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Letting the village raise our children: when to let it go, when to make a fuss?

 
pollinator
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I thinks it's normal to be concerned for your child as they become more independent and as you start to give control of their education/upbringing to other people. I'm curious to hear what concerns others have had with their children going to preschool/school that they actually brought up with teachers/caregivers and how it went.

My kid is eligible for daycare this April (at 2 and a half) and I'm running into some conflicts. I want to advocate for my child's safety and well being. But at the same time I don't want to put undue burden or strain on the system, or act in a way that would lead to her being treated differently or singled out. I want her needs to be met while also learning how to make room for others and how to abide a society with rules.  

It's kind of a bubble here, and sometimes I feel like I've imagined the outside world and all it's progress. So I'm turning to permies for some outside perspective.

The main problem is that nothing is written down or decided like it would be in the states where schools have a policy for everything. So it is very hard for me to get real information about the preschool. There is an entrance interview, which is supposed to be enough, but I feel like we would have to interview all day to really answer all of my questions. I've tried to narrow them down.

I'm catastrophizing and imagining a full on debate to the death. I would be much obliged if people could share their opinions on what I plan to bring up at this interview. Do you have similar worries? Is it not a big deal to you? Am I overthinking an issue that matters to me now as an adult, but kids don't care either way?

Questions so far:

1) Taught or imposed gender roles: The most obvious, and honestly in Japan the most founded, worry I have is that my daughter and her peers will be taught that different things are allowed or not based on their sex. The children in preschool wear blue jackets and hats for boys and pink for girls. I'm worried that if they are already separating their clothing color, what other gender based education is going on? 

2) Bodily integrity/autonomy, body rights or whatever the term is for having control over your own body and when it is touched and exposed: Another mom told me that the children change into pajamas for nap time. This seems silly to me, we don't do this at home. I imagine worst case my kid being forced to change clothes or her diaper. So I will have to ask how they handle kids who say no. 

3) "shyness": I guess my kid is the first they have ever met who acts shy. Most people respect her space when I say that she takes her time to get used to things. But the rare bird will try even harder to get close to her and touch her saying things like ' you can't be shy. It's not good to be shy. If your shy I'll tickle you". One of these latter people being the actual administrator of the preschool. (Such public jobs are rotated every few years without regard for a person's qualifications). So that needs addressed.

Which brings me to 4) protecting kids from visitors: the teachers are trained in early education, but visitors come round sometimes, like the administrator, who aren't trained and I need to be sure the teachers will make sure visitors abide by the same rules as the teachers do.

Which brings me to 5) what are the rules anyway? What happens when they are broken? This one's pretty straightforward. 

I'm curious how others feel. Would you have the same concerns? Are these concerns totally valid and the bare minimum standard of care where you are? Are you happy to leave it to the professionals? What other concerns have you had about your child's preschool/school or even with other caregivers? 
 
master steward
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I used to teach in a Christian preschool, so I have opinions! I'm going to go bit by bit and respond to your list:

1) Taught or imposed gender roles: The most obvious, and honestly in Japan the most founded, worry I have is that my daughter and her peers will be taught that different things are allowed or not based on their sex. The children in preschool wear blue jackets and hats for boys and pink for girls. I'm worried that if they are already separating their clothing color, what other gender based education is going on?



This really, really depends on the teacher. I knew quite a few teachers who didn't care what kids played with as long as they shared. We'd get out the My Little POnies and the boys would enjoy playing with them just as much as the girls (they often played a bit differently), and the same with the cars. Sure, the girls often made stories with the cars and built them little houses, while the boys often raced and crashed them, but we didn't tell the kids how to play. We let kids put on whatever dress up clothes they wanted. One little boy's dad would be LIVID if he saw his son in the pink dress he loved to play in...so we always made sure to change him out of it before dad came!

But, I also worked with other people who did tend to send the kids to gendered play, too. It was never as bad as when I co-taught a Sunday school class with a father (not early childhood education certified at all!) and he brought in GI Joes for the boys to play with because "there were too many girly toys" and he got really mad when his son made a purse/bag for a craft. So, being a certified teacher does do a lot to help fight those gender rolls...at least in my neck of the woods in the US.

I personally would be a bit worried about the segregated clothing. Not knowing anything about japanese education, I wouldn't know HOW worried to be.

2) Bodily integrity/autonomy, body rights or whatever the term is for having control over your own body and when it is touched and exposed: Another mom told me that the children change into pajamas for nap time. This seems silly to me, we don't do this at home. I imagine worst case my kid being forced to change clothes or her diaper. So I will have to ask how they handle kids who say no.



This is really weird to me. I'm wondering who in their right mind has time to get however-many toddlers/preschoolers to change into jammies. It's hard enough to get a class to put on all their coats! This seems like insanity. And weird. Are they changing in front of each other? I would wonder how strict the teachers are going to be if they're managing this while still teaching academics and having play time.

3) "shyness": I guess my kid is the first they have ever met who acts shy. Most people respect her space when I say that she takes her time to get used to things. But the rare bird will try even harder to get close to her and touch her saying things like ' you can't be shy. It's not good to be shy. If your shy I'll tickle you". One of these latter people being the actual administrator of the preschool. (Such public jobs are rotated every few years without regard for a person's qualifications). So that needs addressed.

