I'm writing this in the hope that I can look back in 3 years time and laugh at all my petty concerns about my daughter starting junior high school. On Friday all the 6th graders and their parents went to the school to have a quick look around and get general information about how the school runs, school uniforms, school buses and most concerning club activities.
There are 8 different elementary schools who combine at the junior high school and it looks like there will be about 73 first grade students. They split them into 3 classes for the first year and then 2 classes for the following 2 years. The school is only about 4 years old so it is a really nice school to be in - lots of wood, very bright and pretty modern facilities. No complaints so far. The study seems to be fairly typical of anywhere - they need to be at school by 8:10am, have 6 50 minute classes each day (apart from on Wednesday where they only have 5) and after cleaning and a short class meeting they finish up at 3:55pm (2:55pm on Wednesday). This all seems okay to me. It is after this that I start to have problems....
From 4pm they start club activities. There are 9 activities that the school offers - the girls can choose from judo, athletics, volleyball, table tennis, brass band, soccer, soft tennis and kendo. The boys choose from judo, athletics, brass band, baseball, soccer and kendo. The clubs are not compulsory, but apparently 98% of students participate. As you may have noticed by the choices if you are not into sports or music there are no other options. It was made very clear that the teachers were stretched to their limit by offering these 9 activities and therefore there is no chance at all of adding any extras.
I have no problem with kids being involved in clubs. I played sport at school and loved it. What I do have a problem with is the fact that they make it pretty clear that when you enter a club you should not decide to change half way through and therefore if you make a bad decision in first grade you are stuck with doing the same sport for 3 years. I also have a problem with the length of the practices. I know that because the school has a school bus system they are controlled by that in terms of what time they have to finish practice and therefore is better than many places. But.... in the summer the club activities run until 6:30pm - the bus then leaves at 6:45pm. This is every day of the week, apart from Wednesday when there are no club activities. It means that my daughter will leave home at 7:20am and get home at 7:20pm. That's a 12 hour day at school for a 12 year old. Winter is one hour earlier, but still not exactly a short day!
What was also made very clear at the meeting was that if the children wanted to keep up with the study that was going on in class it was really important that they do revision each night on top of their homework..... so home at 7:20pm (having eaten nothing since lunch at 12:30pm (don't even get me started on that!), tea, shower, then homework..... I can see that we are going to have to change a few of our routines around here!
There are also practices most Saturdays for a lot of the clubs and almost every day during the school holidays. I find it interesting that there are many different seminars about how to communicate with your children at the moment. What I would like to ask is when we are supposed to actually communicate with our children if the club activities take such a huge amount of their time! And... just while I'm on a complaining run.... considering how long they practice they are not even very good at the sports!
So, as I said, I'm hoping that I look back at this in 3 years time and laugh... but I'm guessing I won't!