Five, five-year-old siblings go back to school in Sun Prairie

SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — Getting back into the swing of things can be challenging enough with one or two kids in the home; imagine doing it with five, all five-years-old!  

That’s the reality for the Vanderwall family in Sun Prairie.  

"Five is a lot," said Frank Vanderwall, the quintuplets’ dad.  

Getting ready for kindergarten on Tuesday is the talk of their household.  "The entire kitchen floor was covered in backpacks, crayons, markers, glue sticks, you name it — literally couldn’t walk in the kitchen," said Frank.  

"Practice is they key because we did a practice run yesterday, and it was interesting!" said Bev Turzy, the quintuplets’ grandma.  

The Vanderwalls have it down to a science.  "It really is about preparation and routine," said Cassie Vanderwall, the quintuplets’ mom.  "We are so regimented because we have to be.  When 8 people have different places to be you have to be at certain check points along the way."

Preparation begins the night before with all the kids picking out their own clothes that they’re expected to change into on their own the next morning.  

Wake up starts at 6 a.m. or earlier; it’s not long before the whole gang is up.  If they’re not allowed to come downstairs for breakfast yet, the quintuplets say they like to play and have dance parties.  

When Cassie calls the kids down for breakfast, the quintuplets have kid-friendly tasks to help.  "Everybody has a role. We delegate," said Cassie.  For example, one child fills glasses of water, while another sets the table.  

After breakfast, the kids say goodbye to mom, headed to her job at UW Health.  Then dad and grandma help get the kids packed up and to the bus before Frank heads to work too.  

"Five has become our normal.  We just recognize that everybody has their own story and writes it the way they think is best," said Cassie.

Cassie has some advice for other families trying to get into the back-to-school routine.  She says this is what keeps things under control in their house.  

  • Prepare: Preparation begins the night before or even weeks before and includes planning breakfast, lunch and snacks. Most of this preparation happens the night before when breakfast is partially prepared, lunches and snacks are packed and clothes for the next day are laid out. Sharing the plan is also key because it can’t remain a best kept secret if it will be successful. It’s helpful to share the plan for the next morning or day the evening before.
  • Delegate: Mornings can be hurried and easily become chaotic, but delegating tasks to children and adults, all members can work as a team. Kid-friendly tasks include getting dressed, setting the breakfast table, filling water cups, serving themselves breakfast, brushing teeth and hair, etc. Older kids may be completely self-sufficient and simply need morning nudges to stay on task.
  • Be flexible: Stuff happens. A well thought-out plan can easily fall to pieces. Families can still get out the door in one piece and on time by remaining flexible. Flexibility can be difficult but by focusing on core values, remaining calm and being optimistic one can roll with the punches.
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