About our twins
Our twins were born six weeks early, right in the middle of June. In QLD, the cut off for the school year is 30 June. We immediately made the decision that they were NOT going to school ‘the year they were meant to’. If they did they literally would have been the youngest in their year. I’m so pleased that we made this decision right from the start as it removed a lot of the angst later on. I saw so many of my friends struggle with this decision, but for us it was an easy decision. Of course there were some moments when I questioned if we were doing the right thing, but we stayed firm and stuck to our original decision. We have now completed our first year at school, and I am grateful for our decision.
Choosing a school for our twins
While we didn’t have any dilemmas in holding our children back a year, we had major dilemmas about which school to send them to. Initially the school I really was keen on was a larger, well-established, public school, with a good reputation, about 10 min drive away. We were guaranteed, due to the size, that we could always split them up into separate classes if needed, however I didn’t get a community vibe from them. Then one day I drove that way for an appointment at school drop off time and realised that the traffic and parking was absolutely hideous and that it would take me at least 20-25 minutes to get them to school each morning. So we investigated our much smaller, but very local public school, which had a fabulous community feel and ended up choosing that. Eventually we may face the issue of there not being two separate classes (ie to separate them if needed), but we will face that when and if it happens. Since starting school, we have discovered that 4 of their classmates live within a block of us, and there are lots of people who live within walking distance to the school who can collect the kids if needed and we can now ride our bikes to school. If we were going to the other school it would mean we wouldn’t have that easily accessible and local support network. Once they start going for unsupervised weekend playdates I feel like I am going to be grateful again that we live so locally to our school community.
Other points I took into consideration when looking at schools were the extra curricular activities the school offered, what languages they offered, if they have an onsite pool and the size of their school oval. The reason for the last two points is that it can get quite expensive if they need to be bussed to another school or council pool for swimming lessons or sports days. It also is quite time consuming, so they lose out on a significant chunk of learning time each week.
First year of school
Our twins are girl/boy and we decided to put them in the same class. Because they are girl/boy, they naturally have different interests/behaviours /skills etc. So for us, there was no need to separate them as they are generally always treated as two different people, rather than “the twins”. Initially they were playing together at lunchtime, but I think that was more because all the Prep kids were playing together in the separate ‘Prep only’ area. Now they are more confident at school they are venturing to other areas within the school, such as the sandpit, the library or the tennis courts and thus not spending every lunchbreak together. I did also ask the teacher to ensure they were separated for group activities, which she was fine about and has always ensured that this happens.
Someone once said to me that if you could take any time off work, to do it while they were in Prep. And now I see why. Prep is the main opportunity to meet all the kids AND all their parents. You will be spending the next 7 years with these families, so I feel it is important to build those relationships right from the start. In Prep you need to drop off and collect your kids from the classroom, so there are lots of opportunities to meet the other families. It only took a few weeks before a group of us were meeting at the school at least 15 minutes before the bell for a chat about our day. And since then we have all had to call upon each other to pick up our kids as we are stuck in traffic or sick etc. It’s given me a great opportunity to meet the local mums and dads, and no doubt in the future (once we no longer need car seats!) we will be helping each other out by taking care of each other’s children in the afternoons. By forming these friendships I feel very comfortable that there are a number of people I fully trust, should something happen and my kids need some help.
Prep is HARD work. Let me assure you – no matter how much they tell you it’s play based. It isn’t!!! It is so full on. Our kids have learnt such an amazing amount of “stuff” in just a few terms. I am constantly blown away by how much they suddenly know. Unfortunately they have also learnt a whole lot of “stuff” I would have preferred them not to have learnt in the playground!!!!!
Initially we had a bit of an issue with trying to do their homework and learning their sight words, as they would keep ‘helping’ or ‘telling’ the other person, which sometimes even lead to arguments. I’ve managed to get around that by developing strategies such as playing games with them both at the same time to learn their sight words. We got this cool big foam dice that has a slip in pocket on each side. So they roll that back and forth and say their sight words to each other. Means I can get on with cooking dinner whilst being nearby to assist as needed.
Currently both our children are on the same level in all things at school. One is a better reader and one is a much better hand writer, but they are both at the same levels. I know a few friends with multiples who have had issues with one child being on a higher level than the other, but I can’t offer any advice on this. I do recall when our first lot of sight words came home, and our boy basically already knew them and just wasn’t interested in doing them. Our girl however didn’t know them and just didn’t seem to grasp she had to ‘learn’ them. As a result he got all of his correct and went on to the next ones. Whereas she was sent home with the same ones! I didn’t realise that she didn’t understand that she had to get them all right to move onto the next ones. And she cried and cried and cried when she found out he was doing new words and she wasn’t. However, she got over it and promptly decided to learn both sets (hers and his) for next week and she insisted that her teacher tested her on both. She passed all 12 words and they both moved up to the third level together and since then have always been on the same level.
On term four, they were both put into the same group for group work. I couldn’t work out why they were together as I had specifically asked them to always be separate in group activities. It turns out that the whole class has been split up into “reading levels”, and because they are in the same level they are in the same group. Which makes sense now.
We have had a few “twin issues” along the way. For example, the kids were in different groups for group activities, and each week one group gets a prize for the most points. Our boy twins group (blue group) got first place and they were allowed to select something from the lucky dip box. He promptly selected something that he saw that he immediately thought his twin sister might like, as she wasn’t getting a prize. So he took that and gave it to her. The teacher witnessed this, and thought it was “so sweet” that she allowed him another lucky dip prize for himself. While I can see it from her point, I was not as enthusiastic about it. As this meant that the blue group PLUS our girl twin (who was in the red group) got a prize and no one else in the red group did.
All in all Prep has been fairly smooth sailing. I just know that if they had started a year earlier they would have really been struggling. While I suspect they would have held up their own academically, there is just no way emotionally they were ready. We have had no issues with keeping them in the same class and we are looking forward to starting year one this year.