I just had an insight about homework. Japanese kids are not supposed to be able to do their homework by themselves, and they are not necessarily supposed to be able to think for themselves. Japanese education is based upon learning from watching, or mi narai.
My son has been agonizing over the 3 page book report he was supposed to write. I tried to get him to think about the book and his experiences related to the book, but he just sat there with tears in his eyes, his pencil still. I sympathized. I thought the task was way too hard for a second grader. I don’t remember writing 3 page essays when I was eight years old. I dictated a few sentences, feeling guilty all the while, but then my sister-in-law dropped in. She said she’d have a look at the book and come tomorrow (today) to help him with it.
Well, my sister-in-law, who is the mother of a high school student and a college student, came back to help this afternoon. She whipped out an essay that she had written, and my son copied it. That’s it. She’s an upstanding kind of mom, and her younger daugther was at the top of her class in junior high school. I guess she knows what she’s doing.