Confession: I Hate the Girls’ Class Pets

Shhhh…I’m writing here, instead of on my own blog, so my girls won’t see this confession.  I can’t utter this aloud, but I hope writing about my disdain will be cathartic.  

My twin girls are in kindergarten this year, in separate homeroom classes.  Each class has a “pet”.  It’s not the living, breathing kind (thank goodness)…but rather the stuffed variety…and each child takes a turn bringing Thomas or Rowdy home for an overnight visit.

pet4My A got to bring Thomas home the very first day of school, and she was incredibly excited.  I was excited, too…how stinkin’ adorable was that??!!!  We celebrated the first day of school with ice cream, and we had fun making pictures of Thomas at the ice cream stand.

A few days later, my B got her turn with Rowdy.  It was a weekend, so we took him to the bookstore with us, where he enjoyed playing with the train set.

pet2

Sure, this is a great exercise!  Fun!  It offers families another way to get involved with their kid’s school life!  It gives us a glimpse into what other families do!

But…it’s a lot of work!!!

pet1

We once built a bed for the animals out of blocks…blocks that could be sanitized the next day!  Hahaha!

(And, at the risk of revealing my germophobe tendencies, these critters kinda gross me out.  There’s no telling where they’ve been, and my girls want to cuddle with them in our house.  ICK!!!!!  Lest you think I’m being petty, a friend of mine who is a kindergarten teacher in another district had to eliminate her class “pet”.  It acquired “bugs” during its rounds.  See…this is not just in my head!  And I don’t want anything ON my head as a result!!!)

As part of the hosting duty, the parent/child writes in the animal’s journal about what they did together.  We try to do something fun…something journal-worthy…with the critter at night.  Our evenings are so jam-packed with homework, supper, and getting to bed by 7pm, though, that’s a tall task in itself.

In the mornings, I want to involve the girls in what we write in the journal…but I’ve finally decided we have to get up 30 minutes earlier (THIRTY MINUTES!!!) to accomplish this.  The girls prescribe what I should write, and then they paste pictures and draw.  This last week, Baby A wrote a few lines (in kindergarten phonetic speak) herself [which was incredibly adorable].

The girls’ birthday topped the cake (no pun intended).  As the birthday kid in their classrooms, they each got to take home their class pet.  So…in addition to the family birthday festivities we were trying to cram in on the first day back to school following the holiday break, we had BOTH critters to accommodate.

pet3

Rowdy and Thomas played the girls’ new Connect 4 game (after the girls went to bed).

My head is itching, just writing about this.

I will make it through the balance of this school year.  I will smile as genuinely as possible when my girls bring their beloved class pets home.  We’ll do fun things.  I’ll take pictures.  We’ll write and draw in the journal.

I’m sure I’ll miss this one day…at least in some strange way…but for now, pardon me while I go clean something.

Yes, writing this does make me feel a little better.  Anything you need to confess today???  Go ahead…we won’t tell!!!

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Math Fun: Pi for Elementary Students

Pi Day is coming up on March 14. Get it? π = 3.14. March 14 =3/14. This year, 2015, makes Pi Day (3/14/15) all the cooler, because the first 5 digits of π are 3.1415. Next year gets its glory too, since π = 3.1416 if you obey rounding rules. It’s the little things that bring us joy in my family.

In the run-up to Pi Day, my 8-year-old twin daughters have been assigned π-related projects of their choosing in their Gifted and Talented class. M, ever the perfectionist, is still pondering her choices, but J has decided to calculate the volume of the sun. Along the way, J will learn how to calculate the volume of a sphere to teach her classmates.

It warmed my heart when, as J was excitedly telling a family friend all about her project, she said, “I already knew about pi, because Mom helped us discover it with coins and stuff. It’s the relationship between diameter and circumference of every circle.” I was especially happy to hear this 3 months after we did that exercise. Since it made such an impression on my girls, I thought I’d share the activity with the parents of mathematically minded children everywhere.

Teach children about pi by letting them discover it for themselves. Have them measure the diameter and circumferences of objects around the house and show them that d/c is always approximately 3.14.

In December, we spent a day with dear friends, both physicists by training and IT professionals by vocation, who are expecting their second child and first daughter on Pi Day. My 8-year-olds wanted in on the joke, so I promised to explain it to them when we got home.

We measured all sorts of round things: coins, pot lids, coffee mugs, you name it. We used a piece of string around the edges to capture the circumferences and another piece of string across the middle to find the diameter. We then compared the scraps of string, finding that the circumferences were always just over three times as long as the diameters.

