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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Kumon Method: How I Can Use It

I was browsing through the library shelves and came across this book "Every Child An Achiever: A Parent's Guide to the Kumon Method" by David W. Russell.

Reading this book has renewed my interest somewhat in the Kumon Method and its possibilities. It led me to rethink how I can use this method to my advantage.

Here's my plan to add a dash of Kumon in the 3 core subjects: Mathematics, English and Chinese. Essentially, I am looking at say 5 to 10 min a day per subject. This sessions will be perfect for much needed individual work during the times when I am busy preparing meals in the kitchen.


I am currently using a Math worksheet that already employs the Kumon method. Calculadders uses progressive math drill sheets that the learners have to complete. Each worksheet needs to be completed and their time taken to complete is jotted down. Learners can only move on to the next level when mastery has be attained. Mastery is indicated by completion of the worksheet in a specified time.

So far, I am quite happy with how the boys are progressing with Calculadders. I do find a big jump in some levels and intend to generate my own mid level worksheets to bridge the gaps. This, I felt were necessary to maintain high confidence levels.

My boys have reached the level of single digit multiplication (after completing 4 digit addition and subtraction). I have not really insisted on them memorizing their multiplication tables since I found that they can remember them just from repetition by attempting many of such sums. Skip counting has also eased the process.

Most of the multiplication sums goes like this (You can use the sums on this site if you do not have Calculadders.) :

3 x 5 =

3 x 8 =

I will want to add sums such as:

3 x ___ = 15

___ x 8 = 24

I know these are essentially using the concept of division. But I think it is important to make the link between the two right from the start.

I am encouraged that the founder of the Kumon method, Toru Kumon started out setting his own daily Mathematics sheets for his son. If he can do it, so can I! ;-) ... or anybody else for that matter!


At this lower primary level, I am mainly using the Charlotte Mason Method to teach English. However, I do see the need to supplement this method with more drills and even memorization. Let me explain.

[Be forewarned. If you are a Charlotte Mason purist. Don't read on! Because what I am about to describe would probably make you cringe.Hahaha...]

I was not an avid reader when I was in school. So, much of the vocabulary I learnt were learnt from lists that I was made to "study". (Did I hear you gasps?!... ) Do I believe in such an out-dated method? Well, the truth is that it has worked for me. I learnt the meaning of words (or idioms, proverbs etc. ) first, before I meet them in context when I did eventually pick up on my reading. I don't think my love for the English Language was smothered in any way.

I have an English grammar book published by Cosco. I like the lists of synonyms, antonyms, idiom, proverbs and such at the back of the book. I intend to let my boys systematically study these lists. I will attempt to make a series of worksheets that correspond to their assigned study list. They will have to score a perfect score on a worksheet (perhaps within in a specified time) before they move on to learn more.

I have been thinking how best I can administer these worksheets. I could do it the old-fashion pen and paper way. I found an online testmaker called Easy Test Maker that can help speed up my time in generating worksheets. There is a choice of multiple choice, fill in the blanks and matching.

I could also try to make Montessori 3-part cards. But this will be time consuming as well as of high material cost.

Alternatively, I could make online quizzes that can give instant feedback. I am now currently fiddling with a few websites that allow me to create my own test. ClassMaker is one that I have tried, but I am not fully satisfied. There is only multiple choice format. Thinking up plausible distracting choices is too much work for me on a regular basis. I was thinking a pair-and-match format would be more useful to me.

The ideal quiz maker would have these criterion:
1. Have a pair and match format
2. Timed quizzes (nice to have but ok without)
3. Provide feedback to the learner.
4. Scramble question AND answer order each time the learner takes the same test.
5. Web-based
I will post an update when I have found the perfect free online quiz maker. Please do drop me a note if you have one to recommend.


I had a fellow homeschool mother who shared with me how her sons were fairing in a Kumon Chinese enrichment class. She patiently described how the class was run and this has helped give me some ideas to work on. (Thanks K!)

Repetition is one of the key to the success of the Kumon method. Say for reading and comprehension, Kumon students are given an audio recording of the passage they are to learn. Thereafter, they are expected to read the passage aloud. I guess (correct me if I am wrong) if the child cannot read fluently, he will listen to the audio recording again, repeating this process until he can master it.

Of course I could be the "recorder" to read to my boys. But recently, I found a resource that could help spare me that agony of repeated readings. ETutor, the people behind the popular hao peng you magazine, created a series of CD-roms. The plus point about this company is that their products always follows closely to the syllabus set out by MOE. Thus, the difficulty level is just right. One of the CD-roms focuses on comprehension. A reader with perfect diction reads a given passage. Passages are short and very manageable. (The text are highlighted like in kara-ok style.) Eureka! Problem solved!

(As a side note, I would also recommend their CD-rom on listening comprehension and composition. They are just what I need to expose my boys to more spoken Chinese.)

Another possibility is to use the readers that I have that comes with audio CDs!

My views on the Kumon method

I don't buy much into the idea put forth by David Russell that the Kumon method is a gentle, child-centered and child-respecting approach. His description even sounds vaguely as "noble" as the Montessori Method! I am not fully convinced.

I only agree that if the method is used with discretion, careful thought and sensitivity, it can instill a sense of "pride, satisfaction and confidence that comes with studying something difficult and then mastering it".

On the other hand, if it is administered thoughtlessly (and ruthlessly), it may backfire and lead to frustration, discouragement, low self-esteem and such negative effects.

Taking all these into account, I feel that the method does still have a role to play in my curriculum, albeit a minor one.

Visit Rumphius Mathematics Webpage , English Webpage or Chinese Webpage to find out more about how we approach Mathematics, English or Chinese in our homeschool.


  1. Sarah,

    How can we get hold of the hao peng you series and their CD rom?


  2. Hi Delci,

    I got the CDs from Popular bookshop (on promotion during the recent book fair) and the magazines direct from the publisher. More info can be found in

    Hope this helps.

  3. An update on my search for an interactive matching game maker can be found here :-

  4. Hi Sarah,

    It was good to have met you at the fair on Wednesday.Am very encouraged with what you have done with your sons and your homeschooling. Am wondering if there is any other way i could communicate with you like via email? Thank You!



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