HINCKLEY – When Susan Clark explained the concept of twins to her kindergarten class, every student with a brother or sister thought they had a twin.
Almost all of those students were right.
There are five sets of twins in the kindergarten classes of Hinckley-Big Rock Elementary School, and Clark teaches most of them. Although many of the twins – all fraternal – were split between teachers, Clark has at least one in each pair and the only set that stayed in the same classroom.
Clark, who has taught kindergarten for 9 years at Hinckley-Big Rock, said she has never experienced a classroom like the one she teaches now.
"With us [teachers] I think there are days we have to remind ourselves they are twins because each one is their own person and has their own learning style and personality," Clark said. "It's been a real fun year, and I hate to see it wrap up."
The twins' parents were even more surprised than the teachers when they realized how many families in their small community had twins in the same year.
Danette Bulson said she still wonders what was in the water in 2006.
"I was very surprised when I found out, but it has been a help," she said. "You know you're not the only one out there going through the same thing."
Bulson's experience is slightly different from others as she has the youngest twins at 5 years old: a boy, Dillon, and girl, Danielle. Bulson said she enjoys the mixed-sex dynamic, because there is not as much competition as parents of twin boys or girls might experience.
But she said it would likely get harder as her twins get older because they will want different celebrations for their birthdays on the same day, sleepovers with their own friends at the same time and eventually have teenage dating troubles simultaneously.
"God wouldn't give me anything I can't handle," Bulson said. "I don't know any different. This is normal for me."
But some of the parents do know different, and it certainly has not been the "normal" parenting experience.
David Snelling, who has a 21-year-old daughter, said his previous parenting experience did not prepare him for life with twins. The retired 46-year-old said raising one child was "exponentially harder" than raising two at the same time because they become each other's closest friend.
Snelling also said it has been a wonderful experience spending his days with his twin daughters, Elisabeth and Makena, who are able to include him in what they do as little or as much as they want.
"Whether you have twins, triplets or a single child, you get a feeling you just can't understand until you're there," Snelling said of parenthood. "But when you have twins, it's like you multiply that feeling by two."
Raising twins has taught Rebecca Gengler that the similarities among a set of twins can end at their last name.
Gengler said her daughters Johanna and Ellie, are complete opposites, with Ellie delving into the world of insects and dinosaurs and Johanna exploring music and dance.
Fostering and encouraging those independent interests is one of the key responsibilities in parenting twins, especially as they get older, Gengler said.
"The hardest thing is going to be making time for their different activities as they get older because they are going to find their own interests," Gengler said. "But you want to see them shine in their own light."