CHESHIRE — The only sound is an air conditioner, and the occasional rustle of papers inside a small, sparse storefront along Main Street, where students at Kumon Center quietly work on math and reading skills.
“I like how you learn new things,” said Tiffany Hua, 12, of Cheshire. “They want you to be comfortable with it so you keep reviewing it and you understand it more.”
Tiffany’s brother, Harry, 10, put his hands to his chin as he thought about what he’s getting out of being at Kumon.
“Well, my mom wants to give me a better education, and I like doing the problems” he said. “But it feels really, really bad to be missing summer.”
Kumon of Cheshire teaches math and reading skills to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
It focuses on an old school approach of teaching with rote memorization and review using practice sheets that students complete during instructional sessions and at home, according to Steve Sang, director of the Cheshire franchise.
It differs from centers such as Sylvan Learning Centers in that it doesn’t provide tutoring in different subjects, but instead tests what level students are in for math or reading or both, when they start, and teaches only those subjects, though the reading often encompasses science, history or other subject matters, Sang said.
“Tutoring temporarily helps them get their grades better, but we give them strong study habits, learning skills that will last a lifetime,” he said.
The Cheshire center, which is part of the national Kumon system, opened its doors June 1. It now has about 50 students, who come on Wednesdays and Saturdays for an hour or so to get instruction and homework. They are expected to work on the sheets for about 30 minutes each day, according to Sang.
In Kumon, there are three aspects students are encouraged to get from the program, Sang said.
They are independence, the ability to be motivated and work on their own; accuracy, to work to get things right; and speed, learning to work faster while still maintaining accuracy, hence the piles of practice sheets.
The sparse classroom with rows of clean wood desks and stools provides little distraction for students or assistants, sitting at the front of the classroom grading homework.
“It’s kind of interesting, ” said Chigozie Dike, 10, juggling his small, light blue and black Kumon bag, which holds only pencils and homework packets. “At first my grades weren’t so good. By the end of the school year they improved and with Kumon I think they’ll get even better.”
Parents and grandparents sat in the glass-walled waiting room overlooking the classroom.
“I want them doing it for enrichment,” said mother Ulari Dike. “I like the way the program works with repetition.”
She said she likes her children participating in the program over the summer.
“No brain drain. We’re trying to avoid that,” Dike said. “We’ll hit the ground running when school starts.”