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Original post made by WonderingParent, Fairmeadow, on Jun 6, 2007

A friend of the family cannot stop talking about how Kumon helped her children ( I think the Score is on the same lines too ). She had her children in the program right from the 1st grade - now the older child is in the 5th grade and I can see that they are doing really well in school.

(Well, not peer pressure - but I got bought in by the commercial on the TV that says knowledge can melt away during summer - I see that happening with my kids - 4th and 5th graders ) I talked to the Score folks in the midtown and their sales pitch is excellent !

My kids are above the average level in school. They can certainly put in a little more effort and get to the top level as far as academics is concerned, but then their social activities/sports comes into play. I am always torn between letting them go play ball outside vs asking them to sit down and do one advanced math problem.

Both me and my spouse have an advanced college degree, we can definitely help the kids with their math, science problems - but the main challenge is to get them to "sit down" and agree to work on stuff (they will do the bare minimum required to get them out of 'homework' ).

Getting them to sit down and work on something will be resolved if they go to one of these programs and have an instructor watching over their shoulder for 1 hour ... but then a part of me wonders, if this would be pushing them a bit too much ( joys of decision making as a parent )

I want to get a realistic feedback from the parents who have tried these programs and have liked it / hated it ...

Comments (17)

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Posted by observing parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2007 at 3:59 pm

We haven't tried the programs, but they have popped up in the last five years all over Silicon Valley mostly in affluent areas(not to mention individual expensive Math tutors who don't really advertise their services). I'm sure some programs are "worthwhile" and others less so.

I am quite interested how students and parents fail to disclose to schools/teachers at the middle/high school level their use of paid tutoring (even when directly queried by Math teachers) to "get ahead" of the curriculum, so that when the time comes (and it counts in high school) there is an easy A. This creates stress on peers who are being taught the curriculum properly as it comes along by PAUSD teachers and learning through their own efforts. It's a great competitive strategy on the part of many parents here.

Most kids I've observed don't especially appear to want to enter programs like these, though there could be a few who benefit from extra support, remedial work, or by moving ahead if they "love" Math.

I can't really believe that each of these students who "moves ahead" truly is so naturally gifted at Math that the PAUSD curriculum at the highest levels is not sufficient to provide a challenge. A favorite goal of parents here is to get their kid moved ahead one grade in Math in middle school - for no particular reason other than for competitive purposes as students are compared with their grade-level peers when they apply to top colleges. Once on the train, you have to keep going; students need tutoring each year to keep one year ahead. I think college applications should require the student to state how many years of tutoring they have received and at what cost. Be aware that what others do will affect your student's standing at the high school level (not what one would immediately think).

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Posted by what's the message?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:22 am

An exaggerated view, but maybe a little too close for comfort?

"You're only ten, but you have to get ahead now. I know you're not really all that interested in this stuff, but you can follow your own interests when your student loans come due. See, what you do now determines what happens in middle school determines what happens in high school determines what happens in college determines wheter or not you're good enough to be my kid. And by the way, we'll get that bumper sticker on the van for everyone to see real soon. Why should you just read a book or just go out and play? This is Palo Alto. No other kids are doing that. They're going to Kumon to be better than you, but we won't let that happen, don't worry. Your mom and I have advanced degrees and even though you're too young to really know your own goals, let's just assume you want to be like us, only more so. We know the path because we lived it and now it's your turn to live our life. Wait, that didn't come out right."

A part of you wonders? Listen to it! That's your instinct telling you to back off and go for a hike or a walk. Bake some cookies. Look at baby pictures and old family videos together, then go do something new worth videotaping just cause its fun and cute. Will they thank you for the extra math problems? Will they remember it? Will you make home movies of algebra at the kitchen table? Create some space to just live, or create some fun, loving memories. Enjoy the present!

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Posted by curious
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:21 am

If you want to raise your kid to be another worker bee in the hive, then fill all their time and mental capacity with academics. If you want to nurture a 3 dimensional thinking feeling human think about it again.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:23 am

And while you're at it, make sure you add mandarin to their resume. That will help ensure that they are on the path to success I hear. Even it it's at the expense of the needs of 98% of the rest of the kids in the city. As long as they get theirs it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else.

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Posted by Middle School Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:52 am

My 6th grade son has been having math problems at school.

But, get him to talk baseball, he can work out averages, stats, memorise all sorts of irrelevant data, and use his brain as well as his body for his favorite sport.

Bottom line, get your child involved in something they are really passionate about and sit back and watch. Let them excel in their field and if it becomes necessary to provide some tutoring deal with it then. Don't turn the kid off school, or off being a kid. Let the kid in child show what he can do first and be amazed at the results.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:39 am


Kumon involves lots of repetition. Their methods are what American teachers call drill and kill, though they are very popular in Asia.

