teachers

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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CBC Radio Interviews - Lice, Kids and School

by Samantha on October 11, 2014

Your kid comes home with lice. Who's responsible?

n-KID-LICE-CHECK-large570

We as parents wait with bated breath for the dreaded letter.

It usually starts out something like this:

A case of pediculosis has been identified in your child’s class…” yada, yada, yada. You get the point. Someone in your kid’s class has LICE! You are freaking out, especially if you are a first-time parent and never have had to deal with this scourge.

As a mother of four, I have had the dreaded letter sent home one too many times, and have dealt with it - and more. Let’s just say that it’s no fun and yes - it’s a hassle to say the least.

Lice - those pesky little critters that get into hair and so much more - have become the scourge of parenting in the 21st century. Not sure what happened but there’s been a proliferation of the dreaded creatures and our kids - and oftentimes their unwitting families -  are the victims.

But who’s to blame?

  • Is it the parents of the children who are bringing these horrible little bugs to school?
  • Is it the kids themselves who, through their actions (innocent or not) perpetuate the proliferation of these dreaded creatures?
  • Is it the school board for not having a more comprehensive educational program to teach both parents and kids how to avoid the scourge of lice?

The reality is that it’s a combination of all of these factors, but I strongly lean towards the third as a key component that is not being addressed as much as it should be. There needs to be a concentrated effort on the part of educators at the school level about how to deal with lice as, let’s face it - it’s at school that kids usually pick up these pesky creatures and bring them home to their families.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

I was recently back on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning to discuss this timely and touchy topic.

Here is a link to the full interview:

Metro Morning - Head Lice and Schools

As a result of the interview, I was asked by CBC Radio’s sister program Ontario Morning to discuss the topic, which I can share with you - scroll down for a link to the clip below.

Some other points that were addressed during both interviews was the rise of “Lice Squads” - enterprising entrepreneurs who - for a fee (often more than $200), will come to your home and delouse your child of the dreaded pests. In many cases, “Lice Parties” are taking away the stigma - and the pests - by normalizing the infestation and by making the delousing actually fun - parents are having wine and cheese in many instances while their kids are getting nits and eggs removed from their heads. I guess this is an example of life giving you lemons and you deciding to make lemonade…or sangria, as it were…

Anyway, all be well and good for those who have the money (the cost is per child, so if you have two or three kids, you can do the math and figure out that delousing the family could get pretty pricey), but what about those who are struggling financially and can’t come up with what would be considered a very expensive way of getting rid of a difficult problem? The issue of inequality of opportunity arises - in other words, if you don’t have the cash, you may have a much more difficult time dealing with ridding your family of these horrible critters. And we haven’t even touched upon the question of stigma - because we all know that those kids who have had persistent bouts of lice and have had difficulty getting rid of them are stigmatized, at least to some degree.

Finally, let’s not forget what all of us parents who have been in the trenches of parenthood for years have known - the “lice letter” that comes in the fall is often one of many that occurs throughout the school year. Again - do the math and these pesky critters can cost a family a lot more than inconvenience.

So what’s the solution?

Ontario Morning

You can listen to my interview with Ontario Morning here (link to iTunes Ontario Morning feed) - The episode is from September 30th 2014 - skip to 40:25 for my segment (it’s at the end of the program):

Ontario Morning Interview - Lice, Kids and School

Of course there are many natural ways of removing lice which don’t cost an astronomical amount and don’t employ the usage of very caustic and often toxic chemicals. Who wants to put that on a child’s head? Some advice and tips on details about natural lice removal can be found in the links below:

How to Kill Lice Naturally

Natural Lice Treatment

Home Remedies For Lice

So what are your thoughts? How do we deal with this yearly, pesky problem that occurs in our schools and spreads to our homes? Who’s responsible and how do we rid ourselves of these horrible critters? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

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Top 5 Tips to Help You Send Your Child Off to School For the First Time

first day of school

For parents whose kids are entering Kindergarten for the first time, the stakes are high. Not necessarily for the child but oftentimes more so for the parents. Having been home with their son or daughter for a number of years makes the prospect of sending them off to school particularly anxiety-inducing. Though their kids may have gone to selected preschool classes, play groups or similar social situations, Kindergarten signifies “the big leagues.”

