12 September, 2012

Unexpected turnaround

Our eldest son had a challenging start to his formal education. He went to Japanese kindergarten in Sapporo for 1 1/2 years, then we went on home assignment for a year. He attended Preschool (like kindergarten) for six months and then Grade 1 for six months in Australia. Then we returned to Japan, but to Tokyo.

Our eyes were firmly fixed on the Japanese public school system at this point because we wanted our kids to grow up understanding the language and culture of the land they were living in. Additionally we knew of a number of other foreigners who'd put their kids into the system, so it wasn't such a strange thing to do. But because he hadn't yet turned six, he was ineligible to start school, so back he went into kindergarten for six more months. We were hoping that those six months would help him to get back on track with understanding Japanese (kids can often pick up a new language quickly, but they are just as fast to lose it when not exposed to it).

I home schooled him to keep up his English and we persevered with kindergarten. His Japanese never seemed to come back and he struggled. He developed some bad habits and attitudes towards his Japanese teachers, but the kindergarten indulged him. After six months he graduated from kindergarten with his class and progressed down the road to the local primary school.

We found out, to our horror, that he was in a class of 38 kids . . . with one teacher. The classroom was chockers (colloquial Australian for 'overfull'). The teacher was young and keen, but with a class of that size, most days presented our fairly monolingual son with long periods of talking from the teacher. He got bored really quickly and started causing trouble. Here I won't go into details, I don't want to embarrass my son. But it was a difficult time of many phone calls from teachers, meetings with staff (including the principal). And many tears from me.

Our son's Japanese primary school.
After a year we thought he was settling, but early in second grade it escalated again. It got to a point where we decided to withdraw him from the school and send him to CAJ. We didn't know why he struggled so much, but we figured at least we could remove the language and cultural challenges.

So from year three he attended CAJ. Our struggles with him weren't over, but that is another story.

However, the two year encounter with the Japanese education system left our son with a negative attitude towards the Japanese language and Japanese teachers in particular. You can see how I beat myself up over this at the time. Our good intentions produced the opposite result!

In May this year, towards the end of the school year, he started to think about what subjects to choose this school year. Especially, whether he wanted to continue to study French for a third year. He loved French. So when he first voiced his thoughts about changing to Japanese study in year 8, I couldn't believe my ears. Thankfully I held my tongue, though, because soon he was saying things like this,
"I think I'll take Japanese because that is the language of the land I am living in. It would be really handy to be able to speak and read this language."
Amazing turn around. And the fact that he's come to that conclusion on his own, the conclusion that we'd come to a long time ago, but failed in our execution of OUR plan to get him to acquire Japanese, still brings me to tears.

This week he lamented that there were only two Japanese periods in a week. He's so keen! We're praising God for this turnaround in attitudes!


Judie said...

Strangely, after my fierce defence of PKs & MKs before, the first thing that came to mind when I read of your boy's difficulties was:
"He shouldn't be difficult - he's a missionary kid." SHAME, shame!
Just goes to show, we don't realise just what unreasonable expectations we may have lurking, despite what we may really think we think.

Karen said...

Where's the like button, Wendy?
That is a great story, so encouraging to hear.

Jono said...

Cool :-)

Meredith said...

What a great story and gift of God's good provision. You must be so very encouraged. I am just from reading this.

Merle McT said...

What an answer to prayer that is Wendy. I am so pleased because I have had him in my prayers for years. In some ways it seems the "Abundantly above" God continue to bless use, encourage and guide you all. With my love.
Merle Mct

Evangeline said...

We try so hard to make the best decisions for our kids, but there is no way we can see how it will pan out. But God sees. Better than that, he loves our kids even more than we do. May your son's enthusiasm for the language now be a balm for all your self-inflicted bruises. Your story also encourages me, as I hope my kids will become self-motivated to pursue Japanese and love living here.

simone r said...


Sarah said...

Big Like. :) How encouraging for you.

Wendy said...

Thanks all. I had hesitations in putting this out there, but my son said it was okay. It is a very encouraging story, though! I'm glad you're encouraged too.