Search results for 'New Years'

NEW Gakken Go Go Workbooks!

10 Sep

I believe learning should be fun, motivating, and rewarding. If you believe that too, you should check out the new Go Go series by Gakken!

Gakken has been creating educational materials in Japan for years. Go to any bookstore in Japan, and you will see shelves lined with workbooks by Gakken. Just recently, they have started branching out and creating workbooks for sale in the United States. They reached out to me to see if I’d like to review the new books, and I said SURE! because I knew they create good-quality books.

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The books arrived and my children (even the ones who are too old for them) couldn’t wait to flip through the colorful pages and admire the cute stickers.

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Hmm which sticker to use next?

The first thing that impressed me was the quality. Every page, front and back, is full-color. The pages are nice and thick so you could use pencils, crayons, or markers. The stickers are high-quality and the illustrations are adorable.

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2-4 year old tracing book

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Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

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from the 4-6 year old mazes book

I also liked that the books are very age-appropriate. I received several books for 2-4 year olds. My almost-2-year-old could do some of the beginning pages, but the rest of the pages were a bit too advanced. I know they will be just perfect in a few months! However, she wants to use up all the stickers NOW! 🙂

Right now they also have books for 3-5 year olds and 4-6 year olds. I hope that as the company keeps expanding, they will publish more books for older kids too! (See all the currently available books HERE). I would also love to see their Japanese language books (like hiragana) here too.

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cute stickers galore!

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As someone who is passionate about Japanese culture, I was thrilled to see that pieces of Japanese life are included in the books. People who don’t know anything about Japan may be confused by things like Koinobori (carp fish) and Hinaningyou (Girls Day Dolls), but I LOVE it!

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Gakken workbooks are available for purchase NOW! And I think they are very affordable, ranging from $5 to $8 on Amazon. Totally worth it to keep my kids busy and learning. The stickers are definitely motivating and rewarding for little ones.

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Here are the Amazon links to purchase the books.

Go Go Intellectual Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Drawing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 3-5 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Mazes 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Mazes 4-6 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Intellectual Skills 4-6 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Want to try out a few pages before deciding to purchase? Gakken has generously provided free sample pages from each book, which can be downloaded HERE. Enjoy!

 

し:しょうがつ/ New Year’s in Japan

26 Dec

Here are some ways you can celebrate the new year (おしょうがつ) Japanese-style with your children:

from fumira.jp

1) Eat Osechi-ryori (お節料理), ozoni (お雑煮), mochi, soba, and sushi.

2) Ring bells at midnight to get rid of worldly desires.

3) Send New Year’s Postcards(ねんがじょう).

4) Give otoshidama (money) to children :).

5) Write a haiku about the new year.

6) Play games such as hanetsuki, spin tops, fly kites, karuta, and fukuwarai.

7) On January 1st, wake up early to watch the first sunrise of the year. Also, try to remember your first dream of the year.

8) Sing the New Year’s Song (lyrics HERE):

How do you ring in the new year?

Japanese Kids Websites: Kids Club and Online Books

19 Dec

image from 2kids-club.com

The makers of the popular website Origami-Club have a newish sister site called “Kids Club” that’s worth checking out. It has printable mazes, coloring pages, and instructions for kirigami, ayatori, etc. You can view the site in Japanese or English.

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They also have a wonderful site called E-Douwa (Douwa means “children’s stories”) where you can read many children’s books, in Japanese, online! This is a great resource if you are having a hard time finding Japanese books to read. There are Japanese folktales, Aesop’s Tales, stories from the brothers Grimm, etc.

image from e-douwa.com

image from e-douwa.com

 

PS I hope you and your loved ones have a very happy holidays!! Search my blog for  “Christmas“, “New Years“, etc for Japan-related activities ! 🙂

じゅうにし: Jyuunishi, the Japanese Zodiac Animals

15 Jan

あけましておめでとうございます!How did you spend your New Years? My children and I ate mochi, played karuta, and watched a little bit of 紅白歌合戦 (Kouhaku Uta Gassen).

One of my daughter’s first homework assignments from Japanese School this year is to complete a worksheet about the 十二支/じゅうにし(Jyuunishi). This is something that I’ve never thought to teach her and something I don’t know too  much about either. So of course I used the internet to look for the best resources to teach my daughter about the Jyuunishi.

