Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Branden's hardcore JHS finals prep and an update on that...

Like, I said in my last post. Your child gets 2 weeks to study for these tests. They also get a very specific syllabus of what WILL be on the test. So there are no hidden surprises here. Anyway, I have been taking pictures of Branden's testing practice all this time, so, I could give a little bit more detailed post of what we personally do for our son. And what works for us (granted am I saying it will work for you? Nope, only you would know what works for you and same here only WE know what works for us too). Branden is in the 8th grade now, so he's been at JHS for a full year and he's got this testing stuff down to a science! The kids got it! As, I posted earlier, your test will cover all core subjects at school. Branden is *very* strong with math. I personally find the way they teach math in Japan extremely thorough and good. Last year, when Branden was in the 7th grade, we bought Branden, this book but the 7th grade version. And at the 2 week before the testing period. Branden would spend hours on this book. He'd do 5 pages each day. And so when his tests came back, his math scores for example were freaking high. Branden also used these books in the summer at home every summer break, all through elementary school and these can be bought at any Japanese book store) As you all know, both our kids have been in Kumon for English and Japanese since they were in kindergarten. Branden age 4 and Noah age 3. So we love Kumon, we feel their methods work! And if your child went to Kumon, since kindy age, you will really have no worries with JHS here in Japan. Especially if they did English at Kumon, I'll explain later on that. So, this year our school year started in April and Branden became an 8th grader. We went right out and bought the Kumon math workbook for an 8th grader. This book pictured. It says it is for a JHS student 2nd year, which means an 8th grader (he can use this all year). For the whole 2 week study period, Branden has been going through this workbook doing 5 pages each day. Just...tightening up his already super strong math skills. 

Keep in mind Bran also has an actual 8th grade math book... he does daily anyways. But...this is just additional. And during the 2 week time period he tightens up *everything.* Noboru would, go through his workbook. And then randomly write 10 math questions/equations from this Kumon workbook, down and we'd time Branden with the timer on the stove. We would allow, Branden to take no longer than 2 minutes, per math question. Because...frankly during the test...you are NOT allotted infinity time. You are only allowed 45-50 minutes per test at JHS. So training yourself to do the questions... in a timely manner, is also extremely important. So, yes...we made sure...his techniques are down. No tiny mistakes with the equations and there were none. And then we did for time. By the time, Branden was done. When Noboru last tested him, yesterday. Branden could go through 10 random math questions...and attack said 10 math questions with ZERO mistakes. Showing all his work. And Noboru who is super good at math turned to me and said flat out..."he's got this!!!" Anyway we have been going through math with Branden super well. And for what it's worth...half of Branden's class also has this same exact Kumon JHS work book. This book really helps. Best couple bucks, you could ever spend! I tell ya that! The "professor" Bran's classmate and good friend, uses this workbook too. And many of Branden's classmates, do too, about half the class use this. I'll tell you things... about a Japanese JHS that many won't. For example, in Japan, you are ranked in JHS. You are ranked by your child's class. Meaning, individual class. Say, out of 50 students for example, your child ranked 2nd place in Math, that type a thing. You will be told...each subject what your child ranks. You are also ranked...you are ranked by grade. All 8th graders for example. Your child may be best at math for their class, but rank 3rd place by all 8th graders type rank. So ranked by class and ranked by grade. And while...the American in me...says it does not matter... what rank you are. As for getting into a high school here. It does matter. Because each high school, for example might have 30 spots/openings for high school and say 300 applicants for said 30 spots. Do you see, what I am saying. So...while it's nice to say..."oh it does not matter." Actually...yes, yes it sorta of does, if you live here in Japan.  There is a list online of all Chiba high schools by rank, meaning the best high school to get in... all the way down to the worst of the worst high school, to be in. There's also a chance...if your child's grades are too bad, they may not get into *any* high school, it happens here. In America, you get to go to high school, by where you live, your closest high school. Here...you get to go to high school depending on your grades... the grades that you got in JHS. So in that respect...yes...how you do on your tests, does play a lot, into it. 

Noboru has been spending hours upon hours with Branden daily, these past 2 weeks. He does have a study desk in his bedroom, of course. But it's just more useful for us...our family, if he does it in the kitchen. Noboru going through the science with Branden...social studies, history, etc with Branden. 

