Saturday, September 23, 2017

Preschool Kumon

Here are some thoughts on some of Kumon's preschool workbook offerings:

  • First off, the age ratings on these books are often over-ambitious.  For example, My Book of Numbers 1-30 is rated for ages 3-5.  As a 4-year-old, Baby T has done a number of the dot-to-dot type exercises pretty well, and the concepts are well within her grasp, but she's much less good at writing numbers over and over again (and frankly, we haven't really tried).  In general, I've gotten much less excited than I used to be about the number writing and letter writing exercises for really small children.  We have not finished this workbook.
  • Fessing up here--part of the reason I'm less enthusiastic about some of these workbooks is that they require constant parental supervision.
  • I have ordered Kumon's My Book of Number Games 1-70 to give Baby T some number practice without a lot of copy work--it's basically a dot-to-dot book.
  • Related: Kumon's My First Book of Drawing is also rated ages 3-5.  Baby T did quite a number of drawing exercises by herself at 4 and did a very decent job:  the apple, cherries, eggplant (!), watermelon, kite, etc.  However, she also just scribbled a little on some of them, or treated them as coloring exercises.  (Baby T did a lot of this workbook by herself.)  Some quibbles:  a cupcake that doesn't look like a cupcake, a ladle (what do 4-year-olds care about ladles?) and a very creepy clown.  Definitely not for the typical 3-year-old.  We have not finished this.
  • I last posted on Kumon's pre-k Logic workbook.  It starts with finding a match for an animal in a group of different animals and moves onto matching a cross-section of an object to the object itself and baby animals to their parents.  So far so good.  Things get a little trickier in the next section, where kids need to understand how scales work, and that being lower indicates that the animal or object is heavier.  Then there's a section on choosing which object or animal is faster.  We found this problematic as it's more about real life knowledge and experience than abstract logic.  Why should a 4-year-old know that a bird is faster than a bee?  And I still don't know whether a lion is faster than a rabbit.  Baby T did surprisingly well on the section where kids are supposed to figure out which things in a picture are pretend.  Baby T did well with pattern sequencing (at least as well as her mom).  Object rotation was kind of a pain for both of us.  There was also an exercise where you need to figure out which animal is missing in a design, with lots of obstacles to make it hard.  There were many times where I found myself thinking, "This is for 4-year-olds--seriously?", especially since there were times (like with the pattern sequencing and missing animals) where I struggled, too.  Baby T is very close to 5, so heaven knows how a young 4-year-old would do.  The workbook has really nice full color pictures, but I would say that the second half of it is more appropriate for 5.  Baby T did finish this (with help).
  • We found ourselves much more at home in Kumon's pre-k Spatial Reasoning workbook.  Again, I'm not totally sure that this is a good workbook for a typical 4-year-old, but this one was a very good fit for Baby T.  It contains the following:  drawing lines to connect matching objects (which eventually builds into mazes), multi-stop mazes, matching partial pictures, matching outlines to animals, figuring out which picture shows two shapes smooshed together (really good performance on that), copying more and more complex shapes (with help and some wobbly lines), comparing height (not fooled by animals sitting on chairs) and coloring exercises.  I've ordered the kindergarten version for Baby T.   
  • We're also working on the pre-k Differentiation workbook.  So far, the hardest thing in there for me and Baby T is the mirror image exercises.  
  • All in all, I'm happy to have preschool workbooks that are not primarily about practicing copying letters and numbers and where fine motor skills are not a major obstacle to doing the work, but age-appropriateness is sometimes an issue.

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