The Obligatory Winter Vacation Homework Post

Winter vacation as a kid in the US involved a lot of staying up too late and eating too many sweets with people from the various churches my father pastored. He’d get lots of homemade sweets and, invariably, every year at least one giant tin of popcorn.

Winter vacation in Japan is… less vacationy. We have people over for Christmas (on which I let my kids stay home, rebel that I am.) We might go to one party at a friends’. But what really puts the damper on any fun one might have is homework.

It’s oppressive.

Not just because of the amount, which this year consists of 14 worksheets (2 per day,) reading, and caligraphy homework. It’s the fussiness of it all.

You just don’t do homework while lying on your bed, kicking your feet to the rhythms of New Kids on the Block while simultaneously admiring your new friendship bracelet. No, at the Hamakko house at least, it’s a big frickin’ production.

Today, Me First did his caligraphy homework with the PILs. He had three pieces of paper from school, with instructions to bring in the best one.

The in-laws start off by covering their table in newspaper (understandable,) then propping Me First up on several cushions until he is 3/4 inches higher than he was to start with. Then giving him a blanket. (?) After that, they made him practice several times before letting him use the paper he brought from school. Then coached him on approaching the blank paper with proper feeling. And some yelling about sitting up straight.

All in all, this particular fiasco cost an hour and a couple of tears.

And people wonder why I don’t get the Japanese relatives to help with homework…


Twenty Minutes in Hell

Me First’s teacher and I have reached an agreement that if the daily homework takes more than twenty minutes, it’s okay if he can’t finish. But she asked me to guarantee that he was actually concentrating and working for those twenty minutes.

So it’s a team effort, I guess you could say. Or more like a debacle.

I sit beside him at the table with the kitchen timer, stopping it every time he loses concentration, which is about every fifteen seconds. Right now the timer is on nine minutes, but in actuality we have been working for thirty. He’s tried crying, whining, saying he’s hungry, destroying his eraser, breaking his pencil, and throwing eraser bits all over the kitchen. Not to mention the general shitty attitude.

All over twenty problems of double digit subtraction.

The way they are teaching the kids how to borrow seems weird. They cross out the number in the tens place and subtract one, then carry over a ten on top of the row of numbers in the ones place. They subtract the lower number from ten, then add the remaining number. It’s lots of extra writing and an extra step. Maybe in theory subtracting only from ten is faster, but in practice they seem to be losing any time gained by writing the extra number.


This is what it looks like. If you see this then run as fast as you can as far as you can.