Here he was explaining something to him. He adores his kids and he wants them to do well. When Branden was 4...he put Branden into Kumon. He used to tell Branden....whoever knows the most wins...whoever knows the most, will have the ADVANTAGE. So, we knew what JHS would be like here. Which is why... we well prepared our kids with English Kumon and Japanese Kumon at an actual Kumon and Math Kumon workbooks every summer. They're so prepared. If your child went to a juku or Kumon in yochien and elementary school, you will be thanking your lucky stars you did that..come JHS time. Because then they can relax a bit, in JHS. Because they worked so hard *before* JHS. Granted Bran still studies. But he's not all freaking out about it. Because it's just he did the hard parts in elementary school. 

Going through subject after subject after subject. For us, we feel. Our children's education, is our most important investment. Which is why we spent the big bucks of sending them to Kumon at over 60 bucks/6000 yen, each subject times 2 kids, times 2 subjects. We are so glad they were in Kumon for all those years. It's paying off now. I tell you that! It is. Branden's tests scores show it! The way he attacks a question and answers it, in a speedy manner. Yeah..he's kicking ass at JHS. Sorry, but he is. He really is. And I go through the English with Branden daily, all the 2 weeks. We do it year round, but during the 2 week testing time, we go hard core with it. We back and forth to near infinity. He's ready, you guys! His test is tomorrow, Wednesday! 

Meanwhile...yes it was a leak in Noah's tire! Not to worry, papa fixed it! And back to normal! 

Branden meanwhile asked for Noboru to check his bike too. He's still a kid and he wants to not feel left out. Hahaha. So Noboru gave it the old.... one two, look over and declared Branden's bike, perfect! And so Branny-B went back into the house and got right back to his studies. 

And yet another day. This time Branden was wearing his Broncos Football tee shirt. See...I was so ready to make this updated JHS finals post! Took pics of this... all weekend. This day...they did 2-3 hours of math yet again plus the rest of day and night for other subjects... just to tighten it up. Though frankly Bran's math is flawless and he's ahead of most of classmates, if I'm to be honest. Same with his English and science. So this day he spent most of his time on his Japanese.  Oh and how much does he study. Saturday for example...Branden studied from 10am to 11pm. And no...I am not kidding I actually asked Branden to stop at 10pm but he said, he'd like to study a bit longer and stopped himself at 11pm.. He did take a few breaks, he could take a 10-20 minute break each hour, all day long when needed. He knows to keep track of his breaks. And when he's feeling fried for a bit...he'll go sit down on the couch, lay down a bit and close his eyes. But again...we remind him...your classmates are doing this too. Well...the ones who want the good grades are. Hahaha. 

He must know 50 kanji from the set list. This list is what the teacher made. Again...so there are no surprises. See, the notebook, writing, Branden was testing himself. Again and again. He tested himself for hours with the kanji. And if he missed one, he'd write it down 3 times, so it would get stuck in his brain. and then he'd test again. Noboru finally read the 50 kanji to Branden and he got all right! And I don't feel it's being oyabaka.To say how well he is doing... because believe me...if your kid studied between 10-12 hours on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday). And about 4-5 hours every weekday, before a big test. You as a parent would rightfully be proud. because you could personally... have seen the work, put into it and then know...when the test scores come back...that they deserved those high test scores. Because...they simply worked hard for it. Oyabaka would be...a kid studying 1 hour during the whole 2 week, time period and the parents saying...oh he'll ace it. Umm yeah, whatever. But...it's not being oyabaka, when he's actually putting the hard work into it. 

