Sharing our strategies (2) in particular is one we also used that seemed great to me. I tried a few different phonics programs and what ended up being practical for us was a book called “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. When to start it depends on the child, so you might take a look and see what you think. And for writing my son loved the Handwriting Without Tears Letters and Numbers for me book – it has fun little tricks for remembering the stroke order etc… Both require relatively little preparation on the part of the parent and are organized in nice short lessons that were manageable for both me and my son (I had a very busy work schedule when we were using it and he was never one to sit still for very long). For the latter part of the reading book, we sometimes had to split lessons into 2 days because either he couldn’t concentrate that long or I was just too exhausted.

As for us, this spring my big emphasis has been spelling/writing. My 8 year old has kindergarten level (read: non-existant) spelling, and
my 5 year old K student has halfway decent spelling for his age. I had tried every method (and really did like Reading Reflex) and finally
decided to go with the Spell to Write and Read kit. It had scared me off before with the reviews saying it is complex to implement, but I
was convinced by the glowing reports from a local afterschooling friend. It was the best thing I have ever done! I cannot say enough
good things about the program: it was intimidating for a few days but soon became easy and I see great improvement in ds’s spelling just
after 4 months. I made it a priority during the spring holidays and we accomplished a lot. My K-er is doing it along with my 2nd grader and
learning as well.
Science: we started Real Science 4 Kids but got delayed by other things. The kids did do science fair experiments and presentations
(actually, a lot of work was mine, but they learned some.) The kids enjoyed the “Mysteries of the Human Body” exhibit. Ds loves science
but his reading/writing/spelling/grammer needs so much work that it gets pushed to a lower priority by mean old mom (who also loves
science….) I started a window garden but the kids didn’t seem too interested in it yet.

Math: We have picked up Singapore Math again for both boys and they are making progress. My K-er is breezing through Singapore 1A and I am
afraid he will be bored come shogakko 1st grade math, but I figure it won’t hurt for him to be comfortable in at least one subject, knowing
that others such as kokugo won’t come naturally. I am hoping that my 8 year old can finish 2B by the end of the summer.

History: We have been on a big history kick lately. I was interested in your review of Hyler because I have considered it but never bought
it. I got the impression that it was better for older kids, so was interested that your 5 year old enjoyed it. Dh recently put a CD player in my car so we have been listening to the Story of the World cd series. The boys beg for it!! They listened to the 6 CD series of The Ancients at least 6 times until I finally bought the 8 CD SOTW series on the Middle Ages, which we have now listened through once. We aren’t doing many of the activities or narrations, but I figure that at this age just learning the proper nouns and enjoying the stories is good enough. The boys say “Veni, Vidi, Vichi” so much that even my 3 year old has learned it! Maybe I should buy Hyler as a supplement?

Reading: my K-er is progressing well with reading, and my 2nd grader is making slow progress as well, which is important because he has
reading difficulties that concern us.

The kids continue to progress with piano and karate (although not quite as quickly as I would hope, but that may be due to me not
pushing them.) Swimming lessons are planned for the summer.

All in all, we have made progress, which is slow to see on a day-to-day basis but it is nice to write it down quarterly to notice
the advancement.



In case anyone’s interested, there is a new local source of cheap English language books. Many of the J. bookstores are now
carrying an entire range of TOEIC training books using classic contemporary or popular literature, so many of the children’s staples like Pippi
Longstocking, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, scholastic titles and many many others, etc are now going for fairly reasonable prices like around 700+ to 900 or so yen – mostly unabridged too.


A couple of tips we have found helpful.

