Monday, February 16, 2009

Calling all moms of Japanese speaking kids!

All my new blogging mommy friends! Some of you have contact links on your blogs, some don't so I thought I'd just send this request out to everyone en masse!
Most of you have kids the same age as Ethan, so I know you'll have some insight for me!
I don't think E is getting the most out of pre-school, because he's just not picking up enough of the language. Since he only hears Japanese at school, he's just not getting any reinforcement. We watch a lot of Japanese TV, but just silly cartoons, not much on his level and no educational value. So, I'm looking for recommendations on Japanese pre-school DVD's, something that teaches shapes, colors, numbers, etc. (he's fine with all that stuff in English). Anyone have any particular favorites, or heard good things about any certain shows?
Another issue: I've found out recently (I didn't realize I needed to ask) that E's school teaches virtually no academics, they don't work on reading or writing skills, math, nothing. And not just the younger kids, there are no academics at any level! It's basically just a big daycare center! That was fine when he was younger, but as he reaches Pre-K and kinder, he'll end up really far behind when we return to the U.S. and he starts American school. Is this typical in a Japanese preschool? I'm thinking it's not. He really loves his school, and other than this one issue, I do too, I'd hate to move him. Maybe I should start him in Kumon? Hmmmmmm.


thefukases said...

Hey S. The differing school systems are a nightmare, aren't they? I'm guessing Ethan goes to hoikuen? It's administered by the Social welfare department not the Education department which buracratically means no teaching of numeracy and literacy. What a system, huh? How old is he now? My 5 yo is in the second year of hoikuen and I have noticed this last couple of months she is picking up huge amounts of hiragana and can read simple street signs as well as writing her name (backwards half the time but still) and reading hers, her family's and her friend's names. this is not bragging. She's not super interested in these things it just seems that a wave of 'let's write!' is sweeping the class and she's being caught up in it. I'm quite pleased after having written hoikuen off as babysitting with great food! So if Ethan is still in the first year I wouldn't worry so much. Meg didn't even draw anything recognisable in first year hoikuen!!

As for educational tv it seems okaasan to issho is hugely popular (NHK 9 mornings and afternoons) but I find the gender stereotyping a little gag inducing. Expensive to buy new but if you can get Shimajiro second hand (yahoo auctions? a friend with older kids?) I don't know what it is but he's like crack for kids- seriously addictive. I was talking to a woman today who has the 15 min intro video they send you out to get you to buy into the system, her 4 yo watches it daily! the full system includes toys, a monthly magazine etc etc but I think you'd get plenty out of it with just the videos, too. They deal with life stuff (sharing, feelings, friends), knowledge based stuff (numbers, shapes, vocab) and moving to music too. We don't have any or I'd send it to you but it's quite popular so I'm sure someone you know must have it. There's quite a bit of Shimajiro on youtube if you want to check it out- it's not all about toilet training either, that segment just seems to appeal to foreigners for some reason...


Why do you think E's not getting much out of daycare? Just interested. I mean he's got a girlfriend already! ;P

Slime said...

We've seen Shimajiro on YouTube, it's cute, didn't realize it was so popular! I'll definitely check it out! Thanks!

As a teacher, I guess I'm just hyper-sensitive about marking E's progress (I'm also an irrational worrier: does he have a learning disability? Autism? Maybe it's his hearing?), knowing where both of his sisters were at this age, knowing where most American preschoolers are at this age; most are writing their names, E can't even hold a pencil. He tries desperately hard to sing for me all the songs from school, and while he gets the tune right, the words are just babble, and he's forever asking me to sing, but since I've never even heard any of the songs before, I can't help him out! I've been able to find the words to 2 of the songs they sing regularly, but that's it.

He really enjoys being there, and loves his sensei, so he's certainly having a good time, and there is the girlfriend, but that's about it.

How do I know if his school is a hoikuen, versus, what? A yochien? I think he's in the 2nd year class, he's nensho. In April he'll move up to nenchu. Does that sound right?

I'm very happy to hear Meg is learning things now at school, maybe there's hope for E. Or maybe my expectations are too high? Thanks so much for all the information.

thefukases said...

No problem! I'm a teacher too and spend half my time worrying 'if we were in Australia now she'd be in SCHOOL!!' Nensho is 1st year, Nenchu is second and Nencho is third. The name of the school usually has hoikuen (daycare) or yochien (kinder) at the end. Other ways to tell which one it is is if there are 0-2 yo there (way more likely to be hoikuen) or you have a spiffy uniform with hat and smock and matching pants etc etc (kinder)

I'm in the same boat on the songs. I speak Japanese but I learnt it as an adult so I don't know all the kid's songs. That said even MIL doesn't know them all as they sing so many songs here!! All places are different but from my observations first year hoikuen is like a transition year. They focus on sharing, group work, listening to the teacher, getting the routine down, looking after your belongings, eating your lunch in time etc etc. Second year we get a bit more focussed- eating with chopsticks, taking turns being a leader, fine motor skills (scissor work, origami, painting in the lines) practising again and again until you get something right (spinning top, jump rope) looking after younger kids (cross age activities) etc etc. Third year is all about preparing for school- tying bows, doing without a nap, working independently, settling disputes between yourselves, leading the younger kids and more focus on drawing and pre-writing skills. It still freaks me out that Meg will be 6 1/2 before she starts school but I really think they cover a lot of the basics in hoikuen- she can fold shirts worthy of a job at the GAP! I think where as I'm looking for overt teaching the hoikuen has a lot more natural, let it happen style learning going on. I have just been to observation day today and the kids were handing out each others lunchboxes. I asked M how she knew who to pass it too and she pointed out the names are written on them. You can read that? I can't read everything mummy, but I can read my friend's name!! I think that is the way it happens, recognise your name, recognise the kid next door's name and so on and so on until you can recognise a whole heap of hiragana.

