back to (home)school with twins

Where we left off (more than a year ago… whoops!), our twins’ IQ test results placed just one of them into our public school’s gifted program, which helped solidify our decision to homeschool them – and eventually all four of our children (girls ages 11 and almost 7, and our twin boys, who turn 9 today!)  – for the 2012-2013 school year.

We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.

Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways

  1. The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
  2. I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
  3. It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.   
  4. They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
  5. There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.  

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.

Where My Twins’ IQ Test Results Throw Me Into a Tizzy

Our identical (we think?) twin boys are in 1st grade now. While their speech issues hinder their spelling, they’re still performing above grade level in language arts. But math is where they really excel. This fall, G’s standardized test scores for math were the highest in the class, well above the 99th percentile threshold. Right now a parent volunteer is running a pull-out group for some of the kids who can do more challenging work, but next year that might not be an option. We wondered if the boys might be able to jump a grade for math. This isn’t something our district does readily, so we knew we’d have to push. We requested that our boys be tested for the district’s gifted program — if they qualified, we’d have the leverage we need to push for differentiation.

We were surprised by our results. G did not qualify for the gifted program, missing the cut-off by 4 IQ points. P did qualify.

Initially, I was upset with myself for even requesting the test. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of one qualifying and the other not.  Now we had this bona fide test result, on paper, saying G was less capable than his brother. And G has always struggled with self-confidence.

We had a conundrum, too. While we agreed it would be devastating to G for us to place P in the gifted program, we didn’t feel good about withholding enrichment opportunities from P just because his brother didn’t qualify. This is similar to the situation HDYDI blogger Sadia faced this year, except she was faced with moving one of her twins to first grade while the other remained in kindergarten. In researching what to do for our boys, I found this study of different twin types and their reactions to having one twin placed in a gifted program, while the co-twin was not. It definitely affirmed our gut feeling that our boys wouldn’t do well in that situation.

The more I’ve thought about it, the less I trust the IQ test results. I consulted with the director of the university speech clinic the boys attend, and she felt his speech issues could have thrown off the results. G is very aware of his articulation errors, and speaks very slowly to strangers so they can understand him. P does not make any effort to slow his speech for the benefit of others. The speech clinic director said G is likely to choose his words based on what will be easy for him to pronounce and for others to understand, rather than choosing the words that best convey his meaning. G is a kid who asks for math work on his days off of school, because he says he feels anxious on days when he doesn’t get to do math. He picked up his sister’s 4th grade math workbook and started completing the pages for fun. My other two kids who do qualify for the gifted program don’t do anything like this.

We will probably have him retested at some point, so we know what all of our options are. Our oldest child attends a charter school for academically gifted students, and our public schools have various levels of differentiation available. For now we won’t retest — G said he didn’t like the test and it was boring, so I hate to put him through the same thing with the same test administrator this school year. In the meantime we’ve decided to home school next year — we can let them work at their own pace, and provide as much enrichment as either of them needs.

What would you do? Have you run into a similar situation? How would your multiples handle one being placed in a gifted program, while the other remained in the regular classroom?


Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver. Once in a while.

from hospital ankle bracelets to sports jersey numbers

I’ve written a little before about my efforts to help the boys’ teachers and friends tell them apart. I’m happy to report that their teacher, by mid-October, had found some tiny freckle on one boy’s face that he can use to tell them apart. Their friends still have no idea and arbitrarily call them by one name or the other.

But now, let’s talk about sports!

like the scarlet letter, but white

My boys played tee ball last spring, and their coaches learned which boy wore which pair of shoes so they could call them by name. Yes, their coaches were that awesome, because both sets of shoes are mostly grey and black, and just have tiny bits that are green or red.

They played flag football this summer, and that was trickier. For one thing, black cleats were pretty standard. For another, it’s not like tee ball where the kids are mostly coached one by one, or assigned a spot. The boys had big numbers on the backs of their jerseys, but from the front it was anyone’s guess.

To help the coaches (and everyone), I took to putting an X in surgical tape on one boy’s shirt. I felt so weird about this — first because I was afraid he wouldn’t like it, but he didn’t mind. But I still felt like I was branding him in some odd way. I also felt like maybe I was making a bigger deal out of this than it needed to be.

It turned out to be a good thing. Their coaches were great about remembering which boy got the X (the one who has an X in his name, which made it easier) and my boys benefited from being called by name. And I have to admit, I relied on that X to keep track of who was where from the sidelines. It saved me from a lot of, “YAY! GREAT JOB– (who was that?) – GREAT JOB, um, SON!”

