learnings

What's the best course of action for educating twins?


twins in class

There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision:

Should I keep them together or should I separate them?

This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins.

Think about it: they share the same DNA, they look exactly alike (to most people outside of the immediate family) and they are, by most accounts, at the same stage of development. The natural course of action that is taken is to keep them together, at least for the early days of preschool and Kindergarten.

My boys are figuratively joined at the hip, doing almost everything together including bathing, playing, sleeping and fighting. They are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, depending on the day and time. They love each other. They despise each other. And if they had the maturity to provide some perspective on their relationship, I have no doubt that they would not have it any other way.

Yet, like most parents of identical twins, I’m acutely aware of the natural inclination to treat the children the same. After all – it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that the kids are two parts of a whole, that they are more or less the same, because of the simple fact that, to the untrained eye, they look the same.

In spite of this fact, they are individuals, reality that becomes increasingly important to them as they navigate the world, correcting those who think that they are their brother – and vice versa. Without being an identical twin, it’s hard to imagine always being mistaken for someone else, or, on the flip side, having someone who looks exactly like you. It must be simultaneously annoying and amazing.

Fraternal twins are often grouped together by outsiders as well, though not as much, especially if the twins don’t look alike, or are of different sexes. While the incidences of comparison are not as high as they are with identical twins, the tendency to do so by outsiders exists nonetheless. Teachers who have a pair of twins in their class – identical or fraternal – often naturally make comparisons between the siblings, as it is human nature to do so.

During the early stages of socialization, e.g. preschool, daycare and Kindergarten, it makes sense to take the simple route and put them together in the same class. This way, there’s no trauma at the prospect of being alone in a new social environment without the comfort of that sibling that will be their guide, confidante and friend, no matter what.

But the time will come where a choice must be made: should they remain together, joined at the proverbial hip to offer support to their sibling, or should they part ways, venture into the world (or classroom) alone and gain their independence?

The right answer is not an easy one, and as a parent having to make this choice, its particularly stress-inducing.

Like any critical decision, the pros and cons must be weighed in order to make the right decision. This is a tricky one, as there good arguments on both sides of the fence – a fact that doesn’t make it easier for the parents in making a decision. As a parent struggling with making a decision about what the right choice is for my kids, I know I’m not alone. Knowing that the choice made will have long-reaching effects on my kids makes the decision to separate the twins – or not – even more daunting. To this end, I thought it would be a good idea to list both the positive and negative implications of separating twins at school. Here’s what I came up with:

Pros and Cons of Separating Twins at School

Pros:

  1. Each twin is better able to foster a sense of individuality
  2. Dependency on each other is decreased, allowing each twin to gain confidence in their own abilities
  3. The incidences of being compared to or confused with the other twin is eliminated
  4. The absence of the other twin provides an environment where each twin can “grow” into their own personalities and characters
  5. Competition between twins will decrease when they’re not in the same classroom daily
  6. The absence of the other twin as a “built-in” friend and companion will allow each twin to form friendships with other children

Cons:

  1. The comfort of knowing that their twin is immediately close by is removed, a fact that may increase anxiety amongst some twins
  2. Twins often rely on each other to provide support emotionally; twins who are separated may have increased difficulty relying on others for a certain level of emotional support
  3. The effect of emotional distress and anxiety that some twins may feel being separated from their sibling may affect their academic progress in school
  4. Parents of twins separated at school will have to navigate double the amount of school-related activities on behalf of their kids (two separate parent-teacher interview appointments, two separate parent volunteer days at school, etc.)

Conclusion: While I’d love to say what the definitive answer is to this question, unfortunately the jury is out. While it may appear that solely on the basis of pros and cons, the scale tips on the side of separating the twins, this is not necessarily the case. Each set of twins are individuals and their ability to positively advance in school, separated or not, depends on a number of factors. These include the personalities of each twin, their ability to adapt to change, and the level of mutual reliance on each other. It would be great to have a “one-size fits all” answer but as we all know, most important decisions related to kids are not ever simple.

