Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seeing Double in the 4-Day Class

Amy's twins at Explorer's 4-Day outdoor classroom.
By Amy Trayer, Explorer board president and 4-Day parent

When you first walk into the 4-Day class at Explorer, you will probably see 25 very busy children building blocks, looking at books, writing in journals, eating a snack, painting, dressing up, riding bikes, making mud pies in the playhouse or playing with the classroom pet rat, Daisy. Children in this class have to be four years old by July 1, so at this time in the year some children are already starting to turn five while the others are anxiously counting down the months until their “big day.” What you might NOT notice right away is that there are SEVEN sets of twins in the class. Yep, you read that right--over half the class is twins. But wait, it gets better: two out of the three teachers in the class are a twin and two parents in the class have identical twins. Twins definitely rule in this Explorer classroom.

Why so many twins in one class? Let’s just say word travels fast in the twin community and a few years ago several of us who had twins quickly spread the word on our parents of multiples club online forum about this fabulous parent participation preschool. The play-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum and parent education is why you come to Explorer. Reality is as a parent of multiples (or even two small children) preschool can be quite expensive so affordable tuition is a big draw as well. We didn’t all know each other ahead of time--there were two new families that just happened to register and that just happened to have twins also. This class was destined to have many multiples!

Seven sets of twins on the class roster meant we had more children than parents. Scheduling six working parents in the classroom per day could get a bit tricky. Each parent of twins works double (two times per week, instead of one) and luckily we have a fabulous class rep who does all of the scheduling AND who happens to be a twin herself AND has a set of twins that graduated from Explorer’s 4-Day class two years ago. Thank goodness our class rep is a twin “sympathizer.” We all breathed a sigh of relief. If anyone could manage this crazy schedule, she could!

It’s been so much fun seeing all the twins in action. We have a great mix of boys and girls: two sets of g/g twins, two sets of b/b twins and three sets of b/g twins. They are all fraternal too! Having a sibling in the class is definitely an advantage, but it’s also important that they create other friendships as well--something we are all working on with our children. All the twins have been split up into different small group times and more often than not, they choose to sit next to someone other than their sibling during whole group times.
Other than having to work double in the classroom, having twins in the 4-Day class means double the laundry! Each child wears the Explorer T-shirt 4 days per week which means 8 shirts that need washing plus some extras (coming home messy means a good day at school). Most families carpool and luckily I was able to find two other moms with cars as big as mine that can fit four booster seats.

Personally, I have really enjoyed watching my boy/girl twins grow and change over the last three years at Explorer. This is the first year I’ve watched them be more independent from each other. My son, who in the past would want to play only with his sister, is now seeking out other children to play with and creating friendships. They will start kindergarten next year and the big question for most parents of multiples is whether to keep them in the same class or separate them. Some schools already have a policy in place, but our home school does not. I probably won’t know what my preference will be until the end of this school year because something tells me my twins are going to change a lot in the next few months.

If you do visit the 4Day class at Explorer, you might not notice the seven sets of twins when you first walk in because each child has a unique personality. What you will notice are the seven tired parents of twins who are working double time because being at Explorer is so worth it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Much Screen Time Do YOUR Kids Get?

If you didn't catch the Mercury News article last week, Young Kids and Computers: A Balancing Act by Sue McAllister, you might want to check it out. Local families dish on what their household rules are on electronic media.

It would be interesting to hear how other Explorer parents handle this issue, in light of the the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that media use of all types should be limited to two hours a day and that kids under two years shouldn't have any screen time at all.

Do you think that's too much? Too little? What kind of rules do you have in your house and how do you enforce them? Comment below and let's exchange strategies. I'm sure Explorer Teachers have some thoughts on this, too!

Quoting Linda Murray, editor-in-chief of BabyCenter, I thought the article's conclusion was a good reminder about modeling:

Most important, the experts say, is a tip that might be the most difficult one for parents in Silicon Valley: to set a good example for their young children. That can be hard, when "we've got our BlackBerry, and we're checking it every second," Murray says. If parents want their kids to exercise, read and spend time with their friends, they need to do the same themselves. "That's really the most powerful teacher," she says.