Our Newest Readers—Do We HAVE to Remove the Joy?

young learner overwhelmed by kumon

I took this verbatim from one of my favorite blogs from my favorite reading site, Reading Rockets. There was a blog post entitled  Preschools Need a Marketing Campaign, and it made my skin crawl.

I don’t feel too badly about that, because the author is a Ph.D. and she feels the same way.

JoAnne Meier wrote:

I don’t read scary books, because they stay with me for far too long. But today by accident I read something really scary in The New York Times, called Fast-Tracking to Kindergarten.

It’s an article about the rapid expansion of *Junior Kumon* (this lnk has since gone dead…checking to see if they discontinued or just changed pages) , a “preschool enrichment program” for kids ages 3-5. According to the article, parents pay $200 to $300 a month for their young child (ages 3-5) to spend up to an hour twice weekly being tutored. With homework on top of that.

A few snips from the article (but read it for yourself too for the full effect):

In New York, where the company is colonizing storefronts like so many Starbucks, enrollment in Junior Kumon has tripled since it began opening centers in 2007.

“Is that how we write a 12?” her instructor, Maria Rivas, asks. “Erase it.”

“This is a sloppy 12, Eze,” she says. “Go ahead: a one and a two. Smaller. Much better.”

Eze moves to 13.

“Neater,” Ms. Rivas insists. “Come on, you can do it.” Finally, she resorts to the kind of incentive that Eze, her pink glitter sneaker barely grazing the ground, can appreciate: “You’ll get an extra sticker if you can do a perfect 13.”

Eze is 3.


This type of program, and this sort of thinking, is SCARY. It’s scary because it perpetuates the myth that math and reading are learned only through skill and drill types of activities. “This is math and reading. They don’t do that in preschool,” says a parent and Kumon client.

Yes, they do. It just doesn’t (and shouldn’t) look like that.

This is where a solid preschool marketing campaign comes in. Big books, read alouds, circle time, block centers, and science tables (just to name a few) are ALL math and reading. They’re math and reading in the most authentic, curiosity-building way.

Preschools need to help parents understand that the types of activities that happen during a preschool day, and the types of activities that happen around the house, can build creative and engaged learners who know how to work with other people. That’s the type of person I want to be running the country, making laws, and teaching kids.

Well. Shoot!

I agree 100% with JoAnne. I’m appalled. But here’s what I want to know: What do you think? Please let me know below, and I promise I won’t blow my stack if you disagree! 😉

After I’ve listened to what you have to say, I’ll publish my true feelings about Kumon and the damage it can do, not so much to the children for whom school work comes easily, but for those who struggle. Worksheets are the last thing these kids need.

Oh, rats. I think I just gave away my “true feelings.” Dang it.

P.S. Go look at the picture, the picture of Eze. Look at her face.

And then know this:

Straight from the lips of an upper-level Kumon employee:

“Age 3 is the sweet spot,” said Joseph Nativo, chief financial officer for Kumon North America. “But if they’re out of a diaper and can sit still with a Kumon instructor for 15 minutes, we will take them.”


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