On a related note, here’s an extreme case of twins being separated at birth with an incredibly positive outcome:

Separated at Birth, Reunited on Facebook

So what are your thoughts and experiences about separating twins at school? Is it a good idea to keep them together or better to separate them? What are your reasons for the choices that you made? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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boy reading on grass

School’s out and the kids are taking it easy. For many, the morning rush, homework and studying may now seem like distant memories. With the spectre of fun in the sun, summer camp or days filled with inordinate amounts of play on the horizon, schoolwork is one of the last things on the minds of most kids.

Yet, for parents, there’s often a fear that much of what has been learned over the school year will dissipate in the face of what the kids may view as more worthwhile activities. Let’s face it: there are competing priorities happening and as far as the kids are concerned, the fun and games are going to win.

For parents who have spent much of the year making sure that their kids are on track with their studies, there is often a fear that the summer break will “undo” all of the hard work and learning that was achieved during the previous school year. While the chance of this happening is unlikely, what is likely that kids will put much of what they’ve learned on the back burner, replacing it with more pressing pursuits.

Fortunately, the summer holidays don’t have to be a time where all learning goes by the wayside. There are many ways that parents can keep their kids on track for the coming school year without dampening the fun during the kids’ summer vacation. Parents who are interested in keeping their kids’ minds active over the summer break should check the September curriculum for their child’s upcoming grade so that they know what to expect when school starts again. Having knowledge of what will be on your child’s agenda is enough to start the ball rolling in terms of having your kids learn through the summer months. Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean that kids have to lose the momentum of learning that has been built up throughout the year.  With a little planning, children can still enjoy their summer holidays while continuing to keep their minds sharp.

Following are 5 things parents can do to keep their child’s minds active over the summer holidays:

1) Library Time – The summer months provide a great opportunity for kids to catch up on their reading or for new readers, to build their skills. To encourage a love or reading, make trips to the local library a regular occurrence. Many libraries have summer programs that are specially geared towards young readers that focus on the joy and fun that reading brings. Programs may include story time, reading in a group or incentive-based reading goals to inspire kids to pick up a book or two. For older kids, encourage them to spend a few hours at the library each week, reading for both fun and learning.

2) Outdoor “Classes” – The warm weather is the perfect backdrop for learning. Who said that schooling has to happen in a classroom? Visit your local park, have a picnic and encourage your child to kick back with a good book or learning-related materials in the great outdoors. Set up a picnic table with paper, pencils, and any workbook materials and watch your child become refocused on learning. They’ll enjoy the change of pace and will be more motivated in the new environment.

3) Fun and Games – Was your child struggling with math or spelling during the school year? Why not make it fun over the summer while encouraging learning? Playing card games that provide an opportunity to learn math or word games such Scrabble that support spelling are a great way of passing the time during the summer holiday break. Play one-on-one with your child to support and answer questions during the games so that you can focus on the areas of learning that your son or daughter needs. You can also encourage them to play these games with their friends for additional learning opportunities (and time away from screens!).

4) Science Learning – Use the great outdoors and nature as an opportunity to teach your kids some basics about science. Activities can include a nature hike with frequent stops to discuss plants, critters, bugs and anything that may cross your paths. Warm summer evenings are a great time for star-gazing and learning about the planets. As well, many cities have a local science museum that supports summer learning for kids. Check your local listings for details on child-friendly events that are available.

6) Community Events – Education doesn’t have to include classrooms and book reports. Children can often learn many important lessons through exposure to cultural and local festivals and events. Whether it’s trying a new food, learning about different cultural customs or even being exposed to a new language, attending these events will provide a great opportunity for discussion and learning. Make a plan to check out local community activities over the summer break with your kids and watch them learn while having fun.

What other suggestions do you have for keeping your child’s mind active over the summer holidays? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com

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Mother's Day
I was the in-studio guest for CBC Radio’s Ontario Today program just in advance of Mother’s Day. The topic at hand was Mother’s Day Gifts, specifically the best and worst ever received. Listen to the entire segment below for some interesting stories of Mothers’ Days past. Some of the gifts given as told by the phone-in listeners are pretty incredible to say the least!

Click on the link below to listen to the full interview:

CBC Radio Ontario Today – What Was Your Best and Worst Mother’s Day Gift?