We then took it a step further, using a ruler to get a more precise measurement of each piece of string. Once we had our list of numbers, we punched them into the calculator, dividing each circumference by its diameter. We kept arriving at something close to 3.14.

I told my daughters that they had discovered a universal constant. Pi is a special, almost magical, number that just is. I told them that scientists used it to design rocket ships. I told them that builders used it to estimate their supply needs. I told them that they could even use it to calculate how much air is needed to fill a soccer ball.

To ice the cake, I had J and M put the word “pi” in the all-knowing Google search field. When even Google confirmed their calculations, they were so excited that they began to dance and all our lengths of string went flying.

Is pi for elementary students? I think kids are capable of understanding most concepts, given the chance. Let’s just keep the idea that math might be boring or hard to ourselves, shall we?

Please note that my daughters’ mathematical interests are atypical for their age. This activity is appropriate only for children who are comfortable with the basics of division. They certainly don’t need to know how to do long division, but they should understand that division is the breaking of things into equal parts, and that those parts need not be whole numbers.

Thinking about trying this activity with your children? Please let us know how it goes!

Twins and School: Together or Apart?

It’s kindergarten registration time for many of you in the US and Canada, and parents of multiples are hit with the age-old question: Together or apart?

Check out our full list of HDYDI posts on classroom placement for multiples.

Historically, many schools have had policies insisting that multiples be placed in separate classrooms. This has been changing in recent years. Likely due to the increase of multiples in the population, there has been increasing awareness of the variation between sets of multiples . Some twins do, in fact, perform better in separate classrooms, but some do better together, as Dr. Nancy Segal points out in her guest post “Separating Twins in School“.

A guide to deciding whether your #multiples will do better together or apart in the classroom. From three moms of twins whose kids have different needs.

We owe a debt of gratitude to parents who have been advocating for each set of siblings being treated individually. A number of laws have been passed around the world putting classroom placement decisions in the hands of parents, who know their children best.

My Twins Do Equally Well Together or Apart: Sadia

I thought very hard about whether my daughters should be in the same class in elementary school. I pushed aside all generalizations about what worked “for twins in general” and looked at my daughters as individuals in a relationship. They were used to being away from home for large stretches of the day, thanks to starting daycare at 11 weeks old. They were accustomed to classroom discipline. Starting kindergarten wasn’t going to be nearly as disruptive to their lives as for children with a stay-at-home parent.

M and J loved being together, but reports from their daycare program indicated that they were as likely to select different activities to participate in and friends to play with as they were to play together. They had the same friends, but different best friends. They loved being twins, but they also loved being “just J” and “just M”. Some kids had trouble telling them apart.

Given all this information, I elected to request separate classrooms for my daughters as they started kindergarten. We were late to enroll in school, thanks to last-minute Army orders, and the school asked if they could be placed in a single classroom, where they could make room. We stood firm. We wanted our daughters in separate classrooms to minimize comparison and to put focus on the girls’ individuality over their twinship.

They did just fine apart. Later in the year, when the school moved them into the same first grade class, they did fine together. When they went to first grade for real, they performed wonderfully, both socially and academically, apart. In the two years since, when they’ve been in the same classroom by their own request, they’ve done well too.

For my girls, it’s just a matter of preference. They’re equally successful being in a classroom together or classrooms apart. They just prefer to be together.

My Twins Are Better Off Together: Janna

We are so fortunate that our school district allows parents to choose whether or not twins should be in the same classroom. We chose to place our identical twin boys in the same classroom when they started kindergarten last September.

Our reasoning: we didn’t do daycare or preschool so this was the first time they were away from me and their dad, other than the occasional day with the grandparents. We didn’t want the first time away from mom to also be their first time away from each other. When at home or at the park or library story time, they had always gotten along really well, without fighting, and we hadn’t seen any negative competitive behavior between them. When they are with other children, they play both with each other and with other kids, so we were fairly confident there wouldn’t be any negative effects with them in the same class.

Also, based on logistics, having them in the same classroom is so much easier. I only send one email with information about absences, illnesses, questions, etc. I can volunteer in just one classroom. They get invited to the same birthday parties and playdates. We don’t have to deal with jealousy because one twin’s class got extra recess that day or other such things (that are a very big deal to a five year old).

And finally, (and really what probably affected our decision the most) we have friends who are 30 year old identical twins. They both agreed that being separated in elementary school made them anxious and miserable. One twin said he specifically remembers being worried while sitting in first grade, because he couldn’t physically see his brother. Because our boys are also identical and very traditionally close, this conversation definitely impacted our decision.