I think I will begin by showing her a video of the story behind the jyuunishi animals. Here are a few of the best ones on YouTube (I love the 日本むかし話/Nihon Mukashi Banashi series!):

I also downloaded the story of the Jyuunishi on my iTouch for 99 cents via the “Koehon” app (for iPhone and iPad). If you don’t already have this app, I highly recommend it! The app itself is free. Once you download the app, you will have access to 250+ picture books, most of them Japanese!! This is a pretty huge deal, if you ask me, since paper copies of Japanese children’s books are not readily available in the U.S. Most of the stories are only 99 cents. You can either read the text yourself or listen to a pre-recording. Visit the official Japanese Koehon website HERE. (BTW, there are LOTS of NEW, great Japanese apps for kids now. I will do a separate post on those later.)

If you don’t have an iPod/iPad, you can visit Xuite’s website to listen to the story of the jyunishi (in Japanese) then print off the provided worksheet to complete.

Here’s another video to help you remember the order of the animals:

Then I will help my kids figure out what animal year they were born in, and read to them their “personality traits”. You can find those HERE and HERE (this website has a fun animal-matching flash game at the bottom).

Then, I will teach them that 2013 is the year of the SNAKE(へび). We might color one of the snake coloring pages by  happylilac.net. My daughter made paper plate snakes (instructions HERE at “Crafts and Art for Children) at Japanese School.

If you have any other ideas, please share!

 

(You can read more about Jyuunishi on Wikipedia, HERE. It is basically the same thing as the Chinese Zodiac Calendar).

Happy Holidays! Plus Favorite Posts and Sites.

19 Nov

image from fumira.jp

Can you believe the holiday season is upon us? I just put up a homemade wreath on our front door and am looking forward to turkey dinner with close family and friends this week. I love this time of the year, and I especially love that my husband gets some time off from work and we get to spend a lot of time together as a family! Because of that, I will probably not post anything new for the rest of 2012 (um, just kidding). I am going to leave you with some holiday links, my favorite posts, and my current favorite websites. Click on the “***” to go to the sites. See you in 2013!

CHRISTMAS

1. Decorate for the holidays using origami! ***

NEW YEARS

1. Send a New Year’s card, Japanese-style: ***

2. A past blog post about ways to celebrate the new year like the Japanese: ***

3. Printable, Japanese-themed calendars for 2013 (they are adorable!): ***

SETSUBUN

1. Setsubun isn’t until the first week of February, but for those who like to plan ahead, here is a past blog post about it: ***

FAVORITE POSTS 

1. How to survive a long plane ride with a toddler! *** (reader favorite!)

2. Ideas for souvenirs to take to Japan: ***

3. The yummiest homemade purin recipe! ***

4. Is the cold weather making you think of sunnier days? Or maybe you live somewhere that’s currently summer? Check out my How to Have a Natsu Matsuri post: ***

5. Since Obama just got re-elected, this video is worth watching again: ***

6. How to Begin Teaching Your Child Japanese: ***

FAVORITE JAPANESE LEARNING WEBSITES

1. Brother.co.jp ***

2. Honda Kids ***

3. Links to LOTS of great printable hiragana practice sheets ***

4. Ready Steady NihonGo! ***

5. Erin’s Challenge: ***

KEEP YOUR KIDS BUSY AND LEARNING DURING THE HOLIDAYS:

1. Blog post with a lot of great links to websites that teach you  how to play traditional Japanese children’s games: ***

2. Ekaki-uta’s (Drawing Songs) are fun for all ages! ***

3. Japanese Fingerplays… a great way to pass the time on the drive to grandma and grandpa’s house! ***

4. Play karuta! ***

5. DOZENS for Japanese videos for kids via YouTube: ***

How will you spend the rest of 2012? I’d love to hear from you. Readers comments give me the motivation to keep up this blog! 

Back-to-School, Japanese-Style!

9 Feb

 

In Japan, a school year ends and a new one begins in the spring. For my children who attend Japanese School on Saturdays, they have graduation in March and begin their new grades in April. This means that back-to-school shopping happens in February for me! Here are some items that we purchase for Japanese School, that’s different from what we purchase for American School.

1. Randoseru. In Japan, when a child begins first grade, they buy a backpack (usually leather) that is meant to last them for all their elementary school years. These cost anywhere from $100 to $1000!! Since my kids will only be using them once per week, I opted for the less expensive option. I bought this one. I can’t wait to see my son wearing it on his first day of school!

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2. Pencil Case (Fudebako). At my children’s American School, everyone shares supplies so there’s no need to have your own supplies box. But at Japanese School, everyone brings their own. Younger students love these fancy cases with their favorite characters on them (click on the photos to be taken to where you can buy them). My daughter who is almost 9 is past that phase so I got her one without any characters. I recommend looking for items that are Made in Japan.

