The Ball – It’s Starting to Roll

13 Feb

Yesterday I was invited to the school for a ‘thank you for helping with our morning drills, reading to us, and keeping us safe as we walk to school’ ceremony, in which the kids were thanking all the volunteers who help throughout the year.

Can I just add here that NO road safety volunteers are on our walk route because it covers about 1km on the main road where there are no houses. They stand on the corners and outside their house for the other routes – mainly vestlings in bright yellow um, well vests. On this whole walking to school topic – Shou and the rest of them are doing well, as of yesterday. Turns out the teacher didn’t ring the other offending kids’ parents up because they were all 3rd year plus and so she told them to tell their parents themselves. Fuck, isn’t that priceless?

Oh Mum, by the way, I got in trouble today for kicking HTB everyday on the way to school, whats for dinner?

Yeah right. This is the most retarded approach by the teacher.

Anyhoo, I had been asked to do a greeting aisatsu at the ceremony thing. I stupidly presumed it would just be me, four vestlings and 30 kids singing a song and saying thankyou. Such a rookie mistake. This is Japan. This was a ceremony after all. I was the youngest by a good 30 years but still, all sitting up the front with our names on our chairs – mine has Catriona on it even though not one person at that school has ever called my anything but Katy. Fuck, this is serious business. The head of the PTA has taken the day off work and is there, along with all the teachers, a cameraman, and a fuckin partridge in a pear tree.

I get through my greeting, which I might add Shou corrected me on when I was practicing yesterday. But then, in his homework notebook he wrote the day’s diary and said how good mummy’s speech was and that  it was the perfect speed and volume.

So, to the tittle of the post…

I heard back from the school in NZ. Action stations are go. They look forward to welcoming Shou and Marina for term 3 and 4 later this year. Next step? Tell Shou’s principal at school.

I asked him after the ceremony and before the skipping rope competition if I could talk to him briefly in private. He took me to a room I didn’t even know existed! I informed him of my intentions to take the kids home for six months but that academically from a Japanese school term point of view Shou and Marina would only be missing term 2 here. He wasn’t overly excited and I had to really explain myself, but he said well, I can’t stop you but I’ll have to check with the education board to make sure Shou and Marina wont have to repeat their year.

For fuckin fucks sake. Its one term. I will be making sure the kids do the required 80 fuckin pages of summer homework and that they aren’t way behind in Japanese and math when we get back. It wont be a walk in the park for me, or for the kids, but in my mind, it is not a choice but an obligation to their bloody heritage.

I wish everyone would stop acting as if I’m doing something detrimental. Hub said last night that he thinks I should wait till they are in high school. High School? Fucking really? He thinks they should be able to make the choice to go back and not be forced.

Oh shit. I wanted to laugh. You mean like the choice they have to do an hour of homework every night at age 7? Like the choice they have to spend hours every day for a month learning how to stand in a straight line and do everything for the sports day in perfect unison. Like that choice?

Came out of left field. I thought hub supported the decision. Turns out he just said yes because he knew I would do it anyway.  I had a very very frustrating conversation with him last night. The kids NEED this. How would you feel if we lived in NZ and I didn’t give a rats ass if the kids couldn’t speak Japanese or wasn’t interested in them getting closer to their Japanese relatives or learning more than how to be quiet at a hospital and funeral arrangements, pretty much the sum of what my kids remember from NZ. OK, actually they also remember Jake and the Neverland Pirates, double scoop ice creams, the quad bike my friend’s husband took them round on, and subsequently all the cow shit they rode through. They think all their aunties are called Auntie Ruth (the European Stylist who was the last adult who visited and who came with loads of gifts) and that rugby is the name of something out of Japanese anime Yokai Watch.

ANYHOO. The ball IS rolling. We WILL be going back to NZ from July to December.

Granny K also thinks the NZ experience can be duplicated by just reading them an extra Dr. Seuss book every night. I was ‘this’ close to yelling at her after her little rant about how selfish I was being, and the poor kids, rah rah. I can understand why she can’t get it. How could she? Her world revolves around three rice paddies, a pottery class and trying to grow shiitake mushrooms. She doesn’t need to get it. She just needs to shut up already about not getting it. A bit of your their mother, I’m sure you’re doing whats right for them. Good luck. We’ll miss you – obviously too much to ask.

Next thing to tick off the list?

Tell HTB’s parents.


PS – if anybody has taken their kids out of primary school in Japan for a length of time to go home and learn English can you please tell me the merits and demerits. Last time I took them and Shou went to school he hadn’t even started primary school here yet so it wasn’t as much of a big deal.