In most cases, I think kids who follow Kumon will raise their scores, but it won't get them to "sit down" let alone teach them disciplined study habits--that's something you have to teach them. It will add 10-30 minutes a day to the homework load.

The method is pure repetition with no attempt to engage interest, and I think most kids would come to dislike any subject taught like this.

Personally, I might try a kid out on Kumon if he or she was lagging but never if he or she was at grade level or above. The trade-off--killing any interest in learning--is too great. Let's say you could move your 2nd grader's reading ability from 2.8 to 3.4. Is that worth the boredom inflicted?

If your kids are above average in school, let them play soccer or dance. During the summer, find another way to keep their minds sharp. Make sure they're reading. Find a fun math workbook.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2007 at 8:45 pm


I actually have a young relative who was one of those math whizzes. Having seen that kind of facility up close, I think afterschool tutoring just to push a kid "ahead" is counterproductive long term. If you're a kid who loves math and is gifted at it, you don't need drilling and you don't need your time taken up with exercises, when your mind could be exploring weird math facts. If you like math and do above average, why should you have a subject pushed on you to the point where it becomes a punishment. That kills incentive and creativity.

I think tutoring is for kids who aren't, for whatever reason, getting it in school and need the help or a different approach. It's also for kids who want to learn a subject not taught in school.

They have a phrase at some of the top colleges for overprepared kids who then fall apart in college when they're left to their own devices, "hothouse flowers."

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Joe is a registered user.

Kumon probably isn't a good fit for a child who's already at or above grade level. But, I had a niece who was behind in math and she not only caught up but became much more confident and comfortable at school after the Kumon program especially in her core math/science subjects.

Both of my kids were in Sylvan for a while and loved it. The instructors were excellent and Sylvan gave both the kids and parents great feedback on their progress. At Sylvan, there were drills, but they were always moving to more and more difficult concepts and building on what they already knew. Both of my kids are very active in sports, but they never complained about going to Sylvan or thought that the program boring.

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Posted by jen
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 15, 2007 at 7:04 pm

My kid goes to Score, because she was not at grade level for her school...yes for the rest of the country, but not for her class. I think it's fair that you ask about these programs. There's nothing wrong with them...she's currently 1 grade above where she was, which is now on par for her class, 1 grade above vs. rest of country. How can any of us help but to think of these programs, when they're getting 5 days of STAR testing in second grade?! I find the tutoring is much better than the computer work. It's 3:1 ratio, but it works. We're still in our 6 month contract, so we'll think about pulling her out at the end of this. HTH

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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Wondering - I have no experience with tutoring or enrichment programs, but a lot with kids. Kids are all different and you know yours best. Some kids benefit from some structure or a push; others benefit from being left to their own devices. I personally like to try things and see how they go; the results are sometimes surprising and we all learn something. I had to literally drag my daughter to travel softball try-outs; now it is the favorite thing in her world. Was I being pushy or a good parent? Time will tell.

We try to avoid pushing our kids to achieve our own dreams; but helping them find and explore there own is important to us and that help can take many forms.

Good luck.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2008 at 9:28 pm

My children have been going to Kumon for 4 years. Frankly, I see more advantages than disadvantages. First of all, this program helps children become more disciplined, organized and familiar with their daily routine. Second of all, the more your children know and learn, the more confident they become. I would disagree with those folks thinking that this method us purely repetition. Believe me, this method does develop analyzing skills. I can't tell you that my kids fully enjoy attending Kumon and I'm sure that they would rather play basketball instead. Most of the kids don't like going to school anyway. However, we all have to remember that when it comes to college, it is a very competitive world. There is nothing rong with trying to work hard.

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Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm

We have experience with 7 years of Kumon so I hope this will be more helpful than just a parenting opinion. Like every other parent, I want my children to do well in academics, but not at the sacrifice of their happiness and well-being. We lived in the midwest and began Kumon out there because the education was so deficient. As an example, my son missed 30 days of school one year due to vacationing because he wasn't missing anything in school anyway.

Fast forward to Palo Alto, and we continued Kumon during elementary school. However, at 6th grade, the school workload increased tremendously and my son said that for an entire math test, only one or two questions related to his Kumon work. He is a straight "A" student and on AVERAGE, had 2-4 hours of homework each night(including studying for tests, projects, workbooks). How does one justify assigning him Kumon also? Where would his down time be? And when his sport began, we knew we could no longer continue Kumon.

If you view the students who are doing Kumon, most are elementary school level, and my daughter still does Kumon because she has the extra time and a review of math for her is helpful since math is her weakness. Once she is out elementary school, however, she will probably drop Kumon due to an increased workload.

