getting ready for kindergarten

Summer School Prep

Summer is here, which means our house is focused on September.

I’m not trying to wish away the sunshine and lazy days, but with our youngest two scholars heading off to school for the first time this fall, it’s hard not to be looking ahead.

There are a lot of potential anxieties for parents sending their little ones off to school, but for us, the concerns are double. We have identical twin boys, and yes, they will be in the same classroom. There’s a lot of opinion out there about whether keeping twins (or triplets and higher order multiples) together in school is beneficial or detrimental, with the answer really being it comes down to the kids and the classroom. Research published this year in the journal Developmental Psychology concluded that, based on the evidence of more than 9,000 pairs of twins in classrooms in Canada and the UK, the decision to separate multiples should be on a case-by-case basis. The research showed placing twins in different classrooms had “almost no sizeable positive or negative average effect … on twins’ achievement, cognitive ability, and motivation.”

Our boys have been attending preschool together for the past three years. They get along well there and at home, with neither taking on an obvious dominant or dependent role. Our school is familiar with the complexities of twins, having had five sets start school together two years ago, and many other multiples scattered throughout the years. In fact, our boys’ teacher is mom to teenage twins, so we are confident the school is prepared for the potential challenges of having siblings in the same class.

We did struggle a bit with the decision to keep the boys together; there’s also a lot to gain from separating them during the school day and allowing them to grow independently of each other. A major factor in our decision to keep them together: they share a best friend. If separating our boys meant one was in a classroom with their mutual buddy and the other wasn’t, I was worried that would sour one child’s first impression of school. I think that disappointment could do more damage than spending one year being mistaken for your brother.

I remember starting school, and I remember having a set of identical twin boys in my class. I don’t recall having a lot of trouble telling them apart once I got to know them, and to this day I can tell you differences about their personalities. I’m confident our boys will be given every opportunity to thrive as individuals in their classroom, by both the staff and other students.

The bigger worry for me now, and why I’m thinking about it as summer vacation begins, is getting into routine. Whether you’re sending one, two, or more kids off to school, I think one of the best things we can do for them is to focus on what may seem like the little things. Making sure they can tie their shoes and zipper their coats. Encouraging them to speak up for themselves, clearly and politely. Letting them go to a public washroom alone. Having them practice opening all the food containers in their lunch can. Ensuring they go to bed at a reasonably consistent, reasonably early bedtime – ideally for a couple of weeks before school starts. (It’s mostly the getting ready on time I’m worried about.)

Sure, you can review letters and numbers and work on printing, but those skills can come quickly if your child is emotionally ready to be at school each day. So we’ll be spending summer break sticking to routine and talking about September with enthusiasm. Just 10 weeks to go!

A version of this post appeared originally in the Times & Transcript. Click here for more of Jenna Morton’s column, She Said.

Practical Tips for Families Starting School

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