Kumon Australia and New Zealand - Potential 2019, Issue 2

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Australia • Brunei • Cambodia • India • Indonesia • Malaysia • Myanmar • New Zealand • Philippines • Singapore • Sri Lanka • Thailand • Vietnam

JUL - DEC 2019

Rocket fuel for further learning A Kumon explainer : What are work skills? Supporting the growth of our youngest minds, the Kumon way

Editor’s Note

ON THE COVER JUL - DEC 2019 HARRIS One’s earliest experiences lay the foundation for progress in later life. Therefore, Kumon Australia and New Zealand has dedicated this issue of Potential to sharing the experiences of current and former Kumon early learners, and their parents. Our opening story is about ten year old Layla from Melbourne. It highlights how

her parents used their strengths to support their daughter early on with her numbers. As Layla’s drive and passion for maths grew exponentially, they enrolled her into Kumon. Our cover story features five year old Harris from Adelaide and his mother Connie. Connie taught Harris to read and write by the time he was three, after which she enrolled Harris into Kumon to structure his learning. She says Kumon helped her son to enjoy learning and to be five years ahead in Maths and three years ahead in English. Finally, our feature article delves into some of the brain science behind early learning and outlines Kumon’s approach.



Rocket fuel for further learning Layla

discovers the joy of 04 Harris learning, early Harris

KUMON FEATURES Kumon explainer: What are 06 Awork skills?


Instructors’ Quotes


Supporting the growth of our youngest minds, the Kumon way

We hope you enjoy this issue of Potential. Sincerely, The Kumon Public Relations Team

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Rocket fuel for further learning

Her father Liam, who is a former maths teacher, used his strengths

to support Layla early on. By the time Layla was two, Liam taught his daughter her times tables. “She knew that I learned my times tables early and what motivates Layla more than anything is she wants to beat Mum and Dad”, Liam says. “I’m all for that.” By Year 1 of primary school, Layla was seeking to solve more challenging problems. Her parents decided to look for some extra support; they found Kumon. Layla thought it might be worth giving Kumon a try. “When I was younger I did find multiplying and dividing large numbers really hard”, Layla says. “Kumon has helped me with some techniques that made these calculations easier, to get through those challenges and keep on trying new challenges”, she says. “It’s really fun being challenged; I think it’s a wonderful feeling.” Nancy also says Kumon helped Layla develop the discipline to maintain a daily study routine and build time management skills. This helped

Layla launch way ahead of her school classmates. “Liam and I are personally not bothered whether or not Layla’s far ahead, but she loves maths”, says Nancy, Layla’s mother.

complex problems.” Layla aspires to become an astronaut when she grows up.

“She wants to be far ahead and she wanted to do Kumon, so we supported her.” Liam, says Kumon helps students understand the importance of practise. “For growing a student’s maths ability, Kumon is basically ‘practice makes perfect’”, he says. “Whether this is by memorising times tables or learning and applying formulas, practise helps you to spot the same patterns and gives you more confidence with more

layla, 10


Ten-year-old Layla has always had a keen interest in maths. Layla is a Kumon Maths Completer and can solve equations that university undergraduates work through.

Subject: Maths Starting Point: A1



Harris, 5

》》》》》》》》》》 Subject: Maths & English Starting Point: Maths 6A 101 English 7A 1

Harris discovers the joy of learning, early 4


arris might be only five years old but he already knows his times tables and can read chapter books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. “I am able to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions”, Harris says. “I am also more confident in reading and writing.”

Harris didn’t develop his skills without support. His mother Connie taught him to read and write by the time he was two years old. Though, as Connie says, while Harris’s earliest learning experiences were effective, they lacked structure. “In Kumon, there’s a structure and it makes it easier for kids to grasp the ideas”, she continues. “This is as opposed to, for example, if I kept teaching him at home I would probably be able to show him stuff but not in a systematic way.” “For example when I was teaching Harris, I didn’t know how to explain the exact relationship between addition and subtraction”, Connie says. “But after he joined Kumon, I understood that when children learn addition, it makes it far easier for them to comprehend subtraction. I think that when you start teaching kids at home, you often don’t know what to do next.” Connie also likes Kumon’s step-by-step learning approach. “With the Kumon Method, they introduce only a small part of an idea so the child is able to grasp it”, Connie says. “Once I understood this, I felt that I might as well give it a try.” Harris took to this approach well, quickly reaching the advanced level he is at today. However, Connie maintains that while being ahead of the curve is beneficial for Harris it’s not the ultimate goal. “It’s not really about being advanced; it’s more about being able to enjoy learning”,

Connie says.


