Is Kumon the Best Option for Academic Enrichment?

Kumon learning centers are located in every state in the United States and over 40 other countries around the world. It’s certainly a brand with name recognition, so it’s no wonder that parents consider Kumon when they search for an enrichment or tutoring program for their students. Here’s the thing, though—brand recognition does not necessarily relate to the best program or best value. Like any decision that affects your child, you’ll want to do your research and consider alternatives before committing to an educational enrichment program. So, before you search the web for “Kumon center near me,” take a moment to ask some questions on how Kumon works. To choose the best educational enrichment program for your child, be sure to consider if a different academic enrichment program, like A Grade Ahead, is a better choice for your family.

Let’s take a moment to analyze some key differences that may occur between two educational enrichment programs. There are many different approaches to enrichment, and Kumon and A Grade Ahead are evidence of that fact.

Educational Enrichment Programs: How does A Grade Ahead compare to Kumon?

Class Content and Times

At Kumon, parents are required to bring children to a center twice weekly for 30 minutes each time. Students then complete 5 additional sets of worksheets at home. Students work on the same worksheets until they achieve 100% accuracy, often repeating the same worksheet many times before moving on to the next level curriculum.

A Grade Ahead takes a different approach.

When your child is enrolled at an A Grade Ahead academy, he or she takes one 50-minute class per week—allowing you time for all those extracurriculars, which can be hard to balance (check out these tips, here!). In class, a proper lesson is taught by a highly-qualified teacher who has been rigorously assessed. Then, students practice one worksheet with the teacher in class to ensure understanding of the topic. In the week that follows class, students complete additional worksheets at home (equivalent to 2-4 days of work depending on the grade level) to reinforce the learning. A Grade Ahead even utilizes a Hands-on Learning (HOA) activity for the final week of the month to allow students to apply the concepts they have learned that month to real-life situations. Overall, students learn and practice skills in many different contexts to ensure complete mastery of a topic.

Supplemental Worksheets

One of the biggest points to consider when comparing Kumon to A Grade Ahead is the way the curriculum is structured. Kumon is known for (and often criticized for) the monotonous repetition of its worksheets and the lack of instruction on the lesson itself. Kumon likes to refer to this as “self-directed learning.”

Comparatively, A Grade Ahead offers a completely unique curriculum that is designed in-house by our expert curriculum team and then taught by a highly-qualified teacher. A Grade Ahead feels that classes should be filled with meaningful student-teacher interactions. Not only that, but the interactive curriculum should be taught by teachers who are excited to engage with your children and prepared to differentiate instruction in a way that most benefits your child. As a parent, you care enough about your student’s future to invest in an enrichment program, so the care and attention your child receives from a program should reflect that investment.

A Grade Ahead works to prevent student boredom as he or she moves to a new challenging lesson each week after mastering the previous topic through non-repetitive homework sheets. This A Grade Ahead approach is much different than Kumon, where a student cannot advance without 100% performance on repetitive challenges.

Teachers, tutors, or instructors—which is best?

Kumon utilizes instructors to monitor students in their centers, but they are not present to guide or teach children. Instead, they simply go over the assigned homework to see if it’s been completed and correct. If it is correct, the instructor gives out the next set. According to their own website, Kumon says, “Kumon teaches them self-learning, where your kids learn by studying examples and figure out how to complete the work on their own. They learn to rely on themselves, not on what the teacher knows.”

At A Grade Ahead, students receive a properly taught lesson each week that is reinforced with immediate, guided practice. The opportunity for your child to ask for clarification or help in understanding the topic makes learning easier, especially for the youngest learners. All teachers receive clear lesson plans and prepare in advance, so they are never caught by unfamiliar material.

The interactive lessons allow students and teachers to get to know each other and build a routine across an entire year. Year-round weekly lessons allow teachers to better assess a student’s needs. Plus, the teacher can maintain open and regular communication with parents.

Kumon reports that all instructors checking student work are required to hold a four-year degree and receive extensive Kumon method training. Yet, the most common complaint about Kumon academies is the lack of instruction and claims that the instructors are high school-aged children themselves. It seems the four-year degree standard may not be consistently enforced from one franchise location to the next. And with thousands of Kumon centers around the globe, one can easily understand how the policy may not be practical to enforce.

A Grade Ahead’s teacher policy requires that all teachers across more than 30 franchise locations have at least 3 years of college education, preferably with a background in education or the subject being taught. However, the vast majority of A Grade Ahead teachers possess at least a bachelor’s degree and have experience actually teaching and/or a background in education, math, English, or science.  Interestingly, many of the corporate staff members are educators by trade and bring that experience and knowledge to our curriculum design and its constant improvement.

Study Tables vs. Classes

Another practice at Kumon centers that raises eyebrows is the use of communal study tables. With study tables, kindergarteners practicing simple addition worksheets may sit next to middle schoolers practicing advanced Algebra.

At A Grade Ahead, children are in a classroom with no more than eight students (less than eight for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade). Every child around them is learning the same lesson. The classes meet weekly at the same time, so students build camaraderie with their teacher and peers and enjoy learning together.

Value of Service

As franchises, both Kumon learning centers and A Grade Ahead academies have pricing variations from location to location.

David Samuel at Kumon Math and Reading Center of Westchester, CA, note that prices at Kumon range from $90-$180 per month per subject with the average being $150 per subject. There is also a registration fee of $50 and an initial material fee of $15.

A Grade Ahead’s academy prices also vary by location. The current prices begin at $80 per subject per month (with some discounts offered), and the average price is approximately $110 per subject per month. Registration fees are no more than $50 per family, but it’s common to find some discounts to bring that down even further.

The two programs are comparable on price—so it comes down to value. What elements are you looking for most in an academic enrichment program? Here’s a visual look at a comparison between the two franchise models:

Kumon Educational Enrichment

Are you intrigued and want to know more specifics about A Grade Ahead? Visit the main website page to see if there is an academy near you!

Ease of Access

If you do not live very close to a Kumon learning center, you’re out of luck.

Unlike Kumon, A Grade Ahead offers a program for students who live more than 10 miles away from an A Grade Ahead enrichment academy. The Enrichment at Home program allows those eligible to receive the acclaimed curriculum in the mail each month. The detailed lesson and teaching tips enable the parent to lead the child through the comprehensive material. Students can complete the practice sheets at their own pace in the comfort of their homes. Visit A Grade Ahead’s website and type in your zip code to see if you qualify for this unique program.

Have you researched educational enrichment programs for your child? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


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