At a recent Kumon awards ceremony, an eleven-year-old Completer of the Kumon English Programme gave an inspiring speech to her fellow students. We wanted to share her heart-felt words with you so that you can learn about her journey and pass her thoughts onto any child who is striving towards completing the programmes.
“I think that Kumon has two main aims: to help you become aware of your potential, and then secondly, to assist you in achieving it. I found that one of the key skills Kumon has taught me is how to deal with that uncomfortable feeling when you try to grasp a new concept. Everyone who does Kumon has to grapple with those frustrating moments when you are not really sure of what you are doing or why. It is precisely at those moments that you need to believe in your own ability to work it out and think of how satisfied you will feel when you eventually master the task. It is crucial to try to keep yourself motivated and sit down in the right frame of mind ready to attack the questions with enthusiasm. Kumon has taught me not to give up and to work through the frustration.
“I began the English programme one year after starting the maths programme. The first third of the English programme focuses on reading skills, spelling patterns and knowledge of basic grammar. This lays a solid foundation for the middle third of the programme which develops your comprehension skills, ability to construct complex sentences, and teaches you how to summarise concisely.
“In maths, the progress you make as you master each new topic is easily visible and measurable. However in English, a gradual improvement in handwriting, vocabulary and comprehension is less easily noticed, despite the fact that this intangible progress is definitely real.
“It was C.S. Lewis who said ‘we read so that we don’t feel alone’. Literature transports you from the life you are born into, to worlds beyond your imagination. I’ve always loved reading but it would be fair to say that at the beginning of the programme I was drawn towards typical ‘girl’ books which focused on animals, magic or friendship issues. Kumon forced me out of my comfort zone into genres of fiction I would never have chosen for myself.
“The authors encompassed by the programme were as diverse as Benjamin Zephaniah, Jane Austen, Ian Fleming and Shakespeare. There were many surprises. I discovered that “James Bond” books are much more appealing to me than the films, with greater emphasis on intrigue and suspense. I found Roald Dahl’s autobiographical novels far more enjoyable than his successful children’s stories. It was the constant exposure to such wide ranging texts that enabled me to discard my pre-conceived ideas of what types of literature to read for pleasure.
“The final third of the English programme focuses on text analysis, interpretation and how to formulate a critique. I found this to be significantly more challenging than work in the previous levels. Analysing a piece of writing requires you to think not only about the way an author chooses to say something, but also to take into account what they deliberately leave unsaid. The greatest authors find a way of incorporating description and action in a way that enhances the rhythm of a piece of writing. The booklets in the ‘critiquing levels’ make you aware of the importance of pace and different ways in which characters can be developed. Over time, this has impacted on the way I use stylistic features in my own writing.
“It would be honest to say that I haven’t enjoyed every single part of the English programme. I’ve come to realise that I’m not really a fan of poetry but at least I’ve gained the skills to dissect each verse and interpret the authors meaning. Being able to control the pace of Kumon work to suit your own rate of progress has helped me to feel in control of the whole process.
“I feel immensely satisfied to have completed the English programme. My Instructor was so proud when I handed in my last booklet that she struggled to stay dry eyed. I suspect that my satisfaction at completing was outweighed by Mum’s jubilation at not having to mark any more booklets! The Kumon English Programme gave me a level of challenge that I couldn’t get at school and in a strange way I miss that. So don’t give up, because the feeling of completing the programme is fantastic!”
As you read her speech, you would be forgiven for forgetting that the words are those of an eleven-year-old girl who is still in primary school. It is always such a joy to hear students reflect on their Kumon journey and we look forward to hearing the amazing things she achieves as she tackles the challenges of secondary school and ventures into a world of unlimited possibilities.