The result: our boys have thrived being in the same classroom. They are both doing well academically, socially, behaviorally and physically. Their report cards look the exact same (which we’ve also noticed at home — they just learn things at the same time and have the same abilities so far). They love school and they love being in the same class. According to their teacher, there are no negative effects having our boys in the same class. They rarely choose each other for their partner and sit at different tables, but they do play together at recess, along with their other friends.  She sees them occasionally looking for their twin and then going back to work during the day. Their teacher was able to tell them apart (based on head shape and a small red mark on one twin) after one week of school. Their classmates definitely have more trouble telling them apart, but so far it hasn’t bothered my boys to casually correct their friends.

This year, based on the recommendation of their teacher, logistics and my boys’ own opinions when asked, we’ve decided to keep them in the same classroom next year for first grade. Would they be okay separated? Probably, yes. But, it’s easier for me if they’re in the same classroom; they enjoy being in the same classroom; it’s easy enough for their teacher to tell them apart; and there are just no negative side effects having these two identical twin boys in the same classroom, so until there are, we’ll continue placing them in the same classroom.

My Boy Twin Needs Togetherness. My Girl Twin Is Okay Apart: Beth

When the idea for this post started, and I decided to participate, I was on the side of twins should be together.  My boy/girl twins were 21 months old and were never apart until he got sick and had to stay home from day care one day.  By then he was fine and spent the day asking for his sister.  Now a bit of background here.  She is a firecracker.  She is independent, headstrong, stubborn, and has a stare of doom that will freak you out.  He is a cuddle bug, and has been since day one.  He is older and bigger, but she has achieved most milestones first, including walking.  Once she started walking, she became even more independent.  At 21 months he is was just starting to walk and was still very unsteady.

My twins were in the baby room at day care.  The next room up is for 2-3 year olds, but most kids move in at about 16 months. At the time of writing this post, my kids were 21 months.  And Miss Independent with the stare of doom was so ready to move up.  So we did it.

And she thrived.  Every morning in the new room was fabulous. She barely waved goodbye to me before going off to check everything out.  She was happy.  So clearly, twins should be separated.

But here is the thing.  My boy was not happy.  Every drop off at day care was a heartbreaking mess.  Whether we dropped her off first or him, he was clinging to me and sobbing for dear life.  I could hear him after I left the room.  (OK, I could hear him crying for hours, which logically is not possible, but moms have that kind of super power.)  Day care promised me that he calmed down each day and did fine, but you know when you just have a feeling….

So I started pushing them to move him up too. But he was not walking well enough for that room.  Fast forward, we came up with a plan…a brilliant plan!  Both babies get dropped off in the baby room.  She (thankfully) was fine with it.  He was fabulous with it. But it did bring up face to face with the idea of separation.

The day care kept telling me that twins need to be separated.  That he was fine, eventually.  And that may be the case.  But not yet.  At 21 months old he was going through some things and needs his sister.  At 21 months old, they were still babies and while she seems to understand and appreciate (and at times accept) logic, he wasn’t there yet.  They slept in separate cribs, sat in separate car seats, and they spend time apart 2 days a week in school (while he was transitioning).  But in school he needs his sister, and that is good enough for me. She helps him walk, she gives him more confidence, and he thrived during this transition.

My twins need to be together in school, at least for now.  Check back with me in 2 years when we need to talk about Kindergarten classes.

What are you thinking? Do you think your kids will be better off together or apart in school?

Twinfant Tuesday: Separation Decisions For Multiples

“Are you going to separate them?”

“When are you going to separate them?”

Those are 2 questions that parents of multiples will have to answer over and over again as their multiples go through the different stages of childhood. The first time that question has to be answered is when you’re going home with twinfants in tow. Should they share a room? Should they share a bed?

For me the answers were fairly straightforward. Should they share a room? Absolutely! No way I’m going to manage night feedings in 2 different locations.

Should they share a bed? As long as it’s safe to do so was the consensus. What’s safe? As long as they do not have the ability to move or roll over each other, twins can share a crib. With this, my twins did share a crib for the first couple of months until they started wiggling to the middle of the crib to share body warmth. imageCute as it was, it wasn’t safe and that signified it was time for them to move into separate cribs. And so the first of many separation decisions was made based on safety and convenience.image

I wish all the other separation decisions would be as easy as the ones in the infant stage but no such luck. My babies are now pre-schoolers and I’ll soon have to face the question of separating them in school. As with the first decision that was made, the  answer will be a combination of what’s best for the family – convenient for the parents and in the best and safest interest of the kids.

