Katie’s Kindergarten Entrance Ceremony

At the beginning of April, Katie officially entered the kindergarten at our kids’ school, which means that we started sending her three days a week.  Since we homeschool our kids half of the week, full-time at UICS for our kids’ is just three days a week and we always start sending them three days a week once they turn four.  (In Japan, kindergarten is more like preschool in America and many kids start at age three).  Katie is extremely social and she loves her teacher and the other kids at school so she was VERY excited to pass this milestone.  The teachers gave her a corsage and she got an official certificate of entrance into kindergarten.  After the ceremony, we celebrated by eating at McDonald’s at the local mall. 🙂

Here are some photos of the day.  Don’t forget to click on the photos if you want to enlarge them.

UICS Bunkasai 2010

Every year our school puts on a fall cultural festival (called a “bunkasai”).  This year our kids sang, danced, acted in a modern version of Pilgrim’s Progress called “Journey to Heaven”, and played the “pianica” (an instrument that is a cross between a harmonica and a piano) in the UICS bunkasai.  They all did their parts whole-heartedly and seemed to really enjoy the event.  Bryan and I had a great time watching their performances.  Even though this was Katie’s first time to do things on stage in front of an audience, she sang her heart out and didn’t seem shy at all!  I was very impressed! 🙂  Here are a few photos of the event.

UICS Family Camp

On Sunday afternoon we drove an hour from our house to an area called Motegi to stay one night at a little hotel and restaurant called Pomodoro.  There we met up with the kids, teachers, and parents of our children’s school, UICS, for the school’s annual family camp.  It was fun to relax together with everyone, eat italian food, play games, sing songs, and set off small fireworks in the hotel’s parking lot.   I am very thankful for the sweet friends God has given us and our children through their school.  Here are a few photos from the camp.

UICS Sports and Games Day

Last month our kids’ school had its annual sports and games day.  Since it’s rainy season in Japan now, the event was held indoors at an ice skating rink that is used for indoor sports during the summer (when I guess no Japanese people feel like going ice skating).   The day’s fun events included relay races, tug-of-war, and a competition to see which team could toss the greatest number of balls into a basket in an alloted amount of time.  Ethan was ecstatic that his team won the overall competition for the day and Austin did a good job of having a good attitude that his team didn’t win.  Bryan and I got to join in some of the races with our kids and we all had a terrific time.  We can’t wait until next year!!

UICS Graduation 2010

Our kids’ school (UICS) had their annual graduation ceremony this month.  Our good friend Julia Hayes graduated from kindergarten and several of our English students either graduated from high school or moved up from elementary school to Jr. High school or from Jr. High to High school.  It was a great ceremony and we really enjoyed the family feel of the event.  After graduation, we all enjoyed eating lunch together at the school.

UICS Field Trip to Tochigi Police Department

I’ve blogged about our kids school (UICS) before.  A couple of times a year, the school plans field trips to various fun and educational places.  This time, we visited the Tochigi Prefectural Police Headquarters.  Before the tour started, we were shown a video about what police officers do.  Then the officer in charge of our tour took us to look down through large windows at the room where the officers take the “911” calls for Utsunomiya and the surrounding area.  (Actually, in Japan calls to the police department are”110″ calls and medical emergency calls are to “119” instead of 911).  One of the high school students in our group got to make a practice 110 call on his cell phone to an officer in the call room below.  We all laughed while he tried to make up an emergency situation on the spot. 🙂  We learned that officers working in the 110 call room have 24 hour shifts — meaning they work nonstop for 24 hours and then go home to rest!  Wow!!  That information  made me hope that if I ever have an emergency it’s at the beginning of everyone’s shift and not at the end when all the officers are exhausted!! We also looked through a window down at the traffic information room where officers keep track of what roads are crowded or are obstructed by accidents and also make radio announcements regarding road conditions.

