Studied Japanese at Kumon for about 7.5 years. Finished the 日本語 material (but it has been completely revamped since, so it’s not the current one) and the 国語 material they have available abroad, which would be up until I-2 (Japanese middle school)
During my last 2 years in Kumon I was already living in Japan, so I was doingit by “correspondence” from here to Brazil, lol. My instructor would send me the material by ship so I would do it by myself. I would only return it when I was traveling back home, though. I believe she was not supposed to do that, but VERY few people get to finish 国語 outside of Japan, so I assume she, as a Kumon instructor, wanted the record for her center.
Yeah, I have no idea what the criteria is, but I guess I was lucky to be in Brazil. We probably have it due to the high number of Japanese descendants, but god knows why Australia and not the US…
Other people have mentioned it already, but I definitely think Kumon is NOT for everyone. It can be either amazing or traumatic, depending on your learning style and organization skills. It’s extremely different from regular Japanese schools in what they allow you to have your own pace (no lagging behind the class or having to wait for classmates) and that you necessarily have 1x1 time with your instructor twice a week, what is great. Also all their material is of their own (no Genki, Minna, etc) and it’s very good quality, IMO.
Of course it has very low focus on oral skills, but considering it’s usually available only in Japan, that should be the easiest part to compensate by yourself. Also if you get to 国語, you get to study Japanese grammar, vocabulary and kanji in the same way Japanese students do. That is not necessarily good by itself (and even Kumon only gets people to do that after they finished 日本語 anyway) but it surely helps your Japanese to sound a lot more natural.
On my toughest stages I was dividing booklets by three (4-3-3). Good old times, lol.
At my Kumon center there were some people who would divide it by four or even five (just 2 sheets!!!), but that’s pretty much giving up without actually giving up, lol. When you get to the middle school level of 国語 (G, H, I) the amount of text in one single sheet is just insane.
Honestly, I only started enjoying 国語 from C stage and beyond. I don’t know from what stage they get you to start after finishing 日本語 in Japan, but back at home it would be 国語’s 4A (pre-school).
I mean, the pre-school booklets had a sheer amount of flowers and bugs names, which were completely unmanageable to me. (of course my instructor wouldn’t be picky about it nor anything, but still)
On A and B you get texts, but they are mostly fairytales, bedtime stories and such. While that might sound easy, it’s not. They are often full of onomatopoeia, dialects and other things that dictionaries might not be of much help. And since it’s 国語 you have no translation nor any sort of help. I felt very frustrated by then.
Once you get to C and D you get more “scientific texts” and essay style ones, which have proper grammar and structure, so as long you spend the time you can read it.
I do remember enjoying the grammar and writing exercises by then. You get a lot of identifying the parts of the speech training, rewriting sentences using different structures, etc. It definitely does wonders for your written Japanese. (Well, that’s what it’s meant for originally, right)
Last but not least, the ridiculously overwhelming amount of text on the last stages is very good for improving your reading speed, although it can be pretty stressful.
As I said in the beginning, I don’t think Kumon is for everyone. But for the ones who like it, I think it is an amazing course with very good quality material. Also, if you are planning on ever living in Japan while using Japanese as your main language, the skills Kumon focus on are crucial for your work life, so I definitely recommend it.
One day I’m still entering a Kumon center in Japan to get those final 国語 stages they don’t have in Brazil