If you’re a parent or caretaker of multiples, how do you do it? The separation decisions that is. What are the driving factors for determining when and how to physically separate your multiples?

Yetunde is the proud mom of twin girls, affectionately nicknamed Sugar and Spice and she blogs about the twin parenting life at www.mytwintopia.com

Toddler Thursday: Perspective Taking

At age 3 years, 2 months, my daughter J could spell three words without help: her own name, her sister’s and “No”. So, when she wanted to surprise me with a note, she was left with no choice but to ask for help—my help. She forbade me to leave the dining room, and yelled to me from the easel in the play room.

J: Mama, what’s after ‘S’ in “Sadia”?
M: ‘A’.
J: Then?
Me: ‘D’.
J: Then?
Me: ‘I’, then ‘A’.
J: How do you spell “from”?
Me: ‘F’ … ‘R’ … ‘O’ …
M: ‘M’.
J: Is ‘M’ the end?
M: Yes.
J: Mama, is ‘M’ the end?
M: Yes. Nice work, M.
J: How to you spell “to”?
Me: ‘T’ … ‘O’.
J: Then?
Me: That’s it.
J: How do you draw “don’t”?
Me: ‘D’ … ‘O’ … ‘N’ … ‘T’.
J: And “tell”?
Me: ‘T’ ‘E’ ‘L’ ‘L’.
J: ‘T’ ‘E’ ‘E’ ‘L’?
Me: No, ‘T’ ‘E’ ‘L’ ‘L’. Two ‘L’s.
J: Mommy, come see what I made for you! It says, “To Sadia from J. M, don’t tell.”

I’ve tried to help you parse this in the second image.

This 3-year-old has mastered neither linear writing nor secret-keeping. from hdydi.com

To Sadia from Jessica. Melody, don’t tell.

Toddlers are quite terrible at knowing what others know, their perspective taking skills still in development. I can report that now, at age 8, my girls are much better at keeping secrets. I’m not sure that’s the best thing, but it is fun to distract J at M’s request so that M can sneak a stuffed toy for her sister to the cashier at the toy store.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering. She is the Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America.

Help a MoM Advocate for Twins at School

I firmly believe that school administrators mean well. They have to balance the needs of the individual child against the needs of the entire student population. Like parents, however, school administrators are sometimes wrong. They sometimes have incorrect information available to them. They sometimes lack all the information available on a topic. And yes, on occasion, they’re stuck in their opinions and not open to changing them, regardless of the evidence presented to them.

As parents, we are our children’s primary advocates. On occasion, we make mistakes, and I’d like to think that we learn from them. It’s essential to support others parents in standing up for their kids. Standing up against school administration can be particularly difficult.

We received the following heartbreaking email from reader Gayle.

I need help. My fraternal boys were separated for their 2 years of pre K. It was very hard.

One is a little more spirited and had a tougher teacher. We wanted them together, and they wanted to be together for their 2nd year of pre K but were met with resistance and told to wait for kindergarten. They could be together then.

So I swallowed that gut feeling and saw my spirited son develop a facial motor tic and now also a vocal tic.

I am seeing anxiety in him. We found out at the end of the year conference he was calling himself a bad boy and saying he was bad! That broke my heart!!! He has never said that at home.

Then they told us the boys need different Kindergarten teachers “because they have different learning styles and would respond better to different teachers”. They truly don’t know if they have the same learning style because they’ve never been given the chance to have the same teacher. I want them together so I know they have the same rules and more equal treatment. And when M feels nervous or feels he has no friends he can look over and see his brother.

I am fearful for him. The superintendent took almost a month to “review all the data and info” but yet would accept none from us.

We have a meeting to “discuss placement” – I am quite sure its not going to be to put them together. 2 other sets of twins going to Kindergarten have been allowed to be together. So why not give ours the chance? I don’t want to always wonder “what if”.

I’m sure that your heart hurts for this family as much as mine does. Gayle welcomes your support, suggestions, and recommendations in the comments.

I spoke to a local mother of 6, including several children with special needs, asking her advice on successfully advocating for our children in the schools. Her response? “Documentation, documentation, documentation. And never stop advocating.”