“Harris gets quite excited whenever his Kumon Instructor introduces new worksheets to him … I think that’s really good for helping him to learn.”

“[As a starting point], we must help children to start to like maths”, as Toru Kumon once explained when asked whether it was more important whether a child was capable at maths or whether they enjoyed it.

“I also feel that if a child doesn’t enjoy learning or homework on a daily basis then one must ask, ‘how can you support that student to become advanced?’” One of Kumon’s aims is to show students that, despite its challenges, learning should be an enjoyable endeavour. This is because Kumon understands there is a definitive link between liking learning and achieving. Harris’s experience demonstrates this link. “I like learning”, Harris says. Harris is five years ahead of his school grade in Kumon Maths and three years ahead in English. Kumon shows students how learning can be interesting, rewarding and enjoyable, by assigning students material that is at the ‘just-right’ level. This is the sweet spot between work that is too easy and too hard. “The reason children come to dislike studying is because they are not given what is at the ‘justright’ level for their academic ability”, explained Toru Kumon, Kumon’s late founder. “When they are given what is ‘just-right’ for them, they enjoy studying. They will then be able to advance beyond their school grade level.” As such, ‘just-right level’ is used as a tool for showing students that learning is rewarding, by enabling them to gradually develop their ability to progress through their Kumon Programme on their own.

“What should we do to achieve that? We have to remember that children start to enjoy studying when they can study through selflearning.” “All children intrinsically want to develop their abilities and they all have the potential to do so.” Toru Kumon’s assertions, made in the 1980s, are supported by recommendations from the second Gonski review into Australian schooling, published in 2018. The report, titled Through Growth to Achievement, stated in its opening pages: “Teaching curriculum based on year or age levels rather than levels of progress leaves some students behind and fails to extend others, limiting the opportunity to maximise learning growth for all students.” Harris, is halfway through Reception, the first year of primary school in South Australia. “I’m confident that Reception won’t be too hard for him, and as he already know how to read and write I think the teacher will be able to focus more on other aspects of his learning”, Connie says. “He’s also developed confidence and a routine. I think he will be able to learn more in school.” Harris aspires to become a scientist when he grows up so he can make new discoveries.

This is what Kumon refers to as 5


A Kumon Explainer:

What are work skills?


arents reading may have heard this piece of Kumon jargon from their Instructor. They then may have proceeded to scratch their head as they wonder what on Earth their Kumon Instructor is on about. But the meaning of ‘work skills’, is quite simple. It refers to the ability of a student to keep persevering to complete their assigned worksheets without losing focus or taking a break. So how do parents identify whether their child’s work skills are on track


or whether these skills need further development? If the latter is the case, how do parents support their children to develop their work skills? Firstly, Kumon students with highly developed work skills will maintain strong concentration when working on their worksheets; they’ll keep studying, only stopping once they have finished their assigned task. Their pencil will constantly move as they complete their assigned work and they will, in most instances, finish quickly.

Conversely, students’ whose work skills could use development will visibly lose concentration. They may stop writing, or they may let go of their pencil, as they drift off and begin to daydream. They may go off to get a snack or try to start a conversation with a nearby person. They might just give up on the worksheet entirely. Such students will try to find ways to distract themselves from their task at hand. It can be difficult to determine whether your child is lacking work skills or whether they just don’t

understand their assigned worksheet. When unsure it would be best to consult your Kumon Instructor. The set of attributes that comprise work skills – such as concentration, grit and persistence – go beyond Kumon and school. Growing these attributes in children will support their success later in life. In soccer, for example, a student with strong work skills would be the one to practise kicking hundreds of balls between the goal posts. In music, they would be the student who practises their chord progressions again and again. These are just two examples. But it’s people with strong work skills

who understand and demonstrate that practice makes perfect. Kumon builds work skills by assigning students easy work in the beginning. Once an Instructor has determined that the student has developed the requisite work skills, they will begin to assign them harder worksheets containing complex concepts. These students will progress beyond their school grade level.

providing a quiet space in the home conducive for studying, by motivating and encouraging their children to complete their work, by praising their child for a job well done and by consulting their Kumon Instructor when they may have questions or concerns regarding their child’s study.

Parents can support the development of work skills by gently reminding their child to stay on task if they see concentration beginning to slip, by

“Your child needs to improve his or her work skills”.



