a standard Kumon strategy. It does actually work. The idea behind it is to give your son easy work again so that he can rebuild his confidence (and in your son’s case improve his handwriting) My own son, and many other young Kumon students (particularly boys) have the same problem; their calculation skills are more advanced than their writing skills. It’s tiring for a 5 year old to be gripping a pencil, especially if he’s been writing all day at school as well. You may find that the writing fatigue won’t be such a problem during the summer holidays since he’ll be writing less. If your son is tolerating the easier work and making progress with it, then it’s a good idea to go with it. In the meantime, you can help your son to overcome writing fatigue by getting him to do more with his hands – no , not more writing, but practical activities which will exercise his hand and wrist muscles such as Play Doh, model building, cutting out, Lego.

3) Insist he stays at the same Kumon level

photo credit: buzzybee

This is what most parents would want. When my son was 5 years old and found the writing part of the Kumon hard, I kept him at the same level, even though he once took over an hour on a 10 minute worksheet. I never advised other Kumon parents to do that, but with my own child I thought it would be different. Big mistake! It worked in that it only took a week or two for him to reach the target time, but it was a miserable 2 weeks for both of us. If you do want him to stay on the same level, I suggest you ditch the pencil and do the worksheets orally, with you writing the answers, or even, do it so that your son writes 1 page, then you write the next. This should only be done for a few weeks, and your instructor would probably want to give him the same sheets again to make sure that he was able to finish them on time.

4) Take a break from Kumon

Creative Commons License photo credit: loungerie

You could just take a break from Kumon. It used to be the case that you could take up to 3 months off without having to pay the registration fee again, I’m not sure if this is still the case. You could spend the time doing workbooks, an online maths program, maths games, lego, play-doh. However when your son returns to Kumon, he’d likely be doing the number practice workbooks again (but hopefully whizzing through them!)

I’ve given you 4 realistic options, each of which has a positive and a negative, but each should have the end result of helping your son do well with his maths. It’s up to you to choose which one would work best for you and your family. If you do stick with the Kumon, and it certainly is a program that works in the long term, then do take time to do some practical maths with your son, even just once a week or so, just so he knows that there’s more to maths than fast arithmetic. I hope this helps!

Are you a Kumon parent? What do you do when your child complains about Kumon? Tell me in the comments below!

Thinking of enrolling your child on the Kumon program? For the low-down on this popular after-school program check out The Ultimate Kumon Review

Want an alternative to Kumon? Read my post Is Thinkster Math a Real Alternative to Kumon?

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

9 thoughts on “Your Child Hates Kumon? Try This

  1. Two of my daughters’ started Kumon aged 8 and 5. We did it for 18 months with the older child and a year witht he younger. They found it tedious, as did I, however it did help my eldest child with her mental maths and enabled her to master her times tables earlier than most of her peers. However it became a soul destroying battle to do the daily sheets and Kumon did nothing to enhance problem solving skills. We switched to Maths Whizz and this has been far more successful – though I have issues with the tedious nature and length of some of hte exercises. My youngest daughter aged four loves it.

  2. Hi Caroline, I think all four options that you present are very valid, depending on the child in question.

    I remember my son at age 5 taking an hour to write a short paragraph. The handwriting was huge and the shapes of the letters were not proportional. It was a tortuous hour for both of us, but mostly for him.

    However, I later read about boys’ motor skills developing much later than that of girls’ at the same age. I stopped focusing so much on the aesthetics of his handwriting and encouraged him to write his ideas down. Once he regained his confidence and the pleasure of writing (without the added pressure of perfecting the shapes and sizes of letters) he was more willing to do the occasional handwriting practise tasks.

    In fact, from a purely educational point of view, legibly writing down the answers (a physical skill) is a totally different task from solving the maths (a mental skill). By demanding that a child completes both tasks successfully detracts from the original aim of the practise sheets – to practise the maths, not the handwriting and adds unnecessary pressure to the learning process.

  3. I used to work for Kumon Hornsby and Neutral Bay, who were under the same instructor. IT DOES NOT WORK. Often parents have enrolled their children in multiple tuition courses and some of them may be the ones improving their study. My old employer used to make snide remarks about the parents to the effect that they were ‘cash cows’. Not recommended, at least not these 2 franchises.

  4. Kumon is a great program if it’s done correctly. It sounds like the instructor wasn’t the best. I know over the last year Kumon has been focusing on improving instructors teaching skills.

    I would recommend Kumon. It may be a battle sometimes with children, but if the parents are behind the students and don’t complain themselves — rather are positive about the outcome of the work — their children will succeed.

    My kids are doing well in the program. And though we have had some gripes (who hasn’t? — I gripe about going to work sometimes) I admit it is an excellent program when you have a great instructor.

    As she explained, students shouldn’t be repeating a set of worksheets unless there is a specific reason. (not getting it or they need to build a skill up for the next step.) Kumon is ALL problem solving ability because it’s a self-taught program. As long as the child keeps at it, they’ll teach themselves to learn math & reading.

    Kayin – it sounds like you have a bad instructor. That tarnishes anyone and surely teaching children wasn’t your instructor’s goal. Good thing there are 14,000 other instructors in the US.

  5. I have a 3.5 yr old boy and 7.5 yr old girl who go to Kumon.

    Boy: He is in for 6-months now. He started hated it so much that it is daily struggle now. He used to sit for an hour in the center. The teacher will come out and say he is ‘so’ intellegent for his age. He is 2A in reading and 3A in math. We want to discontinue because his attitude towards homework is changing from bad to worse. He cries all the way to Kumon.

    Girl: She is in advanced program in public school. She is sick of the repeatition. It is not that she can’t do it, it is just that she has not interest. She is a bright child because she tested and got 99% in reading and math to get into that school. It is not helping her in anyway.

    What should I do?

  6. hi guys, i am not very familliar to kumon but one of my little cousins has been going their.
    I was sitting by her while she was doing some sort of kumon math worksheet when i asked her mum about it.
    She was pretty passionate bout it and thought it helped sana(my cousin) to have better focus and reading skills.
    i personally think the way the little girl was doing her worksheets was very effective for school purposes and daily necessities.
    though Sana herself (about 7 years of age) was not very interested when ever she had to do kumon worksheets. I think that is a common problem with many kids and those kids need a push from the parents . Sana’s parents are very cooperative and she seems to be doing very well in her academics.
    it as all up to the parents . Some think it’s a burden where as other find it helpful. Some kids actually do need after school trainings which many parents dont seem to notice. it is imortant for parents to sit by the kid while he does his homeworks to keep a check on his skills and problems too!
    Hope i helped…..B.T.W. i wish i could get my lil sis into Kumon aswell but sadly it has no branch in our country :( ……. anyway whtever… tell me wht u think of my thoughts…

  7. My daughter has been doing Kumon for 3 years and first of all she found it easy . She started Kumon when she was 6 and now shes 9 she does level G in Maths which is year 7 work. Its so hard for her so I dont know what to do . Shes only in year 4 and shes got so much on her. With her English she is fine and she does year 6 work. Caroline what should I do?

  8. I hate kumon! MY parents don’t let me quit as they have been brainwashed by my kumon instructors talk.
    Kumon is so on my nerves!!!! :(

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