For improving math calculations (accuracy and speed) try a workbook called Hyaku Masu Keisan (百ます計算)by a man called Hideo Kageyama

It has a section on each operation. For example, in the addition section there are two sets per page. Each day one is supposed to do one in the am
and one in the pm. Each page has EXACTLY the same two sets. I believe there are two weeks worth per operation. It is precisely because one does the same exact sets for several days in a row that one improves in accuracy and speed. It is also suppposed to be very helpful in keeping older brains
“smart”. My son did them a few years ago. Right now we are doing them as a family. Three of us are doing it more for maintainance so our speed doesn’t
change that much. But my daughter’s speed (she is doing it for the first time) is rapidly improving along with her accuracy. We all find it fun and enjoyable so it is easy to stick with it.
As for spelling, I can’t recommend highly enough a book called Reading Reflex. It takes the mystery out of the English language and its contorted
spelling rules. It is my opinion that a varied approach to reading and writing is imperative. Although we haven’t followed the book to the letter
we have found it to be an indispensible tool in helping to decipher and produce English spelling. – B


I do not know of any books personally that match the Japanese book translated into English at a voracious 12-year-old readers level but
here is how I did a bit of searching:
I found some books and reference sources with a google search of ‘Japanese children’s books translated into English’, some of
which may be a bit young but others say 8-12 or 12-15. This was followed by a search replacing children with youth which were almost
all too old.


Home learning units link
Good listing of translated children’s books from many languages into English in an MS Word file (including Japanese – just do a search
for Japanese in the file):

Kenji Miyazawa stories translated at Kenji
Sample story. In the other direction this article seemed interesting in its own right:
For those with lots of time maybe you can find something here

A bit young for a 12 year old were most of the first books in my amazon search using ‘children Japanese’ and specifying ‘books’. One
author I love is Allen Say but many of his books might be a bit young (though still worth getting if you don’t have them). His most
famous is Grandfather’s Journey (Caldecott Medal Book) — by Allen Say and tells of Grandfather coming from Japan. They are picture books though he might have some that are more advanced level so you can do an author search at Amazon. Then there are other books written by Japanese Americans or about them like I am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment : (ALA Notable Children’s Book, Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book) (American History Classics) by Jerry Stanley. An interesting note. There is a book named ‘Children of the Sun’ by Michio Kitahara that examines
Japanese reaction to outside influence and is not a children’s book but showed up in the search due to its title. The book gets 3 stars
because one Western reviewer gave it 4 stars and the only other reviewer was the author himself and he gave himself 2 stars for
watering things down trying to sell copies but leaving some things out he wished he had put in (and did in a later book only available
now in Japanese)! That to me who loves intercultural insights was fascinating. Here is the reference and go down to reviews if
interested. – by an unknown contributor.


For others in Tokyo who may be in a similar situation, there is a great after-school resource in Setagaya ward where elementary through high school students who are native speakers of English can meet and study with other bicultural or returnee children. Some of you may already be familiar with Kikokushijo Academy–check out their website if you would like to know more.
This is not just another conversation school. What I like about Kikokushijo Academy is that the curriculum is content-oriented, covering subjects such as literature, poetry, and composition along with phonetics and grammar. The atmosphere is fun and very caring; our daughter loves it. – Susan in TokyoI can also strongly endorse Kikokushijo Academy. My just turned 18 year old son has been going there for over a year and although he complains
bitterly about the mind-numbingly boring Japanese High school curriculum he happily traipses off across Tokyo to Daitabashi for twice
a week sessions. Last night we heard on the Japanese news about the new jury system based on the U.S. model. I was surprised how much he knew
about the whole subject but apparently a teacher at KA had been talking about it. And I think that is really their biggest selling point at
least for H.S. kids. They are more mentors than teachers. Our bi-cultural/bi-lingual kids don’t have a lot of role models nor
similarly circumstanced peers. KA has really provided that for him.
He’ll be moving to Kyoto to go to a university there in April and yet he wants to keep going to KA through March. Must admit it’s a bit
pricey but for my son it has been an excellent investment. – Rebecca