Instructors’ Quotes


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It has been our en deavor to work tow ards the Kumon philosoph y “Every student beyond grade level”. To achieve this milestone, it is imperative to develop the work skills of every child when they begin their Kumo n journey. In order to motivate children, progress goals are set and individualised instructions are ca rried out to help the m achieve these goals throu gh working on the ir worksheets with concentratio n, improving menta l calculations and complete co nscientiousness. Im ple mentation of these enhanced work skills ensures that students are able to progre ss through their wo rksheets with ease and study be yond their school grade level. By developing the se skill sets for stu dents, we would be contribu ting to society an d de veloping millennials who are ready to be in a dy namic environment and have the ability to handle challenging situa tions.

As highlighted in our previous article, the development of work skills is an integral aspect of the Kumon Method. Let’s have a look at what some of our Instructors from around the region have to say about work skills.

Ibu Sri Lestari Kumon Indonesia

The Kumon features that I like most are the daily hom ework and repetition. Studen work skills will be automat ts’ ically developed if they kee p on doing their homework daily basis and do not give on a up even when they have the same sets of worksheets give by the Kumon Centre. Wo n rk skills are developed thro ugh study and effort, and can happen overnight. While ther not e are no overnight miracles , the features I mentioned above are designed to form the skills. Through the Kum on programmes, we develop the work skills needed in ord er to gain success in academ ic life.


Ms Yasmsiina ay Kumon Mal

in the ss further er to progre rd o ging in ra u ts by studen r and enco rs with clea are needed o s ned. g ct ill si ru sk as st rk In o ts ion, w eloped by f workshee o ev l d e ve In my opin b le t m n h ca h momentu and the rig Work skills ts with hig m parents o ee long term. fr e sh rt th rk o o p m w p sheets fro ill handle , home su me of work ork skills w instruction lu w t vo en e ci rg ffi la ith su levels. ed with a Students w ly with easy been train comfortab they have g in as p d co ee e sp ar and while they beginning



Supporting the growth of our youngest minds, the Kumon way


s nine in ten Australian children1 and six in ten Kiwi children2 under four are enrolled in early childhood education, it’s fair to say there is strong recognition among parents in both countries of the importance of starting learning early. Defined as formal learning programmes or curricula that provide education outside of the home before a child enters primary school, quality early education lays the foundation for children to grow into lifelong learners.3 This is because children’s brains develop rapidly during their toddler years.4 At the age of three, a child has 1000 trillion brain synapses. These synapses are the tiny connections between neurons, the cells that make up a person’s brain and central nervous system. These synapses are naturally pruned by the brain as the child grows older. By adolescence, it’s estimated that an individual’s brain has 500 trillion of these synapses.


This process doesn’t occur randomly. “It is the experiences and relationships that infants and young children have that continuously develop their brains and build the neural circuits that will be the foundation for later development”, summarises the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) in a fact card.5 This isn’t to say that teens and adults are incapable of learning new things. Rather, quality early education experiences, from infancy to the beginning of high school, build the foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. Kumon has also long recognised the importance of early childhood education and its opportunity to support children in reaching their potential. “Children display astonishing progress is exposed to right stimuli during infancy”, stated Toru Kumon, Kumon’s late founder.

“The ability of pre-schoolers is limitless but we [adults] are the ones who draw out their potential.”

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Kumon’s supports our youngest minds by giving them basic foundations in mathematics and English. Through Kumon Maths, students develop their counting ability. Those who are ready hone their calculation skills through solving problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In Kumon English, students learn to read words, phrases and sentences. They are also instructed on properly writing letters and spelling words. Those who are ready progress to reading and summarising passages from texts. Both programmes also instruct early learners on how to properly hold and use a pencil. In addition to curricula, Kumon gives little ones early experience in learning at their own pace, concentrating, and achievement through effort. “Pre-schoolers come to enjoy studying when provided with what is ‘just-right’ for them”, Toru Kumon once explained. The ‘just-right’ level refers to the sweet spot between work that is too easy for a child to complete and that which is too hard. It provides adequate challenge for little ones to grow their skills, build resilience and learn to handle stress,

but not too much of a challenge that would overwhelm the child. The AEDC also writes that tolerable stress and challenges play an important role in children’s development. “Everyday stress responses of a moderate and brief nature … help in the development of adaptive coping when buffered by stable and supportive relationships and are an important part of healthy development”, the AEDC writes. “Caring and positive relationships are essential to ensure stress levels promote resilience.” It’s important to note that Kumon’s early childhood education support is designed to supplement preschool, not replace it. Kumon should also only take up 15 – 20 minutes of a child’s day; little ones need time to play, relax and, essentially, be kids.


Productivity Commission: Report on Government Services 2018, Early Childhood

Education and Care 2

Education Counts: Annual ECE Census 2018, Fact Sheets


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Literature review of the impact of early

childhood education and care on learning and development 4

Australian Early Development Census, Brain development in children




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