kodomo No Ie

KNI Newsletter

March 2010

1: Goals for this month
2: Let's Sing! Songs of the Month
3: Request
4: February donations
5: Japanese – Our Native Language

The jasmine tree by the gate has adorned itself with scores of light pink buds and eagerly awaits their blossoming.
Our daikon friends in the field, too, are looking forward to harvest time. "Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!" Amid your warm cheers, daikon faces big and small, thin and wide, double-chinned and of all shapes and sizes have sprouted out of the earth. These daikon have been raised by you. Please take them home and enjoy them. They are filled to the brim with your encouraging cheers, and I'm certain that they'll be simply delicious.

Goals for this month

- We will celebrate the traditions of the Hina Festival by displaying the Hina dolls we made on the shelf, singing the Hina Festival song, and listening to the story of the Hina Festival.
- Observing the sprouting greenery around us and feeling the warmth of the sun and the gentle touch of the wind, we will experience the changing of the seasons.
- Using the Jump Rope Chart (Kiku and Ume classes) and the Endurance Chart (Sakura class), we will give ourselves a hearty outdoor workout.
- By interacting with the pet rabbits, turtle, and fishes, we will nurture our kindness towards those smaller than ourselves.
- Through our harvesting of the daikon, we will cultivate both a sensitivity towards the subtle changes of field as well as a gratitude for all it provides us

Let's Sing! Songs of the Month

Renge - Pon pon pon to haru ga kita

Momo - Kawaii kakurenbo

Sumire - Zou(h)san

Kiku - Inu no omawarisan

Ume - Haru no kuru oto

Sakura - Te no hira wo taiyou ni

Please feel free to take a copy of the music sheet for your child(ren)’s class and enjoy them at home. The music sheets are located by the sign-in sheet.


The attendance sheet has been changed.
Instead of only recording your initials, we would like to ask that you please write your full name as well as your check-in and check-out times.

February donations

The donation total was $54.21 for the month of February. Thank you very much for your donation.

Japanese – Our Native Language

written by Mrs. Sakamoto ( Mother of Junsei Sakamoto in Sakura class )

We came to the U.S. because of my husband's job. My situation may be different from those who married to someone not from Japan, or those who have decided to settle down here permanently. However, after spending three years getting to know many families living here, I came to realize that we share the same passion for our native language, Japanese.
I would like to write about my experience here, and I hope that my thoughts might be helpful to you.

“Mamma ( food )” was my first son's first word.
“Mama ( mother )” was my second son's first word.
I was so happy to hear their first words, and so excited to see their vocabularies grow little by little...

It has been three years since we moved to the U.S., and we are leaving this country to go back to Japan in March. Quite often recently, I think back over those moments my sons uttered their first words. The joy I felt then still wells up in my heart.

On the flight to the U.S. three years ago, I read a book referring to how important the native language is. When I was in Japan, speaking Japanese was nothing special, and I never really thought about the importance of one's first language. The book didn't mean very much to me then. The airplane landed at LAX, and we started our new life in LA.

When I started living here, I thought that our children would retain their Japanese naturally since we speak Japanese at home, and I was somehow fixed on the idea that I needed to expose them to English as much as possible before they went back to Japan so that they became proficient hearing and speaking English, which would be much harder to do when they get older. I focused on “what they can do only in the U.S. ”.

My older son started going to Asahi Japanese school while attending a local elementary school, which was a good balance for him to study both languages simultaneously. On the other hand, my second son stopped going to Kodomo no Ie (KNI) he loved, when my older son graduated from KNI. He started going to an American preschool. He seemed very reluctant to go to this local preschool even though the staff there were very nice to him. I believed back then that I couldn't teach English to him and that going to an American preschool would be a great learning experience for him. After a while, I rarely saw him smiling. There were times when he shed a big tear right after getting in the car to go to school. One day, I peeked into his classroom from the window and I found him not looking at the teacher reading a book to the class, but staring at the exit door waiting for me to pick him up. I was struck by the sight. Until then, I didn't realize that I was forcing him to learn English without paying attention to his feelings. I came to understand that nothing was more important for him at this point than to be in a Japanese environment where he felt secure and could communicate in his native language, Japanse, which I spoke to him all the time. I should have waited until he regained his sense of security, and was ready to move on to learn English. I felt strongly that it didn't matter if he spoke English or Japanese, and that I just wanted to see his smile again.

