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Can I take my kids out of school to go to study in Japan?

(78 Posts)
yukayuka Fri 27-Oct-17 10:27:31


I am Japanese and my husband is English. My kids are 5 and 5 (boy/girl twins), and they are in year 1 at a UK primary school. English is their mother tongue but I speak to them in Japanese all the time and they can understand everything I say. Their speaking in Japanese is poor, but this is mostly because they have no need to speak Japanese in the UK.

I want to take them out of school to visit Japan for a month. The goal of the trip is to have them attend Japanese kindergarten*, and immerse them in Japanese culture/language so that a) they understand more about my/their culture/background, b) they come back fluent in Japanese.

* Japanese children attend 'kindergarten' until age 6. It is state sponsored, compulsory, and runs everyday from 9am-3pm.

Does anyone have any experience or ideas about how should I request/explain/justify this trip to the UK primary school? This isn't a holiday so I am very keen to avoid the fine!!



dantdmistedious Fri 27-Oct-17 10:28:24

Could you not just go in the summer holidays?

ASauvignonADay Fri 27-Oct-17 10:30:25

I would talk to the school directly. A month is a long time. I can’t imagine them agreeing or authorising it, despite it being a very worthwhile trip. Is the school over subscribed?

Caulk Fri 27-Oct-17 10:31:16

Would it work over Easter holidays - two weeks when they’d already be out of school and two weeks when they would be?

Any Japanese speakers groups in your area? Or set one up?

Kokeshi123 Fri 27-Oct-17 10:37:43

Hiya Yuka

A few things:

Kindergarten (yochien) is not compulsory in Japan. There are a small number of public yochien spots, and quite a lot of private ones, for which you can get a state subsidy to cover part of the costs--I don't know if you can get any financial help if you don't live in Japan, however.

By the way, most kindergartens run only until 2pm--and on Wednesdays, only until 12 or so.

Spots at public yochien are hard to get in most areas. You can try, however. Private ones may be easier to find, but you will have to ask around to find one which will allow you to attend for just one month. I recommend getting local advice.

UK schools tend to take a dim view of people taking time off once they are in compulsory schooling. If your kids are in reception, I think they are not obliged to be there, but you should check that you are not at risk of losing their place. If they are in year 1, it could be very hard to take time off.

An alternative could be to come to Japan during the UK summer vacation, and get a spot in a private daycare (hoikuen). These are open all year round. You could look at both private and semi private options--as long as you go to an area that does not have an acute daycare shortage, you have a decent chance of finding a private hoikuen spot. You could also try to get temporary daycare placement (ichiji-hoiku) at a public hoikuen--you might get lucky, though you would be low priority for public hoikuen so don't get your hopes up.

What area of Japan are you likely to come to? It's different in big cities vs small towns and the countryside.

Norestformrz Fri 27-Oct-17 10:40:37

The school may agree that in these circumstances to record the trip as being educated off site you need to sound out the head.

Cric Fri 27-Oct-17 10:43:12

It is definitely worth chatting to the head.

2014newme Fri 27-Oct-17 10:43:35

I thought educated off site did not include attending schools abroad?
Op could you go in UK summer holidays? Or for 2 weeks instead if 4 at Easter?

2014newme Fri 27-Oct-17 10:44:32

Also you do realise they'll miss a mo that if UK school work? Teachers won't be doing catch up sessions with them in return.
Have you cobs hiring a Japanese tutor instead?

irvineoneohone Fri 27-Oct-17 10:47:00

I feel sympathetic but one month a year, I doubt to do any good. It's better to expose more with Japanese here all year round if you could.
I do have same problem with my ds, he can read and write with my native but not speak fluently. My plan was to send him to my native country for about 3 months a year, but it seems impossible with current English school system.

2014newme Fri 27-Oct-17 10:48:57

Op the fine doesn't specifically apply to holidays it applies to all unauthorised absence be it a holiday or anything else.

Evelynismyspyname Fri 27-Oct-17 10:54:14

I think it's a brilliant idea and far more valuable than a month in their UK school, but you'll need to talk directly to their teacher and ultimately head teacher.

There is a bilingualism board - do you post there? Might be useful.

My kids are bilingual too but we have the easiest set up, because my mother tongue is English and we live in Germany. We have English as a family language but live rurally which means that they don't have English friends, and have always socialised and been educated in German. Their spoken languages are both at native speaker level, though only the oldest reads and writes equally well in both languages. I've never let my kids speak German to me though blush it's unfashionable in bilingual circles to insist on the language children use, but it's been as painless as insisting they say please - they know they won't get what they want unless they speak the appropriate language. That means their English is as fluent and natural as their German. It's far easier with English than any other languages though as there is reinforcement absolutely everywhere!