When our tour was finished, we drove to a nearby park for a picnic and then spent some time at the Tochigi Prefectural Natural History Museum, which I’ve blogged about before.  It was a great day and I am very thankful for the work the teachers put into planning field trips that I never could have planned by myself for our kids.  I love our combination of UICS and homeschooling! 🙂

UICS Cultural Festival

Yesterday, our kids’ school (UICS) had it’s annual Cultural Festival (called a “Bunkasai” in Japanese).  All three kids participated in singing songs for the program and Austin and Ethan played the “pianica” (a Japanese style mini piano).  The boys also participated in a play that was a modern version of the Prodigal Son story.  It was fun seeing all the kids in the school show off their talents, present powerpoint presentations about things they’ve learned this year, and act as the MC’s for the event.  One high school student stood up and told everyone how he had been bullied in public school and was so thankful for the loving and accepting environment of UICS that has helped him overcome the trauma he experienced through that.  That young man is one of my English students and I have definitely seen him gradually become more cheerful and social over the months since he first entered UICS.  We are so thankful that our kids can go to school in such a loving and warm environment and we are thankful for the ways God is using our school to change students’ lives.

UICS Christmas Party

In addition to homeschooling, our kids go to Utsunomiya International Christian School (UICS) three days a week.  It’s a small, wonderful Christian school with loving teachers and a real family feel to it.  Our main reason for sending the kids there is to help them develop in their Japanese ability, but they also benefit greatly from the fun and educational  field trips, music lessons, and various yearly events put on by the school.  And, of course, they have been able to develop some great friendships with fellow students.

Last weekend was the annual UICS Christmas party.  Austin and Ethan joined the other lower elementary school kids in playing a Christmas song on an instrument called the “pianica” (a word meaning piano + harmonica).  The pianica is a little piano with a tube that you blow in to create sound.  After playing their song, the kids sang the Japanese words while another older student accompanied them on the piano.   Other kids in the school also performed songs on various instruments and we all sang Silent Night in Japanese while holding candles.

The event was pot-luck style, so we got to feast on lots of great food contributed by all the parents and teachers.  There was also a hilarious food tasting game where various groups of people were called up (first the preschool kids, then the elementary, Jr. High, and High school students, and finally all the dads) to taste food or drink  in front of everyone.  Almost all of the people had something normal to taste, but one person had someting strange or different from the rest.  After the tasting, the audience got to guess who had the odd food.  When the fathers came up, most people had a normal drink, but one dad had a cup of sauce for Japanese noodles!  With the younger kids, most had a vanilla cream puff, but one child got a cream puff  with a chocolate candy in the middle.  Austin lucked out and got the special chocolate one. 🙂

Here are some photos of the event.

Sports and Games Day at UICS

Every year our kids’ school (Utsunomiya International Christian School — UICS) has a sports and games day for the kids and their parents.  Since UICS is a K-12 school, the teachers have to be creative in planning races and games that kids of all ages can enjoy.  This year the day mostly involved races of all different kinds, from standard relay races to a three-legged race, a ball-carrying race, and a race that involved all kinds of crazy stuff like standing up and turning around five times with your forehead touching the end of a baseball bat (to make you dizzy), sticking your face in flour to grab a piece of candy with your mouth, and pulling a snack package off of a clothes pin using only your teeth.

The kindergarten teacher planned to have the kids and parents dance and sing to a couple of the songs I use in my kindergarten English class, but due to technical difficulties the CD player didn’t work.  She asked me if I could sing the songs in place of the CD.  I REALLY didn’t want to since I hate to sing in front of people by myself, but I got Katie to join me and we did it in a little duet.  We didn’t sound TOO bad, I guess, and Katie LOVED it.  She wanted to sing more and had a little temper tantrum when we told her it was all done. 🙂

Needless to say, all three kids had a BLAST and they each even won a race.  We are definitely looking forward to next year’s event (though hopefully this was the last time I will have to sing)!

Here are some photos for your enjoyment: