back to (home)school with twins

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Where we left off (more than a year ago… whoops!), our twins’ IQ test results placed just one of them into our public school’s gifted program, which helped solidify our decision to homeschool them – and eventually all four of our children (girls ages 11 and almost 7, and our twin boys, who turn 9 today!)  – for the 2012-2013 school year.

We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.

Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways

  1. The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
  2. I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
  3. It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.   
  4. They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
  5. There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.  

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.

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First Day Butterflies and How Kids Categorize Themselves at School

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Categories Behavior, Classroom Placement, Difference, Education, Fear, Perspective, Relationships, School, School-Age, Theme WeekTags , Leave a comment

This was a discussion I had with my 7-year-old daughter, J, while grocery shopping.

butterfly
Photo Credit: Ian A Kirk.

J: I have butterflies in my stomach.
Me: Hunger butterflies or nervous butterflies?
J: mumble mumble
Me: Excuse me?
J: Nervous.
Me: What are you nervous about, sweetie?
J: I never had a teacher I knew before. I’m worried that I’ll forget how to behave.

Some context: M and J are starting 2nd grade today. Their homeroom teacher is M’s best friend’s mother. Over the last several months, she and her husband have become close friends of mine and made my girls feel like family. My daughters have spent several full days this summer at their house and even slept over. On one occasion, their new teacher, Mrs. H, picked them up from summer camp when I had an appointment, even though her own daughter was spending the night at her dad’s and wasn’t home.

Me: What do you think might happen?
J: Well, I’m used to being the… the example of… well-behaved. Actually, perfectly behaved!
Me: So how would it be different with Mrs. H?
J: It’s just different because I know her.
Me: My advice would be to listen first, then act.
J: Act? What do you mean, “act”? Like put on a monkey show or something?
Me: No, I mean to do something. Listen to the instructions first, then follow them. Mrs. H isn’t worried about it, is she?
J: No.
Me: Well, if she’s not worried, there’s probably no reason for you to be too concerned.
J: I guess.
Me: Why don’t you give me an example of a situation you’re concerned about, and we’ll figure out how to handle it?
J: Mom, I’m a role model.
Me: I know you are. Just make good choices, and it’ll be okay.
J: I guess.

You may recall that I wrote about how the most well-behaved kids may act out with the people they feel safe with. J’s concerns seem to underline that point. Mrs. H is safe harbour and practically a member of our family. To have to behave with her as a teacher has J flustered. J knows that she’s been pushing the boundaries with Mrs. H in a way that she would never do in the classroom.

We have made some efforts to maintain boundaries over the summer. My daughters call their new teacher Mrs. H, even as they refer to her husband by his first name. Mrs. H’s daughter won’t be in her home room, but due to the nature of the dual language program all 3 kids are in, she’ll be teaching her daughter for part of the day. Obviously, she’s well aware of the issues that may arise. At Meet the Teacher night last week, Mrs. H found a quiet moment with my daughters and another close friend of her daughter’s to let them know not to be surprised if she was stricter at school than she was at home. Obviously, if J hadn’t been thinking about the issue before, she was then.

The bigger thing that struck me about my conversation with J was how certain she is of her role in the classroom. She’s the kid who is perfectly behaved, the best reader and the most enthusiastic learner. Talk to M, and she’ll tell you that she’s the math whiz, fastest runner and best listener. My daughters are in 2nd grade and they already know where they fit in the classroom pecking order. Like me, they are the disgustingly obedient nerds.

What about those kids who, for whatever reason, have internalized other, less positive labels? Mrs. H asked for a particularly challenging student to be placed in her class so that she can try to break through to find the source of his acting out. It’s the rare teacher that does that. It honestly never occurred to me that these things would already be set going into 2nd grade.

Even while it saddens me somewhat to see my daughters pigeonholing themselves already, I remember that this is exactly the sort of social skill my kids will need in their adult lives. This sort of thing is why I was happy to see my kids “held back” with their age peers instead of pushing on ahead in a grade with kids a year older. When their father insisted that our children attend public schools, it was so that they would have a broader view of the types of people in our community and better appreciate the resources they have, including their talents, to give back to others.

How do you feel about kids labeling themselves as academics, jocks, or other things in elementary school? How would you feel about your child having a friend for a teacher?

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Together

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I’ve made an informed decision. My daughters will be in the same classroom for second grade.

I solicited opinions from the people who know best what the classroom dynamic is between my identical twins, their teachers and counselors. Not only are all four of them thoughtful educators who know my daughters very well, one of the teachers is herself a twin and one of the counselors is a mom of twin boys.

While the general approach was that separation was often good for twins in general, no one seemed to have serious concerns about J and M being disruptive, distracted or under-performing should they be in the same classroom. M’s teacher clearly leaned towards encouraging apart time, but her concerns were general rather than specific. I was looking for reasons to reject my daughter’ preference. After all, I’m trying to teach them to make good decisions for themselves and dealing with the consequences of the bad ones. Their father didn’t care either way whether they are in the same classroom next year.

The only people with extremely strong opinions were M and J themselves, and they want to be together. I’ve asked them over and over whether they still want this, and they’re not budging, not even while in the middle of heated arguments with each other.

The feedback that I was going to weigh the heaviest was that from J’s classroom teacher. He teaches the girls separately for math and together for language arts. I do have to say that I feel for him. During Reading and Writing Workshop, he has not only my identical twin daughters, but another set of identical twin girls too! He says he calls someone the wrong name just about every day, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have trouble telling his students apart. I still sometimes call my daughter M by my sister’s name. They look, sound, and behave nothing alike. The only commonality is that they both let me kiss them on the nose.

But I digress.

Here’s what J’s teacher said: “I really think they will do great either way you decide. In second grade they wouldn’t see as much of each other as they do now if they are put in separate classes, so that is one thing to consider.”

I did consider that. As Dr. Segal mentioned in her post, just a glance at a twin to know she’s okay can help a child focus in class. My daughters have friends in common, but they have different best friends. They play together, but they’re as often apart as together at recess. They don’t feel the need to dress alike and have made their mark at school both as individuals and as sisters. I suspect that M and J know exactly what they need to be successful.

To round out the perspectives I got, here’s what M’s teacher had to say:

I appreciate you taking my opinion in consideration.
J and M are doing extremely well in separate classrooms. I think they need to learn to be apart from each other for longer periods of time. Granted they are in separate classrooms, they spend half of the day together during Writing and Reading workshop due to the nature of the Dual Language Program.
I can tell you from being a twin myself that being apart from my sister was very beneficial for us. We learned to speak up by ourselves whereas when we were together one or the other always spoke up for both. Being by ourselves taught us to be individuals.
I see it as the best of both worlds….time together and time apart!
Thank you!
And from the counselor the girls are closest to:
Since they are already in dual language together and are in class together part of the day, I think the teachers would be most helpful in letting you know how that works. During group with me, I noticed that they finish each other’s sentences/interrupt each other and are a little sillier when together, which is typical of sisters.  That makes me wonder if that would happen in class if together. On the other hand, they are also very helpful to each other and get along very well. Since I had them in a small group, I think their behavior is probably different in a large classroom setting. I would lean towards suggesting they be in separate classes, especially since they have dual language together part of the day. But I am comfortable supporting whatever decision you make.
This time next year, we’ll be making this decision all over again. It’s a new decision every time.

 

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The Unending Question of Classroom Placement

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I hereby declare that it will be high school before the matter of classroom placement will be resolved for my daughters. It’s now been three times that I thought things were settled, and it’s up in the air again.

Right now, my first graders in separate, but co-taught dual language classrooms. They’re apart for most of the school day, but together for language arts and recess. They have the same teacher for math and science, although they’re taught at different times. They sit at adjacent tables during lunch. They reunite immediately after school at post-school daycare and, once a  week, at group piano lessons.

On Friday, the first graders at my daughters’ school went on a field trip to the Texas State Museum and park. When I asked about their day, M went on for a good 30 minutes without pause about the NASA-related exhibit. She’s been fascinated by Neil Armstrong for years. J also told me about the great time she’d had.

Then both girls told me how much they’d missed each other. They’d made their way through the museum in classroom groups instead of as a single group, and didn’t get to see each other except briefly at the park. Even though their classes had occupied the same bus, they weren’t partnered up to sit together.

“Mommy, can we be together in second grade?” M asked me.
“Please?” J added.

I tried to understand how strongly they felt about this request, and they held firm.

