SN3S1474Summer 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.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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