Robert & Roberta Adair

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J started houkuen (daycare) 3 weeks ago. I know I’m just another gaijin (foreign) mom figuring out this houkuen thing, but it has felt like quite a learning curve. Now we’re a little more into a rhythm…and I want to write a touch about it now before the newness goes away. Because, yo, I’m guessing it’s a bit different than daycare in the US and because it’s already beginning to feel normal.

Anyhoo, we went in for an interview on a Wednesday, and he started the next Monday. Speedy, huh. To acclimate the kids, all of them go one hour with a parent on Monday, two hours without a parent Tuesday, three hours Wednesday, then six hours on Thursday and Friday (to after nap time). I expected tears on Tuesday, but nope. No tears. At least not from him (I may have blubbered in the car…).

Again, I know I’m just one of thousands of gaijin moms who has probably reacted similarly to the houkuen cultural differences and who has blabbered about the same stuff. Yet, wow, it’s so funny! First, the stuff (literal stuff!). We were given quite a long list of what he needs to bring to school. J is still in diapers, so we need to bring them (each with his name written on it) and wipes (which go in a large bag). He also needs indoor gym shoes (another bag), two towels to sleep between for naptime, a pink sunhat (the color is assigned to all the 2 year olds), and a few changes of clothes (oops, I forgot to bring more pants today as he came home in his spares on Friday).

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For the everyday stuff – He has a small bag that holds a cup and a hand towel and another bag that holds a cloth placemat, a bib, a hand towel for lunch time inside a plastic container, and a fork and spoon set inside yet another container. Another bag holds a towel for diaper changes and his dirty diapers when he comes home. All of that goes into a backpack; in his case, a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack. Yep, that’s every day. So 4 towels and 4 bags plus other stuff everyday. And all of this stuff has his name on it. Oh, the name tags!

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Then there is the book. Haha, the book. Everyday, I fill out one little page: today’s date, what time and what he ate for dinner and breakfast, if he pooed, when, and what consistency, his temperature, if he bathed, his disposition in the evening and morning, and what time he went to bed and woke up. There’s also a space for notes.

Then, on the opposite side, the teacher writes what he ate for snack time and for lunch (and what he didn’t eat ;), how long he slept, his attitude, and a little about what he did that day. For example, “Today J played in the sandbox.” “Today he sat in my lap as I read a book and he said ‘eye,’ ‘hand,’ etc. in Japanese.” “Today he clearly said “Here!” during roll call.” “Today he had a majorly snotty nose.”

The teacher does this for 10-12 students. Wowzas.

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Then there’s the schedule: I’m not positive, but I think his daily schedule is something like this:

Arrive at 9 and have mostly free play time – maybe a story or a song.

Get ready for snack time around 10 (wash hands, sit at table, sing a song). After putting everything away, put shoes and hats on and go outside for playtime.

Then around 11:45, go inside (put shoes and hats away, wash hands, and get ready for lunch). I assume lunch takes a bit of time. Everyday they eat rice, miso soup, and okazu (side – meat and veggie). Then they wash up and get ready for naptime from 12:30 to…when the parents start picking kids up between 2 and 3.

Gah, this is already too long, but a few more things:

  • It sometimes seems like a pain to fill out the form and prepare his bag (“why can’t they just throw out the diapers on site?” or “why can’t he (ahem small voice) use a disposable towel…?”) But I appreciate the system in a lot of ways – how it teaches personal responsibility and caring for your own silverware and such. And, yep, the environment.
  • This particular daycare is in the city we will be moving to. We know a few people who are current and past students. It’s small, so I’m hopeful that over time we will be able to get to know various families and teachers. Also, despite not knowing if there is a single Christian teacher or student there, it has a Christian heritage, for which we are thankful. Kids can start as young as 2 (hence J starting at 2 and 1 week), and when they turn 3, they go to kindergarten, which is 3 years here (think pre-K plus K).
  • We were originally thinking mornings twice a week. Then we were pleased to find out he was able to nap there from the first day (J without a nap wouldn’t make daycare worth it). Then we added another day. Now he goes Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – and loves it. He has yet to cry or seem even mildly upset at going, for which I’m grateful. “School, school, school” – or rather – “skoow, skoow, skoow!!”
  • Yes, it’s only for about 3 months before we go back to the US. But hopefully it’ll be a good experience for him, for us, and he will be able to go back into it fairly easily when we move back here.
  • There’s so much more I have bouncing in my head (relief that he seems to love it, our motivations for sending him, my questions and fears about raising a bilingual kid, my major insecurities about messing up and misunderstanding, etc.)

Originally posted on Adair Update... http://bit.ly/29g81JI

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