Quick question


How do kids in your land spend their summer break?

Next week I am going to give two lectures for an association of children’s English teachers.  They want me to talk about foreign child-rearing and educating customs.  One of their questions  is about how foreign children spend their summer holidays (a timely question, because most Japanese schoolkids start their six-week summer break right about now).   Do they go camping, swimming, fishing?  Do they visit far-flung relatives?  Do they take on temporary jobs?  Do they have difficult homework assignments, like most Japanese kids?  Do they cram?

A Japanese friend has a son in the sixth grade.  He is clever and ambitious, and wants to enter a prestigious junior high school.  At his request, his parents have enrolled him in a very expensive cram school in Kobe.  He is going to spend his whole summer studying six days a week, from 9AM to 9PM.  Each morning his mother will prepare two bento-boxes for him, one for lunch and one for dinner, and she will be expected to show up at regular assemblies, where she will be lectured about the best way to care for her son while he is cramming for exams (including advice about what to feed him and what extra-curricular activities to allow him to indulge in.  Needless to say, a family camping trip is out of the question).   Although he is not typical of Japanese schoolkids – most of whom spend their summers swimming, playing, and visiting grandparents – he is not at all unusual either, especially here in Kobe.  I predict that he will do very well in his studies.  A Japanese proverb about study states “Sleep four hours: pass.  Sleep five hours: fail”

Anyway, I remember my summer hols in NZ as very idyllic times, that barely involved study.  We kids all looked forward to them.  How about you?


15 comments on “Quick question

  1. Jeni says:

    Kids in the US might do some summer bridge work to prepare for the next grade level and some will go for summer school (only four hours a day for a month or so) or some kind of educationally enriching activities (piano lessons, etc) that are not assigned by the school but most of the eight to ten week summer vacation will be spent doing fun stuff like going to the beach, to camp (day camp or sleep away camp), seeing friends, taking a trip with the family, and hanging out at home. Finding things to do with the kids can be quite a challenge–especially for families where both parents work outside the home–and eventually boredom sets in for the kids. Our schools still operate on an agrarian calendar but very few kids spend the summer helping out on the farm (some in the midwest might still do this) anymore. Some people argue we should change our school calendars to match modern life more closely but most parents protest this–they are still quite attached to the long summer holidays.

  2. Petra says:

    Fasten your seat belts:

    Paid holidays in Germany are a minimum of 4 weeks per year. Many people have six weeks of paid holidays. So – families go on vacation during summer. Father, mother & kid(s), for an average of three weeks.

    Summer school holidays are usually something like six weeks. Even though many families take a trip, there is still time left over for children whose parents both work where they have to be taken care of. There is quite a lot on offer for kids today, from something like a day camp to individual programs offered by the communities. These programs are normally quite inexpensive.

    Kids who did not do well at school can take a special exam in the subjects they are lagging behind before the new school year begins. How they prep for that is up to the individual. There are some companies offering “cram courses,” but the pressure is not on a level with that in Japan. Another option is to hire private tutors, most often students or high school kids. Some teachers, too, offer tutoring during the summer. Of course, some poor kids have to do it all by themselves; which is tough – how can you learn something you already don’t know enough about?

    Anyway, if they pass the exam, they go on into the next grade. If not – tough luck, they have to repeat the whole year.

  3. Miko says:

    Thanks. I have another question. As you know, most schools in Kobe were closed earlier this year for one week, because of the swine flu outbreak. Now those classes have to be made up in the summer, thus shortening the kids’ break by a week or so (and they are none too happy about it!). Would similar steps be taken in other countries?

    For some reason, all the Japanese mothers I know detest school holidays and even weekends. They want their kids to spend more, not less, time in school just to get them out of the home. Most are genuinely shocked when I tell them that Western mothers generally look forward to spending time with their kids.

    Wow, a minimum of 4 weeks paid holiday for German workers? Are they allowed to take those days consecutively, or do they have to break them up throughout the year? I think in Japan most full-time workers get about 3 weeks holiday, but I’ve never heard of anyone actually taking them all at once … some people never take them at all, their bosses won’t allow it.

  4. Jeni says:

    As far as I know only a couple of private schools in NYC closed due to the swine flu outbreak. I don’t think any public schools did–at least not in our area. I expect lost days would be added on to the end of the year as snow days are made up.
    I think American moms are happy to get their kids out of the house as much as possible during the summer hols. Even stay-at-home moms are sure to arrange plenty of summer activities to keep the kids out of her hair.

  5. ryomasgirl says:

    Incidentally, the private school in Kochi that Ahmee briefly attended might close for a while due to swine flu. I don’t know about you but I am getting a little tired of all the panic regarding this.

  6. Petra says:

    As to the length of holidays – it really depends on how low you are in the corporate rank. The lower the rank, the longer time you can take off. Meaning, if you are just an office drone or working in production at a factory, it is easier to take four weeks off at a stretch (or even longer, if you get more paid days off). The higher you get, the less likely it is that somebody else can just jump in and take over.

    I usually never took off more than two weeks consecutively and I was always available by phone or fax (that was before cellphones and Internet) in case something urgent popped up.

    Usually people split their vacation time – 3 weeks in summer, two weeks in winter and a few odd days here and there.

    School Closings: In Germany no days lost due to school closings are added to the school year. Teachers are expected to step up the pace a bit for a while to catch up on subjects missed.

  7. Karen says:

    Jeni, Petra, and Ryoma covered most things. Typically, kids here in upper levels go to summer school only if they need more credits to graduate or failed a course they have to retake. Teenagers often work in the summer to have extra money. Most kids, though, have a lot of free time, and hang out with friends, watch TV, go to camps, or go on vacation with families. I would have to say the typical vacation here for families is 2 – 3 weeks. Most kids are bored stiff in the summer.

  8. Miko says:

    Even three whole weeks would be unthinkable here in Japan! Most people get to take a week off at most (including a weekend or public holidays). You know how about those crazy Japanese tourist groups that visit four European countries in five days? Well, now you know the reason.

  9. Miko says:

    Yes, I am not too impressed with the swine flu reaction here, especially taking into account the fact that far more people die of ‘regular’ flu anyway. The mask thing was just crazy! At work I was ordered to wear a mask at all times, and also to sterilise my hands with special gel upon entering and leaving the workplace. Masks were so in demand that most stores quickly ran out of them, and had to limit sales to one per person. If I’d known any better I would’ve started a business importing them from the West, I could’ve made a mint. It was kind of like the duct tape thing a few years back. Did any of you actually buy into that?

  10. Karen says:

    What duct tape thing?

  11. Miko says:

    This duct tape thing.

  12. Karen says:

    I totally missed that. Our theory has always been if you have enough guns and ammo, you’re not only safer from terrorists, you can pretty much get anything you want, unless someone has more and bigger guns.

  13. Miko says:

    You’d be better off with chainsaws.

  14. Karen says:

    I’d probably cut off my own foot with a chainsaw. They are very heavy and very unwieldy. There’s no gun in the world that scares me to shoot, but chainsaws scare me.

  15. Miko says:

    That must be because of this movie, which was hugely notorious in the rest of the world.

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