30 Responses to “The Ball – It’s Starting to Roll”

  1. Shikonmaris (@shikonmaris) February 13, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    I think now is the right time to be doing these things. Now, when they can still pick up another language easily and have a better chance of learning the correct pronunciation. Now, when they aren’t cramming for entrance exams and school is relatively easy. Now, before teenage angst and extreme self consciousness sets in and leaving your peer group is akin to torture. If your kids are willing, then now is the best time, and you are doing what is best for them. *(disclaimer, not a parent, only my opinion)
    Second grade only has 160 kanji. Learning them on your own isn’t impossible. I don’t know about your school, but where I taught, the school festival/closing ceremony/sports day etc occupied weeks. Every parent day, the kids practiced the lessons beforehand. I don’t think your children will be missing much.

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 1:17 am #

      my thoughts exactly!! Now I think I’ll just go translate that and send it to my husband 🙂

      • Shikonmaris (@shikonmaris) February 13, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

        Also, there are, well not plenty, but a several, kids who don’t go to elementary school or middle school because of bullying. They do all the work at home, and then the school holds a private graduation ceremony for them (less speechifying!). The principal was just trying to intimidate you. (dishonest!) I wish that wasn’t so stereotypical.

  2. emilycsimpson February 13, 2014 at 12:59 am #

    How far behind can they get at this age? So glad you’re coming to NZ for a decent amount of time – you’re more than welcome to come and visit. Don’t have any cow poo, but more than enough horse poo to make up for it 😉

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 1:20 am #

      With the bollocks that surrounds the sports day, in terms of actual academic study, they really only miss like two months and at this early stage I have every confidence I can keep them up to speed with the necessary kanji characters and times tables 🙂 give it another two years and I wont have a shit show!! We may well take you up on your offer Em. I wont to show the kids as much of kiwi land as I can. A ride on a big ferry and some horse poo might just be on order 🙂

  3. Anonymous February 13, 2014 at 1:10 am #

    I am not surprised by their reactions. Japan will never be an internationally minded country precisely because of the education system here. There is only one way of doing things; the Japanese way. Everybody goes to school to learn how to be Japanese. I admire how you successfully parent and school your kids in a foreign language and culture. I can not do it anymore. I have given up for many reasons aside from the cultural differences but mostly a realization that I just can’t do it. I think what you are doing is a fantastic opportunity for the kids though I have no advice from experience to offer because I haven’t taken my kids out of Japan to return. We are never coming back.

    I think doing it sooner rather than later will benefit the kids more. Waiting until they have fully developed a Japanese identity and then going when they are high school age may not have the same impact on their cultural identity. The biggest problem I guess will be getting used to Japanese school again after 6 months away in NZ.

    Better stop ranting… I have too much to say about this. You are a fantastic mother who knows what is best for her kids. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. xxx

  4. Gina Sawamura February 13, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    That was me – C-mum ranting in the above comment!

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 1:22 am #

      haha – I knew it was you half way down 🙂 Thanks Gina. I do know in my heart it is the absolutely right thing to do. Just doing it while butting heads with everyone is hard ya know – kind of makes you a) doubt your self, b) hit your husband over the head with a frypan, and c) become a pyromaniac, starting with the principle’s office!

      • Gina Sawamura February 13, 2014 at 3:34 am #

        You are their mother and your cultural identity is different from theirs. They need to share some of your identity as much as your husband’s.You need to share your kids with your family back home, too. It goes way deeper than learning a second language. I don’t know why so many Japanese people find this it so difficult to grasp. The principal sounds like a right idiot. I honestly don’t know how you manage to cope down there practically all alone surrounded by so many inflexible people who refuse to understand your situation.

  5. heather February 13, 2014 at 2:01 am #

    You do realise you can call the principal’s bluff on the repeating thing right? Absolutely no child is kept down a year in compulsory education here- and that includes the kid who never ever comes to school.

    The kids will have a ball! And I can just hear the creaking as their minds widen!

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 2:12 am #

      I didn’t think so right? I have never heard of a kid being kept back either.

  6. Brit February 13, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    Not a parent so this is coming off the back of 3+ years teaching in an International School in Kobe; plenty of kids did this in my experience and they all learnt something. This is only unusual to the Principal because you are the only parent doing it in their experience. I have a Japanese friend who taught her child the WHOLE of Japanese elementary kanji at home because she decided to put him in an International School rather than a Japanese school long term. They battled through it every weekend.Kid finished high school fluent in both. 6 months will not make that much of a difference apart from the positives.
    Interesting that the school seems to be addressing it from a Japanese child perspective when your children speak two languages and it’s actually developmentally critical for them to have that experience in NZ.
    Good Luck. Ignore them all!

