I have raised my kids very freely, allowing them to make their own choices as much as possible. Although I encouraged homework, we never pushed it, and English as well, I chose to do when they were in the mood, so there was no set time. I found that they were more interested this way and fewer arguments etc.
I am not regretting this, however, it is not the easiest thing to switch gears.
Studying for the Japanese juken system is a whole different ballgame. It really does require intense drilling. And as for keeping the grades on top from the very beginning… it is a lot of pressure.
Two of my children went to the States for the summer, missing a few days at school, and coming home just before September start date.
I did ask around, and mothers with older children said that 1st year wouldn’t matter so much, and the [school]teacher didn’t seem to argue against it. (The juku teacher’s protested, though)
Going home for the summer has made difficult her standing at the juku, where as others have described, there are levels that the students are grouped into. DD was a little bit upset by this as she missed the testing and was automatically put into the lowest level — except they give her homework for the next level of English. It also has affected her school work in September.
At the same time, the English course she took in the States has greatly opened up doors for her to go back to the States for high school. She tested in at one level below her grade, but we need to
keep it up. (there really is LITTLE to NO time for these poor little souls to do anything outside of school.)
In Japan, getting into a major school, or a particular school that you are keen on, really depends a lot on how much effort the parents put into the whole process both financially and physically / mentally as well.
I am secretly thrilled that DD2 may skip HS, and opt for massage school, or beauty school. If not than she is aiming for a fashion institute, which I suppose is just as competitive… sigh. — R.