Which brings me to 4) protecting kids from visitors: the teachers are trained in early education, but visitors come round sometimes, like the administrator, who aren't trained and I need to be sure the teachers will make sure visitors abide by the same rules as the teachers do.



Honestly, I've never encountered teachers that forced shy kids to interact. I worked with really good teachers. I honestly wouldn't worry too much about this one. Teachers are usually pretty good at respecting the shy kids, and usually administrators/parents don't interact with the kids much. And, teachers usually have bigger fish to fry than trying to make the shy kid do more. But, that's just my limited experience in the one school I worked at. Usually parents and administrators are so busy that they barely ever interact with other kids, especially not the shy ones. Don't dress your daughter in super cute clothes, and you'll probably increase your chances even higher that strangers won't interact with her. Most everyone wants my daughter to interact with them, but she somehow turned out really cute with golden ringlets and big blue eyes. But, really even parents and administrators are so busy (parents usually drop off fast and pick up fast and don't chat too long or interact with kids. I rarely ever saw parents interact with kids that weren't their own or kids that were their friends' children)

Which brings me to 5) what are the rules anyway? What happens when they are broken? This one's pretty straightforward.



We often would remind kids, and then if they kept misbehaving, they sat on the time-out rug. If they really had behavior issues--and some did--they would be sent to see the director. Lower student to teacher ratios will help a LOT with kids not being disciplined strongly. Teachers can get stressed and overloaded with too many kids. With less kids, they keep a lot of bad things from happening, and nip a lot of behaviors in the bud. When there's too many kids, teachers often get reactionary--largely out of necessity. Imagine you being with 7 one and 2 year olds. One just pooped it's pants and it's leaking out the sides. Another is trying to get Betty's toy (if you had time, you'd nip that in the bud, but since you can't, Betty hits the kid), and another one is in your arms sobbing for Mama, and another just tripped over a toy and is crying, one is playing nicely, and another needs to go pee and you have to help them pull down their pants. Insanity!

Are these concerns totally valid and the bare minimum standard of care where you are?  



I'd be concerned about a lot of these things, yes!

Are you happy to leave it to the professionals? What other concerns have you had about your child's preschool/school or even with other caregivers?  



Personally, I wouldn't put my kid in preschool unless I had to. And, I would preferably wait until they were 3.5 or 4. There's a lot of development that happens in that time. 2 year olds don't have a herd mentality. You can't just say, "OKay class, we're going to sit on the carpet for a story" and have 80% of the class come sit down. Toddlers are like cats. They're all doing their own thing and they don't care what others are doing enough to go along with the group. That makes teaching them a LOT harder. By 4, most kids can sit for a story and play relatively well, and they're a lot easier to teach. In a class of 3 year olds, you're going to have kids that are still developmentally 2 year olds and don't go with the flow. In a class of older 3s and 4s, you'll have kids that can handle that.

Also, at this young of an age, you're going to be able to teach them a whole lot faster than a teacher with 10 students can. You're one-on-one! And what they really need to do at this age is PLAY. Guided play is the best thing for them. Play with blocks, count the blocks as they stack them. Sing rhyming songs. Read lots of books. Teach them about things they're interested in. Let them learn physics and math intrinsically though play. This is vitally important...and a lot of "academic-focused" preschools eshew all that to get them to memorize symbols (numerals and letters).

I didn't put either of my kids in preschool. A lot of the parents I worked for, asked if I'd be coming back to work and putting my kids in the program. Nope! I didn't have the funds for it. And, even though I love and trust my coworkers, why would I have them raise my kid while I raised other people's kids, instead of just raising my own?


Big questions I would ask:

  • What is the child to staff ratio? Here in the states, it's 10 to 1 for 3 year olds and up. For one and two year olds, it's 7 to 1. And, those numbers are a bit too high, in my opinion, to really do the students justice. I wouldn't want more than 5-1 for toddlers, and 8 or 9 to 1 for three year olds. With higher numbers, you're either being extremely strict, or you're constantly attempting to put out fires. I don't feel that either of those are optimal circumstances for kids.


  • What are they expecting the kids to learn? If they're trying to get kids to read and write at that age, I'd run away!


  • How are they teaching the kids? Is it through play and crafts and guided activities, or is it by having to sit still for long amounts of time and then do boring things?


  • How long of a day is it? In my experience, most of the learning happens in the first 2-3 hours...then it's lunch and nap time and time for kids to leave. Nothing gets learned after lunch. If you're weirded out about the pajama thing, you could see if you could do "half-day"


  • Do they have scheduled recess? Ask if you can see the class schedule. We had to make up a weekly schedule each week which showed what they'd learn when. You could ask for that, or just ask for the daily schedule--that way you can see if they've got recess/playtime scheduled in


  • I'd be worried first and foremost about how strict and stressful of an environment they're making the school. If I were in the states looking at preschools, I'd be more worried about lack of structure (I knew people who worked in daycares/preschools that were just mad-houses: understaffed, no schedules, kids just playing all day, no structure or guided activities or stories). You want a nice balance. The best indicator, I think, of a quality school is probably it's teacher to student ratio. If they value the kids enough to keep that lower, the teachers will be lessed stressed and teaching will be more individualized and less reactive or super-strict.
     
    master pollinator
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    This could just be because of where we live, but we never had much of an issue when my youngest daughter went to Preschool.