  • Learn your rights. Many US states have a Twins Law that guarantees parents of multiples final say in whether their children should be in the same classroom or different ones.
  • Get all communication from the school in writing. Print out emails and texts and keep them in one place. If you hear something that a school official is unwilling to commit to paper or an email, then you can email them saying, “I would like to confirm that when we discussed W, you said X, I said Y, and we agreed to Z.” Invite them to respond with corrections to your statement and give them a deadline by which to respond. End with, “If I don’t hear back, I’ll assume that I’ve correctly represented your position.” Copy anyone you think needs to be informed of what was discussed.
  • Commit to writing all your communication with school officials and related professionals. Document your discussions in email as described above. Also, I strongly recommend preparing for every meeting with school officials by writing down all your arguments and bringing those notes with you. It’s easy, in the heat of the moment, to forget everything you wanted to communicate. Trust me. I’ve done it.
  • Seek out support from professionals who know your children as individuals. Don’t be afraid to confer with your pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, psychologist/counselor, or even friends and family who know your children. Get them to write down their thoughts and recommendations. I know that it can feel like you’re imposing when you ask for supporting documentation from these people, but remember that your child’s wellbeing is at stake. It’s also okay to seek out a second opinion. For example, if the school speech therapist doesn’t think your child needs services, but you’re certain that she does, get an independent therapist to evaluate your child. We had to get a second opinion for my daughter M.
  • Keep copies of everything. On occasion, you’ll have to hand out copies of your documentation. Make sure you keep a copy of everything. Everything. I submitted my twins’ kindergarten year school records to their new school… and they lost them. I still don’t have copies.
  • Be aware that you may have to fight the same fight over and over. A new teacher, principal, counselor, or even school year may necessitate you making the same argument for your child all over again. I was fortunate that the second time I had to argue that my daughters be taught at their level regardless of their grade placement, I had the school counselor in our corner… and my arguments were practiced and polished.
  • Seek out existing advocacy documentation. For those of us who need to advocate for twin-specific issues, know that there are tools out there to explain the variation and commonalities of multiples’ experiences in school. At this year’s Multiples of American convention, I picked up a copy of the NOMOTC guide titled Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School. This is a resource I highly recommend, and can be purchased from Multiples of America. I am so convinced of its effectiveness in helping us advocate for our children that I will commit to lending my copy to any HDYDI reader who wishes to borrow it. I will mail my copy to you at my expense and ask you to return it to me or pass it along to the next person in line at your expense. For other issues, I recommend that you seek out organizations specific to the issue. They may have documentation available to you.
  • Seek out proponents within the system. Sometimes, having a friend within the system who knows you and your children can be the difference between smooth sailing and a fight. Be polite to everyone you meet and help out where you can. The friends you make can help you navigate school system politics.

Now, a few thoughts specific to Gayle’s very difficult situations.

  • You are not alone. We are behind you and support you in your efforts to do what’s right for your sons. We are angry and sad right with you.
  • Find out whether your state has a Twins Law. Many states and countries have laws in place that protect a parent’s right to make classroom placement decisions for their multiples.
  • You are the expert when it comes to your children. You. Not the school administration, regardless of what they think they know from the classroom or their general assumptions about twins.
  • We would recommend getting an evaluation from a child psychologist. I predict that a professional outside the school system would back you up.
  • Contact your local mothers of multiples club and find out whether there’s another mom or two who can testify to the importance of treating twin sets in a way that acknowledges each child’s needs.
  • The “different learning styles” argument has big holes in it. Any decent teacher is capable of teaching a group of children, each with his own learning style.
  • Point out, by email, that you have documentation that needs to be considered by the superintendent. If you receive no response, you can turn to local news outlets to help you put pressure on the school district.
  • Do what you can to tease apart what part of the negative experience may have come from having a poor teacher as compared to being separated.
  • Ask your boys what they want as far as classroom placement, and why.
  • If all else fails, be open to switching school districts. I bought a house that would us at the school I wanted for my girls.

What advice do you have when it comes to being an advocate for twins?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She is the newly minted Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America, also known as the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC). She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

The Twin Dynamic (Spoiler: There Isn’t Just One)

My daughters were only one of four sets of twins in their grade in the school’s dual language program. Forty-nine kids. Eight twins. This meant that their teachers got some really great insights into the variation that exists in twin relationships.

We got to talking about this the other night over dinner, and I found Mrs. H’s observations to be fascinating.

The Twin Dynamic

First, some background.

Both my 8-year-olds, M and J, are excellent at math. However, M is extremely public and loud about being good at math. When she has nothing else to do, she walks around multiplying 2 and 3 digit numbers in her head and announcing her results to everyone within earshot. J just does the math she needs to do to get through her day and make her teachers proud. She’d rather read.

In a recent math/problem-solving competition, it was J who placed nationally. M did extremely well, earning a spot on the honour roll thanks to her 90th percentile score, but J got the really big deal award.