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3. Suito (Water bottles). Now, I know we take water bottles to American schools too. But I really love the ones made in Japan with the flip-top lids and straps so it’s easy for kids to carry to school and onto the playground. There are so many fun varieties! I personally got my son the Stars Wars one.

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4. Bento Boxes and Supplies. I think part of the reason why my kids still tolerate going to Japanese School on Saturdays is because they love lunch time. Monday-Friday, we make them a traditional American lunch (sandwich) but on Saturdays, I spend extra time making them onigiri, tempura shrimp, tamago-yaki, etc. When I first started, I was totally clueless so this book (Just Bento Cookbook) by Makiko Itoh was a lifesaver.

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There are a lot of other supplies– shitajiki, compass for math, triangular ruler, etc that I’ve had to purchase for Japanese School over the years. You can CLICK HERE to see all the supplies I’ve found on Amazon (I’ll be updating/adding things soon). I love that all these items are readily available for purchase online! Yes I am an Amazon Affiliate which means I receive a small portion of purchases (but you don’t pay more than normal), but I would never recommend anything that I don’t personally love! I’m hoping I’ve saved you some time by having all these products on one page.

Happy Back-to-School Shopping!

Cafetalk: Private Lessons Using Skype!

15 Oct

Have you heard of Cafetalk? You must check it out. It is one of my favorite Japanese-learning resources! (Special promotional link at the end of this post!)

Cafetalk is a website that connects you to tutors from all over the world. The tutors teach languages (TONS of Japanese teachers!), music (piano, voice, ukulele, etc), arts and crafts, hula, abacus/soroban, and a lot more. There are thousands of lessons offered.

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As you know, I am passionate about exposing my children to as much Japanese language and culture as possible, so I searched the Cafetalk website for tutors who teach Japanese to children. I was a little bit overwhelmed with all the choices, so I asked a Cafetalk representative to recommend teachers to me (you can chat, call, or email them and they are very helpful!).

I registered online (very easy), entered my Skype name (you must have Skype to use Cafe Talk), then signed up for some lessons! It was all very straight-forward, and I thought the lessons were priced very reasonably (cheaper than hiring a tutor to come to my house). Many tutors even offer free or discounted Trial Lessons.

The day of our first lesson came, and my kids sat anxiously in front of our computer, waiting for our Skype tutor to call us. The lesson was for my two older kids, but Baby Sister wanted to join in the fun.

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Our tutors were always right on time. I love that. And I love that we didn’t have to leave the house, and my kids could be in pajamas.

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I sent each tutor specific requests before each lesson. For example, “I want them to practice katakana”, or “Could you help them increase their vocabulary?”. The tutors went above and beyond my expectations, catering their lessons to my children and sending a follow-up message after the lesson was over, which included what was taught during the lesson, and what my kids could work on during the week. One of the tutors sent me a message ahead time asking me to print out a worksheet to use during the lesson.

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One tutor did such a great job keeping my kids engaged during their entire 20-minute lesson. She used a game of guesstures to teach action words. My kids loved it, as evidenced by this video! My kids are always sad when their lesson comes to a close.

 

Sometimes the lessons were face-to-face conversations,  and sometimes the tutor would use a feature on Skype where they can type on the screen during the lesson. I thought that was pretty neat. Here’s an example from when my kids were practicing katakana:

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Overall I was very pleased with our Cafetalk experience. I was impressed with the number and quality of tutors available on the website, the customer service, and price.

The only downside for us was that since we live in the New York Time Zone and most of the tutors live in Japan, many of the lessons I wanted to try were not available during my children’s after-school hours (because that would be the middle of the night in Japan). The tutors we found were Japanese teachers who had moved to Hawaii or the mainland.

Our family was given a few free lessons in exchange for a review. To be honest though, we enjoyed Cafetalk so much that I’ve already paid for a few lessons as well!

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I think this service is a great supplement to my children’s Japanese education. I know that in a few years, Japanese School may become too difficult or sports will get in the way of attending. So Cafetalk may become our alternative to Japanese School at that time.

I highly recommend Cafetalk if you want to learn Japanese (any level– beginner or advanced, and any age!). It is great for people who want to learn from home, or live in an area where getting a private tutor is difficult or expensive.

Cafetalk has generously offered Hiragana Mama readers 500 free points! You can use your points to purchase any lesson. Click HERE for your free points!

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The 500 points will be delivered to your account only if you sign up using this special link.  Also, the points will be usable only for 30 days after you sign up. 

Please let me know what lessons you tried and how you liked it!