I sent off an email to the girls’ teachers and counselors to get their opinions:

J and M told me this morning that they would like to be placed in the same classroom for second grade. While my preference has been to keep them in separate classrooms during elementary school for a number of reasons, I do think that they’re old and mature enough to have a say in the matter. I’m not yet sure if this was a fleeting response to missing each other during the field trip yesterday or is a considered request.
I was wondering if you could tell me how you feel about M and J being placed in the same classroom. Do you have any particular concerns about this prospect for next year? I’d like to make sure I have all your opinions before I determine how serious the girls are and make a request one way or the other.

As I have in the past, I’ll let you know where we end up.

Sadia and her identical twin daughters M and J live in the Austin, TX area. Sadia is a single working mom. J and M will be 7 years old next month.

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"I Had No Idea She Had a Sister"

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, Classroom Placement, From the Mouths of Multiples, Mommy Issues, Other people, Relationships, School, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

J is standing in front of wall of art, showing off her paint and collage chameleon.Our local performing arts center recently hosted an exhibition of elementary art from around the school district. One of my twin 6-year-old’s works was selected for display.

I confess that I’d completely forgotten about the open house. When I picked the girls up from after-school care Wednesday, I planned to take them shopping for shoes. They reminded me of our priorities, in a hurry. We made it to the exhibit by the skin of our teeth, a minute before the teachers began to dismantle the displays. While the artwork has been up for several weeks, the open house/teacher meet-and-greet was 2 hours only.

M had been the one to remind me of her sister’s exhibition. “We can’t go shoe shopping,” she told me, “because sisters are much more importanter than selves. We have to see J’s chameleon.”

J spotted her piece within seconds of our arrival. While we were oohing and aahing, her art teacher arrived. Once the handshakes and hugs were over with, the art teacher said to J, “I didn’t know you had a sister!”

“They’re actually in the same grade,” I told her. “Twins.” I immediately felt an urge to slap my forehead. Why did I need to volunteer that? What difference does it make? This was J’s moment to shine.

On cue, M’s art teacher arrived, saw M, hugged her and introduced herself to me. “I just love having M in my class,” she gushed. “She’s such a hard worker, and so articulate!”

J’s teacher looked M’s, and said, “Did you know she had a sister? I had no idea J had a sister!”

“No, I didn’t know. M’s a wonderful student!”

This moment was why I chose to have my girls in separate classrooms. They’re independent enough that I didn’t think it would hurt to be apart, and I wanted them to learn that they excel and are valuable as individuals as well being on display to the world as a pair.

M was a little perturbed on the drive home. “I don’t think I’m a very good artist,” she said. “I wasn’t picked.”

I quickly corrected her. “No, sweetie, that’s not it at all. I think the teachers had to limit themselves to one piece per grade, and yours just wasn’t the one your teacher picked for first grade. You’re an excellent artist.”

M perked right up. “J got picked. I just love her chameleon.”

J was miffed. “You’re just being jealous.”

I started to say, “No,” but M interrupted me. “I’m not jealous! I’m proud of my special Sissy.”

And I’m proud of my special girls.

Sadia’s 6-year-old daughters attend a dual language first grade program in a public school near Austin, TX. She feels very fortunate to be in a school district that can still afford to include music, art and physical education, as well as the Spanish and English immersion experiences. Sadia is a single mom and works in higher education information technology.

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A Myriad of Multiples

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When I was in elementary school, there were three sets of identical girl twins in my grade. They were even in the newspaper.  I remember the picture that went with the article, with the six girls sitting stacked on a slide at our school’s playground.  (I never imagined that one day I’d have my own set of twins! )  As it turns out, my school’s meager three twin sets pales in comparison to one Tennessee school with fifteen(!) pairs of twins.

Double Take! Twins Explosion Hits School (video via Nbcnews.com)

With only 611 students at Castle Heights Upper Elementary School, thirty twins really seems like a lot.  And of course, where there are multiples, there are urban legends surrounding their conception—maybe it’s something in the water? Of the fifteen twin sets, three have been reported to be a result of fertility treatments, while the rest were ”luck.”  “We were in Vegas when it happened…” joked one mom.

Parenting twins raises all sorts of questions that parents of singletons don’t need to worry about.  One of those questions is whether or not to separate twins when they reach school age. Do you remember Sadia’s  experience with each of her girls in separate classrooms, and then separate grades?  Dr. Nancy Segal, who appears in the news clip, was here yesterday at HDYDI to address the benefits of separating, or not, twins in school and to give her recommendations for school policy on twin placement.

