We're deep into the school years around here, which means juggling academics and homework for four kids with unique learning styles. At any given time there are weekly worksheets, elaborate projects, and presentations to be tackled. I’ve accepted that our dining room is now a chaotic at-home schoolroom of sorts — there's always someone working on something with a looming deadline.
My husband and I do our best to support our kids, while also encouraging them to steer their own learning. We're more than happy to help track down supplies for a project, or search for online research tools, but we also expect our kids to do homework as independently as possible. Not only because of the time constraints of being a big family, but also because we want them to develop life-long learning skills.
As parents, we’ve decided not to focus on letter grades in these early years of learning — especially because each of the kids has different academic strengths. Instead, we look for improvements in learning skills, motivation, and discipline. We celebrate those achievements as a way to boost their confidence when it comes to school. We also seek out extra-curricular activities that appeal to their unique personalities. For some of my kids, it’s music and for others it’s sports. But by practising and working hard to improve those skills, they're finding other ways to boost self-confidence.
When our eldest daughter was in grade four, we noticed a lot of discouragement and frustration when it came to her math homework. When she began to say she “wasn’t good at math and would never be good at it” we worried about her self-confidence more than the curriculum itself. Boosting our kids' confidence at school matters more than grades.
When we realized we needed to get her external help, we turned to Kumon because we knew it was a program that focused on the basic building blocks of math. We also knew that strengthening those skills would increase her confidence with the math concepts that were intimidating her.
We reminded her it wasn’t about changing her grades, but rather about changing her perception of math being a subject she couldn’t manage. Visiting the Kumon classroom twice a week and doing worksheets the other five days reinforced key building blocks until they became second nature to her understanding of math. The progress in the math program was very gradual and customized to each student. The program uses repetition to help improve confidence. We noticed huge improvements and decided to enroll her younger brother as well. He also developed strong learning skills and improved his self-discipline when it came to homework. Now, my kids don't get stuck (and frustrated) trying to remember fast math skills, like addition and multiplication. These were skills that once put them in a discouraged mindset. This is no longer the case.
When our other daughter started to express a lack of confidence with her reading abilities, we again turned to the Kumon reading program to help reinforce phonics and her reading comprehension. Like math, the reading program focused on repetition and key building blocks like phonics and being able to recognize adjectives and verbs in a sentence, which greatly improved her comprehension when reading. Over time, she fell in love with books and felt ready to challenge herself with more difficult stories.
To keep the kids motivated we reminded them not to think of Kumon as something that added to their workload. We continually stressed the idea that getting this extra help was improving their ability to get through work they were being assigned at school.
We no longer hear negativity when it comes to math and reading. Even when they come up against a challenging concept or harder curriculum, they now have more confidence to get through it using the skills they’ve built on their own.
In the bigger picture, our family knows an investment of extra time now is worthwhile for future school experiences, especially as we get closer to the high school and post-secondary years. We are grateful there are programs like Kumon which helped grow our kids’ self-confidence, a confidence they can take with them on whatever path they choose to follow.