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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Post - Going Two School

I'm lucky enough to have the astute and articulate Imogen guest posting for me today on an issue that will soon set my heart to shaking.


Going Two School: helping your twins (and their teachers) get ready for big school

Now the weather is warming up, the last thing on most people’s minds right now will be the start of the school year, way off in the distant autumn. However, fairly soon, this topic will be looming large in the minds of children about to enter the world of ‘big school’ for the very first time. Those who will soon be leaving the relative security of home or pre-school and starting out on the first steps as a bona fide school pupil.

Just as you wouldn’t expect a large retailer to trade without shop insurance, so the idea of chucking a child in at the deep end of school without prior planning and preparations is a ludicrous, if not pretty risky one. Take a moment to think about all the preparations that one single child will need prior to starting school. The practical – buying uniforms, sewing on nametapes and organising transport – and the emotional – telling the children what to expect, discussing their worries, practising ways to make friends and getting them used to the idea of being at school all day.

Now imagine all that happening twice. At the same time. That is the reality for twins and their families as they contemplate the start of a new school-based era. So, how can parents of multiples ease the way for their little cherubs’ (plural) first days at school? Here are three great places to start…

Get into a routine: preparation is everything

A few weeks before the start of the new term, work out your twins’ bedtime routine and try to stick to it. That way, they won’t get a rude shock on the first day back. Work out how to store or lay out their clothes easily and logically, so they don’t get muddled (all hail the mighty nametape…) in the morning rush. Pack their lunch boxes and school bags the night before, again making sure that everything is clearly named or colour coded to avoid mix ups in the morning.

Decide who will take the children to school and oversee their return. It could be that one parent’s work or other commitments precludes them from taking part in the school run; or family dynamics may render such a shared routine impossible. Whichever way this is worked out, make sure you and your twins know exactly what’s happening when, and who is involved. A written rota on the fridge door would help keep everyone up-to-date.

After the twins have settled into school and have started to receive homework, it is vital that equal time is allocated to each one at home to listen to them read or to help them with their tasks every day. Keep in touch with their teacher(s) to find out early if either of them is slipping behind and seek extra support if required. Crucially important is a good night’s sleep for everyone, so pack them (and yourselves) off to bed in good time of an evening during the school week.

Avoid double debt: budget buying school stuff

Parents of two or more single children of different ages can hand clothing, bags and belongings down the family to make the most of their original purchases. This is not so with twins. Everything must be bought in duplicate at the same time. Parents of twins will be well used to doing this by now – just as bibs and sleep-suits were bought by the dozen, now parents will need to look out for bulk buy discounts on socks and pencil sharpeners.

So, start school shopping early, – check out summer sales and ‘buy one, get one free’ discounts. Perhaps friends or family members who want to contribute could buy one set of uniform while the parents buy the other. Have a look round eBay and second hand shops, or see if you can link up with other families with slightly older multiples who might have outgrown uniforms that they can pass on. While you’re at it, ask them what was really necessary and what they found could be ignored on the school’s list of essential purchases. Listen to the voice of experience and try to budget wherever possible.

Double vision: maintaining twins’ individual identities

Single children thrown into a new school with unfamiliar faces all around them can feel anonymous enough, without the added complication of constantly being mistaken for an identical sibling. If the school places identical twins in the same class, make sure the teachers can tell them apart correctly by dressing them in a pre-agreed code e.g. using different colours or hair styles, or even giving both twins a name badge at the beginning.

As they settle in, their teachers and peers will get to know them and be able to work out who’s who. Encourage each twin to form separate friendships and join different clubs if they are available. Just watch out that they don’t play tricks on their new school by pretending to be each other!

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