Love, Hiragana Mama

Best Online Japanese Educational Videos for Kids

24 Feb

I know I have videos all over the place on my blog, and many of them need updating (sorry!). So I’ve compiled a list of the best YouTube channels onto one post for you. Please let me know if there are any great ones that I’ve missed! Thank you so much to the people and companies who create these videos so the rest of us can learn Japanese! 🙂

Best Japanese YouTube Channels for Babies and Toddlers:

1. ノッカーナアニメーション (nokkana animation):  adorable, short videos that will entertain your little one and teach them a few words in the process. Lot’s of Peek-a-Boo-style videos. There are dozens and dozens of videos and playlists, teaching everything from hiragana, colors, nursery songs, and a lot of more. (They also have a similar channel called Nokkana World).

Best Japanese YouTube Channels for Preschoolers:

1. しまじろうチャンネル(SHIMAJIROCH): I just love everything by Benesse. I credit Shimajiro and his pals for a lot of my children’s Japanese education. This YouTube channel is full of short stories and fun songs. 

2. 東京ハイジ (TOKIOHEIDI) : Lots of cute animations and songs!

3. チブクラ!(Small Crafts): Short videos that will inspire you and your preschooler to craft.

4. oojioo: A YouTube channel just full of cute ekakiuta’s (songs that help you draw).

5. 童謡チャンネルby takanonGB: Lots of Japanese children’s songs with lyrics so you can sing along.

6. 動く絵本、童謡、いないいないばあ の動画「ゆめあるチャンネル」: Lots of Japanese children’s songs, fingerplays, and stories! They’ve added a lot of new content since I last visited a few years ago. Here is their website: www.yumearuehon.com

7. Visit my blog post where I’ve listed all the best hiragana learning videos!

8. YouTube Channel SongsPlace has many children’s songs and fingerplays.

9. SongsLand is another channel with Japanese children’s songs.

10. PinkFong has a lot of Japanese animated short stories (lots of Aesop’s Fables) and songs. There’s English videos mixed in there as well.

11. Takanotetsuya has many great songs for preschoolers. I think this channel is intended to be for prospective preschool teachers in Japan.

12. 保育士バンク!チャンネル【公式】This is another channel full of songs of preschoolers, performed by preschool teachers.

13. TEASOBI channel : even more songs and finger rhymes

14. 子ある日和 手遊び歌 Japanese children’s songs performed by teachers, plus origami instructional videos.

15. Super Simple Japanese has great Japanese videos with good animation.

Best Japanese YouTube Channels for Grade-Schoolers:

1. jun egusa has created a lot of animated videos to teach math, Japanese history, kanji, etc! I’m pretty impressed.

2. The Mr. Men Little Miss videos by Sanrio has many many little episodes that could help with Japanese listening skills.

3. YouTube Channel キッズボンボンhas many videos about animals, science, kanji, hiragana, fairy tales and Japanese folktales, etc.

4. The FujiTV Kids YouTube channel has many educational and just-for-fun videos.

Best Japanese Educational Videos for Grade-Schoolers:

1. NHK for School is hands-down, the best resource I have found. You can search all of their educational videos by grade level or subject matter. Love this website so much! I have sung its praises before in this blog post.

2. The Science Channel website has a lot of great videos for gradeschoolers on up.

Best Japanese Educational Videos for High Schoolers and Beyond:

1. Erin’s Challenge! by the Japan Foundation : lots of videos and other resources for the older Japanese student. (blog post)

2. JapanSocietyNYC: has a lot of excellent videos showcasing the Japanese language and culture.

3. PuniPuniJapan: The animation is interesting but you can learn a lot of Japanese vocabulary! Lots of Japanese lessons.

Please comment below with your favorite resources and YouTube channels!

Benesse Challenge Touch Review!

9 Sep

 

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Last year I introduced you to Benesse’s Challenge Touch/Kodomo Challenge program on this post. The program is for elementary aged children and offers a monthly downloadable curriculum. Many of you were just as interested in this program as I was.
This summer when I visited Tokyo, I happened upon their new Aoyama Area Benesse in the Shibuya/Omotesando neighborhood. The one in Aoyama is the flagship store, but there are locations all over Japan. These “Area Benesse” offices can help you answer questions about Benesse programs and products, sign up for services, try out materials, etc.

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When we entered the building, we were immediately greeted by very friendly staff. One staff member helped my 7 and 5-year olds get started on some activities while I asked another staff member questions.

The biggest question I had was, “Can we use the Challenge Touch program in the United States?“.

