The Kumon system takes the concept of self in “self-motivated learning” to a new high. The difficulty level is calibrated and graduated in such a way that the child is supposed to simply progress by himself (herself). The child learns on his own and the parent corrects his/her work.

After a few days of this, I had serious doubts. Why was I paying to be doing all the work? Creating the question set is dead simple, after all. I could come up with the 50 questions or so in about 15 minutes.

Turns out what I was paying a 110 bucks a month for is not for the Kumon test sheets, but two completely different services that Kumon provides. The first is the answer booklet. Making up the questions may take a matter of minutes but solving the darned questions yourself is another thing altogether. Even if it is only compound fractions I have to deal with so far, the pain involved in getting down and dirty with 5th grade math is gladly to be avoided for less than 4 dollars a day. I freely admit, I am not smarter than a 5th grader.

The second, more important service, at least in my household, is that of outsourcing discipline. I can just imagine the pitched battles I would have every day with a recalcitrant tween over sitting down with pages of math in mother’s illegible hand. Somehow, when it’s all typed up and comes in a neatly packaged box, the bitter pill becomes a lot easier to swallow. The same child, who would look and behave as if he was being asked to stitch buttons in a dingy sweatshop if asked to do chores, meekly finishes his Kumon set first thing every morning and brings it over to be corrected. At least for a few minutes a day, I have the joyful illusion of being the parent of a well-brought up son. I don’t know if the Japanese work-ethic is being transmitted by some mysterious process of osmosis, but whatever it is, it seems to work.


Thank you!



Mother of 11yr old 5th grader