Yōchien II

Only a few days after I had decided to quit inquiring about preschools for Theo and wait for April, we met a woman who lives in Fukuyama and speaks fluent English. She asked us if we were planning on sending Theo to yōchien and I told her about all of the problems I ran into just trying to find out any information. She informed me that her 2 nephews and niece attend a great private yōchien that is in our neighbourhood, and they happened to be having their open house that coming Saturday. She also let me know that almost all yōchien have some kind of information day mid-October where you can pick up applications and all applications for the following April are due November 1st. She volunteered to go with me and translate.

At the open house, the principal covered the school's teaching philosophy and curriculum. The day runs from 9:30 am to 2: 30 pm, with exercising and sports for the first half of the day, and teaching for the last half of the day. She spoke for a while about how their goal is to help the children develop the right hemisphere of the brain and the importance of right brained activities. They teach them kanji, calligraphy, music, and dance. After listening to the principal's speech, we did a tour of all the little classrooms and the outdoor areas. There was a big open area for organized sports, a few play structures and play houses, and a garden where the children were growing vegetables. The classrooms where all friendly, bright and clean. 

My friend introduced me to the principal, who speaks a bit of English and she told me that if Theo were to attend there, they had space for him to start as early as November 1st. My friend offered to take me to other schools to check them out, but I just got the feeling that Theo would fit in well at this school. It is also very close to our apartment and my friend and her sister (who's children attend there) are, and will be invaluable resources for sorting out the language barrier. I was also able to speak with the principal about Theo's medical conditions and she seemed more than willing to work with us to keep him safe while not making him stand out too much. Well, not any more than being the only foreigner in the kindergarten makes him already stand out. We set up an appointment with the principal for an interview, uniform fitting, and filling out paperwork.

At this appointment I was given the run down of required classroom materials. Every student must have the exact same school and art supplies, and seemingly a million bags to bring all of their school things in. Each bag must have exact dimensions, and every last eraser, marker cap and pouch must be labeled with their name. Needless to say, after writing Theo's name in katakana about 300 times, I have gotten really good at it. It would have been nearly impossible to find all of the required bags in the exact dimensions specified, so I went to the fabric store and picked up a bit of really cute cloth and got busy sewing.   

His necessary bags are (top to bottom, left to right) Bento lunch box bag, water bottle bag, cup and toothbrush bag, extra pair of undies bag, folder and artwork carrier bag, shoes bag, and towel and extra change of clothes bag. 

Here is a glimpse at all of the crazy art supplies that we needed to purchase from the school. Because every child has the exact same set (can't let anyone be an individual, can we?) every last lid, cover, pastel, and cap had to be labeled to prevent it from getting lost. I don't think I have ever owned such expensive art supplies, especially not when I was 3!

We also had to purchase this awesome and slightly ridiculous instrument for Theo. It is apparently called a melodica. It is played by connecting the white tube to the end of the keyboard and blowing into the mouth piece while playing the keys. Considering it cost us about $85 Canadian, I really hope that he enjoys it.   

There are also really cute uniforms that Theo must wear, but I will be putting up photos of him in them later. 

It would have been nearly impossible for me to find my way through the application process, to understand what Theo is required to bring on a daily basis, and how the schedule and system works without the help of an interpreter who was willing to sift through a mountain of papers and answer my every last question. I wish that I had some advice to give for someone looking for a yōchien for their child, but it seems like we just had a stroke of good fortune and circumstance in finding connections.


Unknown said...

Hello Laura,
I've just found your blog and was glad to see that you found a kindergarten that works for you. I was lucky because I worked at many teaching English and could therefore see the way the teachers interacted with the children etc. before deciding which one to go to.
The amount of things needed seems overwhelming in the beginning, but they seem to be able to use them for many years so hopefully the naming process will be over for a long time! It sounds like you found a great kindergarten - I hope both your son and yourself can have really positive experiences.... amongst a few frustrating ones along the way!

Laura said...

Thanks Jo! You have a great blog. I am just getting used to apartment life here and am itching to get my hands dirty in some soil. There is a large garden just outside of my apartment building, so maybe once my Japanese improves a bit I will enquire about renting a bit of earth to grow some veggies! I guess I will just have to live vicariously though you for a while :)

It would have been very nice to really see an assortment of teachers in action, but I feel very good about the kindergarten he is in. His teacher is very energetic and even though they don't understand a word the other is saying, he seems extremely comfortable around her.
I am just glad the frenzied sewing is over, at least for a while!

Kendra said...

I just found out we will be going to Japan with JET this year! My son is 5 and will be attending yochien. I was wondering about the dimensions of the bags? I'd like to have them made before we go as I don't expect I'll have a sewing machine in Japan. Thanks!

Kendra said...

Hi Laura -

I just got my shortlist JET email today! I'll be taking my 5 year old son with me and I wanted to make the school bags before we go - can you tell me the dimensions of the bags? I'd appreciate it!

Unknown said...

Hi Kendra, sorry for the late reply! I have been non-existent lately when it comes to updating our blog and spending any time on the internet actually :) I will definitely try and scrounge up the bag measurements for you. That being said, don't be shocked if you specific yochien or hoikusho has different bag size requirements than mine. I have heard they are all a little different. They might let it slide if it is only a few centimeters off though.

Also, have you thought of bringing your sewing machine with you? I brought mine from Canada and it works just fine, so I can attest to the fact that U.S. or Canadian machines will work here even though they run on 100V vs 120V. I think there are much cuter children's fabrics here!

Laura said...

Sorry, that comment was actually from me. I am pretty sure that Dustin has never thought about the cuteness of children's fabric in Japan ;)