If you have any concerns ask to speak to the homeroom teacher. I have found they are really supportive and trust me, nothing is too trivial to ask the teacher, here. In an open meeting their were parents asking about what to buy for Christmas, what to do about sibling fighting and even what time to have dinner!!!

Oh and as for the learning disorder thing? I was convinced M had ADHD- couldn't sit still, exploded at the slightest reprimand, was always either running or jumping etc etc. Went all the way to the city for a checkup and was admonished 'she's an active 3yo. She'll sit down and draw pictures when she's ready. At the moment she prefers physical play so leave her alone and let her do it.' ouch!

Good luck and HTH

Slime said...

Wow! Thanks for all the insight! You've really reassured me!

Ethan's school does have a 0-2 class, but they also all wear matching smock and hat, everyone has matching shoes and backpacks, and it's called Kodomo Gakuen :( not much help there!

I do notice little "housekeeping" things Ethan has picked up, like immediately taking his shoes off when he comes in the house (we don't really do that, so I know he gets it from school) and placing them neatly on the shelf, hanging up his jacket and backpack (instead of tossing them in the floor like his big sisters!) and occassionaly he asks for chopsticks, although all he does is spear his food with one to eat it.

I think, in the end, the opportunity he has to learn another language this way is probably a once-in-a-life-time chance, and it will far outweigh whatever he's missing out on in Amercian preschool. We'll be leaving here when he's 5.5, just as the American school year is begining, he'll be right on time to start kindy.

Thanks again for all your reassurances!

Lulu said...

Hi, no kids for me yet but thought I would comment anyway with my observations from teaching at a preschool.

I think you will find that E`s school is a kindy- do you have set start and finish times? If you can take him anytime from 7am-7pm then it is likely to be a hokuin...that is my understanding anyway.

You are worried about him holding a pencil- try some dexterity exercises. Draw sqiggles on a page (hard to explain) and get him to draw in between them as straight as he can. Do circles big then medium then small then really small all inside each other and get him to draw circles inside the circles- it will help him with his dexterity and get him ready for writing. I found this really really helped the kids I worked with who ranged from 2.5-6. Obviously the 6 year olds were much better than the 2 year olds but it is still a learning thing...

speak to his teacher about the songs he does at school and ask her to write down the words for you. Since he has got the tune right you can help him with the words- the teachers really won`t mind. They could at least give you the names of them to google if need be.

I am not really up on the educational programs for young kids in Japanese- however NHK is popular with the morning shows I know.

Best of luck with it all- I am sure Ethan will bloom (and start sprouting Japanese all over the place) over night and you will be thinking "what was I worried about?" !!!!!

Slime said...

Thanks so much Lulu! Those writing excercise ideas are great!

I'm a teacher, I know these things! But when it comes to my own kids.....all my knowledge and experience goes out the window! I'm thinking with my heart and lose all perspective.

I also have to admit, with kid #3, some of my enthusiasm, and a whole lot of my energy, as deserted me :( I don't work with Ethan as much as I did his sisters. I really need to work on that.

Thanks again for the ideas!

Anonymous said...

Hi! You're not going to believe this! But I know Kodomo Gauken in Higashi-Yamato! I used to work there before it moved to where it is now a few years ago. It's a Yochien. So, yes the kids do a lot of playing. But they also do lots of music, sports and cultural activities which is pretty educational. If you are ever not sure about anything talk to one of the foreign staff like Pat Sensei or Vida Sensei they will be only too happy to explain. Oh and if they are still using the same bento company as when I worked there the food is disgusting! Udon days were the best! No wonder he likes it so much! Katie M

Slime said...

Hi Katie! Thanks for your comment! So maybe it's not Ethan's pickiness at issue with lunches? LOL He does love udon days! And he loves Ms. Vida! She's so sweet.

Have you checked their website recently? They're exanding even more! Adding a full-time daycare center.

Where are you now? How long were you in Japan?

Anonymous said...

Hello Slime! Yes, Vida is lovely! I'm in Australia now, I used to teach English part-time at Kodomo Gakuen 2002-2004 back when the pre-school was at it's old location. Vida, Sean and I used to work at a day-care centre next-door to the old Kodomo Gakuen where Mr Iguchi was the principal before taking over from his mother at Kodomo Gakuen. Yes, I still check out the website every so often! It's a small world, huh! Katie

Slime said...

Katie - Very small world! My best friend lived in Australia for 6 years, she married an Australian guy and her twin daughters were born there! They live in the U.S. now, but go back every year to visit.