Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Last day of yochien

In Japan, from my limited understanding, children go to preschool and kindergarten from ages 3-6 and then enter formal school at grade 1. B has had his graduation ceremonies from both schools. They were very cute. The children sang songs. For one school, they had written books and these books were presented at the graduation.

I'm not sure what the ceremony was supposed to look like, but for both there were speeches and the children sang songs. Other than that, there was presenting of diplomas and a lot of bowing. B seemed to know what was going on even if his parents didn't.

Today is his last day of yochien. In one school, he will continue on to grade 1. In the other, we are probably going to move him to the conversational class. I guess it's to be expected that I'm feeling nostalgic. I remember when he started Japanese music class as a toddler. It seems strange to think that now he's going to be in a full academic more toys and circle time.

This summer we will have to practice a lot. We (he and I) are planning to go to Japan next spring. One of his friends told him about the cherry blossoms, and even though there are similar events in our city, I think it'd be nice to see them in Japan. I'm reading lots of travel blogs about going to Japan in order to inspire myself to save money and practice Japanese. So far it's helped with the saving money part but I still haven't been practicing Japanese enough.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Might have to move to fundamentals class

At the preschool level, the children mostly play. So in Japanese school, it hasn't mattered much that B can't speak fluent Japanese.

Now that he is going into grade 1, he'll have to do actual class work in Japanese. In one of his schools, they wait until grade 2 before the children are divided. But in his second school, the fundamentals class (where they learn how to speak Japanese) starts in grade 1.

Something tells me that the reason his teacher told me that she wants to talk to me about next year is because she wants him to go into fundamentals.

I guess part of me had been hoping that he'd be fluent by now, even though I knew I hadn't been doing enough and I myself am not fluent.

It's obvious that the only way he's going to become fluent is if I become fluent. I think if I let him go on his own he will become comfortable but not fluent. He likes learning languages because he likes people so he needs people to talk to.

I wish we could afford to go to Japan this summer.

I wonder if he can catch up or if he is already too far behind?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A fun challenge

Each morning,  I am trying to speak only in Japanese for as long as possible.

It's been 3 days. My record so far is about 20 minutes. I am going to keep trying - maybe I'll get all the way to school drop off! I have a few phrases I need to learn how to say so I'm going to spend some time tomorrow morning studying.

I think this is the type of thing that encourages me to use more Japanese. It occurs to me that if I can get to breakfast, I could just read to him in Japanese until it's time to leave for school. Should I let that count or does it need to be conversation?

The toy continues to be used and to be loud.

We have been practicing hiragana, but today he complained about it even though we've only been doing a few minutes at a time (I show him a character and some things that start with that character, then he writes the character 5 times). I'll cut this for a bit.

Other things I'm working on:

I have another friend who is willing to help teach me Mandarin. I now just have to make a plan beyond vocabulary building, which is all I have been doing so far.

B asked for.a play date with a kid from his Japanese school, and somehowly this is looking like not only will he get play dates, but we might be forming a Japanese playgroup (although maybe you don't call it a playgroup when all the children are school aged?) My hopes are already high because not only are the kids fun and well behaved, their parents are friendly and seem interested in being friends. One mom I'm already friends with because she's the one who suggested the school.

I am feeling like this is possible. He might not be fully trilingual, which is the goal, but I think he will get pretty close by the time he's a teenager. And by then he might have different goals. It's hard to say how much my influence affects his goals - I did choose Japanese, but he chose Mandarin because he's  got friends who speak Mandarin.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Update on toy; putting together summer plan

Okay, the toy car book is really neat, but it is loud! And annoying. He's very interested in it and it will definitely reinforce some of his vocabulary.

I am vaguely reminded of the toy firestation my cousins got for B. It shouts at you in Spanish and in English. Maybe I should dig that out and pass it along to a family that wants to learn Spanish. I'm sure that will make me popular.

I think I'm going to count the time he spends playing with the toy toward my attempts to increase his Japanese exposure to 20%. Because he sleeps about 10 hours a night, 20% is 20 hours a week. I'm going to give myself a couple of weeks to finish up with work and then really focus on how I'm going to do this during the summer. In summer he does have daycamp for several weeks but for the other weeks I'm on my own.

Today I'm going to talk to some of the other parents at Japanese school and see if any of them are interested in play dates. Even if the kids don't speak in Japanese, being around other kids who are learning Japanese helps B stay motivated to learn.

He told me how to say "Hey, what's up?" in Mandarin today. I've been picking up words from the mom who I'm helping with English. I think he's picking up words from his friends at school. I looked at classes, and our options are an intensive summer program this summer, or waiting until he's 7. Everything else would be really hard to schedule. And there's the fact that I'm feeling reluctant to commit to Mandarin, because it would be easier to choose a language I know.