When your look-alike multiples are in uniforms, what strategies do you use to help other people tell them apart?
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she freaks out about every single thing that happens at school.

can i make my twins wear Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts?

Nearly everyone has an opinion about dressing twins alike. (Mine? It’s adorable when they’re little, but a luxury people who dress mostly in hand-me-downs can rarely afford!) My boys have a handful of matched shirts — gifts from their grandma, or the fruit of a Target clearance rack. Every so often they like to dress alike, and cackle together about their plans to confuse people. For the most part, though, they dress in totally different things.

It has not helped people tell them apart, except that once a person asks, “Are you G or P?” he or she can keep track more easily for the rest of the day.

All last school year they had different haircuts, but still very few of their classmates and teachers could remember who was who.

This year they have a wonderful teacher I trust. I know he cares about them as individuals, and is working hard to learn to tell them apart. They have the same haircut now, and it obscures the two easiest “tells” — their different hairlines, and a fading scar on one boy’s forehead.

As I said last year in one of my many *upset* posts [that got me crying again reading it now],

…my little boys …are actual peoplewho deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

So I’m trying to help their teacher (and them) out, by color-coding them. G in green or grey, and P in blue.

Problem is, they don’t always want to wear their assigned colors. They understand why we’re doing this, but sometimes P wants to wear the grey shirt. Or they both want to wear blue shirts. I’m only comfortable pushing this up to a point.

What are your thoughts on this? My boys are 7. How hard should I push them to wear color-coded clothes to school? I feel like I am crossing some sort of civil rights line in the sand when I tell P he has to save his grey shirt for the weekend and wear the blue one like I asked.
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she teaches readers how to survive various life crises with materials commonly found in a 5-door family vehicle with seating for 7.

doubling my pleasure at school, take two

When I last posted at HDYDI, it was April and I was speaking with the school principal about my concerns that my twins’ placement testing results had been mixed up, and also that their teachers couldn’t tell who was whom even though they had different haircuts and didn’t dress in matching clothes. And their teachers laughed this off and weren’t interested in my efforts to make telling the boys apart easier.

In kindergarten, P was assigned to an intervention reading group. G was in a higher-level group, but he didn’t read for me at home, and P did. After I asked the teacher several times whether their files may have been confused, she wrote me after winter break and said P had accelerated quickly and had been placed in a higher group than G, and he was moved up again several weeks later. Because I believed she had confused them, giving intervention services to a child who didn’t need them rather than the child who did, and because I felt I wasn’t getting straight answers from their teacher, I worried about their progress for the entire year.

From the moment we found out we were having twins, everything was scary. The statistics are terrifying. The books said I’d lost 20 valuable weeks that I could have spent packing on body fat to sustain the babies in late pregnancy, when I wouldn’t be able to eat as much. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since 16 or 17 weeks – my doctor didn’t feel that was a good sign. From week 20, when I found out, to week 37 when I delivered my twins, every day and every contraction and nearly every moment was tinged with worry.

I think it’s that way for most of us. I am very lucky, in that I got to stop worrying about my boys’ physical health quickly after they were born.

Now I worry about whether people are able to see them and treat them as individuals, and how the boys feel about being individuals. I worry about how painful it will be when they eventually separate. I worry that their speech problems prevent them from volunteering in class, and that they may eventually get picked on because of them. I worry about P being bored, and G being left behind, because a teacher made a mistake and wouldn’t own up to it.

In our district the kids are given standardized tests so teachers and parents can track a child’s growth throughout the school year and from year to year, to make sure a kid is progressing. Last week I went to the school and requested their scores. The principal came out and sat beside me and handed me a post-it note on which she’d jotted their scores. Tears welled up in my eyes.

They both made great strides last year. They’re both above average. They are normal and doing fine, and oh, it is wonderful to have plain old normal kids who are doing fine!

I cried because I am so grateful that I can stop worrying about their academic progress. I also cried because the scores confirmed that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups last year. Their math scores were identical, but their reading scores were drastically different. My little boy who struggles with reading spent months in a group that was way over his head, and his self-confidence shows it.

 

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she alternates between waxing nostalgic over her children’s toddler years, and despairing over the amount of work still required for their upkeep.

i take my school-related concerns to the next level

Internet, today I sent my boys back to school after spring break. And I hated it.