The answer was yes… and maybe. Yes, as long as you have reliable internet connection, you can use the Challenge Touch tablet and download the monthly curriculum anywhere. The only problems you then face are:

  • Benesse will only ship its products to a Japanese address (at least that’s how it is currently). So you will either need to go to Japan and buy it while you are there (we had them ship the tablet to our hotel) or have it sent to a friend or relative, then have them ship it to you.
  • If your tablet happens to break, you will need to pay the shipping back to Japan, as well as have your friend/relative ship you the new one, which can be costly and a hassle.

We decided to take the risks and sign up to do the Challenge Touch program for one year. I thought the pricing was very reasonable. With the exchange rate the way it is now, it came down to about $25 per month (and the tablet is free as long as you continue the program for at least 6 months!). I also signed up for the insurance program, which was only about $15 per year. If you sign up for insurance, if your tablet breaks, you can get a new one for around $30 (otherwise I think they said a new tablet costs about $300).

A few days after putting in our order, our package arrived. In it was our tablet computer and some paper educational materials like workbooks and a kanji dictionary. (They actually sent us materials for the wrong grade at first. I contacted them and they immediately sent me the correct grade level).

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We charged up the device, entered our login information, and then downloaded our first month’s program. It was pretty easy! (If you don’t know Japanese well, all of this might be difficult to navigate. The program is designed for children grades 1-6 who can speak Japanese already, not for adults learning Japanese for the first time).

The program was very easy for my second-grader to figure out on her own. She had a lot of fun playing with all the features. She completed her first two assignments in Kokugo (Japanese) and Sansu (math) and declared it was awesome. The program does a really great job at keeping kids motivated and having fun while learning. We are currently going on month 3 of using the program and she still loves using the Challenge Touch every day.

Other things we love about the Challenge Touch program:

  • There is an online library where you can borrow 5 electronic books at a time. There are hundreds of titles to choose from! This is included in the monthly fee.
  • You can practice writing kanji and play a game where you learn the multiplication tables, even when you are not connected to the internet.
  • My daughter enjoys sending me emails every day.
  • Just 3 months into the program, I can already tell my daughter is better at reading and writing kanji.

Some cons:

  • I didn’t realize Benesse sends out paper materials every few months, even if you just signed up for the electronic version. This is great, except I feel badly my aunt in Japan has to go through the hassle of forwarding all these materials over for us. I wish I could just pay a little extra to have everything sent to the U.S.
  • I am constantly worried my kids are going to break the tablet, haha. We have a rule in our house where they MUST be sitting at a desk if they are using it (no standing, walking around, laying on the couch, etc). We’ve also lectured them about not pressing too hard with the pen. So far so good.
  • The voltage is different here. Easy problem to fix though, we just use a transformer:

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My kids normally use headphones as well when doing benkyou (study) on the Touch. We highly recommend this one! It is sized perfectly for kids’ heads, had a durable cord, and I don’t have to worry about the volume being turned up too loud. Headphones are a must for us because with 3 kids running around our little house, it can get quite noisy and hard to concentrate.

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Bottom line is that we are so glad we took a chance and decided to try the Benesse Challenge Touch program. I can see us continuing for the next few years, and may even get a second device for our son when he begins first grade. I hope that someday soon they will make the program downloadable for iPads– wouldn’t that be nice?

Read more about the Kodomo Challenge program HERE and feel free to contact them if you have any questions. They are very nice!

 

I am NOT affiliated with Benesse and have NOT received any free products or compensation for writing this review. 

NHK for School!

27 Jan

Dear Hiragana Mama Readers, thank you so much for sticking around! We welcomed a new baby girl into our family a few months ago and have been savoring these fleeting newborn days. I have even less free time than before, but I really wanted to share this website with you today: NHK for School.

http://www.nhk.or.jp/school/

I visited this site a few years ago and back then, it was nothing to write home about. But now, it is a fabulous GOLDMINE of educational resources for the school-aged student. The site contains thousands of educational episodes and video clips, along with suggestions for how to use it at school/home. The content can be searched by grade level (first grade through high school) or by subject (Japanese, math, social studies, science, art, physical education, etc). It is pretty awesome.

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Now, I wouldn’t recommend this site for people who are just beginning to learn Japanese, or toddlers. If you don’t know a little bit of Japanese, it might be hard to navigate this site. The website was designed for students in Japan to supplement their learning at school. This site is perfect for those of us living overseas trying to teach our children about the Japanese language and culture. I feel like this is a great mid-week supplement to Japanese School (hoshuuko). If you can’t afford TV Japan, this is a great alternative. You can read more about the purpose of NHK for School in English, here.

Anyway, if you haven’t already checked it , click this link and enjoy!! http://www.nhk.or.jp/school/

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