    • gaijinwife February 14, 2014 at 2:58 am #

      Thanks Brit, I value your comments a lot. You have a lot of experience from the teacher side so its important I get that persepctive too 🙂 Definitely I think the ‘uniqueness’ of it down here is what is making it harder. Although I just had a friend round and spilled the beans to her and she is soooo jealous she cant do similar. Was nice actually get excited about it with someone ya know 🙂

  7. Tracy February 13, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Heck I think they should spend 6 months here in NZ & 6 months in Japan for a few years to let them become totally au fait with both cultures & languages. Being young they will get so much out of it & learn so much, not just book learning but experiences. Get them to all keep diaries while they are here, just a few short sentences/pictures depending on ages so they can look back & be reminded of the big adventure.

    Don’t let Hub, Granny or anyone else try & dispel the excitement, if the kids feel the negativity they will get anxious.

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

      A diary is a good idea! Thanks. My parents took us round Europe in a campervan for a few months when I was about 6 and mum, a teacher, schooled us and we kept journals with money and rubbings of leaves and shit. Found them years later and it was awesome looking at them. A very good idea indeed. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  8. Kym February 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    I’ve know of one person who did a similar thing – took her (3rd grade ?) child out for a term. No repeating was required. I think it’s as others mentioned, this principal has just never encountered it before. Don’t doubt yourself, you are the more worldy person. You know what you’re talking about 🙂

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

      Yeah, I think you’re right Kym. This principal has never had to deal with it before. Will be learning curve for him I guess :p After he gets of the fact he’ll lose a pupil for a term, upset the wa of the undokai, and not have a reading volunteer every week!!

  9. becca February 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    I haven’t done what you’re doing, but I have done the opposite and taken my raised in the UK half Japanese kids to Japan for several months at a time. We home educate here, so didn’t have issues with school not being supportive..everyone around us was though-most people thought it was an amazing opportunity and would have liked to be taking their kids. The Japanese school was very welcoming and they learnt SOOOOOOOOOOOOo much. It’s a perfect age for it and they gain so much from their experiences in NZ. Ignore the ignoramuses and have fun!!

    • gaijinwife February 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

      Thank you becca. Great to hear your kids had such a fabulous time. I’m feeling a bit better about it now – well, about just ignoring all the fucktards who are and will try and suck the excitement out of it 🙂

  10. hamakkomommy February 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    The only thing I would be concerned about is that they learn their times tables in 2nd term of 2nd grade here, and (surprise surprise!) there is a very specific way it must be done in Japanese. Don’t know what age they do that in NZ (in the US, it’s 3rd grade.) Maybe sign him up for Challenge 2nensei to keep up with the kanji and the cursed ku-ku? I ended up doing that to mollify my husband when Y needed to miss a few weeks of school in the fall.

    • hamakkomommy February 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

      But, yeah, we went back for two weeks in the midst of sports day madness and he hardly missed anything, except for learning a jump rope dance and spending 4 hours in PE every day.

      • gaijinwife February 14, 2014 at 3:00 am #

        haha, bloody exactly. Stupid wanking sports day. Shou and Marina will get potato sack jumping, ball throwing, barefoot sprinting kiwi kind instead 🙂 And I will make an album and give it to the school here and tell them the kids did all of this with, gasp, no frickin practice. Will look into the times table stuff. Thanks for that 🙂

  11. Anna February 14, 2014 at 2:37 am #

    I always always always regretted the fact that I didn’t take my 3 boys home long enough so that they could experience school in Sweden…….that was over 30 years ago and the atmosphere was more “be more japanese” than be yourself…..not that my kids have any visable scars from not spending time in the swedish school system but I started to regret it when they became junior high students and got sucked into the whole ” we do it this way here” nonsense…..maybe if they had seen a different way they would have felt more secure being “different”… you go and let your kids experience an other way…don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t good for them…..