For first-time parents, there is often anxiety, fear and stress felt by the prospect being away from their child and relinquishing responsibility to someone other than themselves. The unknown - in this case a classroom, other kids and a new teacher - can feel particularly daunting.

I’ve written about the first day of school before from the perspective of the child but realize that oftentimes, it’s the parents who need some support and encouragement. Below are some simple tips for those who are facing the prospect of sending their child or children off to school for the first time.

Sending Your Child to School For the First Time - Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Your Kids Will Be Fine - Kids are a lot more resilient than we think. Surprisingly, they often step up to the challenge and thrive when they’re beyond the protective gaze of their parents. Have faith in both your child and the teachers who understand the anxiety felt by both parents and children. They’ve been there before, and know how to support your child in feeling comfortable, safe and ultimately excited about being in school. By the end of the day, they’ll have stories to tell, artwork to show you and introductions to their new friends (to you!) to make.

2) Tears Are Normal - Yes, they may flow at the prospect of leaving you. Take that as a given. Also realize that the tears will stop as soon as your child enters the classroom and sees the whole new world that is opened up to them at school. Art, reading, writing and toys await and you will be but a distant memory (in a good way of course) while your child ventures into the (relatively) grown-up world of Kindergarten.

3) A Blankie or Teddy Goes a Long Way - Yes, you’ve been your child’s security blanket for so long but when they start school, they’ll need something to keep them going during the day. Don’t underestimate the importance of your child having their favourite special item, whether it’s a blanket, sleep toy or doll. Having such an item with them during their first venture into the school environment will make their day so much easier.

4) Independence is a Good Thing - This is a first step for your child towards independence. And while it may be a difficult one for both of you, it’s an important and positive milestone in their life. Being able to separate from their parents is key to gaining a strong sense of ability as well as self-confidence. And as much as it may be difficult to push them out of the proverbial nest, it’s ultimately in their best interest. Today, Kindergarten, tomorrow - the world!

5) Get Educated - Fear of the unknown often adds to our stress and anxiety and sending our kids off into “The Great Unknown” - in this case, school - is no different. Assuage your fears about the first day of school through your own education of what will occur. Just as your child will be learning in the classroom, you too can learn everything you need to know about your child’s curriculum before they begin the formal learning process. Where possible, contact the school, meet and/or speak with your child’s new teacher(s) and familiarize yourself with the class schedule. You’l feel better and more confident about your child’s new adventure once you have all of your questions answered.

Are you feeling stressed about sending your child to school for the first time? Or, do you have any additional tips that can make the transition smoother? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

 Image courtesy of www.chfi.com

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VIDEO: Have School Rules Gone Too Far?

by Samantha on November 2, 2013

NoCandy

School’s not so simple anymore.

These days, almost everything is under scrutiny, including some of our most beloved holidays and traditions.

First up? Halloween. I wrote about an Ontario, Canada school that was banning Halloween celebrations in the apparent spirit of “inclusiveness” and not wanting to have certain children apparently feeling left out. You can read the full article here:

A Politically Correct Nightmare: The School That Cancelled Halloween

Following the article’s publication, I was asked to appear on a news program called Square Off to discuss the trend towards banning not only candy and Halloween in some schools, but pictures, video at school concerts and treats in kid’s lunches as well. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll probably guess where I stand on these issues. If not, it’s pretty clear in the video clip below.

VIDEO: Have School Rules Gone Too Far?

 

Do you think schools have gone too far with their rules and restrictions? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Homework Question: How Much is Too Much?

by Samantha on September 28, 2013





Most kids don’t like homework. That’s a fact.

Most parents don’t particularly like it either. After all, we’re often the ones who are roped into helping our children with the intricacies of long division or multiplication times tables.

Regardless, it’s a given that homework is a staple of our educational system, and a necessary one at that. In order for our kids to learn, they have to go through the process of reading, memorizing and internalizing. Sure, it sounds simple enough but the reality is that parents are just as responsible for kids’ homework as are the kids.

This is particularly the case for younger children, those in elementary grades who need prompting and coaching to get their work done.

What this means is that parents are as invested in their kids homework as are the children. The kids are the ones handing in the final product but often, it’s the parents who have slogged through the trenches with them to get to the right answer. Younger children - those who are in elementary grades and are just starting on the homework path - almost always need parental support in completing their studies. This being the case, is it any wonder then that the volume of homework is a sticking point for many parents?