Image courtesy of http://ca.shine.yahoo.com

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It's true: Mom really knows best

 

mother daughter vintage

What is it about moms? They just seem to know everything, right? Why is that?

My mother is no different. Sure, there as a time – a long time – that I didn’t believe her. After all, what did she know? She couldn’t have any sound advice because she hadn’t lived, at least not like I had. This was the delusion of my teenage mind.

It was only when I became a mother myself that I realized that my mom knew far more than I had given her credit for. The very sage advice from mom that I had previously ignored seemed to all of a sudden resonate with me. Yes – I will tell anyone who listens that the old adage is true: Mom really does know best.

“It was only when I became a mother myself that I realized that my mom knew far more than I had given her credit for. The very sage advice from mom that I had previously ignored seemed to all of a sudden resonate with me.”

And throughout the years, the many tears, joys, disappointments and surprises, my mother has been right all along. She just knew that things would work out the way that they did. How could it be?

Perhaps the reality was that she had indeed experienced life, love and loss, and as a result, was able to provide advice on all of these subjects with authority.

Because only those who can say that they have truly “been there, done that” have the ability to give bang-on parenting advice – and then some.

Me and my mom – March 2013

Only recently I realized that Mom’s good advice had actually sunk in, and that I was following her words of wisdom. So true are these pearls of wisdom that I felt that it was only fair to pass on the intelligence to others.

1) No price? Don’t bother asking – If you go to a store and are admiring a beautiful item of clothing, trinket or home furnishing, look for the price-tag. If you don’t see a price-tag, guess what? You likely can’t afford the item. Products that are not labelled with a price are almost always much too expensive for the average Jane. By not pricing an item, the assumption is that “money is no object” and therefore, not necessary to scope out before making the decision to buy.

2) If you don’t cover your neck you’ll get a cold in your chest – The human neck is an often ignored part of the anatomy. My mother is convinced that not covering your neck when it’s even just slightly cool out will bring on a bout of a very bad cold. For years, I was convinced that my mother was obsessed with necks. This part of the body needed to be covered if the weather seemed to be even just a tad intemperate. Of course while I was a teenager I thought my mom was crazy, but as I’ve gotten older, I must admit that there’s some truth to this. No scarf = a cold, some coughing and sometimes worse – guaranteed. Now I always cover my neck.

3) Never show up at someone’s home empty-handed – It’s rude, disrespectful and thoughtless. If someone has taken the time to invite you over, whether it’s for a coffee or a full dinner, make sure to bring a token. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it could be some flowers, a plant or a box of chocolates. The key is to show your appreciation for your host’s efforts. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.

4) Always make sure you can take care of yourself – Unfortunately this is especially important for women because at the end of the day, women still make 77 cents to every dollar that a man makes. Coming from a family where hard work was prized above all, there was no excuse for laziness. At the end of the day, I learned from my mom that being self-reliant and independent is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself. Knowing that if push comes to shove, that you can take care of yourself and your kids on your own is empowering, and a lesson that all parents should teach to their kids.

5) Cut your losses and get out  – If a bad situation seems like it’s rapidly becoming hopeless, end it. It’s probably not worth any more of your time or emotional energy so get out while you can. This applies to relationships, work, school and all other life situations that can cause you great stress. This is particularly sage advice for teenagers hanging on to a hopeless relationship with a loser boyfriend.

6) Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about yourself – No one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them. So said my very smart mother and of course she was right. We teach people how to treat us, and if we accept bad behavior, that’s what we’ll keep receiving. Have some self-respect, treat yourself well and others will follow suit.

7) Get an education – The importance of a good education was not lost on my parents and was imbued within us as early as was humanly possible. My mother always said that your world would be so much easier to navigate with an education. Schooling opens doors, no doubt about it and not getting an education would not have been accepted by my mother or father. Thankfully I listened and am glad I did. Chalk up another winner for Mom.

8) Whatever you do, do it well – Following #7, do the best you can at whatever you do. My mother always said that it didn’t matter what it was that you were doing; what mattered was that you were happy doing it, and that you were doing it to the best of your abilities. A lesson well-learned and always remembered. Don’t do a half-hearted job; it’s worse than not doing it at all.

