Since last week, my students have been bugging me to give them free time for the whole period as a gift for them on Children’s Day. Of course, I would not let them waste forty minutes in the classroom just chattering or playing on their smart phones. It would be total chaos! I wasn’t going to give in to their whim, but I decided to spare 10 minutes of our class for a game. I even let one of my upper school classes watch a magic show in my tab. Thank God, the games and the magic show were enough to pacify them.
Most of the kids were excited about Children’s Day that all they could talk about during our conversation was what they were going to do on Monday. Some of the kids said that they would go to the amusement park or go shopping with Mom and Dad; some would spend the holiday with friends. Others only wanted to play games in the PC방 (internet cafe); then there was D, a new student, who said he doesn’t care about Children’s Day. I thought that he was just being sarcastic, but when I asked him why, I realized what he meant. “I’m (I can) not go anywhere,” he exclaimed, exasperated, “I have many (much) homework.”
“Well, you can do your homework first, then do what you want,” I told him.
“Mom say(s) study study study…”
“I’m sure she will give you some time to have fun on Children’s Day.”
D shrugged his shoulders and sighed hopelessly. He reminded me of a girl from my class who got Math workbooks for Christmas and was told by her Mom to finish them in a month.
Not all Korean parents are like D’s mom. In fact, many Korean parents give a great thought to what can make their kids happy on Children’s Day.
May 5th is 어린이날 or Children’s Day in South Korea. In other countries, it is celebrated on November 20th, according to the United Nations official recommendation. Children’s Day is more like Christmas for Korean kids. When this day falls on a weekday, children don’t go to school or academies. Most of the parents are given a day off, so they can spend time with their little ones. Parents take their children to amusements parks, zoos, museums or picnic grounds, sometimes out-of-town. Shopping for toys or clothes is also a common activity. For busy families, simple lunch or dinner will suffice. On Children’s Day, my husband’s nieces come to our house to visit their grandparents. My parents-in-law prepare expensive presents for them. Parents and grandparents usually buy gifts for the children or give them money.
I used to give candies or chocolates to my students, but this time, the occasion slipped out of my mind, so instead of treats, I offered them a better gift…
I often give homework to my students, but last Thursday, I didn’t give them any. I thought about D and other students who were already bombarded with a lot of assignments from school and hagwons (academies). I didn’t want to add to their stress and take up most of their time accomplishing homework when they could be outside enjoying their special day. Even kids need a break, too, especially on the day dedicated to them.