Someone asked me recently how Emi is doing at school and I've been meaning to write more about that so this is a good opportunity. Emi is doing great at school. It's hard to ask her about "everything" without being too obvious but it seems like she's enjoying herself.
I had a lot of worries before school started and it was mostly because I had no idea what to expect. Did Emi know enough going into first grade? Would I know what was going on? Did she have the right supplies? The questions went on and on and although I asked my neighborhood friends about a lot of it, I still felt unsure. It turns out that all my worrying was for nothing. For example, I wasn't sure how much Emi was supposed to know before she started school. She could write her name and she recognized most of the characters and could write about half of them from memory but I've heard so much about the pressure that is put on kids when they start school so I wasn't sure if it was enough. On the other hand I didn't want to put pressure on her either so me worrying about it seemed like the best option!
But they started the first week with the first letter of the hiragana alphabet and worked through all 50 characters over the next 3 months until summer vacation. Once they knew about half of the characters they started reading homework where they had to read 1-2 pages with us each night. They would read the exact same pages for about a week and then move onto something else. With math they started introducing numbers 1-5 over the course of a few weeks and then moved on to addition of sums up to 5 and then a few weeks later started with minus equations. Even now they are only studying up to number 9. I was very relieved at the pace at which everything was taught and at the amount and type of homework that was given. They really build upon what was taught before and I could see that Emi feels very confident doing it.
I also didn't know what the school and the teachers would be like. The school didn't look very appealing from the outside and I've never heard a good story about teachers in Japan. Ever. But in the first week of school they took the kids on a tour of the school so they would know where everything was and who was in charge of different areas like the library, nurses station and teacher's lounge and she came back from that day so excited about the school. Another thing that worried me was if she would be teased because she's half or even just because she's a little first grader but throughout the first month of school the first graders did a lot of activities with the sixth graders and I think this gave the kids a little self-confidence around the bigger kids. I felt like it was a good introduction to school, which is good since she has to go to one for the next 12 years!
We are noticing a change in her attitude though. She says "mendokusai" a lot with a little I'm-too-cool-for-you tone which we're not really thrilled about. I know she's not going to be a little girl for forever and that eventually she'll be a teenager and hate us and that there is a process from here to there but that doesn't mean I like it. Also we feel it's an attitude she's picking up and not something she actually feels so I'm trying to decide the best way to approach talking with her about it.
Otherwise we have been pleasantly surprised by how smoothly elementary school is going. I know just saying that is asking for trouble and we're only 1/4 of the way through the year and only 1\48 of the way through her whole school life but so far so good...