This week’s featured article
The school summer holidays are now in full swing but an increasing number of parents and their children are spending the break hunched over a desk with a stack of workbooks instead of enjoying ice cream in the park.
The traditional rite of summer homework has been squeezing the joy out of vacations since the modernization of Japan’s school system in the late-19th century.
For generations of children, summer homework has cast a long, dark shadow over what would otherwise be a time to relax and have fun as the mercury hits annual highs.
By extension, this time of recreation should apply to parents as well, since children rely on adults to take them to whatever venues they need to go to enjoy their time in the sun.
The deadline for completing summer homework is Sept. 1, the day children return to the classroom. Aug. 31, therefore, is traditionally a day fraught with anxiety, as entire families struggle to complete the exercises that have been assigned by teachers.
In spite of the hardship, most parents with children under 12 years old continue to support the assignment of summer homework, according to a report on fnn.jp.
Over the years, a number of schools have tried to introduce an element of fun into the homework they issue during summer each year. Methods have varied from institution to institution, but the Asahi Shimbun reports that some schools have gone overboard by mandating book reports and “daily exercise diaries” on top of everything else.
The average Japanese person spends 12 summers out of their young lives worrying about homework. Thankfully, there’s no homework at college level, but once those precious years are over and graduates enter the workforce, the whole concept of taking several weeks over summer has long become a distant memory.
The next thing you know, ordinary folks in the workforce can only remember summer homework with a certain nostalgia, longing for kids of their own so that they might be able to pass on such memories to their own children. And, thus, the cycle of life continues.
First published in The Japan Times on Aug. 17.
One minute chat about summer memories
Collect words related to school: e.g. study, teacher, test
1) hunch: to bend forward, e.g., “He hunched over his dinner.”
2) rite: a customary ceremony, e.g., “We watched a Buddhist rite.”
3) mandate: to order, e.g., “We don’t mandate attending the event.”
Guess the headline
Excessive h _ _ _ _ _ _ _ may be exhausting students in Japan during their summer v _ _ _ _ _ _ _
1) How do parents view summer homework?
2) What are examples of summer homework?
3) Do you think the author supports summer homework or questions it?
Let’s discuss the article
1) Share your summer homework memories.
2) Do you feel summer homework is needed?
3) What do children need for their vacation?
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