Monday, August 22, 2011


Our kids did not wear shoes before they learned to walk. This was for multiple reasons. We don't live in a cold area where they would need them for warmth. In fact, some would consider our climate a little too warm (our highs for the next 10 days are between 102 and 106 F).

At the circus

We don't wear shoes in the house. This is unusual for the area we live. My husband, who was raised in a cold climate, has never worn shoes in the house. The reasoning for him was not to track in the ice, snow, and salt that were on the roads and sidewalks most of the year. He also made some very valid points about how taking off shoes would prevent most of the dirt from being tracked through the house. He had converted me before we ever had kids. Of course, I did have to do research once we would have babies rolling and crawling on the floor to confirm what seemed obvious. Not only was he right on it being cleaner, but I still learned something interesting. Everyone knows not to feed a baby (under age 1) honey because of the risk of botulism. Once a child is a year old the risk is gone because the intestines are fully developed and can fight off the bacteria. Botulism can be fatal for infants so this is extremely important. What I learned through my research is that most cases of botulism are caused by babies eating dirt or other things tracked into the house on shoes. 90% of cases are caused by this and yet the educational push in the U.S. is to remind parents not to give their kids honey, which makes up the other 10% of cases. So, we continue not to wear shoes in the house.

Playing in their kitchen

Once our children started walking, more research was done to determine the right type of first shoes. If they are too stiff the kids won't be able to walk in them. We went with two different brands, Pediped and Robeez for their first shoes. They both offer soft soled shoes. This allows the new walker to feel the ground and get better grip. It also helps with the gross motor development and balance required for walking and running. Once they are better walkers we moved into more traditional tennis shoes.

 At the park
Same park (yes, he's that much taller)

Monday, August 15, 2011

School in America

After my last post I received a few emails asking about education in America. I love having so many international readers! So here is a basic overview to hopefully answer those questions. The photos will not be related to the information, but no one wants to read a post without photos, right?

Public school is available for grades Kindergarten (K), 1st - 12th grades in most states. K usually starts at 5 years old, though this does vary by state. Only 8 states require students start at 5 years old, 23 states require students start at 6 years old, 17 states require students start by 7 years old, and 2 states don't require students to attend school until they are 8 years old. Typically a student starting at 6-8 years old would just skip K and go into 1st grade. In fact, only 42 (out of 50) states require all school districts to offer Kindergarten. Very few states offer free education for all before Kindergarten. I can't find current numbers, but for 2009 there were only 3 states that offered universal pre-K.

In an antique fire engine, in the rain

Once a child is approximately 5 years old, they could attend public, private, charter, magnet, or home school. Before this age there are even more options! I'm going to just offer a very general overview.

Public preschool for children with disabilities (PPCD) is generally a free program for kids ages 3-5. This is through the local school district and while in the past it has been 5 days a week, many states have cut it back to just a few days and many of those are half days. To qualify for this program children must have a diagnosed disability, not speak English, or come from a low income household. Sometimes this is split into PPCD and HeadStart, but they are generally run by the same group so I just put them together.

Father/Son bonding with a cannon

Full time care is typically called daycare. Often this starts at 6 weeks, since that is how long maternity leave is in most cases. Usually children in daycare have a single working parent or two working parents. Care is typically offered from 6am-6pm year round and about half of the kids will attend all of those hours. This type of care, while sometimes having an educational element, many times focuses on meeting the basic needs of a large number of children. The phrase, "You get what you pay for" often describes daycare.

Mother/Daughter bonding with a cannon

Preschool is typically part time and only for 9-10 months of a year. The educational element is the main focus. These are typically reserved for families who have one parent at home or working part time. There are many different types of preschools and philosophies. Play based, center based, Montessori, Waldorf, worksheet based, religious, secular, and on and on.

Fighting over a book - as always

There is also a more relaxed and even more part time option generally referred to as a Mother's Day Out (MDO). These are typically just a few days a week (2-3) for a few hours. Many are exactly what they claim, just a chance for a parent to get out without kids. They offer socialization for the children and many times sanity for the parent. Almost all of the kids in these programs have a stay at home parent. These are usually the cheapest option and a few do offer some educational value. Most MDOs are religious.