Their teacher, Mrs. H, who is also their best friend’s mother, is very sensitive to all her students’ confidence and emotional needs. So, before announcing J’s accomplishment to the class, she asked M if it would be okay to acknowledge her exceptional performance on this test. She reminded M that she was fully aware that she was the Class Mathematician and that she really does have stupendous numerical and logical abilities.

M didn’t hesitate for a moment. Of course she wanted J acknowledged. She was proud of her sister. She was prouder of her sister being one of 89 students out of 25,000 nationwide to earn a perfect score than she would have been had she achieved it herself. In fact, it was M who bragged to me (and every stranger we encountered) about her sister’s performance, not realizing I’d already heard from the teacher. I was the one point out how well M had done, and she poopooed my enthusiasm in light of J’s win.

Mrs. H observed to me that my daughters’ pride in each other, protectiveness of each other, and lack of competitiveness in academics was unique among the twin pairs under her tutelage. J and M can bicker with the best of them, but when there’s an accomplishment to be noted, there’s never any resentment. They have no sense that one sister performing better diminishes the other in any way.

Neither of them can stand to lose at board games, though. The tears that have been shed in our house over Candyland, Monopoly and Yahtzee could fill a small lake. I banned playing for points the day I introduced Scrabble.

The other girl twins, Mrs. H told me when I asked, are rather more likely to measure their academic performance against each other. They’re more likely to take differences to heart. They, too, are extremely high performers at school. Mrs. H joked that when other teachers make comments about how smart “her twins” are, it takes quite a bit of digging to figure out which pair is under discussion. All four girls have straight black hair, are half-Mexican, dress differently from their sisters, and are sweet, well-mannered, and popular on the playground. The two sets of boys were in the class at different times, so they’re a little easier to distinguish. The boys, too, are rather more competitive than my daughters.

I think it’s important to remember that multiples, as sets, are as unique as they are as individuals. My twins’ relationship doesn’t look like your twins’ relationship, and that’s good and normal. I wish more educators were like Mrs. H, recognizing that being a twin doesn’t dictate how a child interacts with the world. At least in my experience, the twin relationship enriches the individual child, rather than dictating her behaviour or limiting her options.

Stay tuned for a post next week containing our advice to a mother who is fighting for her sons’ right to be in the same classroom. I so wish they had Mrs. H as their teacher. She gets it.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Separate Preschools – An End of Year Update

Preschoolbeforeandafter

Some of you might remember my post last summer about separating my twin boys for preschool, not into different classes, but into different schools. We are wrapping up the school year so I thought I would share a bullet-point list update of how the year went. One kid was done two weeks ago, the other finishes today. (Making up the snow days.)

DSC_0700

Good

  • Independence. Every discussion on separating twins in school eventually independence is cited as a main reason to separate. In our case, I didn’t feel like they were ready to be apart, and they didn’t really understand what was happening. However, it was very clear to us as parents that one was incredibly reliant on the other, to the point he would defer to his brother to answer questions about the alphabet or counting. Being in his own school, he has been able to demonstrate he can do those things on his own, without his brother.
  • New Experiences. Both boys love their teachers and have enjoyed going to school. They love telling each other about what they did today in school and they are able to share these experiences with each other.
  • Excelling in the school. Without the other to lean on, they have each grown and really prospered.
  • New friends. They have both made new friends and look forward to seeing them at school. We have set up playdates with new friends and it is nice to see them form friendships without each other. 
  • Progress. This time last year we were at such a tough place, middle-of-terrible-3’s, a kid with un-dagnosed, indeterminate delays, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating. Now a year later it is so much better. We have answers, strategies and we are all working together. It’s truly amazing to see how much progress we have all made as a family.