    The teachers came around before she was enrolled, which was at our home, where we got to meet them. Throughout the year they had a few more visits which was at home for each child.

    As for what they are taught, here it is recognized that it is preschool, so they are just learning socialization. They learn how to write their names and such, but they cannot by rules dictate what the children do. Imaginative play is imaginative play, even if the teachers wished the kids came to the writing center instead of the play kitchen for instance. At that age it is mostly in setting the children up for listening to teachers, hand washing after going to the bathroom, what is proper nutrition, and that sort of thing. The most important thing is it introduces kids to socialization.

    Here Preschool has its own teacher/parent board that helps shape what is taught and why. If a parent does not get involved, that is there own fault because there are tons of ways to step in and help craft a better preschool.

    Safety is pretty important and at our school there are police officers, locked doors and everyone one who works there, from the janitor to the school administrator has to  have an extensive background check. Stopping to buy gas is probably wrought with more peril.

    Incidentally, our preschool experience was so good, to this day Katie and I are still friends with our daughter's preschool teacher.

    But the one great thing about worry, that you can just about take to the bank is: whatever you worry about, almost never comes to fruition.
     
    gardener
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    The changing into jammies thing is pretty normal Japan, I think. It is par for the course, because there will be changing into uniforms, gym uniforms, etc later.
    A lot of the advice may not be applicable, because not only is it a different system that pretty much can't be changed (you know the saying there: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down), but you going in as a foreigner means they are already having a different kind of interaction with you. Their hackles will already be up, maybe if you're lucky they will understand there might be cultural differences, but worst case they will think you are incapable of understanding civilized behavior and not even try to talk to you.
    (Warning: said as a jaded person who has been a serial foreigner with children in various countries, including Japan.)

    I have found personally that parenting is an ongoing process of letting go. I recall my original daycare freakouts about whether they would let my kid use her cloth diapers or not, bring in the goat milk or not, etc etc etc. The only way you can win all the battles is to take over all the tasks yourself (which is sort of a Pyrrhic victory). It was a process of slow erosion of control, until finally you have to ultimately relinquish all control when your kid grows up (I can tell you from experience, it's still not easy when the kid goes to college, even after zen-like practice of letting go for 20 years).
    Not to say you shouldn't question and take measures to protect your kid. Your concern with daycare visitors is legitimate. Gender roles, well, I understand things are changing slowly but I suspect they will be quite fixed in stone. Then again, it might not be as bad as you think it is. Some things, like school uniforms, are going to be gendered no matter what you do. I won't even get into the language-based gendering, but you can go there yourself.
    My point is that eventually as a multi-cultural child there is going to be additional education and perhaps re-education in your child's home after school. I found this to be a good thing, as I taught my kid her US history and English, but also encouraged her to think about women's roles, religion, historical differences and their impact on society between the US and Brazil, etc. As the kid gets older you will be able to have more useful and wonderful conversations, because this will be a normal part of your interactions and relationships.

    You didn't mention this, but I think it is worth asking about the burden the daycare is going to put on you. Some Japanese daycares are known for having these insane hourly diaries where you take the kid's temperature, record the tiniest amounts of food, etc. It is practically a full time job. Ask about those things, and what is expected of you. Don't worry about putting strain on the system, it can figure that out more easily than you as one person can figure out everything else.

    PS- a good friend of mine was a HS psychologist in Japan. There were indeed a million rules but not a darn one written down. She told me that when problems came up they were examined by a group (teachers, psychologist, "class head" teacher) and so not having it written down sometimes allowed them to address things in a better way. It sounds insane but the system is so different (imagine having a visit from your kid's HS homeroom teacher, on a regular basis) that it is hard to compare.
     
    Amy Arnett
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    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful reassurance!

    I am writing thorough responses to each of you as I have time, but I just wanted to say thanks in the meantime!
     
    pollinator
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    I started a reply last night but didn't have time to finish. Now I see Tereza has said most of what I wanted to :)

    One thing I wanted to add is that the most important thing is probably to communicate with your daughter about her day. Not grill her on every detail, but talk enough that you have a good idea of what's going on and who's in contact with her. If anything comes up that makes her uncomfortable you can help her get used to it, help her figure out how to deal with it another way, or talk to the staff if it seems like a big enough issue.

    I wouldn't even bother asking about gender roles and just assume it's a big deal. Like Tereza said, good opportunity for teaching about differences between cultures.

    Kids can also have really different personalities when their families aren't around. My youngest niece, who's the loudest, most talkative, most look at me of the three girls, just started school. Her mum went in for a meeting with the teacher and was right away kind of apologising for her handful of a kid. Turns out when she's not competing with her older sisters she's really quiet. The teacher was actually concerned she wasn't participating enough in class. I remember being glad when my mum wasn't around when I was a kid cause she was so bubbly. It was nice when she left and I could engage in my slower, quieter way. Maybe your daughter's not as shy as you think.

