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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Math Geek

I haven't told too many friends that my kids go to Kumon, cuz I didn't want to be that Chinese mom that forces the kids to do math. In fact, I didn't even do Kumon myself as a student, and I was not at all envious of my other Asian friends who were doing Kumon in junior high and high school to be enlightened in vector geometry and calculus etc. No wonder they were miles ahead in Grade 12 and first year Engineering. (The peer pressure did rub off on me, and I wrote every Math Olympiad, Pascal or Descartes Math contest, and joined the math club to "fit in" LOL) I suppose my husband was like one of those kids too, so he made sure to sign up Maggie for Kumon as soon as she turned five. We just started at the first week in August and I've seen tremendous leaps in just three short weeks. I'm a believer if I wasn't before.
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From Suzuki, I should already know that Every Child Can and has the potential to do great and amazing things if you teach them. Their young minds can absorb and learn so much within these magical years of age 3 to 6.

Maggie - just completed JK and moving on to SK next week. One year ago, she was not at all interested in writing. I gave up teaching her to write anything though my husband put this ultimatum over my head.. she better learn to write her name M-A-G-G-I-E before starting school or else.... (so he ended up teaching her over a course of a week while I was away). It didn't help that there was one girl in her preschool class who was writing Christmas cards and Valentine cards to all the kids names in proper upper and lowercase. Anyway my theory was that they all learn to read and write on their own accord, and they teach it in school so why go through the blood, sweat and tears?

"If there's no heat in the house or the AC is broken, that's the daddy's problem. If the kids can't read or write good, that's the mommy's problem!!!!" My husband quotes Chris Rock (with a passion).
by "JA" dated June 2012, Montessori Preschool

Perhaps that might've affected my decision to enlist the big guns to teach AJ writing skills, numbers and science a mom should teach her own son. AJ attended Montessori for the entire preschool year Sept 2011 to June 2012 and I think it was the best $11,000 I have ever spent in my life. I cannot capture in words everything they learned during the Montessori work time, and the only tangible "homework" they ever send home is the art work, the writing notepad of upper and lowercase letters, and two report cards. But his understanding and explanation of small random scientific facts - three physical states of water, the water cycle, the life cycle of a butterfly, the timezones in Canada.  Even today when he explained to me what happens when you flush the toilet,  I tried to trick him that the sewer flows into the river. He doesn't buy it, "No it doesn't. People swim in the river and drive the boats. They have to clean the water first."

Although Maggie and AJ are 15 months apart, I suppose it was always unfair but somewhat advantageous to him that I expected the same from both of them development wise. Therefore after seeing AJ bring home is work a few times, writing 1 to 20 for AJ did not a super amazing feat. When Maggie started Kumon in August, I decided to enroll AJ in the first class as well. I won't tell her that he scored higher on the assessment test, but they would start at the same level anyway because that's the standing. However the first week's homework did seem super easy - just counting objects up to 7 and tracing the numbers 1 - 10 for six rows a day? I was thinking, what I'm paying $100 a month for this?? But in three short weeks they were doing so much more and even learning to count by fives and mental math. (counting 17 butterflies, he says out loud 5, 5, 5, 16, 17... Shocking. Visualize three rows of five, and the fourth row with two).
by Maggie on August 22, 2012 8 minutes

by AJ on August 24, 2012 in 5 minutes

Sometimes writing 1 to 50 takes 5 minutes, when it's a race between Maggie and AJ at the Kumon class with the teacher supervising. Yesterday night, writing 1 to 50 took 25 minutes and 10 minutes of that was spent twiddling his thumbs and explaining to me that he hates Kumon and he hates me and wishes that I never took him there. I did not lose my temper or get mad during this ordeal, and I don't even know how he was able to eventually finish writing it but he did. I think the part that confused me the most was that he could stubbornly sit in the chair for 25 minutes and just talk about not wanting to it, instead of just cutting short the torture time and just do it! Well dad bribes him with Super Mario Brothers and Star Wars computer games but all I could really offer was a sticker.

Anyway I peeked ahead in the book and near the end, maybe in a bout 2 or 3 months time they have to write 101 to 200. Insane! But I see that the format is in neat rows of 10. I hope to continue the Kumon classes when we move to that small town in Ontario next month, but here I was worried that he would forget how to write his name and 1 to 10 before the start of JK.

For the record though, kids Maggie and AJ's age in most Asian countries are doing multiplication tables, addition and subtraction in 3 digit numbers and so on. Even Maggie's best friend just one year older who lives down the street, having just completed the third year of Montessori in the Casa Program, knows adding in three digits and knows how to "carry over". Her parents have decided to keep her in the Montessori program till the Grade 3 level a few years from now, instead of enrolling into Grade 1 in the public school in the fall. Young children are capable of understanding and doing great things!
by Maggie, Monart school in Ottawa
by AJ, fourth lesson.

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