Sending a Child to a Japanese Preschool and Elementary School

 

Reia, our oldest, returned to yochien (preschool) a week ago. She was happy to return and, very proudly, drew a picture of a tent her first day back. A couple of days later, all the kids lined up and shared (one at a time) their favorite memories from the summer. Reia said, “Going to Disneyland!”

Only we didn’t go to Disneyland.

Someone at the beginning of the line said that, and more than 90 percent of the kids after him or her gave the same answer. And that’s normal. The same thing happened this Spring when all the kids shared their favorite fruits. Reia was going to say Strawberry, but she switched to Apple to stick with the majority. The same thing happened, my wife says, when she was in yochien. You wonder why they have these sharing times at all.

On a somewhat related note, they’re having a national election today. Most people are expected to line up and vote for the LDP.

My Daughter, Election Day, and the LDP

Mari

Two days ago our daughter came home from school and refused to eat dinner. She didn’t eat breakfast or lunch the next day. For three days in a row she asked for the thermometer to check her temperature. Then we realized she wanted to miss school. We eventually learned that the teacher said (or seemed to say), “If you eat lunch too slowly, you’ll throw up.” One of the girls in the class really does throw up quite often. Apparently, she gags on food she doesn’t like, but eats it anyway and then pukes. My daughter has a strong fear of throwing up, so she took what the teacher said to heart.

Some days later we discovered that the teacher DIDN’T tell our daughter she would throw up if she at too slow. She probably told the girl with the puking problem not to eat so fast. We think our daughter misunderstood the grammar.

Many expats send their kids to Japanese preschools so that they’ll learn Japanese. Most (if they can afford it) pull the kids out after preschool and send them to international schools. Usually it’s because they want their kids to be socialized in a way that matches the culture of the parents.

We intend to send our kids to Japanese school through elementary school. My wife is Japanese, so we want our kids to learn the language, including writing and the culture–to an extent. As they get older, we’ll have to decide when and if to put them in an international school. In an ideal world, maybe you’d let the kids decide for themselves what culture they’ll be. But, in reality, parents have to make these decisions.

My wife has a bi-cultural perspective. There are things she likes and doesn’t like about Japanese culture. She can work with the teacher in appropriate ways, and that includes gently making the teacher aware of things impacting our daughter. But choosing a Japanese school means accepting that we DON’T have the same input that parents would have at a similar school in the USA. Nor can we control how the culture will shape our daughters in ways we can’t simply reset later. They’ll get the good and bad. As for us, we’ll try to raise them to be healthy and equipped to sort out their identity as they grow into it.

UPDATE

Our oldest daughter continued in Japanese elementary school through the fourth grade. At that point, we moved to Cambodia and she started attending an international school. It was a hard adjustment at first. She was in ESL classes for a year and had to pick up things like writing English.  At first she talked about returning to Japan, but before long she declared she would never want to attend a Japanese school again, and our younger daughters (who attended through first grade in Japan) agreed.  Their pivotal reasons for preferring the international school: freedom to be themselves and the lower stress level.

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