If you’ve met me [online] or my children [in real life] you know how odd it is for me to want them in the house more. They yell. They chase. They maraud. They fight. They plunder. I reupholstered my dining room chairs in December, and the new vinyl is already shredded. Yesterday my son yanked the pull chain out of a floor lamp because he was angry. Someone stabbed a hole in my (p)leather ottoman just to see what would happen. Life with my kids at home is non-stop destruction.

My boys got haircuts over the weekend, and they wanted the same thing. Afterward, they fooled their sisters. A bit later, they confused their dad. The next morning, in my early-morning sleep haze, I had a brief conversation with P but thought he was G for most of it. Sending them to school looking identical didn’t mesh with my primary objective for the day, which was to contact their principal about my concerns.

To review:

  1. I suspect the boys might have been switched during placement testing.
  2. My boys told me their teacher mixes them up all the time.
  3. The school asks parents to provide a photo of their child along with any medication, to ensure it’s given to the right child. As if that would help.
  4. The combination of these three things irritated me quite a bit.

So this morning I called the principal. Because I’m one of the most awkward people not officially diagnosed with Asperger’s, I stuttered and stammered through the call and I’m not sure she knew what I wanted. So later I wrote her an email to make sure I communicated effectively. I totally sucked up at the end of it because I’m really worried this will turn into their teacher not liking them as well and therefore not being as nice to them.

Tonight at bedtime I asked G if anyone had said anything about he and his brother looking more alike today. He said no, they just said, “Griff-Peter.” [For this example, pretend my boys' names are Griffin and Peter.] I quizzed him, and according to him everyone called them a hybrid name all day long. I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s what he said.

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she alternates between waxing nostalgic over her children’s toddler years, and despairing over the amount of work still required for their upkeep.

let's collaborate on a tip sheet re: why it's important that my child's teachers can recognize him

Thank you for all of your advice and support after my last post[-ing binge], regarding my suspicions that my boys’ kindergarten teacher has mixed them up more times than is really excusable.

After taking some time to cool down, I’ve decided:

  1. Their teacher is a good teacher. She is kind, she works really hard, and she cares about the kids.
  2. Ignorance regarding the importance of facial recognition seems to be widespread.

To turn this into a useful experience, I’ve decided to compose a letter/pamphlet/flyer/something to hand over to the principal or the local board of education, that explains why it is so important to learn to identify look-alike twins, triplets, etc. by sight.

I’d also like to touch upon some tips or information along the lines of: What do I wish my kids’ teacher/s knew going into the school year?

If any of you have experience putting your multiples in daycare, preschool, camp, elementary school, or beyond, please comment (or email, if you’re shy) with your tips and suggestions. Or share ideas based on your own experiences, if you are a twin or triplet.

My email is jen.diagnosisurine at gmail.com, but consider posting a comment because your thoughts might spark some ideas for other readers. It would be great if we could come up with a piece that we all could use as we’re putting our children in new situations.

Ranting Update On My Evolving Feelings About the Boys’ Teachers

Friends, thank you for weighing in on my previous post. (Also, forgive me for posting twice in a row as if this were my personal blog.)

Based on Mommy, Esq.’s comment on how it hurt her feelings to be confused with her sister, even though they had way different hairstyles, and on torie’s comment about how this should be a learning experience for the student teacher, I composed a fantastically diplomatic email to the boys’ teacher suggesting a handy mnemonic device for the student teacher to use.

She wrote back with what I took to be a tone (an email tone, you know) that said, “Yeah, yeah, lady.” I have gradually accepted being *that mom* to this teacher… After the second or third time I had to suggest she might have had my boys confused for important things like testing and placement, I figured our relationship may grow strained.

Aside: Did I update you on that? Because after I asked a bunch of times I got an email that pretty much confirmed someone mixed up either the boys or their paperwork for some length of time.

Anyway. After the “yeah, yeah” response, I tried my hand at mining my 6-year-olds for info. First I asked P if their friends know who they are, or if they have to ask. He said most of their friends know. Then I asked about the teachers. He said, “Not so much.”

“Mrs. Johnson [school guidance counselor] knows us. And [librarian] is having me help her learn who is who. And [classroom aide] knows us but she said she doesn’t want us to get our hair cut the same! But [classroom teacher] and [student teacher]…” He shook his head. “…Nope!”

My feelings can best be summed up in language that is inappropriate for HDYDI.

My follow-up questions revealed that his classroom teacher mixes up their names all the time. “Like Daddy and I call you the wrong name sometimes?” I asked. He said no, not like that.

This is gut-wrenching. First, that this woman hasn’t been able to get them straight the entire school year… And maybe this is an argument for separating multiples in school, but mine wouldn’t have handled that well at all and we shouldn’t have to sacrifice their emotional well-being to protect them from people being lazy morons.

