Thursday, August 6, 2015

Twin Big Kid Boot Camp | Separating Twins in School

For three years, my twins, Ryan and Quinn, spent just about every waking moment doing everything together: sports, play dates, gymnastics, and yes, school. When they reached Pre-K 4’s, it was time to decide if we were going to separate the twins. Our preschool had a policy, loosely based on our school district’s unwritten twin policy, to split them at age 4. Whoa, boy. I certainly wasn’t sure about that. I mean, everything was going along swimmingly, I enjoyed having them in the same class, and they didn’t seem to mind it. However, the director allowed me to make the final call and after weeks of going back and forth dancing around a decision without any real clue of what to do, I decided to turn to the twins to see what they thought.

My husband and I pulled them into different rooms and asked them point blank if they preferred to be separate or together in school. Imagine my shock when both unanimously exclaimed, “apart!!!” Uhhh, excuse me? After ensuring that they knew exactly what “apart” meant, we decided to take them at their word, and I requested separate classrooms for the following year. I’m not going to lie --- I think I had a harder time reconciling their separation than they did. However, now that we are a year removed and they had a hugely successful year in the 4’s classes, I absolutely see the benefits of letting them go out on their own.

We were extremely fortunate that our preschool took special care with the twins knowing the deep bond they share. Their classrooms were right next door to each other and their classes often combined at recess and music/movement sessions during the day. They would run into each other in the hallway and always knew that their brother or sister was around the corner. I think that was massively beneficial to them – and also helped this momma’s heart as well.

Benefits to Separation:

  1. Be individuals: I was so ready for the twins to be known as something other than “the twins”. Even though for specific purposes, such as this article, I myself would call them that, most of the time I prefer to refer to them as “R&Q”. I was eager to let them be individuals --- and have their school environment view them that way as well.
  2. Foster independence: Although both Ryan and Quinn are extroverted and social, my daughter oftentimes would dominate conversations at home and in school. She’s a natural born leader and thus her brother has always gone along with her schemes as opposed to creating his own. And he has always been more than happy to let his sister “mother” him – get his lunch bag, make sure he had his water, fetch his shoes, etc. I mean, why not, right? Ha! But Ry really needed to learn these skills for himself. By month one, it was clear that he was flourishing in this new found independence --- and he was proud of himself when he would do things on his own.
  3. Comparisons: At age 4, they were noticing differences in their skill levels on certain things. Where Quinn prided herself on her coloring skills and staying in the lines, Ryan much preferred to use his imagination and build amazing structures with blocks. She couldn’t understand why he had no interest in what she did, especially when he would just use one color and scribble. Grin. Separating them allowed them to both do what they wanted to do without fear that the other would point out differences, and more importantly, that the teachers didn’t use their interests as a comparison tool.
  4. Time apart: As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I found that to be massively true in our case. When they would get in the car at the end of the day, instead of me asking all the questions and most likely just hearing from my daughter, they started asking each other questions. “What did you do today?”; “Did you get to <insert activity here>?” They were genuinely excited and interested in what the other twin was doing. And bonus that I wasn’t expecting? Since they weren’t on top of each other 24/7, they actually got along much better at home. There was less bickering in this past year and they seemingly have become friends instead of just roommates and siblings. And those hugs they would give each other at the end of the day?

Of course, there were certain challenges. Each classroom still had their own rules so expectations for the kiddos were slightly different. {I.e.: Treasure box was on a different day for each of them. It took a few weeks of explaining to Ryan and Quinn that they weren’t shorted when one received a trinket and the other didn’t.} And while it was fantastic that the classes worked together in many situations, it also meant that classroom parties, school meetings, Muffins with Moms, etc would all fall at the same time. Which meant most of my time was spent hustling back and forth between their classes making sure I spent equal time with each of them. Two sets of calendars, two sets of friends, two sets of volunteer commitments – all a little overwhelming when I had gotten so used to just managing one schedule. That said, it was all completely doable, and by mid-year we hit our groove.

Next year the twins will enter Transition Kindergarten at the preschool and since it’s a smaller preschool, there’s only one class. So the twins will reunite once again. However, I feel that this past year of separation has allowed them to truly grow as individuals and I have no doubt that they will thrive. In fact, I fully expect to walk into the classroom on that first day of school and find them playing with completely different friends on different sides of the activity center. Two individuals who happened to be born a minute apart but with an unbreakable bond – even with separation.


Meagan Clanahan is a part-time Communications Director for a non-profit and also the Project Coordinator for Houston Moms Blog. Her boy/girl twins, Ryan and Quinn, were born 6/3/10 and life hasn't slowed down since. She is passionate about her faith, family, infertility struggles, and Congenital Heart Defect Awareness. Oh, and let's not forget sushi and a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio - survival, baby! You can keep up with Meagan on Instagram {@meaganclanahan} and at Houston Moms Blog { Houston Moms Blog}

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