So, I’ve been promising a post about preschools in Japan and my foray into that world. I don’t have a lot for you yet but I’ll tell you what I’m finding out.
A lot of preschools have a pre-preschool program that helps kids become familiar with being with the teachers and the format of school and being away from mom. Sometimes kids will go one to two times a week for an hour or two for the year before the child enters preschool.
Kids typically enter preschool when they are 3 (April to March is the way kids are divided so our daughter is one of the oldest right now). There are 3 years of preschool, no kindergarten and elementary starts with 1st grade.
I knew about these programs but I wasn’t planning to get Rosalyn involved (and I didn’t know they started so soon– I thought it was still a few more months down the road). But after watching our daughter in some interactions with other kids around, I really wanted to help her become accustomed to the Japanese language and way of doing things.
People say that kids adjust quickly and there’s no worries. And that’s true. Especially with our outgoing little one. But because she is a foreigner and Japan is a country all about fitting in, I want to set her on a good path from the beginning.
The program is fun, with play time, songs and little dances and a self-introduction every week. I try to help her along with that and we practice a few times a week, mimicking their routine and what all she’s supposed to say. Unfortunately, they do typically change one of the questions that the kids answer every week. So, there’s always that moment. The teachers are very gentle though and it seems they have some experience with a few kids who don’t speak Japanese upon entry to the school.
Anyway, there’s a craft or an activity and the kids practice their skills and have a lot of fun. It’s one of the highlights of the week for Rosalyn and she wakes up ready to go to school. We’ll see how long that lasts.
For me, it’s a gentle intro to the world of School Mom in Japan. I have a lot to learn, different things to keep track of and prepare for, different things to bring each week for her. When she gets into school, she’ll have a few different types of uniforms and a bunch of things that apparently I have to make or sew. At least that seems to be the thing to do. All the kids have the same style of water bottle so I went and got her one (which she is thrilled about) and don’t get me started on bento lunches for kids.
For me, it presents a lot of questions. And not even just about how to fill in paperwork. Every week the teacher gives a short speech with important info to the parents for the next week/month. Trying to wrangle an excited 3 year old and keep a noisy baby happy and pay attention to what they’re saying usually presents a conundrum for me. Almost every week I have to confirm what I thought I heard and what I need to do with another parent or the teachers.
Anyhow. There are other questions too. How much am I going to try to integrate both myself and my daughter? For example, I wear make up every time I go and am careful to dress my daughter really well. Most of the moms look effortlessly chic. I don’t think I achieve effortless, but I try to nail the “put together” or at least just “together”.
But again, where is the line of adjustment? How can I help my daughter the most? She will soon outstrip me by a long mile of her knowledge of how things work and language, but will trying “too hard” or “not hard enough” have any negative effects? You might wave me off, but I’ve heard of foreign kids here- in preschool- getting made fun of for having goldfish in their lunchbox. That’s a totally normal lunchbox snack for an American. But not here apparently. And everything here in Japan is about conformity. There are young kids my daughter has played with in public play areas that have been mean to her because she didn’t speak Japanese. This is within the last few months. She was a little oblivious to it all, but she won’t always be.
Hence our decision to get her involved in different activities and get her out playing as much as possible with other Japanese kids.
So, it’s a learning curve…. a BIG learning curve for both of us. It’s fun and I do really enjoy it immensely. But it gets me thinking a lot about how to make this a successful experience for everyone.
Come October/November time, application time for actual entry to the school will begin. There will be more to come then. I’ve heard a lot about the different things I have to do… and have been advised to get a sewing machine in preparation.
So. There we go… Paper forms. Uniforms. Sewing machines. Bento boxes.
This next year should be interesting!