Second, this situation makes it even more likely that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups for the first half of the school year, with the more competent boy placed in the remedial/intervention reading group, and the more challenged boy placed in the reading group for kids who are doing just fine. I can hardly believe this really happened.

Third, my heart breaks for my little boys who are actual people who deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

This has happened despite never dressing them alike and maintaining different haircuts (one almost buzzed, one long and shaggy) the whole school year. Their names don’t start with the same letter or rhyme. They don’t sit together. They hold their faces differently. They have different friends and different mannerisms. Somehow, though, the fact that they are twins conveys free license to never really look at them.

Judging by the comments on my last post, this isn’t a problem exclusive to identical or even same-sex multiples! Being born as part of a set is dehumanizing enough that they’re reduced to the level of purebred dogs that no one but the owners can tell apart, and that’s okay and shouldn’t be at all offensive or surprising.

I’m fired up, people! I want to send a letter to the principal, the superintendent, and the United Nations, but I fear retaliation against my fellas. Internet, you’ve never steered me wrong. What do you advise?

“What Does It Matter…?”

“What does it matter if she mixes them up? They look just alike.” – my grandmother, regarding my safeguards against confusing our infant twins

Normally I’m not too hard on people who say “stupid” things about twins. I say a lot of stupid things myself. But today I shall regale you with a tale of the twins’ student teacher.

Two weeks ago Haney and I were in for our usual Friday afternoon “Look! I’m a good mother!” visit. The student teacher sat down with me as I traced and cut masks, gestured to Haney, and said, “You had twins, then she didn’t come a twin?”

Um…? Possible answers:

a)      No, she didn’t.
b)      Yes, she actually did “come a twin…” [beginning to weep]
c)       OH MY GOSH, I left the other one in the car!
d)      Yes, but I don’t like that one so I only bring this one.

Fortunately, in my case the answer is “a.” To which the student teacher responded, “Huh. That’s strange. Usually when people have twins once, they have more twins.”

I started to wonder whether she was asking if I’d used fertility treatments to conceive. I pointed out that we actually have two singletons. I was relieved when she was needed by the kids’ actual teacher.

Last Friday we were in again. Keep in mind that this woman has been with the class since early January. Also, I’ve attached my boys’ school pictures as a visual reference. Would you think these kids were twins if you saw them among 21 other children?

Exhibit A

The student teacher sought me out to tell me, “I still have no idea who is who between your boys. They’re always correcting me when I call them the wrong name.”

ME: We thought the different haircuts would make it pretty easy.
HER: Yeah, I don’t know… One day I was so mixed up because they both wore the same color shirt.
ME: Mmm.

We do mix up our boys when they have the same haircut – we have to look at them straight on to tell who’s who. And I can’t tell my friend’s boys apart without obnoxiously getting up in their faces to look for a telltale mole. I’m not judging people who can’t tell identical twins apart.

But my boys haven’t been identical-looking for any part of this school year. They don’t wear matching clothes, and we’ve maintained the drastically different haircuts to make it easy on their teachers. This woman has been spending 30 hours a week with them for more than a month now. What say you, internets? Is this a reasonably difficult skill to master? Or is this situation the result of laziness: she hasn’t bothered to learn students’ names, but in the case of my sons she feels she has an excuse to admit it?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she chronicles the many disasters narrowly averted using only her pluck and the assortment of household objects found in her 2001 Pontiac Montana.

the crazy twin vs. the smart twin

At bedtime one night, P was being wild and I asked him to settle down. He replied, “Sometimes it is fun being the crazy twin, because you can do stuff you’re not supposed to.”

I was puzzled.

“So, are you the crazy twin?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “And G is the smart twin.”

He said all of this with a big smile on his face.

Immediately I knew he must have caught an episode of “The Suite Life with Zack and Cody,” although this is a theme in plenty of shows and movies featuring twins. Ugh.

I gave both boys the obligatory pep talk about how neither one of them is the smart twin or the crazy twin or the anything twin. I told them I didn’t want to hear anything like that again.

The boys have started to get interested in seeing twins on tv and in movies. It’s only been in the last year or so that we’ve met other sets of multiples that look alike — it’s still new to them. Unfortunately I haven’t found shows where the twins are just normal — a little bit alike, a little bit different, and doing their thing without their twin-ness being the main point of their presence.

Any recommendations?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she chronicles the many disasters narrowly averted using only her pluck and the assortment of household objects found in her 2001 Pontiac Montana.