The First Week

We’re nearly done with our first week of Ukrainian public school.  Whew!  We made it!

All in all I would say the week has gone well.  It’s a pretty huge life adjustment for our family, so it’s definitely going to take some time to adapt, but really, so far so good.  I guess I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.  The kids are happy and they love it.  The teacher is kind and made a point today of having an English teacher meet me in the classroom when I dropped the off the kids just so she could have a translator to help her find out if the kids are happy and okay.  The fact that she cares and wanted to check in made me so happy and relieved.

The process of getting them in to the school has been pretty easy, but also pretty interesting.  Yesterday I went to the Ministry of Education office with the school’s Assistant Director and an English teacher to get the kids registered with the region.  Then today I had to fill out another application thingy to go to the Director of the school, plus I filled out an info sheet for their teacher.  My Cyrillic writing probably looks like a kindergartner’s…so I hope they could read everything okay.  🙂  We had to give the school notarized copies of their passports and vaccination records.  Unfortunately our vaccination records are all in English, but fortunately, with the combo of the school nurse and me + a friend helping to translate + sign language of diseases + common brand names of vaccines we were able to figure out if they had all the required vaccines.  Apparently our kids are waaaaay more vaccinated than Ukrainian kids, so the nurse said they were A-OK.  Haha!  All they need to be fully registered is TB tests.

Here is their school schedule, in case you’re curious:

photo 1

Every day their class walks down the street to the school building where the older kids study and they eat a free meal in the cafeteria.  It’s no big surprise that that’s my kids’ favorite part of the day.  🙂  They usually eat at like 9:30, but the meals are like full on lunch/dinner foods. The first day they had salami, corn, and pasta; another day they had meatballs and rice; yesterday they had fish and potatoes, and then today they had some kind of porridge and meat.  Tea with milk is served every day with the meal.  There’s a little counter in the cafeteria where kids can buy treats with their own money.  Addy and Ez said that usually a few kids will buy snacks and share them with all the other kids during breaks.  So, today they made sure to pack some grivna in their backpacks so they could get in on the treat time.  🙂

The kids wear uniforms, boys in suit jackets and slacks, girls in black dresses or skirts.  The Director said we don’t need to worry about uniforms yet…but he didn’t say when to buy them…I guess someone will tell me when it’s time.  All the kids wear snow boots to school, and then when they arrive they change in to slippers to wear in their classroom.

Addy and Ezra tell us that the kids are really kind to them, and they’re learning some of their names.  They say they don’t understand much at all of what their teacher says and I’m not sure the best way to help them with that.  Will it just come in time, or is there something we should be doing at home to help them?  Jed and I are studying Russian, but the kids’ school is all in Ukrainian.  Oy.  I have no idea what we need to be doing to assist them…I’ve never done this before and don’t know anyone else who has.  Anybody have any ideas?  This is uncharted territory for our family, and honestly is pretty overwhelming.  I know, I know, one step at a time.  I wish we were all learning the same language.  Jed and I debated for a long time before we moved here on if we should learn Russian or Ukrainian.  We really felt like we should focus on Russian.  Pray for us, would you? We just need a lot of wisdom in this situation, and we all need loads of supernatural language abilities.  Thank you!

Thank you everyone for all your prayers and encouragement as the kids started school.  On one hand this is so exciting because it really plants us here in Zhitomir even more.  We are learning more about the culture and everyday life for Ukrainian people.  We’re dropping off and picking up along with loads of other parents and interacting with a lot of people who are super curious about why we are here.  There are many opportunities for Jesus’ name to be made great.

photo 3

On the other hand, I feel like I’m in a bit of a mourning phase.  Having our kids always together has been our way.  It’s all we know as a family.  Homeschooling them has been a MAJOR focus of my time and energy for the past four years.  Addy and Ezra being gone during the day EVERY DAY is huge.  It changes everything and I just need an extra dose of peace during this time.  I’m missing them like crazy and often during the day I wonder if this is the right thing to do.  We’re asking Addy and Ezra to do something very, very difficult and I wonder about their little hearts.  Are they scared?  Are they confused?  But, then they come home happy and I know we can make it another day.  I guess this is just a “yes” that is pretty hard for me right now.  Praise God they are loving it a lot and I know He is super close to them while they are away.

Do you have any questions about school?  Ask away!  It’s a pretty fascinating thing to be up close and personal with a situations so foreign to us.  I still can’t believe this is my life.  Ha!  So cool.


