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[The real voices of mothers! This is how to solve the problems of housework and childcare.
Vol.3 What’s Hard When Your Child Enters Elementary School? Troubles of Elementary School Moms

 Mam Smile, winner of the 2022 Tokyo Metropolitan Women’s Activity Promotion Grand Prize, is an organization that promotes mothers’ reintegration into society and community revitalization through the production of the free childcare information magazine ” Itabashina.
 This issue is a special project by Mam Smile! We will be presenting the real voices of mothers we have met through our activities to date regarding housework and childcare in a series of three articles.

 The theme of the third session was “Problems after children reach elementary school.
We hear from many mothers with children in elementary school that “it is more difficult after they reach elementary school. As the phrase “the first grade wall” suggests, elementary school children are required to study and support themselves in ways they did not have to in nursery school or kindergarten, and it is often difficult to balance work and housework/childcare.
 We interviewed five mothers with elementary school-aged children to find out what the challenges are when their children reach elementary school age. We also asked five mothers with children in elementary school what they think is the most difficult thing about having children in elementary school, and we asked them for their advice on how to overcome these difficulties.


Ms. A: Mom of a 4th grade boy
Ms. K: Mom of a 1st grade elementary school girl
Ms. M: Mom of a 4th grade girl and an older preschool boy
Mrs. S: Mom of a boy in 4th grade and a boy in 1st grade
Ms. Y: Mom of a 2nd grade boy

Study and homework that will change your life forever

 The major difference between nursery school/kindergarten and elementary school is that the children begin to study; they go from playing all day to having classes all day, and they are assigned homework. The “circling” of homework is not always done by the teacher, and some homework must be done at home by the parents!


K: I need to talk to them and support them to get them in the habit of doing their homework every day. It is also difficult for me because I have to listen to them read aloud, “circle” them, and do other things that parents have to do every day, even if it is only for a short time.

Y: First of all, they often do not know what their homework is for the day or whether it needs to be “circled” or not. Now they can check their homework on the school’s computer, but sometimes they don’t bring the computer home with them, or they don’t bring home the things they use for homework…. I have made copies of drills and textbooks for reading aloud and left them at home so that they can do their homework.

S: My oldest son, who is not good at reading aloud, sometimes reads over and over again until he reads perfectly. That effort in itself is a good thing, but sometimes it’s a little annoying because he has to listen to it all the time (smiles).

A: It takes a lot of effort to motivate students to do their homework. It is even harder because in addition to school homework, there is homework from cram school!


Mr. Bando’s advice

. It is important to fix a time to study and to make it a habit. If possible, we would like to make it a habit even before entering school.
It is also important to identify which subjects they are good at and which they are not. It will be easier if you can make a clear distinction between the subjects you are not good at and the subjects you are good at, for example, by watching them together and letting them work on the subjects they are good at alone.
For example, if you read aloud to your child during bedtime reading time, it is a good way for parents and children to communicate with each other.


Management of personal belongings and submissions

 One of the most frequently voiced difficulties when children enter elementary school is managing their belongings and submissions. Unlike nursery school and kindergarten, where children see their teachers every day, parents rarely have the opportunity to see their children’s teachers at elementary school.


M: At day-care centers, the teachers would tell us what to prepare early and call out to us as deadlines approached, but at elementary school, we relied on the printouts brought home at the beginning of the semester or month. It was difficult at times to have to bring things that were not immediately available, such as pine cones and wire hangers for the children.

Y: Yes, yes! Contact sheets are not used unless they are very good, and there are days when the kids forget to turn in their contact sheets to school in the first place, so it doesn’t make much sense…

M: Submissions are difficult to manage, so I share information not only with myself but also with my mothers’ friends on LINE. When a deadline approaches, we contact each other to make sure everything is in order. For my children, I have a designated place for them to put their handouts and ask them to put them there.

A: Sometimes my children forget to take out their printouts and I find out what they need the morning of the day. I always keep a stock of erasers and other things that are easy to lose because I tend to lose things and it is hard to prepare for them if they suddenly disappear.


Mr. Bando’s advice

∙ It is a good idea to make a checklist of daily belongings to be checked. In addition to getting the child to do it voluntarily, mom and dad can also keep track of it.
For children who do not bring home a contact book, make it a habit to check it with them every day. Make it a habit to check the contact book with your child when you get home from work, and make your child aware of this habit.
I often hear from parents of other children about what they need to bring. I would like to value acquaintances with whom I can share information.


Support needed for elementary school students to get to and from school

 Children going to and returning from school alone is another major change that occurs in elementary school. Keep in mind that the parents may need to support the child in getting to and from school.