I think we've hit a plateau. He's not making any giant leaps in comprehension, and we just have to work steadily to get anywhere. It's going to be a bit of a slog this summer.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bought an annoying toy

Today I wandered into what I thought was an expensive kids' clothing store looking for a particular item. They didn't have what I was looking for, but they did have a small selection of Japanese books - the kind that play music when you press buttons. Most of them, despite the Japanese writing, sang in English but one of them spoke in Japanese.

There is a key that you turn which makes a revving sound, a steering wheel that pops up and you can steer, buttons which give directions, and the book part which has various scenes. My son is a bit too old for it. I bought it anyway.

I'm trying to justify it by saying that we would have bought it before if we had gone into the store. And even though we are trying to declutter, we don't want him to grow up too fast.

In the end, he does need to practice Japanese, and the more we surround him the better. Plus, it's a neat toy. He can set up chairs and pretend he's driving a car, or I can bring it with us and he can play with it in our car if we have to wait when we are picking someone up.

Okay. I think I have sufficiently justified this purchase. It's just tricky, because I would not have bought the same toy if it were in English. (Actually, I haven't bought him any toys in awhile...)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Fun Part

This is turning out to be a busy time of the year, and it's getting hard to fit everything in. (Music, reading, Japanese - it all takes time). For B, though, we have hit a lot of the fun things. Last weekend was his Japanese school's sports day. He got a ribbon in the sprint, fell during the monkey race, ate a doughnut in the doughnut eating race, and generally had a good day. He said, "it's a good thing we're Japanese so we get to do these things". In class, they made Mother's Day gifts and are learning new songs.

My friend got me all panicked though. She went to a seminar about teaching your child a second language, where she was told that for a child to achieve native fluency (not bilingualism) 20% of their time needs to be in the target language. It was recommended that parents draw up a timetable of the week and, in two hour chunks, record which language is the dominant language for each time period. B is at around 6 hours a week. Most of his input is in little bits here and there.

So I've increased his screen time, which he enjoys, and he's watching more Japanese kids' videos. (Mostly Pocoyo on YouTube). I got a few more books from the library, which I read to him. He can do worksheets, too, but I try to limit this because he seems a bit young to actually learn anything from them. A worksheet does give me a bit of structure to our practice though. We also do flash cards.

Now that he is finishing kindergarten, I do feel a bit disappointed that he's not fluent. Not that I expect him to have done more, but I feel like I could have tried harder or focused on it more. Even so, I'm not signing him up for as much Japanese summer camp as I could - so I'm the one making this choice.

I am going to sign myself up for a Japanese class though. During the summer, I think I can take a weeklong class. I'm lucky to have summers mostly off.

So he's still having fun with what he is doing. I think it's going to get harder as he gets older because his skills are not keeping up with the other kids' and he also wants to continue music. I'm restricting other activities to summer camps so that he doesn't get overprogrammmed, but he doesn't have as much time as the other kids and he doesn't have parents who are either fluent in Japanese or are musical so he really does have to do everything the long way.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lost focus

I lost focus for a while. I'm not sure why. It does sometimes feel like regular parenting takes a lot of effort, and my job takes effort, and so I run out of energy for other things.

I also am having trouble because, well, it kind of feels like the amount of output is not equal to the amount of input, but I guess that makes sense.

He is still enjoying his classes though. For one of them, the children made little stores and then on parents' day, they sold the things they had made to the parents. The parents also made stores. It was very cute. Each child made a book for the bookstore and toys and pets for the toy and pet stores. Then in pairs, they ran the different shops. First the children ran their shops, and then the parents ran corresponding shops. B chose to run the bookstore (honya) so I got to run a bookstore with another parent. I made colouring books for all the kids, with the added feature of find-the-penguin-on-each-page.

It was fun! I had a bit of trouble remembering the words for buying and selling, but I muddled my way through and don't think I messed any of the kids up. I couldn't tell how B did but I think he did better than I did. He was very excited about his purchases, although he apparently had a lot of trouble deciding at some of the stores (each parent brought 11 items, one for each child, but some parents did the same thing for all of the kids and some parents brought a variety. Plus, when you are 5, choosing which colour you want is a big decision). 

I went to Daiso the other day and bought a math workbook in Japanese. He does a bit of math in his Japanese classes and he likes math, so it's an easy way for me to get Japanese practice in. I'm just going to find little ways until I can get organized and focused again. I've barely even been reading to him!

Okay, I'm going to go tidy up and get everything in place to do something fun this afternoon. I'm trying out making lift the flap pages for him. Sometimes I just need something new to make things feel fresh, maybe that'll push me a bit.