    I don't think that you should blindly trust people no matter what, but I also think trusting that the people working with your daughter to have her best interests at heart is reasonable. They might not have the same methods, but they want her to be successful and happy. The only way to have things done 100% your way is to do them yourself...which kinda rules out preschool.

    I should mention I don't have kids but I've watched my control freak sister in law deal with a lot with her three since she stopped homeschooling.
     
    pollinator
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    Well,   we had a terrible preschool experience.   My daughter was an early reader and for almost half a year the teachers let the other children call her a liar and even sometimes joined in before they bothered to actually give credence to the idea that she actually could read and take the time to see.   For two years after she refused to read out loud.  Generally an introvert,  she often internalized things and wasn't easy to draw out to discuss.   I was always behind in what was going on with her, although I knew it was something.  

    Then we had a wonderful amazing Kindergarten experience with a teacher who was on top of her game,  understood my daughter from the get-go , nurtured both her sensitive easily-damaged side AND her precocious side.   We were back on track,  she was blossoming again.

    Then first grade in public school.    Bored child,  youngest in her class,  brand new teacher, and a "counselor" that didn't like that I was making waves as a young parent.    We stuck it out,  barely.   By the start of 2nd grade my child was really struggling again,  disliked herself,  wanted to "fit in".    Would do her homework, show it to me so someone would see that she could do it,  then secretly she'd erase a portion of her correct answers and deliberately make them wrong before handing it in,  so it would look like everyone else.  And so she wouldn't be accused of lying or cheating .    She was SIX YEARS OLD.    

    The last straw was a teacher grabbing her by the front of the shirt, in front of me,  and telling if she didn't stop crying I wouldn't be allowed to come to any more xmas shows.   That was her last day.    From that day forward we Homeschooled and every month was better and better.   If I could do it over I would spare her the early experiences.    She's 29 now,  owns her own home, is in a beautiful relationship,  has amazingly fascnating hobbies, and I couldn't be more proud of the young woman she has become.  

    That's my warning of doom and gloom.   I do realize not everyone has these sort of experiences with institutionalized schooling.   But for us it was a really bad fit,  put my child and my family through some serious stress and strain,  and ultimately forced me to homeschooling, which turned out to be an amazing journey.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    It's hard. Some kids do really well in school...and some do not. And some teachers work well with certain students and don't with others. There were kids in my preschool class that, no matter how hard I tried to get along with, I just seemed to say the wrong thing and they'd act up. Put them with another teacher, and they flourished. It's not always necessarily that the teacher is bad (though sometimes that IS the case), it just means that the teacher isn't a good fit for the kid, or the environment a good fit.

    I always thought I would have my kids in public school....and then my son just doesn't do well in class environments, especially for long periods of time. So we found a really neat public school/home school co-op. It's amazing. The teachers work with us and have less students in each class and so it's less overwhelming for my son. We get to pick which classes he'd be in (they have things like woodworking and rock climbing and storybook art, and lego engineering).

    Generally--in my experience as a preschool teacher--usually the shy kids do fine. A good 80% of kids will do well in the average school, and some will really thrive. And then there's 10-20% that will find themselves in trouble and might end up in a down-ward spiral. There's teachers that can do a great job for 95% percent of kids and an average job with the other 5%. And there's teachers who just kind of stink. The latter were rare in my experience, but my husband encountered them a lot....and he also was not the easiest child.

    Chances are, your child will do well. But, keep an eye out for things going wonky. Waiting until they are older 3 or 4 will probably increase their chances. Making their first experiences be half day or less days during the week will also help the child be able to follow along and learn the rules without turning to disruption (and beginning the downward spiral). Usually the shy kids don't end up in downward spirals, but as Heather mentioned above, it CAN sometimes happen.
     
    Amy Arnett
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    Thank you for your thorough response and additional questions!

    Nicole Alderman wrote:
    I'd be worried first and foremost about how strict and stressful of an environment they're making the school. ...The best indicator, I think, of a quality school is probably it's teacher to student ratio. If they value the kids enough to keep that lower, the teachers will be lessed stressed and teaching will be more individualized and less reactive or super-strict.



    There are about 15 students and about 5 teachers. Not sure if this is on purpose, or just because it's that small of a village.

    A little more background on the preschool situation here. There is only one preschool and it is publicly run; cost is negligible. It's a five minute walk from our house. The outdoor play area/equipment is considered a public playground, so we go there to play almost every day. If the timing is right, the students are also playing outside. From what I've observed so far, I am happy with how they handle the children. But I wanted some reassurance that the concerns I planned to bring up during our interview were legit, and I feel better about it after reading everyone's responses.

    As for the other questions you added:

    What are they expecting the kids to learn?
    How are they teaching the kids?



    I only see them when they are free playing outside, but I know from conversations that they do lots of crafts and also performances for holidays. So it seems play-based. I think the main learning goals are self sufficiency in daily life like brushing teeth, washing hands, hygiene, toilet training, dressing, greetings and manners, speaking, playing. From observing free play time, the teachers offer a lot of positive reinforcement and take the time to explain when behavior is unacceptable and model how to make amends. 

