After a Decade Parenting in Asia, Teru Clavel Returned to the US - Here’s Ten Things She Noticed About Homework, Expectations, and More. - The Grace Tales

After a Decade Parenting in Asia, Teru Clavel Returned to the US – Here’s Ten Things She Noticed About Homework, Expectations, and More.



Teru Clavel spent ten years in Asia before returning to her native US...

With three kids in tow, the differences she noticed in approaches to parenting, education, and expectations were vast. So vast, in fact, that they formed the basis for her book World Class: One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Her Children.

In Episode 12 of The Grace Tales podcast, host Georgie Abay speaks with Teru about getting the best of both worlds.

Listen to the episode here.


On why she first left the US…

I’m half Japanese and I spoke Japanese in my home. My mom is a first generation immigrant, and I just felt like it was going to be too easy for me to get comfortable, and to raise these kids who really didn’t even know who I was.


On how motherhood took her by surprise…

I certainly didn’t know what I was doing when I had my first child, and I couldn’t understand how I felt so debilitated by my first child, because until that point, I had jobs, I did pretty well in school, and then this baby comes along, and nothing I did felt right.


On how life overseas shaped her parenting…

Only did I realize really in 2016, when I came back to the US and we were in California, actually how different a lot of my philosophies were. My kids had a lot more freedom because at six years old in Japan, they were already completely independent. My six year old was taking the bullet train, which is the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka on his own, which could be three hours.


On homework and expectations…

I felt like the sky was the limit, and it was very, very high when we were in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. From a Western perspective, I get kind of criticized for this, and I want to dispel this myth that homework at three years old is this horrible thing. My kids were only copying one character three times, but it really instilled in them this curiosity, discipline and just this expectation that yeah, you have homework after school, and it’s just not that big a deal.


On teaching children independence in Japan…

At the start of first grade in Japan, they actually have walking routes. At my kids school, I think there were probably about 15 different pre-assigned walking routes. Everybody had a different color ribbon that you put on your bag, and the first week, you would get together with your group by grade and then you would take that walking course, and then you would get to know the other kids on that path. It really started building that community. The parents would also therefore start learning who the kids were in their community as well. It’s part of the education to get those kids to that point. I’m the first person to admit when this starts happening, you follow your kid around. You may hide behind a pillar, or a building or whatever to follow your child, because you’re nervous. Of course you’re nervous, but that also said, it’s a very safe country.


On the importance of grades…

At least in the United States, parents sometimes are flummoxed by this, because your child can get let’s say an A in a math course. Meanwhile you find out the following year, they didn’t have any of the foundational learning that was required to be in the next level class because they were just really, really good kids in that class, and they kept to themselves, and they didn’t call out. It’s really important to disaggregate what that grade actually means.


On why she doesn’t help her kids with their homework…

I never helped my kids with homework because I feel like that gives them the grit and the resilience to get through stuff. For the most part, I give them the space they need and they do it and if they have questions, they have to find the resources and build the skills to be able to do it themselves. Whether it be ask a friend, ask a teacher, or do the research on their own.


On early childhood education…

One of the things I would change is to make early childhood education accessible to everyone, and quality early childhood education. What the studies have shown is outside of the parent influence, that is the most important influence, pre I would say five years old. What it shows is that kids have higher literacy and numeracy rates, less incarceration, higher graduation and school retention rates, higher socialization skills, and higher academic achievement…This time that these kids have, when their brains are literally just sponges…they can learn almost anything.


On teaching children self-sufficiency…

If you swoop in and help solve your kids’ problems, they only learn that you can do it, and you’re taking their agency away from them. It instills a sense of ‘I can’t do it’.


On having difficult conversations with our kids…

We have to have these conversations early because they’re going to get that information whether we like it or not. Be preemptive, don’t be reactive if you can. Those uncomfortable conversations about sex and drugs and even friendships and all that stuff – have the conversations so that your kids aren’t caught, basically like a deer in headlights. Because there are too many conversations now where, even in the school playground, unfortunately, the kids are exposed to all kinds of really inappropriate materials via their personal technology.


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