This must also be memorized by all 8th graders at Branden's JHS. It's famous, super well known here. In English it is called..."The Tale of the Heike", in Japanese it is called, "Heike Monogatari", the kids must have this part pictured memorized. However...since we actually study with Branden and also invest our time too. Noboru found the *best* way to memorize this. It's on YouTube and there is a song for it, to help kids memorize it. And so Branden learned and listened to the song a bunch of times yesterday. He then went through it and read it..Branden then went back and forth and sang it...then read it..then sang it. I asked Branden...did the song help you at all? He said, yes, the song totally helped. So Branden has this thing now memorized. How will they test Branden for this? Maybe they're make him write the entire part down. maybe it will be fill in the blank. But no matter...he's got the "Tale of the Heike" down!!!"  I tell you the amount of time Branden has spent studying for this final. The amount of time Noboru has spent studying with Branden for this. The amount of time *I* personally have spent studying with Branden. Noah too. Noah now knows all questions and answers for the 8th grade English final. LOL. I now know half of the "Tale of the Heike" myself. @_@ I couldn't help it...I heard it and heard the song about a billion times. It got trapped in the ol' brain. Hahaha. : ) I think our Branden will do fabulous tomorrow for his final, you guys. He's certainly spent a *crazy* insane amount of time on it. If you do the hard work...you should be able to reap the rewards. And I think he will. Good luck for tomorrow Bran. Tonight's plan...Noboru gets off at 4pm today and he will spend, the entire evening with Branden and so will I. Going through all the English with Branden one more time. Noboru's said he will math test him tonight, science test him...have him recite the "Tale of the Heike" , maybe have Bran, write it down for him too. We just want to utilize our last evening. And tomorrow...I am sure Branden will just want to get it all over with. He's really worked hella hard you guys! He's a good kid.

Branden is ranked 1st place in English by his class and ranked 1st place, by his entire grade. He's always top 3 in math. Top 5 in Japanese. And basically Branden's kicking it... for all his subjects. He really has no real stress or worries about getting into a high school. Branden is just really competitive. He's truly like the most competitive person, I have ever seen, study-wise. And he and a few of his friends are always vying...for top spots in class. So...that competitive nature in Branden really pushes and fuels him on with his studies. I actually see him coming in best 1-3 with math this time too, could actually be first place this time around for math. Bran and the professor (a nickname the kid loves)...are always competing. And it's good...they're super good friends and the friendly competition is good for them.

Some special info...tidbit about the English in a Japanese JHS. Again...do I have to share this info? No, I don't, I can just quietly keep it to myself. But again...one of you with younger kids, might find this info useful. If so..this is for you. And again...am I pushing you to do things our way? No, I have never said that either. I am just giving you the info and it's up to you... to do whatever you want with said info. Now here is the story....you can take the story... if you have younger kids and sort of file this info away for later years.

You know how I have 2 really good friends. Mom friends, I met a billion years ago at yochien/kindy.  Anyway, they're both brilliant ladies. One was in university to be a lawyer, I have mentioned that before. the other was an English teacher for 10 plus years. Could even be 15 plus years. Now she works elsewhere. But...anyway her coworker at the English school. White man who moved to Japan, 2 years earlier. Moved to Japan, with wife and with a kid. Not sure if the kid is a hafu (half Japanese, half white) or 100% western) but nonetheless, he studied all his years before...in their home country. America, I think. Anyway...this kid is 1 year or 2 years older than Branden. I think this story happened when Bran was a 6th grader. Anyway...the kids report card came and his child is flunking/failing English. @_@ Keep in mind the child went to school in the states...his whole life until he moved here. Impossible right? How could this kid be failing English. So the dad, my friends coworker... was super upset right...he hopped in his car and drove super speeds, in anger. to the JHS. So he went in the school and really unloaded a bunch of angry words to the teacher. Blah blah blah...how can my kid... of all kids be failing freaking English. Before this school he went to American school. So this is crap...this is impossible. Blah blah blah. Unleash of a few more tasty paragraphs to said teacher. and the teacher is quiet and reserved and Then the teacher finally speaks and says. English..in Japan is very different. You need to be able to read the sentence in English and translate it to Japanese. And vice versa, he needs to read the Japanese sentence and translate it according to the book, into the English sentence. Dead silence.....The teacher then showed the riled up parent. And went through each question asked on the test... versus what his child answered. And it became quite clear. English in Japan is a *whole* different ball game entirely. Anyway..he did see and understand why he got the grade he got...and so he did go to work. And he told his coworkers his story. And my good friend...thankfully, told us during lunch this same story. As I said...Branden was in 6th grade, at the time. And I will honestly tell you....hearing that story. Made me thank, my lucky stars Branden has been in English Kumon...since age 4. Because simply knowing English...won't guarantee your child...will do well in JHS English class, here in Japan.