Helping Dad with a "project" at work

There are also many children who do not attend any programs and stay at home with a parent until they are old enough for more formal education. As you can tell, the options are limited by socio-economic status, jobs, and money. A child in a good preschool will start K about 2 academic years ahead of those who attended daycare on average. There has also been a lot of research proving early education has a direct relationship to decreased crime in an area 15-20 years later. I should note, a parent teaching their child at home would count as early education, however the option of an academic preschool for those parents unwilling or unable to provide this has large societal implications for the future.

This is not a typical day for Dad at work

Monday, August 8, 2011


There are many different theories on when/how to socialize young children. The first type of socialization for children is through their parents and siblings. With twins, it started in the womb. For the first few months socialization was limited to family and close friends. Our kids couldn't handle getting sick so we limited their contact with everyone.

As they got older, we met other kids for play dates, explored the children's museum, and were generally out and about the town. However, I wasn't so great at being consistent with exposing them to the same children repeatedly. They weren't developing relationships or expectations of people other than our immediate family. I knew when they were a year old I wanted them enrolled in a "school" type program. The word school is in quotes because I wasn't looking for an academic, strict, sit in desks and do worksheets type program, which is what most people think. I knew I wanted the kids to attend 2 days a week and only a few hours each day.

Sweet daughter sitting in a folded up tunnel

Around here, the closest thing is called a Mother's Day Out (MDO). They are typically run by churches and start at either 12 or 18 months old. The first problem was that my kids were too young for the cut off date by a couple of weeks. I finally found one program that they could start. I had my son attend on Tuesday and Wednesday, while my daughter attended on Wednesday and Thursday. This made Tuesday Mommy/Daughter day, Thursday Mommy/Son day, and Wednesday Mommy day.

Silly son sitting in same tunnel

There were many benefits to starting at this age. The first, is exposure to germs. Without exposure to germs, kids get sick more often when they are exposed. This is why most kids get sick constantly their first year in school no matter what age they start. The great thing about starting at a year is they can quickly fight many things off. For the first 6-7 months my kids were sick every Friday and Saturday. They were almost always better by Sunday and we started the cycle again. They developed great immune systems and I don't anticipate more than a couple of illnesses in future years of school.

Happily sharing (for the moment)

The also learned to trust someone other than a parent. They learned that we would always come back for them. They learned that some rules and expectations are different with different people/environments. They learned that the world is full of more than just the two of them. I loved reading their daily reports and hearing them tell me about playing with their friends. While the place I selected was loving and full of social experiences, I wouldn't describe it as educational. Luckily, I felt like I had those needs met at home. It was reasonably priced and met our goals.

Silly daughter trying to escape the baby gate.

One of the big questions asked of parents of multiples is, "Will your kids be in the same class?" So, here's how we approached that. We have always viewed each of our kids as an individual who happened to be born on the same day rather than as a unit. We have tried, since birth, to give each of our kids individual attention and time alone so they don't always have to share everything. This was our approach for school as well. As I mentioned above, they went on different days so that they each had a Mommy and me day. While they enjoyed school, they loved having my full attention. We explored new playgrounds, which is much easier with one toddler than two. We did more complex art projects, we read books, and generally just enjoyed our time. On the days they weren't together in school they came home and played together without fighting. They were sharing and happy and life was beautiful. The other days they acted like toddlers who didn't understand how to share or how to be nice. The one day they both attended they were in the same class. Their teachers also noticed a difference. They both were more involved and did better when the other wasn't in school.

 Sweet son tired before nap time.

The main argument for keeping them in the same class is, if they are separated they will lose their twin bond. I try not to laugh when I hear this. Anyone who has multiples knows how silly this sounds. That bond is not going anywhere. The studies show twins separated at birth for decades still have that bond. How in the world these people think that a few hours a week will suddenly sever it is beyond me.

I am not saying that every set of multiples should be separated in school. Some twins (triples/etc) see themselves as a unit. Asking them to be in different classes is like asking your left leg to go to the store without you. It's absurd and will cause more pain and harm than good. This feeling of being a unit often decreases with age, which is why some people have a specific age in mind to separate them. In reality this is different for each set of multiples and should be addressed on a case by case basis.

What do you mean the costumes go here?

My kids have very different personalities and are drawn to very different social experiences. My son prefers to be in the middle of a group of boys and avoids spending time with adults that aren't family when possible. My daughter is all about being the center of attention when it comes to adults and will only play with other children if strongly encouraged. We are trying to provide comfortable, as well as new (and slightly uncomfortable) social experiences for both of them in safe environments.