Here's how Kumon works: pick up worksheets on Tuesdays & Fridays and complete the worksheets at the office. There are two subjects available and you can choose both or one. Each subject(math or reading) should take about 10-15 min. for the child to complete per day. However, at the Kumon in Los Altos, they have the children do additional stuff such as complete a number board, so they can be there for 20 min. per subject. During the week, the student completes the worksheets for each day and then returns. Kumon regulates it so the worksheets are not too difficult for the child and the child times him/herself. The goal is to be able to finish the worksheets in 10 min. or less without errors before they move the child onto the next level. If the Kumon administrator is good, the worksheets are fairly easy for the child but not so easy that they feel like they are wasting their time. The children should not need any help from the parent (only an occasional question. My older son said he actually learned some interesting knowledge from the reading worksheets.

It is an adjustment to get used to the routine at first and seems like a lot of work. Fortunately, at the "Los Altos" center, there are plenty of stores around for shopping to keep you busy while you wait. What I like about Kumon is that I am so busy that this system is easier for me, even though I am a stay-at-home mom. If I had to open a workbook and help my children on my own, it would never occur and they would not take well to me working with them. It is a commitment and the Kumon philosophy is for the students to continue everyday so they don't take well to students continually not completing worksheets or skipping out for a week. Sometimes, we would take a week-long break because the kids needed it and then they would be fine to return to it but we still were committed the rest of the time. When my children had soccer and weren't keeping up with the worksheets, it did affect their Kumon. Their times would slow down so the Kumon reasoning to continue everyday does have merit.

Kumon is a franchise. We tried the Kumon at Cubberley Community Center and the "Los Altos" one located in Mountain View, between BevMo and Ross. There is another Mtn. View site so they call this one the Los Altos site. Those in the know, know that the Los Altos site is superior. My children were disappointed with the Cubberley site. There is a Kumon website for more info.

As far as SCORE, I have heard disappointment with it but have no experience.

In conclusion, if your child is doing well in school, Kumon is not really necessary since the Palo Alto schools are good. Of course, it would be helpful, but not completely necessary. I asked a child attending a Los Altos private middle school how much homework he had and he said "an hour and a half at most". Had Jordan been that easy, we could have justified continuing Kumon. Kumon does teach good math skills such as learning to calculate in the head and we have been very happy with it. We make sure to let the kids have fun in their lives because we believe that all learning and no fun makes it difficult for them to keep up their motivation to do well academically.

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Posted by Dad of 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm

For complicated reasons, we used Kumon for 1 1/2 years.

The method is very Japanese, very rote, very boring. It is suitable for some kids who are behind and need lots of repetition. I would never put a kid in who is at or above grade level because of the boring, step-wise approach. Let them play.

I do agree about the Los Altos brach--very well run, good "teachers."

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Posted by Mother
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 8, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Our daughter went the summer program at Score in Midtown last year. She was at the grade level, she was categorized as a 'good student' by her teachers. However, she was very anxious about math. Both myself and my husband have higher college degrees and we were quite comfortable with teaching her / helping her. However when either parent attempted to help with the math - there were too many meltdowns.

We joined the score summer program. It worked wonders for our daughter's confidence in Math .. I mean *wonders* ! The program was computer base and it adapted to the skill level. I think this adaptation worked really well - since when she was having a hard time with a particular series of problems, the computer threw out less challenging problems to help the morale.

You will hear a lot of negative feedback about Score / Kumon ( there are quite a few postings regarding it on this thread already ). Go with your gut feel regarding your own child. These programs work with certain kids - not all kids gain from it.

Midtown Score offers a couple of trial lessons .. they are worth a try.

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Posted by Jenna
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I have a son who is doing pretty well in academics with out any turoring services. I bring a lot of worksheets from various book stores and work with him at home. Most of my friends have enrolled their kids in Kumon and have mixed feelings about it. But when it comes to the kids, they without any hesitation say that it is very boring and tedious. So, if kids are not interested in doing it then why are we adults forcing it on them. Kumon repeats the same problems again and again, which is more like memorizing rather then understanding the concept. Kids that go to Kumon lose their problem solving and analyzing abilities because it is more like parrot teaching. Bottom line if kids are doing well by themselves at school then why impose more work on them. Life is too short anyway, don't make it too complicated...manke it fun....You will cherish it later. Good luck!!!

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Posted by Marcie
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 13, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I have tried Kumon and it didn't work for my child. I totally agree that it is very boring and not exciting atall for my child. We have noticed that her scores went down after we enrolled her in Kumon because she was focused in the Asian way of teaching (memorizing rather than understanding), which is very unlike in US.She is doing fine in school after we pulled her out from kumon.

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Posted by Andrea
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:26 am

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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