Bad

  • Juggling two different school calendars. One kid goes four days a week, one goes two days a week, overlapping only one day, but forcing us to be two places at once. Both schools were considerate of the situation within our family and invited the other kid to class parties. It never worked out though, it seemed whenever the parties were scheduled, one or the other was sick, or the other was in class that day in the other school. Both schools had a policy of no siblings on field trips, but requested parents to accompany their kids. Every field trip except one we couldn’t go because the trips, of course, fell of a day the other was NOT in school. 
  • Dependence. My boys are very close and play well together (most of the time.) They have active imaginations and finish each other’s thoughts. They devise games and scenarios and have similar interests. We have a playgroup we have played with since the boys were babies, comprised of other twin families, and whom my kids play with really well. It was surprising to read in a progress report that one of my sons did not have any friends, did not play with any other children and did not seem to socialize with anyone other than the adults in the room. Considering how social he is at home and with his playgroup friends, this was unexpected. He has since made a couple friends and seeks them out occasionally, but without the companionship of his brother it seems like he is less confident in making friends.
  • Emotions trauma and drama. The first weeks were really hard. Tears, tantrums, acting out, you name it. Same thing happened after Christmas break and the first few days of spring break after they’ve been together 24/7 again. We’ve also seen a lot of jealousy when one kid has something fun at school like a field trip or pajama day. One kid would have a bring-your-favorite-toy day and the other would want to bring one too. I was always writing notes explained weird outfits or things in backpacks. 
  • The Twin Thing. When we have been invited to parties or playdates, I am not really sure how to include/not exclude the other kid. I have been “that Mom” who invited her other kid to a playdate because I didn’t want to have one miss it because he has a twin brother. At age 4, playdates are still a Mom-goes-too event and as far as I am concerned these two are a package deal for now. Eventually they can have their own social calendars, but for now where one goes we all go.

Ugly

  • Germs. Lots of them. One preschool class is a pertidish of plagues, two was ridiculous. We just got through the longest, crummiest winter in Chicago in a century so we were inside, a lot. And with two classes full of oozing, snotty, sneezy preschoolers exposing our family to bug after bug, we pretty much had something or another in an endless cycle the past seven months. We had so much plague at our house, it was gross. Pink eye, tummy bugs, endless coughs, colds, fevers, snot. Yuck.
  • Uncertainty. We had to wait until May for the IEP meeting to find out whether my one son would continue in the early childhood program. Truthfully I wasn’t sure he would, he’s done so well meeting his goals. So we had to enroll him in the other school with his brother so we could save two spots in one class. At the meeting we were told he would definitely be going back next year, that he still has ground to cover before he’s ready to start Kindergarten. Due to their November birthday, they will be almost-6 when they start Kindergarten and have another whole year of preschool where they will be 5 most of the year. After this year of preschool, though, it is uncertain what will happen next. Whether they will be back together, separate classes, separate schools, separate grade levels. 

 

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 4-year-old twin boys who just finished up a year of preschool, separated and on their own. They all survived and thrived.  Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.

MiM: End of Year Teacher Gift – Personalized Cookies

At the end of the school year, I like to use gifts to show my gratitude to the teachers, school staff, and afterschool counselors with whom I’ve entrusted my children’s education and safety. Unfortunately, my budget is rather small and my time limited. I got larger gifts for my daughters’ classroom teachers (shhhh… they’re still a secret) and decorated these cookies for a straightforward but elegant offering for the girls’ art, music, PE and Gifted and Talented teachers, afterschool care counselors, and office staff.

Teacher gift: Personalized cookies

(I know. It’s not Monday. Still, it’s been a while since a Make-It Monday post and I wanted to get this out there for others waiting until the last minute for teacher gifts.)

To really save time, instead of baking fresh cookies, I used store-bought round shortbread cookies. I made a batch of thick royal icing, then divided it, tinted the sections, and thinned portions into a flood consistency. I’ll share my royal icing recipe below, but for instructions and notes on consistency, allow me to refer you to the amazing Amber of Sweetambs.

Royal Icing

  • 2 lbs (1 package) confectioners sugar
  • 3 tbsp meringue powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavour
  • ½ tsp butter flavour
  • about 10 tbsp warm water, with more water for thinning

Mix all ingredients together in a stand mixer and beat until well-mixed, scraping down the sides.

I used food colours from the basic Wilton 12-colour set. I used the burgundy for a light pink and dark pink, the Kelly green for a light green and dark green, and a touch of brown to give an ivory tint to the white.

None of this stuff requires piping tips, although I like to use disposable piping bags with the tips snipped off. You could also just transfer your icing into a Ziploc bags and cIip a corner with scissors.

I used basic wet-on-wet royal icing techniques for all the cookies except the volleyballs. Rather than reinvent the wheel, allow me to refer your to the experts. Amber does an expert job of demonstrating how to make the roses and leaves on her blog and shows us how to get the marbled look in this video.

(Note that I only did the first sets of lines and didn’t bother with the scoring parallel to the lines of icing.)

Originally, all the teachers were going to get roses, but my daughters were completely appalled by this proposal. They thought that roses could work for their art teacher, but it was obvious to them that I needed to something that reflected the subject that each teacher taught. They agreed to treble clefs for their music teacher, volleyballs for PE, and YMCA logos for their afterschool counselors. I suggested books for their Gifted and Talented teacher, but they couldn’t get on the same page, so we went with marbled cookies to represent creativity and abstract concepts.

