We started Kumon in January. For those who are unfamiliar with Kumon, it is an after-school class where students work through workbooks in order to improve math skills (in Canada, at least). I am not there for math. In Japan, they also offer Japanese language classes: one stream for foreigners, and another for school children. Once I’m finished the foreigners’ stream, I’ll go into third grade Japanese with the kids. The teaching continues up into high-school level language. It focuses on reading and writing. I am in the very beginning stages: learning basic verbs, sentence structure, and basic writing skills. Val is much further ahead, learning more complex sentences as well as Kanji (the Chinese characters which are found in Japanese writing). With Val recovering from a back issue for now, I go alone to class and bring home Val’s worksheets to her. The Kumon learning system is quite flexible. I can spend as little or as much time in class as I need, but generally I attend class for 1-2 hours twice a week and then do homework between sessions.
At my class, other than the teachers I am the only adult. I am surrounded by elementary school children. I think they find it silly that a grown person can’t read, write or communicate. In fact they have no shame… which is quite funny and intimidating at the same time. As adults we would try to be inconspicuous about our curiosity. We wouldn’t simply walk up to the person, stare at them, and read out loud what they are writing! That happened to me the other day in class. I was surrounded by children. They were talking to each other, and suddenly one of them started to read my worksheet! She was reading what I had written. When she caught up to the place where I was writing she started to read each character I was drawing. I was full of mixed emotions. From a general point of view this was hilarious. Here I am: a fully grown, fully functional (hopefully!) adult with a university degree to my name learning to read and write like a 5 year old. My work was being checked by someone who couldn’t be more than 10! On the other hand I knew the pressure was on. I felt like I couldn’t make any errors… my work was being checked and my reputation depended on it! What incredible pressure! Luckily, in the nick of time my teacher came over and shooed them away… but not before all the blood rushed to my ears showing that I was thoroughly embarrassed!