Living together, learning apart: Siblings who attend different schools

Lucy Peck, Staff Writer

Every school day, Lenny Lane (11) wakes up, gets ready, and then wakes up his twin brother, Frankie, who attends The Calhoun School. Because Calhoun is in Manhattan, Frankie wakes up much later for a driver to take him to school, while Lenny takes the bus, he said. 

Lenny is one of many students whose sibling attends a different school. This dynamic comes with upsides, like filling each other in about school days each evening and downsides, such as misalignment of break schedules, he said.

One benefit of having children attend different schools is that parents have fewer ways to compare them, Natalie Doldron (11), whose brother attended York Prep School and is now in college, said. It is difficult for their parents to draw direct contrasts between her and her brother when they attend schools with different course rigor, teachers, and academic environments. “They can’t say, ‘why did you get this grade in this class when your brother got this grade in this class?’” 

Ross Markman P’23, who has one twin at the school and another at Collegiate School, said it can be worthwhile to send children to different schools. Each school has a different feel and each kid has a different personality, he said. “You try to pick a school that you think would be good for each kid as an individual, as opposed to them as a group.”

Going to a different school than her sibling gives them more to talk about at home, Ava Westreich (11), whose younger brother attends the Allen-Stevenson School, said. “When we eat dinner together, there are more things to share about each of our days.” Westreich enjoys being separated from her brother during the day and then reconvening at night to discuss what happened at their respective schools, she said.

Emma Simon (10), who has a younger brother at Winston Preparatory School, has a similar experience with her sibling. “When you get home and ask ‘how was your day?’ there is more to talk about,” she said. “If we both went [to Horace Mann], I would already know what his day looked like.”

Lane notices many differences between his and his brother’s  schools when they talk about his day, such as how teachers are addressed, he said. “At Calhoun, they say their teachers’ first names instead of Mr. and Mrs.,” Lane said.

Jill Schildkraut-Katz P’24, who has a son at the school and a daughter at Trevor Day School, has noticed numerous differences between the two schools, she said. “Both schools have engaged communities yet Horace Mann is a campus school that draws from over 150 zip codes, so it is more of a commuter school,” she said. “While Trevor does have people from outside of Manhattan proper, it feels a little bit more like a New York City school.” 

Schildkraut-Katz said that each of her kids are in a school that caters to their interests. Horace Mann offers robust robotics and engineering programs, both of which are important to her son. Trevor is strong in arts and is more flexible with student schedules, which works for her daughter, who is a performer, she said.

Westreich’s brother, Austin’s, impression of Horace Mann compared to Allen-Stevenson is that the school has tons of homework and good cafeteria food, he said. Austin came to this conclusion after seeing his sister stay in her room all night doing work.

Frankie, who left the school after kindergarten and transferred to Calhoun, has a similar perception of the school. “I’ve heard it’s very rigorous, very intense, very academic centric.”

Calhoun to be more art-focused than Horace Mann, Frankie said. “Usually when I hear about HM, it’s about the academics, not really the art programs,” he said. In addition, Calhoun has initiatives that the school does not, such as open classrooms and double periods, he said. “They [Calhoun] think of themselves as a progressive school, whereas I see Horace Mann as more of a traditional school.”

When it comes to academics, having siblings at different schools makes collaboration on schoolwork difficult, Simon said. Her brother’s school focuses on different topics, particularly in his math and science classes. “He was learning physics in ninth grade, whereas we don’t start learning that here until junior year,” she said.

It was also difficult for Doldron’s brother to help her with school work because their curriculum did not match up by grade levels, she said. For instance, Doldron read “Lord of the Flies” in seventh grade, while her brother did not read it until tenth grade. On the flip side, her brother finished sinusoid graphs in ninth grade math, while she is currently learning them in junior year.

Similarly, even though Lenny and his brother are in the same grade, there is variety between the school’s curriculum and his brother’s, he said. “Their math curriculum is definitely different — he is still working on algebra concepts, while we are studying more trig and calculus topics.” For siblings who attend the same school, it is easier to relate with one another’s academic experience. 

Tyler Rosenberg (11) received help from her brother, Spencer Rosenberg ’22, on difficult classes before he graduated, she said. Rosenberg remembers when her brother taught her how to solve graph problems in algebra, she said. “When I was a sophomore and he was a senior, he was already familiar with the topics we were covering,” she said. “It helps to have someone who knows what you’re going through.”

Older siblings can also pave the way for younger siblings when they have the same teachers, like with Rosenberg and her brother. “He made a good impression on all of his teachers. If I had his teachers, [that connection] was always positive instead of negative.” Rosenberg has had classes with English teachers Harry Bauld and Dr. Deborah Kassel, both of whom her brother had years earlier. It was easier to transition into her classes after hearing a bit about the course from her brother, she said.

When it comes to school calendars, one disadvantage of siblings attending different schools is that their holiday breaks don’t always match up, Simon said. Her brother’s school’s break schedule is like that of a public school, so their vacation days often differ from the school’s. Their family spends time together during the breaks that both schools share, like Presidents’ Day Weekend. At other times of the year, they find ways to work around their schedules, Simon said. “Sometimes, he takes off a few days from school during our break so that we can go away.”

For the most part, large holiday breaks for the school and Trevor match up, Schildkraut-Katz said. Only a few days are different, such as when one school has a teacher development day while the other does not. Additionally, the school is off for Diwali, Eid, and Lunar New Year, while Trevor is not.

“The challenge of having kids at two schools is that I can’t be all in at one,” Schildkraut-Katz  said. “It’s important to be a role model to my kids and show them that their community is important.” Sending her kids to different schools makes it difficult for her to be as involved in both as she would like, especially on top of working full time, she said. Despite this, Schildkraut-Katz is still involved in both school communities. 

The arrangement also makes things more hectic for Markman and his wife, he said. “But, we think the benefits outweigh the costs.” The breaks between the two schools line up because most New York City private schools are on the same schedule, he said. “Basic vacations, basic spring break[s] all align.”

Having a sibling who goes to the same school gave Tyler a friendly face in the hallways, she said. “I would try to embarrass him in the halls by calling his name out in front of his friends,” she said. “He would always get me Dunkin when he went down the hill.”

Similarly, Aamri Sareen (11) remembers when her older sister, Ranya Sareen ’20, would wave to her in the halls. “When I was in middle school and she was in high school, she and her friends always made an effort to say ‘hi’ to me,” she said. “It made me feel cool and important because they were older.”

Miller Harris (12) has fond memories of when his older brother Sam Harris ’18 attended the school. “He graduated five years ago, but when he was here he would drive me to school every day,” he said.

Even though Doldron and her brother attended different schools, they still found time to make memories with each other, she said. Doldron recalls when her brother would wake her up at 6 a.m. and ask for help with his uniform, she said. “He never learned how to tie a tie, and he used to have to wear one for his uniform,” she said. “He would come into my room an hour and a half before I had to wake up to ask me for help tying it.” 

Ultimately, Markman said that this arrangement promotes individualism and discourages competition amongst his twins. Because his children attend separate schools, they are able to develop independently of one another, he said. “The upside is that they each get to develop their own identity and their own sense of self without the other being a contingent part of it,” he said. “They can just be themselves and not worry about competing.”