    • gaijinwife February 14, 2014 at 3:48 am #

      Thank you Anna. With me butting heads in 2014 I imagine trying to do it 30 years ago would have been almost suicidal. Probably would have denied you entry back. Its so closed minded and I get sick of my husband’s ‘but they are being raised here’ – as thats an excuse not to broaden their horizons. Gah. Anyway, glad to here your kids were unscathed 🙂

  12. Yolanta W February 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I would like to share my experience with you. I was born and raised in Poland, came to US when I was 21, got married, had 2 kids. I had a plan to take them back to Poland for a year, for the same reasons you state. I finally did in 2009. My older one was starting high school, my younger one fifth grade. It has been a great experience for them. They got closer to their cousins, made many friends, got fluent in Polish. Now, they won’t get lost in Warsaw for sure. I was teaching my kids Polish since they were little (also from textbooks), but especially my younger daughter didn’t feel motivated. In Poland, she was accepted to 4th grade, a year lower. I was worried that it will set her back a year on return to US, but I got her textbooks from from her school and after reviewing the material she passed an exam for 6th grade when we returned to US, so she skipped 5th grade altogether. It is doable. My older daughter had it tougher in Polish high school. Even though her Polish was quite good, in chemistry, physics and math, there is a lot of terminology that she didn’t understand, but passed that year just fine with some tutoring. Thinking back about it, high school is a bit too late. It’s harder on the kid. Overall, we are all happy we did it. They loved the experience and benefited from it. I did, too, haha. I’d say go for it and while they are in grade school.

    • gaijinwife February 15, 2014 at 4:16 am #

      Thank you for sharing Yolanta. Everybody’s comment are just verifying what I know and what I will just have to agree to disagree on with hub and the principal. Nevermind! Definitely I think the younger the better. I was going to put my youngest in the kinder but he will actually be five so have decided to try him in the new entrants class at school!!

  13. T in Tokyo February 15, 2014 at 3:34 am #

    Definitely, 100%, now is better than when they are older. Lots of good and true comments above. They are a lot more flexible when they are young, quick to adapt to the new country and quick to adapt back when they come home. I took my daughter to Canada for her grade 1 school year, leaving Japan in the summer and back the next summer. So *so* glad I did it, her English became native-fluent, she made lots of friends and formed bonds with her cousins, etc. in Canada. I agree with the comment about kuku (times tables) above, maybe your husband can help out there. It was especially good for us because we ended up moving to Canada when she was in grade 4, and she had such positive memories of school and her class/friends remembered her, etc. so the transition was very smooth. The only drawback was that she forgot most of her Japanese, I was shocked at how quickly. Despite weekly skypes in Japanese with Dad, and Japanese school once a week, by the end of the year I was having to translate for them. But once we were back in Japan she regained it pretty quickly. And I have never heard of anyone having to repeat a year of school in Japan, I am pretty sure that doesn’t happen, I was forever being annoyed by getting the answer “x-nensei” when I asked how old someone’s child was, I really don’t think that ever happens. I think they are giving you a bit more attitude because it is only Shou and HTB in the class. Go and have a great time, don’t worry, it will be an awesome irreplaceable experience for them!

    • gaijinwife February 15, 2014 at 4:22 am #

      Thanks T. I also think its being taken as a bit more of a ‘selfish’ decision on my part because it will leave HTB on his own. Its almost a pity I cant split the kids up amongst their cousins to live as that would give them even more exposure to English, and rather, less time with Japanese. Thats a bit mean though so I guess they’ll yabber away in Japanese at home. Very glad to hear how much of a positive experience for you. I am sure that in a few years I will be writing the same kind of comment to another mum who is worrying about the bollocksy Japanese backlash of trying to broaden her half child’s horizons!!

  14. ds February 15, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Well, if you marry a man who has no interest in your native language or your native culture, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this happens. Raising bilingual kids doesnt require two bilingual parents, but it DOES require two interested parents.

    Going abroad is a good first step, but from a linguistic point of view it will have very limited use. Kids who master sounding “authentic” very often have trouble later in life if they don’t keep up their language skills. Simply put, they sound better at English than they actually are. If you don’t follow up on the overseas experience with constant Englksh at home, and challenging English at that, you will wind up with teenagers who can speak English just like a 5 year old. Trust me, I have seen it happen. \wounding fluent is not the same as being bilingual or biliterate at an age appropriate leel.

    • gaijinwife February 15, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Bloody hell, talk about crashing the excitement party! Hub is interested but he didn’t get why it needs to be now and not at high school. We’ve talked about it more over the last couple of days and I’ve given him some literature on language acquisition. We are more on the same page now than we were a week ago, thankfully.

      I agree, linguistically it needs to be followed up and that part of things will be down to my dedication after we get back. Thinking I’m going to fail before I even start would be a bit shit. The trip is so much more than just the English though 🙂

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