For the YMCA logo cookies, I just outlined the triangle of the Y before flooding the surface of the cookie. Then, I flooded the inside of the triangle with a contrasting colour. Finally, I used flood consistency icing to outline the remainder of the logo freehand. The treble clef cookies were also all freehand. Red Couch Recipes shows you how to make the heart-ish border with dots of icing and a toothpick.

Finally, for the volleyball cookies, I flooded the surface of each cookie and allowed them to dry for at least an hour so that the stiff icing I used for the lines wouldn’t sink into the  surface beneath.

Straightforward volleyball design for cookies (or cupcakes... or whatever)

I let all the cookies dry solid overnight (at least 12 hours), then stored them all in an airtight container until I was ready to hand them out. I packed them with foodsafe tissue paper in cute containers, added my thank you cards, tossed in a few icing roses (demoed by Sugarbelle), and I was done!

Volleyball cookies for PE teachers!

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Toddler Thursday: 6 Steps to Encourage Toddler Literacy

The seeds of a reading habit are coaxed to life during the toddler years.

The seeds for my daughters’ early literacy were planted during infancy and nurtured during the toddler years. By pre-school (age 4), my girls could read simple short books they’d never seen before, such as Amelia Bedelia and Hop on Pop. My daughters were independently reading chapter books by the time they were 5.

I can’t guarantee that your children will be early readers, but these are my tips for getting your toddlers on the path to reading.

  1. Keep books within reach. I highly recommend that you give your children free access to age-appropriate books. I know that it’s tempting to keep things neat by putting toys and books out of reach of your toddler. However, having independent access to his or her books will encourage your toddler to handle them, explore them, and become familiar with them. It can be as simple as reserving the bottom shelf of your bookshelves for children’s books.
    Keep kids' books within their reach to encourage a love of reading.
  2. Let toddlers leaf through magazines and catalogues. They can get used to the texture of paper and how it should be handled. You probably won’t care if they tear some of the pages. Magazines and catalogues are filled with bright, engaging pictures. You may be surprised by the stories your toddler comes up with to describe what’s going on!
    Let toddlers look through catalogs and magazines.
  3. Invest in letter recognition toys. We loved our LeapFrog Fridge Phonics. Just looking at this photo of M with her magnets brought the song back to me. ♫ “B says /b/. B says /b/. Every letter makes a sound. B says /b/.” ♬ The repetitive nature of this noisy toy drove the girls’ Dad bonkers, but my kids learned their letters! It doesn’t look like Leapfrog makes the fridge model any more, but I suspect that the Letter Factory Phonics does the trick.
    Leapfrog Phonics toys help toddlers learn their letters.
  4. Make a game of letter recognition. We had a rather long commute to and from daycare. We’d pick a different letter for each ride and look for it everywhere: on billboards, license plates and store signs. I also kept a pack of dollar store alphabet flashcards in the car and would have a grand time quizzing the girls on the letter I was holding up. Sometimes, I’d just ask them to name the letter. Other times, we’d come up with every word we could think of that started with that letter. J and M were able to participate in this game and enjoy it thoroughly by the time they were 2.Alphabet flashcards are a great basis for many toddler-friendly games.
  5. Get your child his or her own library card. Gone are the old days of librarians shushing children. At every public library we’ve visited (and that’s a lot), children’s librarians have been warm and welcoming and very patient with my kids’ age-appropriately childish behaviour. They value toddler literacy as much as you do! Many libraries will associate your children’s library account with yours so that you can track all your materials. The sense of ownership of having one’s own library card can’t be beat, and getting to use it encourages your child to explore the stacks and read checked out books. It’s perfectly all right to confine your toddler’s options to board books at first.This library offers child-specific library accounts and cards. Great way to encourage a healthy library habit!
  6. Read to them, with them and in front of them every day. You feed your kid food every day to nourish his or her body. Reading every day nourishes his or her mind. Seeing you read helps normalize reading as an enjoyable activity. We read books throughout the day whenever we could. Even on days into which I couldn’t quite fit in devoted reading time between getting home from work and feeding and bathing the kids, we read Goodnight Moon as part of our bedtime routine. After about a year, I didn’t even need to read it to them any more. My daughters recited it from memory, delighted to be able to do such a grownup thing as “read”.Reading with your kids is a great way to spend time together.

What recommendations do you have for encouraging a love of the written word in toddlers?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.