Andrew Taber, who grew up in Olympia, spent seven years teaching English in Japan. It was there that he and his two children were exposed to the world of Kumon, an after-school learning program that has expanded well beyond that country’s borders and is now taught throughout the world.
Taber’s two children, Alexis “Kikuno” Taber, 13, and Alexander “Hiroki” Taber, 7, took to Kumon so quickly in Japan that it spurred Andrew Taber and his wife, Naomi, to open a Kumon franchise in Lacey after they returned to the area.
The business opened in September in the Lacey Urban Center, a retail strip mall at 7221 Martin Way E., about two blocks west of WinCo on the opposite side of the street.
The Kumon Math & Reading Center has grown slowly, Andrew Taber, 43, said, but it has grown, adding 100 students since September.
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The center is open Monday through Friday, but based on the number of students it has right now, classes are 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, with room for more, he said.
The Kumon method was founded in the 1950s by Toru Kumon, a teacher in Japan who created the program for his own children.
His approach was a simple one: practice makes perfect.
It encourages independent study, but also repetition, so that students can brush up their skills in math and reading. In math, for example, it emphasizes computations over concepts to improve accuracy, Taber said.
“You have to practice math,” he said, adding that learning math is a bit like learning a language. A student learning English in the U.S. is immersed in the language – constantly hearing and using it.
When it comes to studying math, however, students study it so many times a week, complete their homework and move on to the next assignment. But without practice, the math building blocks are not in place and students can fall behind, Taber said.
Taber has been tested and certified to teach Kumon. The center is open for students preschool to high school age, although the primary target is preschool through middle school, Taber said.
Kumon isn’t strictly for those students who need to brush up their skills. It’s also is open to gifted students seeking enrichment, he said.
One subject costs $115 a month, Taber said, with discounts for those who study both subjects. The math courses range from counting to calculus and reading, ABCs to Shakespeare, he said.
Kelly Jimenez of Olympia enrolled her son, Matthew, 11, into the Kumon program about four month ago.
His math and reading skills tested two grades below where he should be after they were set against a national standard, but after several months in the program, her son already is one grade level higher and is set to move up from there.
Matthew Jimenez, who is practicing the addition of fractions now for about 30 minutes to an hour daily, said Kumon has made math easier for him. His mother, too, has noticed the change.
“He’s training to achieve academic excellence by practicing every day,” she said.
Kumon Math & Reading Center of Lacey
Owners: Andrew and Naomi Taber
Location: 7221 Martin Way E. Olympia
Years in business: Open since September.
Product: Study materials and classes designed to increase proficiency in math and reading.