In Kanagawa, there are two places that I know of offering afterschooling in English. One is the center I work at. The class (Sunbeams) is I’m sure not up to the level of Kikokushijo in Tokyo–there is simply not the market for it down here. BUT, I think the classes are very well put together. We spent four years studying the curriculum standards of England, U.S., Canada and Australia as well as a few other countries and worked out what and how to teach given
a once a week (2 hour classes) time frame. It is based on literature, and includes writing, reading and grammar. The kids who do well in the program are those whose parents support their child’s work throughout the week. They (we) are now offering a Friday night open house where K-12 Montessori activities will be put out as well as SRA labs and leapfrog sets, AND good old fun games for children to come and study / play in English at their own pace. You must be enrolled in an Advanced ESL class or the afterschooling program to join though.
Another program I highly recommend is the English Blast group in I think it is Hongodai. In this group, parent participation is vital, and you must take turns in planning a month and teaching it. My classes were inspired by this group. They do fantastic things. I believe they include reading and writing, but it seems there is a lot of experimentation, hands on learning and analytical thinking.
Their group can be found here – Regina


Peak with Books and Before Five in a Row are literature based curricula(unit studies). BFIAR is aimed towards 2-4 year olds and PWB is pre-k 1st grade. Basically they take a book and provide suggestions for activities to use with the story. You know how kids love having the same book read to them over and over?
These curricula help with fostering conversations about the books and show you how math, science, etc. can be/are incorporated in the book you are reading.
The aim of both curricula is to foster enjoyment of books. Peak with Books is designed for use in a classroom, but easily adapted for homeschoolers,i.e.
mom as teacher.
I also found this Little Giraffes website which I thought was fantastic! It provides downloadables to use with popular books such as “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” Eric Carle books, classics such as “The Three Little Pigs”.
And finally, Boggle Jr. and Scrabble Jr. have become popular for my 2 and 3 year olds as of yesterday.
They drag the games out and either match the letter cubes to the words on the cards and/or I tell them the letter name while pointing to the letter/words and they hunt them down and match them. I wasn’t planning on teaching them letters for a while yet, but I guess this is what they call child-led education. – Joan


I used a writing program that I liked – it used video and workbook and is called “Excellence in Writing“.
A couple of friends used it too and liked it. We used the starter set. It is quite structured which I found helpful. – Jill


This sounds like a really good curriculum for writing designed for 7th
graders onwards to highschoolers… see also this link.

This is what we are using (1st – 2nd grader) Reading– lots of readers, Reading A-Z, Ordinary Parent’s Guide for phonics
Writing- some Handwriting Without Tears, but he his
mostly through with the program so we just do copywork
Spelling- Spelling Mastery by McGraw Hill — I am
debating whether to change to a different program for
2nd grade
Grammar- First Language Lessons
History- some Story of the World, US History through
books and I like the lesson plans for science and history at
this site.
Math- Singapore Math and sometimes Shiller math
Science- Home Science Adventures
Check out the many books by Peggy Kaye– great games
for reading/writing/math to make this fun. – Kris

My boys are still in elementary school, so we use the more play-oriented US math software to reinforce English and math at the same time. I’d love to hear recommendations for the higher grades of elementary school, as elder son (4th grade) has come to the limits of our stock.
Both boys enjoyed “Math Rock” more than “Math Blaster” at the earlier stages, but neither of these really teach concepts or encourage kids
to use familiar knowledge to solve unfamiliar problems. Both have really enjoyed problem-solving software such as Mission T.H.I.N.K.
more. – Helen


By far the easiest way to make sure children master other languages are good programs in school, programs that fill the classroom hour with interesting
projects, games, and discussions, and that provide children with lots of interesting reading, including comics, magazines and good novels. The research
strongly supports this approach, but most foreign language programs hold on to painful and inefficient methods that overemphasize grammar and memorization of vocabulary. Those who do a great deal of pleasure reading in a second language automatically develop a large vocabulary and as well as high levels of grammatical accuracy. Research also tells us that there is no need to begin super-early; in fact, those who begin second languages later progress faster. It is more efficient to start at age ten than at age five.
Parents’ use of a foreign language with their children can backfire when parents do not speak the language well and communication is imperfect. Imperfect
parent-child communication can cripple emotional and intellectual development. It isn’t worth taking the chance.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California


