Back to School

Although our kids started back to school a week ago, it feels like we are finally getting into the routine of it all.

There are two things that I distinctly dislike about summer vacation in Japan:  a) the shortness of it (about five weeks or so);  and the piles of homework given to each child requiring a good amount of time spent daily during the vacation to get it done.  We were so thankful that Owen’s teacher was happy with all that he completed in the U.S.

One thing that I really like about Japanese summer assignments, however, is the project that all school children do.   It is very loosely defined (surprisingly so for this highly-structured and detailed society), and allows the kids (with parents help of course) to be creative and to enjoy the process of creating.  This week the parents from the elementary school could go into the school during class hours and see the student’s summer projects.  Here are a few that I enjoyed seeing:

This is an oil-crayon portrait done by a boy in Owen’s class – second grade! – of his dad, who designs teeth for his job.  I was SOOO impressed.

Then there were some in which the students used common objects (like shells or buttons) to create a picture:

Then there was 3-D food made out of various mediums.  Love that sushi! (made out of felt)

Our 4th grade friend Y. came with his family to visit us in Montana for a week this summer.  He did an amazing album detailing their trip and the many things he learned about American culture.

Owen chose to feature the Lincoln Memorial for his project.  This summer our friend Sarah gave he and a Japanese friend visiting a special tour of the monuments in Washington D.C..  He really liked the Lincoln, and afterwards we did some research with him about it.  (Do you know why there are 56 steps?  Or why there are 36 columns?)  We were happy with how his project turned out:

He had a magnifying lens so that students could look closely at the penny and the five dollar bill — did you know you can see Lincoln inside the memorial on both of these currencies?  One of the best things about going to see the projects was the joy of the two brothers when they met each other in the school hall:

The other back-to-school event for me was starting back up with my duties as a school mom.  Today I had patrol — me and five other moms had to walk three different courses for an hour while all of the elementary school children were walking home.  The hope in this daily routine by all the moms is to help keep our neighborhood safe.  Having just come back from the U.S., I HAD to take a picture of two of my mom friends as they prepared for this hour-long walk in the hot sun.  I prepared for the walk by putting on shorts and a t-shirt and grabbing sunglasses;  all other five ladies came wearing hats,  long pants (protecting their legs from UV rays); carrying sun umbrellas, and of course — the arm gloves.  No sun penetration here!

It’s good to be back;  we’re thankful for the gift of routine, even when things are a bit different.


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