9) Don’t worry about it – Really. Don’t. It’s not worth it, in the long run. No matter how much you think that the situation that you’re in is the be-all and end-all of everything, you will very quickly learn that this is never really the case. Mom knew this and did her best to teach me this very important philosophy. After many, many years of stress, I think I’m finally learning. Variation on this theme “Better days are ahead” (my mom always said this as well).

10) You can never be too kind – “Kill them with kindness” was always one of my mom’s favourite expressions. This is particularly the case when you’re confronted with a truculent sort. They’re usually thrown for a loop when you smile sweetly and respond positively to their crabbiness. Try it. It works.

I love you mom. And thanks.

What is the best advice that you received from your mother?

To read this article on Huffington Post, please click here.

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Monday Musings – How to Have a Happy Family

by Samantha on February 25, 2013

Happy family pic

 

What characteristics are the makings of a happy family? That’s what we all want to know, isn’t it?

The question of how to have a happy family is front and centre for most parents. A simple question, for sure, with an answer (or answers) that is anything but. So many of us struggle with the day-to-day stresses that are part and parcel of parenting. If only we could be provided with a magical solution, a primer of sorts, that would provide us with what to do in order to maintain not only order but smiles and contentment in our households. If only it were that easy… Perhaps it is. Perhaps we’ve finally been provided with the tools that we need to alleviate our anxieties around whether or not our kids will grow up to reflect on their childhood by saying “I had a great upbringing and grew up in a happy home.

In “The Secrets of Happy Families,” author Bruce Feiler takes an unconventional approach to some of the more standard accepted rules of parenting and, in the process, makes us reconsider the tactics that we’ve all been using. In this interview with Time Magazine, he provides some of his wisdom in the area.

It’s always great to get a different point of view from one’s own, but I have to say that I’m not sure about some of the ideas that he says work well for his family. One of them is allowing children to choose their own discipline. Would this really work? One has to wonder. He also says that separating money from chores is a good idea, though, again – many parents disagree. And the hallowed family dinner table – you know, the one where we’re all supposed to be regularly in order to bond with our children? We apparently don’t have to be there.

Parenting is such a fiercely personal thing; after all – how we do it will affect what types of people our children will grow up to be. Accordingly, when someone comes along and rattles our chains related to how we’re doing things, we have not choice but to sit up and take notice. At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be happy, so any advice or wisdom in this area is welcome. Now whether or not it’s sound advice is another story.

So the question this week is this: What are the characteristics of a happy family, in your opinion?

And further to this question – What are some simple things that parents can do to assure a happy family setting?

Answer in the comments below. I look forward to your response!

VIDEO: What Makes a Happy Family?

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VIDEO: The Lies Kids Tell

February 15, 2013

We all deal with lies from our kids, don’t we? After all, it’s part and parcel of being a parent: wading through what is or is not the truth, as told by our little ones. Kids’ lies are often some of the funniest and silliest things that we’ve ever heard, as well as the most […]

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Monday Musings – What’s the Hardest Part of Being a Parent?

February 11, 2013

What’s the hardest part of being a parent? If you ask this question to anyone who has had the experience of being called “Mom” or “Dad,” you will get a variety of different answers. While many of us revel in the amazing and precious moments that parenting provides to us, we can’t deny that it’s […]

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Monday Musings – Public School or Private School?

January 21, 2013

Public school or private school? Which one is better for your child? Many of us have asked ourselves these questions, perhaps feeling that the grass is truly greener on the other side of the fence. While the public school system remains the “default” of sorts for all students attending classes, some parents reject the notion […]

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VIDEO: How to Deal With Playdates

January 10, 2013

Well, here we are again discussing one of those hot parenting topics: playdates! The fun never ends, it seems. Like anything, there are good playdates and bad playdates. Unfortunately, it’s the bad ones that often stay in our collective memories for years to come.   Being a parent of many, this is a topic that […]

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Monday Musings – How Do You Talk To Your Children About Tragedy?

December 17, 2012

I frankly wasn’t sure that I wanted to put together a Monday Musings blog post today. In light of the events in Newtown, Connecticut,  it’s hard not to ponder on the appropriateness of even putting up a blog post at all, let alone one that may be viewed as gratuitous. It’s safe to say that […]

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