    How long of a day is it? In my experience, most of the learning happens in the first 2-3 hours...then it's lunch and nap time and time for kids to leave. Nothing gets learned after lunch. If you're weirded out about the pajama thing, you could see if you could do "half-day"



    As far as I can gather, it's as you describe: an eventful morning, a long lunch and a long nap, and then killing time til pick up. And you bring up another issue I need to clarify, which is not going full time. In general, everyone is officially on paper enrolled full time, but of course there is no rule for attendance, drop off time or pick up time. So I hope they are ok with spotty attendance. Ideally she could go two or three days a week in the morning at first. They have been flexible enough to allow us to start dropping in for free playtime indoors starting in January, so she can get used things with me there. This is a really good sign that they are willing to be flexible to meet our needs.

    Do they have scheduled recess? Ask if you can see the class schedule.



    They have recess most days in the morning for an hour or so outside or in the gym when the weather is bad. Sometimes they do crafts or outings instead. They are kind of stingy with giving information to people who aren't enrolled, but I will ask for a schedule that's a good idea. They should be more willing to share information with us once we hand in our official application.

    I didn't put either of my kids in preschool. A lot of the parents I worked for, asked if I'd be coming back to work and putting my kids in the program. Nope! I didn't have the funds for it. And, even though I love and trust my coworkers, why would I have them raise my kid while I raised other people's kids, instead of just raising my own?



    Agreed, if this was the situation, I wouldn't think twice about just raising her myself. When we first moved here, I was very firm that she wouldn't go to preschool for a lot of the reasons you mentioned, Nicole. I wanted to teach her everything and guide her through her early development. However, the more time we have spent here and the more we interact with the other children, parents and the teachers themselves, the more attractive preschool becomes. And cost is so low it doesn't factor in to the decision. If they are willing to be flexible with us, I think some time in preschool would give her access to enriching experiences that I would be hard pressed to provide myself.

    Every kid is different and develops and learns their own speed. I'm getting a vibe from my daughter that she would be happy to hang out at the preschool and play and make friends and try new things. She has way more energy than me, and I'm happy to let other people fulfill her need for physical activity, play and new experiences. If she gets bored or isn't into it, we don't have to go.

    This is really weird to me. I'm wondering who in their right mind has time to get however-many toddlers/preschoolers to change into jammies. It's hard enough to get a class to put on all their coats! This seems like insanity. And weird. Are they changing in front of each other?




    Thank you! and good point about where they are changing clothes. My guess is that it is treated as a lesson of how to dress and undress eventually all by yourself, like Tereza mentioned. So I think it's more like an activity where they learn about clothes and how they work, I hope. But again nothing's written down, so we'll see. Another mom mentioned that her daughter, about 4 years old, only brings button down PJs to preschool because she wants to show off to her teachers that she can do buttons by herself now. After hearing this I thought, "well I don't want to deprive my daughter the joy of showing off her buttoning skills, just because I'm overprotective about exposing skin..."  

    I personally would be a bit worried about the segregated clothing. Not knowing anything about japanese education, I wouldn't know HOW worried to be. 

      

      I'm hoping it's a leftover practice that's continued only because no one wants to bother to change it. Most preschools in Japan have one bright color for all their students to help them be seen when walking outside and to tell them apart from other schools. A lot of times something might be written in the law, but it takes a long time to kind of trickle out to certain communities. Or the social cost of asking the law to be upheld would be too high, so most people just deal.  We'll see. 

    Nicole Alderman wrote:It's hard. Some kids do really well in school...and some do not. And some teachers work well with certain students and don't with others. ...
    Chances are, your child will do well. But, keep an eye out for things going wonky.  



    Yes, it depends so much on the individuals involved. We just have to keep watch and do what we think is best, like Heather did. If preschool/school ever stops being fun and enriching, it won't be in our lives anymore.

    I'll try to bang out responses to everyone else now, while my daughter is napping, but if I don't make it, stay tuned!
     
    Amy Arnett
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    Travis Johnson wrote:
    But the one great thing about worry, that you can just about take to the bank is: whatever you worry about, almost never comes to fruition.



    Thanks! that makes me feel better!

    The teachers came around before she was enrolled, which was at our home, where we got to meet them. Throughout the year they had a few more visits which was at home for each child.
    ...Incidentally, our preschool experience was so good, to this day Katie and I are still friends with our daughter's preschool teacher.



    This is very important, which is why I was very relieved when they said we could start getting her used to everyone and the environment a few months before official enrollment. My first and worst memory of school is sobbing in the coat rack, scared to go to my seat, and feeling abandoned in a room full of strangers I didn't trust in a building I had never been to. I don't want the same to happen to her, but I also try to be careful not to assume that her reactions will be the same as mine.

    Here Preschool has its own teacher/parent board that helps shape what is taught and why. If a parent does not get involved, that is there own fault because there are tons of ways to step in and help craft a better preschool.



    Good point! I know there is some kind of pta-like group. I will have to ask about that too.