My kids are now 15 – 18 -21 so it seems like it was a while ago but really wasn’t. My youngest two were very late readers but didn’t go to
school until high school so it wasn’t such a problem, they have always been avid readers, just slow and painful.
To do fun things with reading we always had treasure hunts. Certainly with very young ones pictures worked well and then on to one word clues
and then ..”look in the drawer in the refrigerator under the cheese….”.
My kids loved treasure hunts. The oldest even used treasure hunts when baby sitting long after the family finished with them…she remembered
I also would write short funny notes to my kids and they would write back. I tried diary type “forced” letters but that fell flat.

I would read to my kids always so they always loved books. Many times I would start books and then with dinner….they would be forced to read
ahead on their own. I thought magazines were also good (even for a middle school age child) Magazine articles were just the right length so
my son could struggle through but not loose hope of finishing. He loved technical magazines. Even Scientific American.

My kids had those darn letter sounds down but still struggled with every word for many years. Writing (with no spelling checks) is great for
reading. I am big on no pressure and doing things that that child already likes. – Sharon


A few other ideas… for DVDs: my son loved Leap Frog around age 4-5 and now at age 6 enjoys Between the Lions. DVDs can be a nice supplement because it is less work/ more fun for the child and it is something your child can do when you can’t really give hands on instruction. I use Between the Lions to get my 1st grader out of bed in the morning and let him watch a few minutes while I am making breakfast most days. – H.M. (in Mitaka-shi)

I, too, love Handwriting Without Tears and Starfall. The other site that we use (when they started grade school) is
I see they have a preschool program, but don’t know anything about it. We started using it when I needed more one on one time with the older kids. It has been great for their vocabulary. All the “school” vocabulary they have in Japanese, but not English.

We loosely did an English mini preschool when they were little. We worked on letters, numbers, read books, colored, and did some topic work (plants, dinosaurs…whatever they were interested in). When they started yochien we continued with the English on Saturdays, but I also bought the Bennesse program with the tiger Shimajiro. It is what taught them Japanese. They learned hiragana before first grade, which I thought was important.

Once in first grade we relaxed a bit about English so they could get settled into shogakko. We still read and kept journals and did phonics when they wanted to. From second grade I settled into more of a set schedule.

Anyway, we now have 3 bilingual kids. 9, 12, 13. The two older ones go to international school and started in grade 6. The youngest is still at Japanese school. He goes to an English class once a week, does time4learning, spellingtime, is finishing up Explode the Code and starting cursive.  — J.


I started teaching DD at around age 3 with reading the alphabet – is a VERY good website for this. I HiGHLY recommend it. We also
use ABC flashcards.

Around age 4 we started practising writing using the Let`s Go phonics books and other simple ABC practice books – you can pick them up in Maruzen.

Recently we are working on phonics and simple reading using flashcards and level 1 reading books. It`s a slow process and we manage only about 10 mins a day but she is improving fast. I use Starfall Reading, Brittanica Reading CD ROM, plus many Scholastic and other preschool phonics workbooks. has very good resources. I also make all my own flashcards and games. — N.W.

Read With Your Child – Use Interactive Reading to Accelerate Language Development

 I also thought of more resources we use:
Great Big Preschool Book
Brain Quest box card sets
Brain Quest workbooks
I ordered all of the above from Amazon Japan. 🙂
Also, you can check at (foreign buyers club). They have a decent section for education- books, flashcards, games, etc.

My daughter also has a private Japanese teacher 2 hours a week, done in a right brain education style. Do you know about the Shichida Method of right brain education? I have done this method with my daughter since conception and it is amazing. — C.


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