  1. Phyllis Hunsucker · February 6, 2014

    I don’t have any advice or anything, but lots of prayers and sympathy in the mourning part of your feelings. (By the way, I’ve been that English teacher, helping a Russian-American little girl and foreign parents. In a different school, of course. 🙂 )

    Also, I understand about wanting to be learning the same language, but Ukrainian could be really useful long term. We speak Russian in our family, but we try to learn Ukrainian, and it would be so nice if we could do better with that! It’s so useful for anything official, and Ukraine may be headed more and more in that direction anyway, even in the Russian-speaking regions. So, while I don’t envy you having to learn like this–all at once and in different directions–I can see how God may be using it.

    Oh, by the way, we have suffered and agonized over Ukrainian music textbooks for homework, but at least here the teachers speak Russian!

  2. Phyllis Hunsucker · February 6, 2014

    Oh, and a little more: not that my opinion counts for anything in your family decisions, but I really do agree with your decision of learning Russian. No matter how lovely and useful Ukrainian is, Russian does meet a wider audience. I recently heard the director of Agape sharing how, even though his native language is Ukrainian, for some reason, unknown at the time, he had the Bible curriculum written in Russian. And now, years later, that early decision is making it much easier to spread into other former USSR countries. 🙂

  3. Monica DeRosier · February 6, 2014

    Hi guys! First of all, I love reading your posts! It’s so amazing to see how God is working in your family. I wanted to just quickly say my kids both are in Spanish immersion here in salem, which of course is way different than your situation, but…it had been so amazing for them. I have loved watching their transformation. Their classes start at 90% Spanish for kinders (pe and music stay English) then each year they get a 10% shift to English. They have picked it up so well and having monolingual Spanish children in their class has helped so much! The trick we used most is to tell the kids they are investigators. (I also worked in a Spanish immersion class 7 years). We would excite them about watching the other kids and figuring out what to do. It made it fun for them until they caught onto the language a little more. I hope that helps at least a little. It has been such a gift to my boys who are now both bilingual 🙂

    • kimnjed · February 11, 2014

      Wow, thank you for that great info Monica! That is super encouraging.

  4. Crystal · February 6, 2014

    I still can’t imagine being in their place, wowzers! Their little brains must be growing by leaps and bounds!

  5. Sue H. · February 6, 2014

    I have a feeling that picture of them in the classroom will be one you will cherish years from now. How cute are they and how cute are all those little students in their uniforms!!! The only way I can think of for them to learn Ukranian more naturally would be for them to be around even younger children (preschool, age 1-3 for example) who are just learning basic words or putting phrases together (yes, no, eat, sit, etc.). I’m not sure if those types of groups even exist there, such as a church/mom’s group where you could take all 4 kids or some basic (but intense) introductory tutoring from someone who knows both English/Ukranian.

  6. Chantal · February 6, 2014

    They don’t understand at the moment but they will. After a month their minds will understand most things and after 2 they will be pretty good. By June they should be very comfortable and fluent,.

    • kimnjed · February 11, 2014

      Thanks Chantal! I hope you’re right 🙂

  7. yoongz · February 6, 2014

    In school here, they also change into what are called “house-shoes” and the shops here sell specific types for younger children (so they don’t kick them off during class). Do they have a small gym bag too? Over here they all bring a small gym bag (shoes & gym clothes inside) to school which is hung on a hook (labelled with their names) in front of their classrooms. You can opt to bring the bag home daily or weekly or whenever your mother tells you to.
    Kids bring their own snack here (very regulated in our school – nothing sweet or with sugar) & the school advises to not give kids money unless it’s to pay for something for school (such as bus fare for school outings).
    With regards to the kids understanding the language, it will come… how long it will take will depend on individuals BUT immersion is the best way to learn…
    If you wanted to help them, maybe cartoons in Ukrainian? i found these on YouTube…
    You can watch together as a family for a fun way to learn together?
    A YouTube search for cartoons in Ukrainian gives 11,200 results – so there is a whole selection… just be sure to screen them cos some of them maybe old soviet stuff.
    i think it’s so very wonderful that you guys are getting to know people…
    Oh i feel your mama’s heart… it was hard for me when T had to go Kindergarten… even now, i prefer to have him home whenever i can. If i told Swiss mothers this, most would shake their heads at me… here children learning to be independent (do without parents) is a huge thing. But know that as long as they are happy, and learning along the way, you are doing the right thing 🙂 hugs!

    • Phyllis Hunsucker · February 6, 2014

      Old soviet cartoons are the best in the world!!! Really “старые добрые советские мультики,” there’s nothing better. 🙂

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