A Tale of Two Classrooms

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Categories Classroom Placement, PreschoolersTags , , 13 Comments

Last week, my pair of three-year-olds started preschool.

Second day of school

Did you hear that heavenly chorus bursting forth from your computer? That’s coming from my house.  Five mornings a week, we hit the car drop-off line, and in they go to their bright, beautiful Montessori classrooms.  And yes, that’s plural.  My three-year-olds are in separate classrooms.

The curriculum is designed as a longitudinal program, so the children stay in the same classroom, with the same teacher, for three years.  In large part because of that structure, the expectation is that siblings will be in separate classrooms, twins or otherwise.  I was initially a little taken aback, as I had always assumed my kids would stay together in preschool and separate later on.  But when I stopped to think about it, and thought about my own kids and how they relate to one another, I really believe that it’s the best thing for them.  (And if I hadn’t, I could have found another school, or possibly argued my case.)

My kids are reasonably close, as siblings go, but nowhere near as much as some sets of twins. I don’t say that as a good or bad thing, just as a point of fact. They play well together (until they start fighting, of course), but they don’t mind having time away from one another.  They love it when my husband and I split them up for part of the day on the weekends.  They were thrilled to move into their own bedrooms.

For my children, I think the separate classrooms work well.  My son gets a break from being bossed around by his sister, and won’t be distracted because he’s too busy poking her.  My daughter gets to come out of her brother’s more-outgoing shadow, and not spend so much time concerned with what he’s doing (and whether he’s doing it “right”).  They get to be known as individuals, instead of always being seen as a unit.  Yes, boy/girl twins have it easier in that regard than same-sex (and, especially, identical) twins.  But I still think that, when they’re together, even the most well-meaning person can tend to see them as a pair and sometimes treat them as such.  Heck, I know I do it, and I’m their mother!

And you know what? Being in separate classrooms does not seem to have phased them in the slightest. Certainly, we talked about it ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise when school started.  But every day, they have walked their own way with nary a backwards glance.  They sometimes find each other on the playground at the end of the morning, but not always.  They are happy to see each other at pick-up, and play together all afternoon and all weekend.  But I think they might actually like that three hours a day that is, in a sense, their own.

Oh, sure, it presents some logistical challenges for mama.  On orientation day, when parents were supposed to stay in the classrooms with their kids, I had to make sure my husband could take the morning off.  It makes me a little twitchy that I have gotten to know my son’s teacher better than my daughter’s (yes, seriously, it’s still only a few days into the year, I’ll get over it).  The two teachers do things slightly differently, which makes for a few extra things to remember, and minor conflicts when one child brings home drawings whenever they’re done, and the other is supposed to save them for Fridays.

But even just a week and a half into our first school year, I feel confident that having my kids in separate classrooms was the right call for us.

What about you? Are your kids together in school, or separate? If you haven’t hit school age yet, what do you think would work in your twins’ relationship?

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Prep School

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Categories Celebrations, Childcare, Development, Family, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags , , , , 5 Comments

My boys start school in a week.

I found out that two spots had opened up for them last August, but it just didn’t feel like the right time. We had upcoming travel to California. Their nana was moving to town a few weeks later. There was a lot of change in their lives and I didn’t want to push it. After much deliberation, talking to the school administrators, conferring with other moms, we decided they would start with the new year. I marked the calendar. January 5th was the day.

Way back in October, I began my plan to gradually prepare them for this day. We casually talked about school. We regularly looked at a fantastic book called “Wow! School!” that I found at in the dollar bin at the grocery store. We drove past school and waved and marveled at the playground. In November, I scheduled a visit for the boys to meet their teacher and play outside with their classmates. It was a huge success. In December, we had two visits where the the boys and I spent the first hour in the classroom for their day opening activities. We’ve talked about school almost every day.

And now that we are a week away, I’m talking with them specifically about what to expect. That they will stay at school without mommy. That I will drop them off and they will spend time at school without me, like big boys, and they will play and learn and laugh and eat, and then I will be back to pick them up. When we talk about it they are happy and say things like, “school!” and “teetee! (teacher)” and “play!” We started our day today by driving by school and waving and then going to Starbucks across the street for a blueberry muffin. We’ll do this a few more times this week. I feel like they are exhaustively prepared and I’m exhausted just from reiterating all of it!