When we enrolled Branden at Kumon, at age 4 for Japanese. The teacher told us..because Branden was using English with us and we with him. She said..and I could just kiss her for this...she said. "Your son speaks English." We said...yes, he does. She said..."I have older kids" hers were just entering JHS, when Bran was 4"...she said...In Japan...there is a set way...JHS and high school students must study and do English. I know your son speaks English. But...he could greatly benefit from taking English, that way when he is big/older and in JHS...he will be prepared" ...her being a mother and having an older kid, I took her as my senpai" Senpai means an older wiser person to learn from. I took her words to heart and Noboru said...if you'd like to sign him up, we should do it at the same time. I could see it on the sensei's face. She said it out of care. It was the right thing to do. And so...Branden did English since 4 years old there with her. He knows regular American ways and that's good. But...and this is the most important if you live here in Japan. He knows...the Japanese way of doing English too. And that's *really* important if you live here. So for us...are we glad they both did English at Kumon. Hell yes! One of the best things we ever did.

Flash to now...all these years later. Branden can translate Japanese to English and vice versa...and the way the books here expect him to. He's 1st place, ranked 1st place by class and by his entire grade (I know I said it before, but seriously if you think about it..I mean like *really* think about, that's sorta really bad ass, that's he's that good.) He's basically unbeatable in English, at our school, he's just been doing it since age 4 and he also studies his brains out...2 weeks before... tightening up his already tight English skills... again and again, by now he could do it in his sleep. Again...you do what's right for you. But I for one...will always be tremendously grateful to her words of wisdom, our Kumon teacher...and when Noah became age 3, he entered Kumon with Japanese and English, with his big brother too. Our Kumon teacher has made sure...both my kids are both well prepared. And for that. I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Thank you Megumi-sensei!

Anyway...Branden's final is tomorrow, Wednesday. Tonight we're having baked chicken parmesan with pasta. Yesterday we had sara udon (chicken chow mein, with lots of veggies and stuff)

Another little story to think about. Again...if you have young kids, it's something to think about. Our neighbor 2 doors down, he's in the 7th grade this year. He just started Kumon this month. Apparently according to his mama, my friend. His grades aren't so hot. And she's worried, she's very worried, which is why I am not saying who, for her privacy. : (  I personally find..here in Japan at least. If you send your kid to juku or Kumon in kindy or elementary school. You do that... so your kid can be *ahead* of the game. And then there are the kids whose start juku or Kumon when they're in JHS. And those are usually just the kids who have realized...I'm not doing so well. I may not get into a good high school. And so they're trying to play "catch up" And so their JHS life is very stressful, believe you me...I have friends... I have heard the stories. And so the "catch up kids" spend every living waking moment...year round during JHS studying non stop. So those are just 2 different types that I am mentioning for right now, with regards to if they picked to do Kumon or juku before JHS or are just starting it...for the first time... while in JHS...so those are the..."ahead of the game kids" or the "catch up kids" So...again..if you have young yochien aged kids, right now or elementary aged kids. You can decide...if you want to prepare them *before* JHS or wait until JHS and try to play catch up. Or again...you don't need to do either.. and just wait and see. Again...whatever way you pick..just pick the right way *for you.* What you pick... won't have any affect on me...and vice versa....the way we picked won't really logically... affect you either.  For our case, we are glad we prepared Branden to be ahead of the game...instead of being behind the game or playing "catch up" for 3 years. Thank the lord... we don't have to play that, "catch up" game. Again do what's right for you. Just know though that...JHS in Japan is serious stuff. It's not even remotely like my JHS experience in America, where I sang in choir and made crepes in French class, had a school dance/social...decided which costume or what to dress as for Halloween. @_@  JHS for kids in Japan can be quite stressful. Elementary school in Japan, on the other hand...fun for days! Fun fun and more fun! : ) However, Noah is quietly doing Kumon and studying and preparing himself.

Anyway...today Branden is swimming at his JHS. And he's really happy about that. He and a set of about 6-8 kids total. Kids who also went to swim school and competed in elementary school. They're all going to compete together today, friendly competition. So he's been looking forward to that all weekend. @_@ Told ya, he's competitive. Hahaha. : ) Oh well...it will take his mind off his studies for an hour today, at least. Anyway...tonight's Bran's last night to study. Tomorrow is the big day. Finals day! Good luck tomorrow Branden, we love you! And not to worry, you're ready, you really are!