K: I thought it would be easier since I would no longer have to take him to and from school after he entered elementary school, but right after he entered school, he did not want to go by himself, so I went to school with him for about two months.

S: My child’s school-age child had to be picked up until the fall of his first year. I was surprised because I didn’t think it was necessary to pick up my child even in the early hours.

Y: There were times when he would come home on his own because he didn’t want to go to the school. It was a good thing that I happened to be home, but I had not yet given him a key, and I was worried about leaving him home alone, so I was very troubled. I considered giving him a key, but I was worried that he might lose it, so I changed my home key to one that can be opened with fingerprint recognition.


Mr. Bando’s advice

Some children may enjoy walking without their parents and take side trips, while others may feel lonely or anxious about going to school alone. While it is safer to go to school in a group, some children may be afraid to go with older children and may need a chaperone. Both children who make stopovers and those who need chaperones will get used to it in a few months, so persevere until then.
I hope you can reduce your anxiety as much as possible by finding a friend from nursery school or kindergarten or a new classmate to go to school with.


Long vacations that change your life and homework

 Long vacations are another major difference from preschool. There are no school lunches, unusual homework assignments, and long vacations are periods when parents have even more to do.


M: I send my child to the school during the summer vacation, but it is difficult because there is no school lunch. We can order boxed lunches, so I use the ordered lunches to get through the day without overworking them.

S: I also used to use order-made lunch boxes at first, but my children didn’t eat them because they said they didn’t taste good, so I ended up making and bringing them lunch boxes every day….

Y: During the summer vacation, I had to take my child to and from school every day because there were no children who usually went to school together. I wanted them to do their homework at the school, but they didn’t do it very well. I made sure to post sticky notes every day on what needed to be done and how much to do it.

Homework with sticky notes
Use the long vacation as an opportunity to put sticky notes on your regular homework.
Mr. Bando’s advice

…Lunchboxes are a typical problem during long vacations. We recommend that you and your father work together to establish a schedule for making lunches.
It is very important to make a schedule for long vacations, both a daily schedule and a monthly schedule of how you will distribute your homework and study. Include not only study but also play in your plan.
For assignments that cannot be done by the child alone, such as essays or free research, it is better to focus on them during times when the parents can take a break, such as during the Bon festival, and to schedule them according to the level of content.


Preparation items for the school year in a short time

 There are many things to prepare for entering elementary school, such as school cap, gym clothes, jacket, pencil case, underlay, colored pencils, and so on.

Printed materials to prepare for entrance into school
There are various designations for entrance preparation items.


K: In addition to the many items we had to prepare in a short period of time, the designated stores for gym uniforms and school caps were closed on Sundays, which limited the number of days we could go there. I had a hard time writing names on all the items to be prepared for the school entrance, as well as on each of the small calculation cards after the school entrance.

Calculation Card Photo
Writing the name on each small card is also a challenge.

A: There are some items that are not mentioned in the list of items to be prepared for school entry, but will be necessary upon entering school, such as a “mobile pocket” for tissues and handkerchiefs, for example.

Pictures of mobile pockets

Mr. Bando’s advice

It is easy to use name stickers to write names in preparation for entering school. Since they may be used even after entering school, it is a good idea to prepare a little extra.
It is easy to get everything you need at once at a fair such as the Entrance Ceremony Fair. If you cannot buy items there, use online shopping.


Share the difficulties and get through them together as a couple.

 How about the real voices of elementary school mothers?
Many of the problems that children have in elementary school are only known after they enter school. Also, as they move up through the grades, they will need even more help with their studies and mental support. The difficulties we have heard from mothers this time may be only a small part of what actually happens, but just a little knowledge should help you prepare yourself.
 Not only moms but also dads need to know what they will need to do and what measures they will need to take. First of all, it would be good if the couple can share information and build a cooperative system.

Aiko Bando Photo









Aiko Bando

Representative Director, Childcare Career Advancement Promotion Organization, Inc.
Representative of Mom Community Mom Smile
Director of Nursery School Foresta Shimura Sanchome

She founded “Mom Smile,” a mommy community that supports women in childcare to return to society. Through her activities, she sensed the challenges of women’s careers and the childcare field, and opened her own daycare center, Foresta Shimura Sanchome. 2019, she launched a general incorporated association, Childcare Career Development Promotion Organization, and started a training program on career support for childcare workers and mothers. She conducts time management courses, etc.


Click here to read the first article, “How Does Everyone Do It? How do you share household chores with others?

Click here to read the second article, “What is your daily schedule? How to share housework and childcare responsibilities to get through a busy day” article is here.