Kumon instructor Christine Wilkins with students Atreyu and Tristan Lucas. Photo by Westside People
Kumon Learning Center of Santa Monica has been leading students to the head of the class for the past 20 years. The world’s largest provider of math and reading after-school programs, the Kumon Method empowers self-learning and builds confidence for students in the classroom and beyond.
Christine Wilkins opened the Santa Monica center in 1994 after learning about the success of Kumon Centers in Japan. The first was founded in 1956 by Toru Kumon, a math teacher in Osaka who developed a learning method for his 8-year-old son. Today more than 19 million students have enrolled at Kumon Centers worldwide.
In Santa Monica, students as young as 3-years-old up to high school spend between 20-to-30 minutes completing lesson plans two days per week at the center on Santa Monica Boulevard near Third Street Promenade. For the rest of the week, students complete daily lesson plans at home. As the instructor, Wilkins is there to offer any guidance, but they are mostly self-directed.
“We teach students to achieve at their highest potential,” she said. “In the classroom situation at school, teachers cannot cater to each individual need. At Kumon we teach students to become their own teacher, meaning they use what they learn to take it to the next step. So they become more self-reliant.”
As students progress through the workbooks after six months or a year they perform on average at a grade above their age level, Wilkins said. And even though the work comes in addition to what students might have assigned from school, they end up completing the work that much faster.
“Through this they grow and develop self-confidence,” Wilkins said. “We find when students feel good about themselves they perform much better. Therefore when they do their school homework, they can concentrate and do that much faster also.”
For Wilkins, who has taught the Kumon Method for so many years, the results are undeniable as her face lights up to talk about her students’ achievements.
“We see children grow,” Wilkins said. “Some students came here when they were not able to sit still for more than five minutes or able to read. You watch them grow step by step. It’s just such rewarding work.”