Even in our extra easy bilingualism situation I need to take the kids to the UK at least once a year and ideally put them in situations with other children, as otherwise they talk like a woman in her 40s with a bit of you tube influence thrown in blushgrin

xyzandabc Fri 27-Oct-17 10:58:14

My friend did almost exactly this. She is Japanese, husband English. She speaks Japanese to the kids, eldest is pretty fluent, youngest understands but not as fluent. They went to Japan for 2 or 3 weeks and the kids went to Japanese school over there. Headteacher here authorised it no problem.

yukayuka Fri 27-Oct-17 11:10:31

Hi all,

Thanks for your responses.

We are already part of a community of Japanese speakers in the UK. The Japanese mums get together with their children and try to make them speak Japanese. In reality what happens is the mums speak Japanese and the kids all speak English back - they are not stupid they know that everyone in the group speaks English, so why would they trouble themselves speaking Japanese? So we are trying that approach but it is not ideal.

Thanks Kokeshi, my understanding of the kindergarten (Yochien) system (hours/compulsory) wasnt entirely correct. We will return to my home town in Chiba prefecture where I have a good relationship with the kindergarten. They will accept my children on a short term stay.

We could do it at Easter, but taking 3 people to Japan and back is not cheap and 2 weeks feel very short. We could do it in August but flights are more expensive and summer in Japan is brutally hot and my English, acclimatized to UK weather, would melt. As it happens I am between jobs right now so the month of November is perfect.

My kids are doing well with their reading and writing at school, so I am not at all worried about them missing a month. While we are in Japan my husband will tutor them via skype.

My conscience is completely clear about this trip - it is a fantastic opportunity for the kids to experience Japanese culture and be completely immersed in Japanese language. Best to do this while they are young. In a few years time it wont be possible.

We will definitely talk to the head of the school and see what he says before we book the trip. My main question is what is the best way to pitch the idea to him?



Caulk Fri 27-Oct-17 11:13:13

Easter you could do 4 weeks- 2 weeks off school and two weeks in the holidays. It may be easier to get two weeks off school than 4.

irvineoneohone Fri 27-Oct-17 11:44:53

If you are determined to do it, it may be better to do it in December, when the school is doing all the Christmas play preparation/winding down towards Christmas holiday, and all the academic works are out of picture. That is the time it's mostly likely it doesn't interfere with children's learning throughout the year, if you take kids out from school.

Evelynismyspyname Fri 27-Oct-17 11:59:53

The kids are 5 Irvine

I agree you don't take them out in term time to go to Disneyland, but a month of Japanese immersion for kids whose mother can and will build on that when they get home has vastly more academic long term value than what they'll be doing at school, especially as they are doing well at school anyway.

admission Fri 27-Oct-17 13:13:02

I think that you pitch it as a wonderful opportunity for your kids to understand better a different country and their language, with the ability to come back and show to other pupils the country of Japan.

However that is where the good news stops as the head teacher will not be able to authorise the trip if they follow guidance. If they do not authorise the holiday then you risk, depending on how it works local to you, getting a fine for both children for non-attendance. The other issue is being away for a month may well also lead to questions over whether you have left the school and that may well give you significant problems when you get back in terms of finding another school with places. Remember in year 1 /2 depending on when you go the infant class size regs will be in force, so 30 maximum in the class and many schools will be at that maximum.

I would definitely look to construct any visit around a school holiday like easter where at least you will be lessening the number of days where the children will be considered as having unauthorised absence.

Tinycitrus Fri 27-Oct-17 13:16:51

Lots of children at our primary have done this as many are from other countries.

Speak to the headteacher - it sounds very educational. Perhaps your children could bring back some Japanese items and describe their experience when they get back.

Our school allows up to two months fir thus before the Place is given away.

Tinycitrus Fri 27-Oct-17 13:18:14

If you identify which kindergarten your children will attend could you suggest letter writing between the schools? Skype link up?

2014newme Fri 27-Oct-17 13:23:10

I take my children out of school to go to Disneyworld. Never been fined. Don't see how going to Japan is more worthy or educational. The ops kids can learn japanese at home she just prefers them to learn in a kindergarten in Japan. Not dissing the op here I think she should go for it but @Evelynismyspyname a week off school to go to Disney is potentially less disruptive than a month to go to Japan. You can support the op without dissing others!

2014newme Fri 27-Oct-17 13:23:56

@Tinycitrus that sounds like work for the school and it's already overstretched teachers

Ploppie4 Fri 27-Oct-17 13:25:48

Take lots of photos while there. I would Dee if you could go in and share their experience and let the kids sample foods

Tinycitrus Fri 27-Oct-17 13:35:13

Well - our school does this. We hVe linked with schools in Germany and have even had reciprocal visits from Iceland and Germany.

Evelynismyspyname Fri 27-Oct-17 13:43:11

2014 there's nothing wrong with Disneyland, I've taken my kids too for a few days in the holidays but educational it isn't, or only in the very broadest sense in which every single thing anyone does ever is educational.

The op's children understand Japanese but speak it poorly - a month of immersion in an atmosphere where they have to speak Japanese is an opportunity she can't give them without going to Japan, and will bring their activities language production up to par with the passive language skills she's given them. It's educational in the same very obvious way any language exchange program is.

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