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May 19, 2010

Turning Japanese

When last we saw our heroine, she was poised on a railroad track--straddling the line between Daycare A and Daycare B--and staring down a barrelling-down freight train loaded with dynamite set to ignite should we choose unwisely, thereupon carving a permanent and untraverseable chasm between Our Choice and the Only Right Choice, leaving us forever stranded on the wrong side with no chance of redemption. (This is the point at which you might have wanted to pause the DVR and empty your bladder just in case things got a little crazy from here on out.)

But sorry, this is one of those times the preview may have misled you and overplayed the drama of the movie because things did not, in fact, get crazy, unless your idea of crazy is sending your toddler off to be the token white kid in a Japanese immersion daycare starting next week. (Say what?)

As when we bought our house and I didn't want to give out too many details while the property was still listed online (lest some stalker type was able to Google his way onto our front porch, obvs), I hesitate to give too many specifics about this daycare. (I can, however, tell you now, three years later, that in addition to a tire swing and a small pond (aka Simon's arch enemy), our house also has a zipline and a treehouse and a chicken coop and a rabbit hutch, and the whole thing is painted a truly unique combination of colors, which has led me to include in directions to our humble abode the line, "It could double as a barn for My Little Ponies; you can't miss it.")

But this daycare...It's pretty awesome. It's an in-home deal with about ten kids to two or three caregivers, it's five minutes from our house, and, identifying details aside, it was the impetus behind my saying to Simon after we'd made our decision, "My god, when did I become a Bay Area liberal intellectual yuppie asshole who sends her seventeen-month-old to cultural/language immersion school?"

The other place--a university daycare--was plenty awesome in its own right, and I have no doubt that Wombat would have thrived there as well, as it was obviously a well-run center. And while there was no main deciding factor between the two--although it helped that the in-home place is the same price for four or five days that the university place charges for three (and without providing lunch or diapers)--it happened that all of the smaller factors--location, supplies, schedule flexibility, activity structure--all pointed definitively to the Japanese immersion daycare, even if I feel like a bit of a tool telling people, "We just enrolled Wombat in Japanese immersion daycare. How kooky is that?" (And then I feel even toolier because *whispers* I also get kind of a kick out of it.)

And yet, because I'm a worrier and a think-everything-into-the-grounder, I'll admit that the academic in me wonders why I have forsaken her and chosen the in-home daycare over the much more school-like professional center. Don't I care about my son's ejumacashun? I'll also admit that I feel like it's a bigger risk to leave him in the home of one person and her assistants instead of sending him to a giant place where there are at least a hundred kids and a least a quarter of that in state-certificed teachers, but again "teachers" is the operative word here, and as much as Simon and I both loved school (huge overachieving nerds, the both of us), I can't help but feel like school is not (not yet) the place for a kid who still pees himself as a matter of course and also sometimes rubs avocado into his eyes if he gets too sleepy at dinnertime.

I have to keep reminding myself that just because there's a school for someone Wombat's age doesn't mean he needs to go to it, especially since our excitement over starting daycare right now has only ever been about finally giving him a regular chance to socialize with other kids. This is not about finding the place that will give him an academic leg up (he already knows two dozen letters by sight and a handful of shapes) or even finding a place where he'll be kissed and cuddled all day long (he already has a mother, thankyouverymuch). It's about finding him a place to play and explore and learn things his parents can't teach him (judo, Japanese, playground politics), because lord knows there's plenty of time to learn school things in school, especially if he gets into Harvard.

17 Comments

Congratulations!

Judo! Ha, I love this. I can't wait to hear about his adventures. And I think you're being very, very sensible, dude.

Sounds like a fabulous daycare, Leah! Can't wait to hear how you and Wombat like it!

There is a Japanese immersion preschool in SLC too, and I've pondered sending my (not-yet-born) baby there, but I do speak Japanese so it's not as crazy. We could talk smack about Daddy together. :)

I had Spanish classes in K-2 and could barely remember a thing besides some colors when I got to high school so... if you start him on a language, be sure to keep it up. And consider learning it yourself!

That's so cool, Jenn! Do it! And we're definitely going to try to learn some Japanese ourselves, since (a) I want to make sure we can reinforce what he's learning there at home as well and (b) what a great excuse to learn Japanese!

This site is pretty darn good for learning in a conversational format. It's a (huge) series of podcasts:

http://www.japanesepod101.com/

Unfortunately they charge way more than they used to *coughbittorrent*.

Otherwise you could try local colleges... unfortunately few places seem to have night classes.

So what are the only two letters he doesn't know yet? :)

Congrats on finding a cool daycare, I think the Japanese one sounds way better than the university one. Learning other languages and cultures at such a young age so that it doesn't feel forced will be way more valuable then learning things that might help him test better when he gets in "real" school. I agree that at this age just learning and getting used to being around other kids and how that all works is the most important skill right now.

He's not so good with R and Q (he always think it's an O). :)

And I'm sure the university daycare is great (or should I call it "daycare university"?!), but when one of two great options is almost twice as expensive as the other, it makes the decision a little easier to make, doesn't it? Yes, it does.

I will admit to not really understanding the "Japanese Immersion" aspect to this daycare (not familiar with the concept due to living Downunder!) but I gather from the name that its a centre where the carers may be Japanese and some of the children and so some of the day-to-day activities will be Japanese in nature. I think this is a great idea. Living in Sydney as we do we are exposed to lots of Asian cultures and the numbers at Amy's preschool are probably half/half children from Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian) to children from English speaking households. I love that they take aspects from all cultures and make weekly topics to teach the children diversity such as Chinese New Year etc. As for education, I always thought I would be one of those parents who taught their child to read before school but as it turns out I am one of those parents who wants her child to PLAY for as long as possible before starting school. In fact Sundry said it best in her recent post about Kindergarten and homework. Wow this was a long comment!

Super Sarah--Yes, that's exactly what it is. Most of the kids are at least half Japanese, and most seem to come from homes where Japanese ISN'T spoken. Going to this daycare gives them exposure to the language, food, and arts of that culture, and I'm just excited they're cool to let our little white boy join in the fun.

And yes, Sundry was right on with how terrifyingly overacademic school has become for little kids. And she was talking about kindergarten, which is still a long way off for Wombat, who really should be allowed to just play and explore and make friends and sing songs (in Japanese!) for at least a few more years. That said, as parents we're going to have to do some Japanese-language homework to keep up!

n.b. For anyone who hasn't read Linda's post yet, it's here:

http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/103118/is_kindergarten_too_much_too

Ours is at a university daycare and I can tell you that though her "teachers" are very devoted to her and she does have a lot of fun there .. there is not a whole lot of real "teaching" going on at least not yet.

Yea for you for making a decision and whatever it is it's the right one for you!

I think the Japanese immersion adds a quirky, entirely awesome twist to Wombat's personal "history". You already know he's got the bookworm gene...he's got years of readin' writin' and 'rithmetic ahead of him.

I would automatically accept an invitation to *anything* if it included the directions, "It could double as a barn for My Little Ponies; you can't miss it." HA.

So glad you found a good place for the little guy.

Congrats! I wish we had something as awesome as Japanese immersion. Your kid is cool!
As far as academics, kids need to be kids. Play is more important for brain development than facts and reading!
And, if Wombat learns Japanese from native speakers at this age, he won't have an accent! How cool is that!

I think it's so cool you're doing this for your son. I hope he learns lots of words!

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