    Safety is pretty important and at our school there are police officers, locked doors and everyone one who works there, from the janitor to the school administrator has to  have an extensive background check. Stopping to buy gas is probably wrought with more peril.



    Another good point. I will have to ask about their security and disaster preparedness plans. I see a police offer hanging out around official drop off and pick up time, and I know all the doors are locked all the time. I would be most worried about wildlife or falling in the river out here.
     
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    Tereza Okava wrote:
    A lot of the advice may not be applicable, because not only is it a different system that pretty much can't be changed (you know the saying there: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down), but you going in as a foreigner means they are already having a different kind of interaction with you. Their hackles will already be up, maybe if you're lucky they will understand there might be cultural differences, but worst case they will think you are incapable of understanding civilized behavior and not even try to talk to you.
    (Warning: said as a jaded person who has been a serial foreigner with children in various countries, including Japan.)



    Thanks for the good laugh! I am getting battle ready to take down the whole system! I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but also be ready to tear apart any reason they try to give as to why we can't change something. We'll take it to the mayor if we have to! I'm also trying to win hearts and minds of the other moms in our "new moms with kids not yet in preschool club" so they will hopefully voice the same concerns.

    At the same time, I have been pleasantly surprised with our treatment so far. We were fortunate enough to be able to be very picky when choosing where to live. This village is a village that is doing it's best to survive the sharp decline in population, so they are willing to think about accommodating new resident's needs.

    The changing into jammies thing is pretty normal Japan, I think. It is par for the course, because there will be changing into uniforms, gym uniforms, etc later.



    Good point! Changing clothes is something that is learned, and we do it a lot actually.

    Some things, like school uniforms, are going to be gendered no matter what you do. I won't even get into the language-based gendering, but you can go there yourself.



    I guess I don't mind gendered uniforms, I just want the kids to be able to choose themselves which one they want to wear. I hated pink as a kid, and I hated having to wear a dress. I wore pants under my dress so I could play freely at recess, and the dress came off as soon as the bell rang. I deeply felt that not getting to wear pants because of my sex was unfair and unjust. Again this is a soft spot for me that I'm trying not to throw on my daughter. I hope she likes pink and frilly; it will probably be easier for her. 

    I speak Japanese like a gruff old man. I still use my manners in formal situations, but casually I use mostly masculine word forms. This is partly because I learned most of my Japanese from gruff boys and my now husband, but it's also because I feel more comfortable. I feel like I'm pretending or acting, if I use the feminine words. How many times did I here, "you won't be able to get married if you keep talking like that". But most people here don't seem to notice or care, so that was encouraging when we first moved here. 

    You didn't mention this, but I think it is worth asking about the burden the daycare is going to put on you. Some Japanese daycares are known for having these insane hourly diaries where you take the kid's temperature, record the tiniest amounts of food, etc. It is practically a full time job. Ask about those things, and what is expected of you. Don't worry about putting strain on the system, it can figure that out more easily than you as one person can figure out everything else.




    Thank you for bringing this up! Hopefully it's a little more relaxed out here in the country, but the other moms do complain about all the stuff they have to prepare. I will probably come to this  thread often to vent about handkerchiefs, thermoses, shoes and such. Thankfully a couple other moms whose kids will graduate from preschool this April have offered their hand-me-downs. 

    My point is that eventually as a multi-cultural child there is going to be additional education and perhaps re-education in your child's home after school.



    Yes, it will be an interesting journey. Throughout the years I will likely come asking for advice on balancing her two cultures and education. 
    Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
     
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    Jan White wrote:
    One thing I wanted to add is that the most important thing is probably to communicate with your daughter about her day. Not grill her on every detail, but talk enough that you have a good idea of what's going on and who's in contact with her. If anything comes up that makes her uncomfortable you can help her get used to it, help her figure out how to deal with it another way, or talk to the staff if it seems like a big enough issue.



    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jan! Communication is so important! She's not quite conversational yet, which is cause for most of my concern because she can't just tell me about it. Looking forward to the day we can just talk it out. I've thought about strapping a gopro to her, so I can be sure she had a good day. :)

    Kids can also have really different personalities when their families aren't around. ...Maybe your daughter's not as shy as you think.



    Good point! I hope this is the case, and I'm just fussing for no reason. It's quick and easy to say she is shy, but I think she just takes her time observing thoroughly before she acts. And if people can't wait for her to move at her own speed, they label her shy. The teachers already understand this, so I'm hoping they will give her time and space to move at her own speed and be herself. With a slow, gentle transition, I'm hoping she will be comfortable at preschool to be herself apart from me as you described. Another reason to get her a gopro so I can see what she's like when I'm not around. :)
     
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    Heather Staas wrote:
    Well,   we had a terrible preschool experience.  



    Heather, thank you for sharing your experience!

    I'm very sorry you both had to deal with that, it's so frustrating not to be taken seriously and accused of dishonesty. 

    I'm glad you had a good experience with homeschooling, and can I say I'm proud of you for stepping up for your daughter and creating an environment that suited her needs!

    Your story is a reminder of the resilience of children also. They can go to school, have a bad experience, decide it's not for them, try something else and turn out just fine. 