I decided to pull my son out of the American preschool and send him back to KNI. I still can't forget when the director welcomed him with a big smile and told him, “ Welcome back!” Since then, he can't wait for his class, and every time we drive by KNI, he waves to the school, saying, “ Hey, KNI! I will be there soon! I will bring my lunch!”
When I saw his big smile, I knew I did the right thing.

Some time after he settled down comfortably in a Japanese environment, he started going to the story time at a local library, and a gymnastic class. Since his older brother and I were around, he happily jumped into the activities, and followed the instructions very well. He focused on the class and forgot about me. I thought that while he was so young, he could focus on learning Japanese, and whenever he was ready, he could start learning English at his pace. He needed an environment where he could communicate in his native language so that he felt secure. Once he has built the foundation of his first language, then he can move on to challenge something new, such as learning English. It was unnecessary for me to worry or feel pressure, thinking I couldn't teach English to him, or that he shouldn't miss the opportunity to learn English while he was here.

I used to think that my children could catch up on their Japanese easily when they go back to Japan. Now I wonder if I was right. Early childhood is a very important stage for young children to build up the base of their mother language. This critical moment will never come back. At every stage, there is something they can learn only at that moment.

Now I believe that because my children are in a foreign country, learning Japanese is very important for them. We Japanese tend to think that we shouldn't miss the chance to learn English while we are here since we usually have a hard time just to acquire English pronunciation. However, if we choose to prioritize learning English over our native language, children may get confused and feel lost between Japanese and English. This confusion may effect their mental balance as well. I believe that young children will grow and strengthen their mind when their parents hug them, and encourage them in their native language. Our job as parents is to bring up our children with secure, strong minds. If we can do that, the children will move on by themselves. They are much stronger than we parents think. The experience with my second son taught me this important lesson.

My older son never speaks English when he is with me, and I used to wonder how he was doing at the elementary school. At home, he just did homework from school for English, and focused more on Japanese homework from Asahi Japanese school. Recently at a teacher- parent conference at my son's elementary school, his teacher informed me that they will refer him to Gifted Children program. His English composition was highly praised. His strong base in Japanese seemed to help him learn English, and this showed me that studying Japanese didn't interfere with acquiring English.

Since my second son went back to KNI, he smiles everyday. This made me more than happy. When I changed my way of thinking, he actually started enjoying English activities more than ever. He started asking questions about English. Now that he is surrounded by a Japanese environment and feels secure, he is ready to try learning English.

When my children uttered their first words, or when they started growing their vocabularies, I was so delighted, and clapped hands with my parents. Considering these little milestones used to make me so happy, I shouldn't have asked them too much about learning English. When children are still very young, I think it is better to think learning English as something fun to do with parents, and focus on learning their first language. When they are ready, they will learn English naturally.

The native language is almost like an umbilical cord that connects between the mother and the baby. Without it, the baby couldn't survive in the mother's belly. That shows how important the native language is. The native language is also called the mother language, and this may be because the baby starts listening to the mother's language in their mother's belly.

Japanese plays a big part in creating my personality and identity. It is wonderful that I can be proud of my own language and teach it to my children.

In Japan, until the children become twelve years old (during elementary school), they focus on studying Japanese, and start learning English as a second language when they enter middle school so that they can build up their language skill in Japanese.
Even when you are in a foreign country, I think it's important to speak Japanese at home until they become 10 – 12 years old so that they can establish their Japanese. They can learn English at school everyday. It seems that the children who have a strong foundation with their first language learn other language easily. At first, you might wonder how your child manage English, but they will almost certainly catch up later.

Establishing their first language is necessary to build their identity. I hope my children still smile as they do now in ten years or twenty years, and I will try to do my best to figure out what I can do for them now. In their lives, there will be times when they face difficulties. I would be more than happy if I can help or encourage them with my own language.

I truly appreciate all the hard work the director and other teachers do for our children. They focus on the children during class, and I am grateful that they speak to them in Japanese.

When I thought back on the book I read on the airplane three years ago, I didn't get it at all then, but now I can appreciate the idea after living here for three years. Living in LA gave me a wonderful opportunity to think about my native language and this was a great experience to cherish for the rest of my life.

I will never forget all of you I met at KNI, who devote so much effort to helping their children learn Japanese, our native language.

Thank you very much.


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