Kumon Instructors come from all walks of life, but many of them have two things in common: They are both parents and entrepreneurs.
A high percentage of Kumon franchise owners learned about Kumon when their own children went through the program. For many of them, watching their kids gain confidence and succeed in school by using the Kumon Math and Reading Program was enough to convince them to open their own centre.
“I did not take my first-grader to Kumon because he was struggling. I took him because I didn’t want him to struggle,” says Nita Modi, the Instructor at Kumon Centre of Cambridge South in Ontario. “I was so pleased that I enrolled my daughter in the pre-K program as soon as possible. And for both of them, high school was a piece of cake.”
Before Kumon, Modi was a research associate at the University of Waterloo. With a biochemistry and biotechnology degree, she worked in the lab and was shocked by how many college students she met who did not possess basic math and reading skills. “I was worried about my own kids. And when I realized my son was finger counting in first grade and misspelling words that were not being corrected, I began researching. I reached out to a cousin whose kid went to Kumon, and she encouraged me to enroll my son.”
Modi’s son thrived in the program. In eighth grade, he was doing 12th grade English, and in ninth grade, he was doing 12th grade math.
By the time her son was in high school and her daughter was in fourth grade, she was sold. Her sister-in-law suggested she look into opening her own centre, and she filled out a form the next morning – even before she told her family that she was thinking about starting a business. She opened her centre in 2015 and says being a Kumon Parent herself has helped her keep students and parents engaged.
“It takes a lot of perseverance to sustain Kumon. It was easy for me to motivate the kids when they got bored and the parents, when they got tired of it. Being a Kumon Parent helped me understand every aspect of Kumon – the patience required, the business end, the worksheets.”
She says running her own centre has not always been easy, but it has always been fulfilling. “To run a good centre and be there for the kids keeps it interesting. I tell them I am there for you during this journey. The three of us are in this together – the kid, the parent and the Instructor.”
Krishnan Venkataraman, Instructor at the Kumon Centre of Sudbury, Ontario, first began researching Kumon because he wanted to help his son, Arvind, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3. “He was barely verbal by age 4, and it was mostly repetitive speech,” he says. “By 5, there was no realistic expectation of him being able to read, write or be literate in any way. And he had behavioral challenges, too.”
At Arvind’s school, the educational plans focused on behavior management. Venkataraman, a scientist with a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, began looking for help. When he came across Kumon, he was intrigued enough to inquire about becoming an Instructor.
In training, he met other Kumon Instructors who shared stories about how the Kumon Method worked and helped even the most challenged students. “I know that neural plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to learn and change and be valuable, is tremendous,” he says. “I never thought this is what it could look like. I was hooked. The moment I saw all those things, I was like, ‘OK, we can do something for my son here.’”
Venkataraman became an Instructor in 2011. When Arvind became a Kumon Student at 7, he could only sit still for about three minutes. Now 17, Arvind works independently and uses the skills he learned through Kumon. “So now I can just give him his worksheets and go,” Venkataraman says. “He will write his start time, do the work, write his finish time and give it back to me for marking. Kumon transformed my child's ability to read and make use of what he read.”
Venkataraman says he is grateful for what Kumon has done for his son and for what he has experienced as a Kumon Parent and Instructor. “I didn't know there was so much that could be done, and in such a systematic manner. It's the change that happens in the students. You see it happening quickly and systematically. And there's a cause-and-effect, like you can see your intervention making an impact.”
Meenu Gupta, now the Instructor at Kumon Centre of Broomall, Pennsylvania, and Kumon Centre of Exton, Pennsylvania, was always passionate about education. With a degree in electronics and communication, she worked for a telecom company in India and as an IT manager when she first came to the U.S. When her son was 4, she enrolled him in Kumon with her boss’s child.
“I really liked the Kumon Program and could see how well he was doing in it,” she says. “I was a very involved parent and knew an instructor from New Jersey who encouraged me to think about opening my own centre.”
When she took leave from work to have her second child, she began to really think about opening her own centre. “As a Kumon Parent, I could see the greatness of the program. I was very happy in my job, but I could see how much it helped him,” she says. She opened the Broomall centre in 2017.
Now in 10th grade, her older son is a straight-A student who completed the program in reading in eighth grade and is very close to completing math. “He could be a speaker for Kumon,” his mom says. “He could see how much it helped him with vocabulary and writing. He writes for his school magazine now.”
She is proud of the difference she’s made in the lives of her students. “We’ve had students who are now at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, come back to say thank you. Nothing could be more rewarding.”
When parents come to Gupta and say they will have to pull their children from Kumon to let them swim or play soccer, she asks them to think about their students’ futures. “Do you want your kids to go to an Ivy League school? They can’t do that without outside help. School is only 180 days per year.”