    Your story of your daughter "fixing" her answers also brought back some memories of my own experiences. Some schools and teachers were great, some were not. My first report at a new school in 8th grade was accused of plagiarism, because she didn't believe I could know the words I used. She got an earful from my parents...And I learned that way less effort was needed for an A in that school.

    I didn't like to share my grades with my friends. I didn't like their reactions, felt that it put distance between us. Add that to the list of my soft spots.

    It wasn't until I turned 30 that I found a blog describing this phenomenon as common in gifted children.

    Often forced to choose between popularity and remaining true to themselves, many gifted girls downplay their intelligence, avoid competition, and "dumb themselves down" to gain acceptance. At the very least, they don't want to alienate other girls or intimidate the boys. And some school environments are so hostile that masking their abilities may seem the only option to prevent bullying and isolation.  



    This post on the difference between fitting in and belonging was interesting also. https://giftedchallenges.blogspot.com/2013/11/gifted-children-need-place-to-belong.html 

    Reading about the challenges often associated with giftedness recolored my whole academic life. 

    Of course it depends on the teacher, other students, and environment. Sometimes you just have to give it a try and see what happens. If school is ever boring, we will just have to spice it up or leave it out. There are only two other students in her grade so far, so I'm hoping that means a very individualized education when she reaches elementary and middle school. 

    Thanks again for sharing!
     
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    I meant to get back to this earlier but I've been traveling (visiting the extended Okava clan-- the spelling they use here for 小川)

    Amy Arnett wrote:
    I speak Japanese like a gruff old man...... "you won't be able to get married if you keep talking like that".


    High five, been there and done that. I was so lucky to have a fabulous female boss who talked pretty, otherwise I never would have used my fancy talk (but I'm still happier with the verb forms that make my mother in law give me the side eye!). BUT that said I also had female friends years ago who "spoke male" for the effect (used "ore" and the shortened verbs). Things are changing, I'd like to think it is for the better.

    It sounds like with the community of other moms around you (score on the hand me downs!!!) and your attitude, you and the kiddo are going to do just fine.
    I hear you on the girl stuff- I literally did not know I was a girl til I went to school. I didn't really have other playmates my age. At that point I was forced into dresses and it was not fun. To this day I will not wear a skirt or a dress, period.
    I tried very hard not to put this baggage onto my kid, but instead to allow her to be herself. We forbade anything pink, barbies, and anything over-the-top (little high heels, bikinis, similar silliness) before she was really old enough to express herself (maybe 4). My family threw fits but I was firm. She grew up to be a girl who loves makeup and heels but also can skin a rabbit (even with those long nails) and bike with the guys. A few weeks ago she told me she put up the television at her boyfriend's parents' house, because she was the only one who knew how to put in drywall screws. I got a lot of pushback from my family about restricting the girly stuff, but I have no regrets about allowing her to develop her own tastes on her own terms.

    I look forward to hearing about how it goes!
     
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    I didn't have the patience to read every single response, so maybe someone's said this, but:

    Question 1: Gender roles.  If the kids are already gendered by dress, in my mind that's a guarantee that there is no gender neutrality foundation.  Challenge the school: Can my daughter wear a boy's uniform if she wants?  If they say no, you have your answer.  They think boys are entitled to one form of dress, girls another, and that is just a surface symptom of more deeply engrained views of gender.

    Question 2:  Personal space/body safety.  PJs don't seem like a flag, but the gendered uniforms and mandatory dress change for nap time can simply be a form of early self discipline, but there could be an underlying form of social programming.  Following rules, etiquette, and routine.  I'm not sure if it's good, bad, or indifferent unless you know more about the atmosphere and energy with their school routines.

    Question 3: Shyness.  If an administrator threatened a child with a form of torment for not being more social I personally would walk away and not think twice.  I was tickled for "fun" as a kid and as an adult my body feels tickling as pain and it triggers a panic reaction in me.  My grandmother had deep tickling trauma, having been held down and tickled by her peers in a girls home repeatedly.  I know many people, actually, who HATE tickling as adults and will respond with defensive violence if they get tickled, because as kids, adults forcefully subjected them to it again and again.  If I saw an adult openly admit they would force unwanted physical touch- not just touch but sensational torment- on a child, I can only expect that that's not the only thing they're willing to do to a child who doesn't conform or disobeys.   That's a bullying behavior and can become abusive very quickly.

    Questions 4 & 5 seem like you should already know before enrolling in the school.  If the school hasn't made their foundational principals, rules, and expectations known, you can expect the unexpected.  Granted there's probably a cultural slant here; maybe the culture has deep conformity and traditions, and so everyone already knows what to expect because it's always been the same.

    But the gendered clothing and the forced social conformation, I would personally consider red flags for the concerns you have.
     
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    This is one of many thousands steps on the road to independence your child will take. She needs to see you be excited, hopeful and positive about new experiences. She needs to know you "have her back" if she encounters difficulty, and she needs to learn there are a myriad of different ideas, beliefs and lifestyles out there.

    Be positive, and assume this will go well, I truly believe if you let these (as yet) unfounded fears take root, your fear, mistrust and apprehension WILL transfer to your child.

