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Friday, 2 September 2011

Twins - should I put them in seperate school classes?

September is here and my twins are starting Junior school.  It is a separate school from their previous infant school and I will no doubt wave them off with more nerves than they have.

 Their school career has been rather more complicated than I would have liked for a number of reasons including the fact that there is suspicion that my son may be dyslexic.  However, rewind the clock by a few years and the key question in my mind was 'should they be in the same class or separated?'.

First day at school - age 3 yrs

As with all twin conundrums there is no straight forward answer to this as I know that some of my friends have had no choice because of the school is small and only has one class.  Again, parental preference varies with some of my friends separating their twins at the start whilst others have left them together until secondary school.  The majority it seems do prefer to separate them though.

My twins started off in the same part-time nursery class as it wasn't practical to have one attend for the morning session and one for the afternoon session (which started half an hour later).  I also felt that by keeping them together it would reduce any anxiety of starting school (in hindsight I think this was more about easing my anxiety than theirs!).  The morning nursery class all then moved up together to become a reception class together.  It didn't seem fair to move one out of the class away from their friends so they stayed together.

Unfortunately, their new teacher seem to prefer lively little boys and thought my son could do no wrong (great for him!) but tended to overlook quiet little girls who weren't a management problem (not so great for his sister).

Sadly, this situation really knocked my daughter's confidence in her ability at school as she saw her brother start to read books with words first (ironic now given his reading problems - he memorised the words and fooled the teacher!).

He also received the 'Star of the Week' certificate weeks before his sister, despite the fact that she would be behaving beautifully whereas he has a problem with sitting still and concentrating!  From these actions my young daughter concluded that she wasn't clever and couldn't work out what she needed to do to get the good behaviour award.

I was able to address this second issue with the teacher at the parents afternoon and her initial response was that the children have to learn to accept these things.  I pointed out that this was a rather harsh lesson for a 4 year old and it was slightly different when it was your brother rather than a classmate.

A week later, a very excited little girl came home with the much longed for 'Star of the Week' certificate!

Whilst I believe that teachers are trained to treat each child as an individual, I do believe that there is a need to recognise the special relationship that twins will have within that approach and be sensitive to this. 

My twins are now in separate classes and this means that they can learn, play, develop and make mistakes without making (or having made) direct comparisons with their twin.  They are both much happier with this arrangement.

My twins are very different (she is a skippy, quiet, artistic girlie - he is a roaring, noisy boy) so they have always made their own friends and played separately.  However, for some parents it is also important to give their twins the space to make separate friends.

Other parents of twins are, however, happy to keep their children in the same class and have found that by celebrating each other's differences they have not experienced problems like we have.

Whatever you decide to do, I would encourage you to share any concerns with the school and the teacher(s) when you have them.  Do not assume that the teacher will understand the needs/relationship of twins and do not be afraid to make yourself heard.  

And don't forget to pack your tissues when you wave them off at the school gate!!!

Visit Norwich with children

We have just returned from a week camping in Norfolk and are packing the tent away for the season.

Whilst there we made a couple of trips into Norwich which is a small and child friendly city to visit.

My tips for a cheap, child friendly day when on a budget........

1.  Avoid city centre car parks and keeping an eye on the time - use the Park and Ride - £4 for return tickets for 2 adults and children under 16 years.

2.  Use the toilets at Norwich bus station if needed!

3.  Pack a picnic but perhaps stop off at the bakers for a sweet treat (there is a Sayers around the corner from the bus station).

4.  Visit the Plantation gardens (3 acres of secret walled gardens lovingly cared for by volunteers) for your picnic lunch.  £2 donation per adult, children under 16 free.  You also pass a playground in the council park on the way.
Photo Courtesy of Ell Brown, Flickr

5.  Wander through the lanes and the market stalls - grab a drink or an ice cream when spirits lag.

6.  Visit Norwich Cathedral - free, although you are encouraged to make a donation.  However, if you are there with young children your visit is likely to be brief - so it is up to you.

7.  Use the toilets at the Cathedral before moving on.

8.  Spot the boot cleaners built into the walls of the old buildings and explain to the children how the roads used to be.

9.  Visit Norwich castle an hour before closing time - it is £1 per person for anyone over 4 years old.  The castle is deceptive as it is a lot bigger inside than it looks.  However, an hour is long enough to get a flavour of the building and its history with young children and there are loads of interactive activities in the keep to engage them.  This was our favourite bargain activity of the day!

Norwich Castle  (Photo courtesy of Ben Clinch, Flickr)

Example of a cell from the time that the castle was used as a prison.   (Photo courtesy of Avail, Flickr)

10.  Back to the bus station (use toilets if needed!) - hassle free exit to your car.