Monday, March 31, 2008

Redeeming the Time

We are welcoming Spring Break with open arms. Its a much needed step back from teaching and studying. The kids ended their semester with improved grades and we're thankful for the breather. Of course, this much down time can present its own problems. Kristina does well with structure and so this week promises to bring its own challenges.

I remember reading an article in middle school about Americans' preoccupation with entertainment and the "vast American wasteland" it made of our time. We've made more conscientious choices about how we spend our time in the last six months. We don't have cable, but we still found it tempting to sit and veg in front of the television when there's only 6 channels to choose from. So we pulled the plug. Just pulled it. Unless there's something we definitively want to watch, it stays off. Initially this was met with some resistance. But when we provided the kids with alternatives, they quickly moved on.

We push them outside to play as much as possible. The neighborhood kids inevitable gather outside our house for a four square match or to ride bikes and skateboard. I'm typing away in the Adirondack chairs right now as eight children zip across the yard in a high drama game of hide and seek. The weather has been great and we've even been able to venture out to the pool. Kristina is re-learning how to swim, but she's determined!

We also limited the kids' access to the computer and video game system. For the last few years we only allowed them to play games on the weekends, but we found that when we wanted to go somewhere the kids would start whining about their "play time". So we changed their tech time to Friday afternoons after school. That leaves Saturday and Sunday open for family outings with no complaints.

Our kids are growing up fast and we want to teach them to be good stewards of their time. I'm sure part of this stems from my background as an English teacher, but we are encouraging our kids to be voracious readers. We have a wonderful local library and take full advantage its services. Robert makes a habit of taking one kid at a time with him to Starbucks on the weekend. They arrive at 6am, grab a hot chocolate, settle into the comfy chairs in the lobby, and read for an hour until they can watch the sun come up.

Books in Kristina's native language have been hard to come by. She has a New Testament in Russian that she reads diligently with a highlighter in hand. I'm thinking of purchasing her a parallel version with English in one column and Russian in the other. Before I left Ukraine, I managed to get a copy of Eragon in Russian for Kristina.She took one look at the size of the book (768 pages)and declared she couldn't read it, it was too big. With a little encouragement she made it through and was asking for the next book in the series. In hindsight, I wish I had purchased a few more books for her in Russian. Its been incredibly difficult to find anything online. I took her to the library in search of something in English she could understand and found a series of Hannah Montana books that she was interested in. Before I knew it she was reading two books a day and had exhausted the series. The search was on for something else that she would enjoy and comprehend. She recently found Tales of the Frog Princess, a series by E.D. Baker, and has been reading nonstop. These are age level books and we're amazed at her ability to understand and enjoy the literature. She carries her library card like it worth gold. Rarely does she goes out without a book tucked in her purse. We went for a picnic at the state park down the road yesterday. As we walked the boardwalk through the nature trail, we discovered they had built an enclosed glass gazebo that stretches out over the water on the lake. In the center of the structure are benches that provide scenic panoramic views of the waters. Guess where we're heading with our books tomorrow . . .


Anonymous said...

This is like watching a miracle unfold. Thank you.
David Cottrell

ArtworkByRuth said...

There are a few on line stores with Russian literature, have you tried Also, has some books, not sure if they go up to her level. We too are looking for some for our next daughter who will be 14 when we bring her home. Let me know if you find any more!

Leslie said...

I owe you big time! I just ordered Little Women and Tuck Everlasting in Russian from one of the websites. Thanks!!!

Nataliya said...

Leslie, I usually order my Russian books from, and

Anonymous said...

Dear Leslie, I sent out an SOS to some nice people asking for book source suggestions. I just sent you an email to the address given on your site. Hope it helps - would like to let the nice people know.
I see you have some good suggestions already.

The O'Haras said...

Great to see Kristina thrive with reading...we have not conquered that hurdle yet. We did drastically reduce our TV intake though upon returning from Ukraine, much to the happiness of Tracey. I think we had a few kids that took a bit longer to appreciate it though.

Of course I am not sure where that time now time....well I guess there is at least some brain interaction on that one.

I know what you mean by needing structure as well. Sometimes I "threaten" them with structure when the wander around not knowing what to do...I think that is the Marine in me coming out...

Glad to catch up on your family as always.

God Bless!

Annie said...

She is so cute! I have also purchased books on-line, and the other option (which works for me) is to ask people to buy books when they are there (much cheaper). I could share some but apart from Harry Potter (which Ilya is still reading) they are all major BOY books. I do have some friends with teenaged girls, so I will ask if there are any books - we could have a library by mail.

Debora Hoffmann said...

Ha-ha! Garth and I laughed when we read you that had pulled the plug on the TV. We threw away our TV antenna about a month ago and haven't regretted it a bit!

I was quite the reader when I was younger, devouring entire novels in a day. Kristina's a girl after my own heart! You're making me miss Southern California (where we grew up) and its pools and beaches with your video...sigh.

Rachael said...


Check out my friend Tamara's post.

She lives in Moscow, but is traveling back to the US for a visit this summer. She has sent me many wonderful Russian books for my Katya to read. I'm sure she'd be happy to help you purchase some for Kristina too, that she could bring with her! She's a teacher too, so she's really great at picking out good age appropriate and fun to read books.

I haven't checked your blog in a little while but I was reading way back before when you were waiting to bring your daughter home: what great progress Kristina has made! So nice to see.