These days, it is not unusual for kids as young as four or five to be given work that is expected to be completed at home, returned to school the next day. Think about this: these are children who can barely read or write, yet they are feeling the heat to complete work. Junior and Senior Kindergarten kids - youngsters who have barely sorted out the ways of the world and probably can’t tie their shoelaces are obliged to complete and return lessons to their teachers in a timely manner. As you can imagine, this is not always a smooth or enjoyable process for the kids or the parents.

“Think about it: children who can barely read or write, or tie their shoelaces are obliged to complete and return lessons to their teachers in a timely manner”

On a related note, older children are feeling the pinch with homework as well. In these cases it’s the issue of volume. There rarely seems to be a standard in terms of how much homework is appropriate for various ages and grades and as a result, many kids are loaded down with lessons. Life’s not fair as often evidenced by these same kids’ schoolmates who may have had the random luck to have been assigned to another class, thereby allowing them to escape the responsibilities of work.

homework

You see, though there may be a general curriculum regarding benchmarks that kids should learn in a certain grade, how it’s implemented by each particular teacher can vary widely. To wit: one teacher may be “by the book” - literally - assigning a barrage of lessons to her class that must be completed within a certain time period. Right next door, in the same school, another group of kids may be lucky to have been put in the classroom of a teacher who’s a proponent of “experiential learning.” These students may see nary a sheet of paper or assignment during their tenure in the class, instead enjoying field trips, creative assignments and hands-on experiences in order to fulfill cirriculum standards.

Fair? I think not.

The lack of standards in terms of what is acceptable does nothing to equalize the learning process. How can two children in different classes be so far off in terms of how they’re taught? Adding to this consideration is the fact that each child learns differently and for the most part, the way in which one’s child is taught is never up for review. In other words, parents are never asked how their child learns best, i.e. through experiences or through good, old-fashioned rote. Therein lies the problem.

Our kids are not carbon copies of each other; they’re not a “one-size-fits-all” group that respond to the same process or methods of teaching. Accordingly, how they are taught as well as how much take-home work that they receive should be seriously considered. It’s all part and parcel of the homework equation. It’s possible for kids to do well and learn the age-appropriate lessons without a boatload of homework being sent home nightly. Conversely, the alternative doesn’t necessarily have to be a free range or child-led method of learning that leaves many parents uncomfortable. The solution should be somewhere in the middle, with a balanced amount of homework provided to each child in each class, equitably. As well, both parents and teachers should be liaising with each other and on board with what is realistically age appropriate in terms of the amount and methods of homework given.

A five-year-old shouldn’t be having an anxiety attack because of the amount of homework given; nor should an eight-year-old complete a term of school without having a reasonable amount of work that was expected to be completed at home. “Reasonable” should be the point of discussion and learning should be the goal.

For these and so many other reasons, let’s make sure that parents and teachers are on board with homework expectations that are standardized, fair and helpful to the child’s overall education. We owe it to our kids.

How much homework is too much, in your opinion? How much is too little? Are you satisfied with the amount of homework that your child is given? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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CBC RADIO INTERVIEW: Back to School Stress

September 10, 2013

The lazy,  hazy days of summer have passed and the kids have returned to school. It may be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for parents but for kids, this is not necessarily the case. More often than not, back to school signals the beginning of a very stressful time. Regardless of age or […]

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Parenting in the Digital Age: Technology Use By Educators

September 4, 2013

Well, the first day of school has come and gone and I’ve already retrieved the requisite crumpled piece of paper (important, apparently) from the bowels of my daughter’s knapsack. The lone form is followed by a pile - 9 pages to be exact - of similar papers, all requiring my completion. As a result, here […]

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The Death of Cursive

August 5, 2013

It’s all over, folks. Some of you may remember the time in public school when you got your first pencil. On a specially-lined piece of paper, you tentatively set the lead to the page and pressed. As you moved your hand slowly while concentrating on the script, shape and feel of the letter, you felt […]

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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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Monday Musings: Parents, Teachers and Authority

December 3, 2012

  Welcome to Monday Musings here at the Multiple Mayhem Mamma blog. Each Monday, I create a vlog (video log) where I discuss a topic of interest related to parenting and welcome your feedback and thoughts.Today, the topic of discussion revolves around parents, teachers and authority. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve both agreed […]

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