And yet, I feel completely and utterly unprepared!

How did this sneak up on me like this? I’ve spent almost every single hour of every single day of the past two years with them, and now what? How am I supposed to say goodbye to them? At almost two, are they too young for this? Will they be sick every day for the next six months from all the germs? Where do I get a freaking nap mat and can I get the 1 inch kind or should I spring twenty bucks for the 2 inch thick deluxe version? What the heck do I pack them for lunch? You mean I have to PACK them a lunch every night?!

Emotionally I feel completely ambivalent. On one hand, I feel we are all ready for this. They will strive in a structured Montessori environment. They will learn so much from people who are trained to teach toddlers. They will learn even more from being around their peers. And I know the social interaction is worth its weight in gold. The boys are great around other kids, but I’ve noticed more and more lately how they tend to cling to each other. And define what they are doing by what their brother is doing. I know this is all natural, but I want to give them the tools early on for being socially independent. Or at least giving them an environment where they can choose to be socially independent from one another.

Selfishly, I also crave some social independence. My existence has been crucially tied to them since they were born. I feel such gratitude to my husband, to the universe, for making this possible. But I’ve become increasingly antsy and want to start doing more things for myself. Professional undertakings, health-and-diet improvements, a kitchen remodel – I have goals and lists that make me dizzy. But most important, I want to regain a sense of “me” again. Lastly, the boys are quickly approaching numero dos, which has brought utter joy and hilarity, as well as incredibly intense challenges. Not that I want to cop out, but I’m pretty excited about getting a daily break from this.

But all these very healthy and logical reasons doesn’t stop the ache, the hesitation and the sense of impending loss that has invaded my heart the past few days. More than anything, it’s manifesting me to second guess our choice of school. Our last visit left me wanting. The teacher was running late so the aids were running the class. Things seemed chaotic. An aid grabbed a toy out of a child’s hand without warning. They read the kids an appalling book about a child who does everything wrong at school. I heard a lot of nos and negatives, which isn’t my style of parenting. Kids were coughing all over each other and one girl had green snot spewing out of her nose. I’m freaking out just recalling it. But I also know this is just my brain’s way of trying to flee.

I can’t help but feel a sense of loss in all this. Like this is the last week I’ll spend with my boys. Our last hurrah. Silly, I know. I’ll still see them every morning, every afternoon and every evening. But I think the loss I feel goes deeper. It means I need to let go. Lighten my grip. Allow someone, other than myself, my husband or nana, to care for my boys. I think our last visit freaked me out so much because I had to accept, in some way, an environment that was out of my control. This is a big deal for me. Not because I’m some neurotic control freak. It’s just because I’m a mom. And as a mom I realize that at some point I will have to let go. A little bit at first, a little more later, and a hell-of-a-lot more when they grab the keys to the car and say, “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!” This is my first time letting them out of my protective wingspread, and truth be told, I’m scared. So much so I actually had a dream a few months back that they died at school. The worst dream I ever had. Maybe I need therapy?

I know I will get through this and in a month or so I will be singing the praises of school. It’s just weighing so heavy, as I’m sure it does for millions of other parents dropping off their babies (no matter how old they are) at school/day care/etc. for the first time. It’s just going to be a tough few first weeks. Or maybe it won’t. But regardless, things will be very different around here.

Amidst the whirlwind of emotions, I am very excited. Thrilled even. To realize that I’ve gotten the boys this far and now they are ready for the next step. To witness what they soak in and learn in this new environment. To realize that I’m going to have a bit of freedom again in my life, an opportunity to re-imagine and re-identify myself. To seize this time I will have for myself, and cherish, perhaps even more deeply, the time I have with my boys.

Completely scary and completely thrilling. Just like parenting always is.

Dropping them off at school for the first time can't be half as scary as watching them climb an eight foot rope ladder at the same time!
Dropping them off at school for the first time can't be half as scary as watching them climb an eight foot rope ladder at the same time!
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