    Everyday, ask her the three "worst" things" that happened, and then the "three best things"; make this a ritual so there is always the ability and expectation of experiencing and sharing the good and bad, daily.

    The broader the range of experiences a child is exposed to the better - it gives them the ability as an adult to "experience without judging" and at the same time learn what "feels right" (or wrong) for themselves.

    Getting involved with the school on any level (cleaning, cooking, assisting, reading, PTA...) is usually the best way to alleviate your concerns - just make sure you don't assume different is wrong, it could, just, be different.
     
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    So I have 2 kids in school and they also went to daycare. When my children were in daycare I went and had lunch there every day. I also gave them really great bonuses at Christmas and was super nice and friendly. If the caregiver likes you, they will take better care of your child. In fact, this is what led to me staying home. One of the daycare providers was leaving. She called me to tell me that she didn't think I should leave my daughter there because the other care giver did not like her at all. Because of the love this caregiver had for my daughter I quit my job and potentially saved my daughter from abuse. I'm not saying the other lady would have abused her but if she didn't like her at the very least she wouldn't have received the care I wanted for her.

    If I had not quit my job my children were going to go to the local Catholic School because it was very close to my work and that is very important to me. I didn't want to get a call from the school close to where we live and have to take 45 minutes to get there and pick up my child with a broken arm or whatever. I fully intended to counter the Catholic indoctrination with my own beliefs. I wasn't going to be crazy about it, just have open conversation and share what I believed to be true and why I thought our views may differ.

    The above still works even though my children ended up going to the local school close to our house (because I had quit my job so that school was then closer to me). It's a country school and cowboy culture is thriving there. My son seems to take things I've taught him and said about women and life and held onto it in spite of the "manly" culture he's surrounded by. This makes it seem like I'm trying to make him effeminate but it's more that I simply don't abide gender stereotypes either way. Let a person be themselves is my motto.

    I have had problems with the school though. My daughter was "lost" twice in Kindergarten. She actually got locked out of the school when it was freezing outside and Thank God someone heard her pounding on the doors and windows and let her in. Turns out my daughter had cataracts in one eye. So, while people would walk past her she couldn't see them and that's how she managed to get lost. I asked them to please watch her better. She wasn't lost again. I then had an incident where my son had his arm broken at school. No one noticed. He went almost an entire day of school with a broken arm. I was furious. He had gone to the nurse. So, I asked them to please call me if either of my children ever went to the nurse. The principal said no, he would not do that. I flipped and called the superintendent. Needless to say, I get a call now.

    The trick is to not be nasty. When I make a request of the school I do it as politely as I possibly can. I do not blame anyone, I simply ask for what I believe is needed for my children's welfare. I also make appropriate adult behavior expectations clear to my children. They know what an adult is allowed to do to them and what they are not. Verbal, physical or sexual violence are very clear NO's to my kids and I'm confident they will tell me if it should ever occur.

    I guess open conversation with your kids is the biggest thing. Other than that being SUPER nice to the people caring for them.
     
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    Jen Fan wrote:
    Question 3: Shyness.  If an administrator threatened a child with a form of torment for not being more social I personally would walk away and not think twice.  I was tickled for "fun" as a kid and as an adult my body feels tickling as pain and it triggers a panic reaction in me.  My grandmother had deep tickling trauma, having been held down and tickled by her peers in a girls home repeatedly.  I know many people, actually, who HATE tickling as adults and will respond with defensive violence if they get tickled, because as kids, adults forcefully subjected them to it again and again.  If I saw an adult openly admit they would force unwanted physical touch- not just touch but sensational torment- on a child, I can only expect that that's not the only thing they're willing to do to a child who doesn't conform or disobeys.   That's a bullying behavior and can become abusive very quickly.

    But the gendered clothing and the forced social conformation, I would personally consider red flags for the concerns you have.



    Jen, thanks for sharing your perspective!

    Tickling is another soft spot for me as well. You've encouraged me to specifically address tickling and add it to my list of interview questions. It's a very fine line between fun and trauma with tickling. And it doesn't help that you can only laugh, a cruel reflex. 


    Lorinne Anderson wrote:This is one of many thousands steps on the road to independence your child will take. She needs to see you be excited, hopeful and positive about new experiences. She needs to know you "have her back" if she encounters difficulty, and she needs to learn there are a myriad of different ideas, beliefs and lifestyles out there.
     
    ...



    All good advice, Lorinne. Thanks for sharing!


    elle sagenev wrote:

    ...

    I guess open conversation with your kids is the biggest thing. Other than that being SUPER nice to the people caring for them.



    This is good advice, Elle, Thanks! And thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I have to check me own emotions and try not to go in battle ready. You can definitely get a lot farther with people by being nice.

    We handed in the application paperwork today, so we should get more information soon and an interview. 

    We had been traveling for new years, so I got to ask other parents outside of the village about their daycare experiences. Every person I asked said they've never seen gendered uniforms, they all wear the same color. They also said they don't change clothes for nap time. Beyond that I was surprised at how little other parents know about their kids daily goings on at daycare and school. I guess it's a leave it to the professionals kind of culture overall...

    Will update when anything interesting happens.
     
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