Summer vacation here in Japan is about six weeks long and falls between the first and second school terms for most kids. That means that it is not between school years, like the long, languid summer vacations I knew as a kid growing up in the US.
Before summer vacation starts, each class at my son’s school has a meeting, the gist of which is:
Thou shalt not forget what thou hast learned first term.
Now as any good educator knows, you can’t just leave it to the kids or, heaven forbid, their parents. We are all full-to-the-brim of good intentions, but, well, sometimes Life (and okay, I’ll admit, TV) has a habit of getting in the way. No, schoolchildren in Japan are laden down with homework that must be completed during summer “vacation.”
This is especially problematic for me, not being a native Japanese speaker nor possessing an arsenal of perfectly-tapered-when-appropriate-and-blunt-when-called-for kanji calligraphy skills. My son and I struggle through his homework every year. My husband does it with him on weekends (sometimes) when he is here, but to get through the various booklets and worksheets and projects and -eek!- a book report, we have to plug through at least two pages a day. There are no days off at weekends or time off for good behavior.
So that means the bulk of the work falls on me.
Last year, we dragged the summer homework with us to my mom’s house in America, finished most of the worksheets and whatnot, then set to work on the book report. That’s when it suddenly hit me: I have absolutely no clue how to go about writing a book report in Japanese. For a split second I wasn’t sure which one of us was the child and who was the adult. Now that I think about it, I highly doubt there is a genuine adult in the family….
Some summer mornings, as we listen to the cicadas blare mee mee meeeeee outside the window as we toil away at pages, fluttering in the unnatural breeze from the electric fan’s whirr whirr whirr, it feels like we are even more pressed for time than usual. I’d like to take the kids to the beach, or the pool, or the movies…. Or focus on their English writing skills! But the heavy albatross of summer homework hangs around my neck like a…heavy albatross.
This is unpleasant, and potentially stinky.
Do your children have homework over vacation periods? Do you think that is a good thing?
This is an original post by Melanie Oda for World Moms Blog. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.
Photo credit to the author.
Like I often remind my kids, Life often isn’t fair!
When I was a child in Italy we also had TONS of Summer “Holiday” Homework. It was dreadful! I mean the whole idea for schools being closed during that period was because it was TOO HOT to concentrate! I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for you trying to do it in a foreign language!
Luckily my own kids never had to deal with that. In South Africa the Summer Holidays coincide with the Xmas holidays AND end of the school year, so they really ARE holidays as holidays SHOULD be!! 🙂
Wow. Here, in the US, we have a summer reading list going into Grade 1 for my daughter. It is suggested, but not required.
I can see the pickle you are in. Ahhhh!!! Thank you for sharing your concerns with summer homework with us, Melanie!!
My daughter has not reached formal school-going age but here in Singapore, no holidays homework is quite unheard of as we have a rather stressful education system. In fact, they’ll be lucky that there aren’t any remedial classes or enrichment classes during the school holisdays.
I do think that some homework for revision is fine. But it should never be the point that it kills their interest and makes them drag their feet to get it done.
My oldest is going into second grade this fall. She doesn’t have any vacation homework, but she asked to sign up for the summer reading program at the local library. We also got a “workbook” to keep up with math and spelling and phonics over the summer so she won’t forget EVERYTHING from first grade. Both use the reading program and the workbook use a “star” system to award progress, which is a real motivator for her, so it makes it easy and not much extra work.
My older son is going into 2nd grade, and he doesn’t have any holiday homework. However, he did complete the summer read-a-thon through the local library, and I have some academic workbooks that I have him work on from time to time. He actually is very independent in his work and enjoys sitting down to do some math. But mainly, I want to keep him in the habit of handwriting, because it is the thing he dislikes most in his regular homework, and he will be in shock come the 1st writing assignment this fall is he hasn’t at least practiced a little in these past 3 months.
But I don’t press it. If he doesn’t feel like doing anything one day, I let it be. He still reads every day, and we find other ways to write, draw, and learn through hands on activities. But really, I want summer to be…well…summer!