Both my daughters are known at the Kumon center here in Chapel Hill, but for varying reasons.
Yes, Sam does Kumon, at 2.5 years of age.
A few months ago, the Tiger Mother in my husband (yes, you read correctly) told me to find a way to get Sam interested in math. Since there isn’t an existing DVD of Your Child Can Add as we like to joke, we looked for a Kumon Center near us and checked to see if she could be enrolled in it.
Jimmy, the owner, did an initial evaluation of Sam one afternoon and said that at first she seemed shy and unresponsive, but when she finally warmed up to him, he could see that she was a very intelligent little girl, and she knew a lot for her age (I think my smile went from one end of the room to the other when I heard that!). In any case, he wanted us to take it slow with her because she was (is!) still very young, but he’d be happy to have her as his youngest student.
We stay for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Friday afternoon as Sam does her drills, and never fails to impress him and the other moms in the waiting room. Jimmy said to time her when we do the exercises at home, and when I show him how we do, he is surprised at how fast she goes. That and, he’s amazed that she will sit through the entire session and do the exercises, only getting up when she is done. Other children her age he says, spend part of their time running around and are easily distracted. Of course, this is where the Tiger Mother in me comes to play, because when we do the drills at home, I also make sure that she sits through it and doesn’t do anything else until it is done, and done properly. I don’t pressure her on time but I am strict about the quality of her work.
Sometimes it is difficult to keep her interested especially when she feels it’s too repetitive for her taste, but that is the nature of Kumon I think, so we pummel through. I am full of praise when she does a good job, but I also sometimes have to be creative and negotiate. To Sam’s credit, after settling on a suitable compromise (ie “We can watch Sound of Music after Kumon Mom.”), she will go through the rest of the drills without a hitch.
I do worry a lot that she may be too young for it (and I am ready to pull her out and stop at any time I feel that it is stressing her out more than she is learning), but she genuinely likes it. Surprisingly she’ll tell me everyday that she wants to do her Kumon, and after each session she says that she had fun. I guess it also helps that when she’s at the center, the assistants play with her as well when they attend to her and turn her exercises into a game. They too are amazed at her tenacity as well as her skill.
Now as for Jamie…
Naturally Jamie tags along in her carseat when we go. More often than not she is awake, and so I bring a set of the Your Baby Can Read cards and we read the words there. It helps keep her quiet and distracted, without me having to look like a loon dancing all around. Also for me, it’s making idle time more productive. So the moms have stared at us as well, half amused and the other half probably think I am crazy to be teaching my 3-month old daughter to read.
But that’s not all.
You see, when we’re at the center – Jamie chooses that moment to poop. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And it’s not the dainty feminine kind, but rather the explosive one that causes heads to turn. Of course I’m quick to point out that it is her (lest they think it was ME who made the loud farting sound!), and I make an obvious motion of picking up her bag and going into a corner to change her. That’s the other thing, there is no changing table at the center (why would they put one after all) and so I’ve to do it on the floor of the waiting room. Thankfully she is cute and innocent and of course she smiles after she has done her business, so no one shows that they “mind” when I toss a plastic bag with poop into the trash. I silently pray that it will not stink up the place (at least while we’re still in it). I am also quite sure that since I’m the only parent who brings an infant into the center, when they clean out the trash, they pretty much know who left the little souvenir.
So that is our weekly Kumon experience. Or should I say ritual?
Each time we go I always enter with a lot of pride, a little embarrassment, and at least one plastic bag.