And when it comes to befriending other twin pairs, one of the Castle Heights dads jokes that the kids “don’t have a choice at our school!” What an interesting circumstance!  While juggling my own multiples can certainly “keep my hands full,” it does make me wonder what it would be like for them to have other twins to relate to. (And can you imagine what it would be like as a teacher at that school?!)

Do your multiples enjoy friendships with other multiples?

 

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Guest Post: Separating Twins at School by Dr. Nancy Segal

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Categories Classroom Placement, Difference, Education, Multiple Types, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School, School-Age, Unique needsTags , , , , , , , 13 Comments

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Nancy Segal, the director of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State, Fullerton.

Nancy L. Segal, Ph.D.
California State University, Fullerton
nsegal@fullerton.edu
drnancysegaltwins.org

The biggest dilemma regarding twins seems to surround the arguments for and against separating them at school. There is no simple answer to this question, but I strongly urge that there be no policy one way or the other. That is, each twin pair should be evaluated separately, taking their particular needs into consideration. I am, therefore, very much against mandatory separation of twins, a policy that is upheld strictly in some school districts.

Some schools maintain that twins will not grow up to be independent individuals if placed in the same room as their twin brother or sister. This is, however, not a research-based practice. It is known that when friends go off to school together for the first time they are more comfortable in their new situation, more interactive with other children and less likely to cling to their teacher. Interestingly, no one worries that two such children might not become separate, independent individuals!

Going to school for the first time can be a little daunting for some children, and forcing twins to separate from their parent and from their twin at the same time may be a lot to ask in some cases. A solution is for teachers to arrange for separate tables within the same classroom so that twins can see each other (that is often the only thing they need!), but develop separate friendships. I once tracked twins during recess and found that while identical were together more often than fraternals they were not together all the time. Often, just a glance at the twin was enough to make them feel relaxed and happy.

Separating Twins at School

We also need to be mindful of twin types. Identical twins are in a very different situation than fraternal same-sex twins who, in turn, are in a different situation from opposite-sex twins. Identical twins may be confused by their classmates and teachers, due to their matched appearance. If identical twins are placed together parents should have them wear different outfits or hair styles, or even wear name tags! It is important that people learn their names and address them as such. Fraternal twins (both same-sex and opposite-sex) will probably not be confused—although some people may forget which name goes with which twin in the case of the same-sex pairs. Same-sex fraternal twins will generally have different interests and abilities and may benefit from separate classrooms in some cases. Male-female twins may benefit from separation for other reasons—little girls mature ahead of little boys socially, intellectually ands physically. Girls in these pairs tend to mother their brothers, behavior that may not always be beneficial for the boys. Above all, however, all decisions regarding school placement for twins should be rendered on a case-by-case basis and evaluated periodically by parents and teachers working together. Young pairs, regardless of twin type, may benefit from being together during the early school years.

A word of additional caution: I have worked on cases of older identical twins who have been falsely accused of cheating on exams and projects because they produce similar scores and essays. If identical twins are in the same classroom, they should never sit together while taking tests!

For more information about all sorts of twin-related subjects, please visit my website at drnancysegaltwins.org.

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To Work or Not to Work

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Ever since the thought of having children crossed my mind when I was a child myself, it always seemed a given to me that when I did, I would stay at home and take care of them. My mom was a stay-at-home mother, and her mother before her, and I never thought to question it.

Fast forward 20 years or so to the birth of my first, and this all of a sudden was not so clear cut. I’d had a career. I was 7 years into teaching. I was a professional, I liked (if not loved at times) my job, and it was a large part of my identity. But that sort of clashed with my new identity as a mother, which for me trumped everything else. So I questioned what I would become.

A working mom, like so many of our generation? One who bundles up the child(ren) in a mad dash out the door each morning only to see them for a couple of hours each night? One who pays a good amount of her salary to daycare and wonders whether her child is being treated right? For a type-A personality like mine, this was hard to stomach. For the overprotective mother I was quickly becoming (who isn’t with their firstborn?), this seemed an impossibility.

But what about the lifestyle to which we were so accustomed? The mortgage and car payments, the Amazon shopping and eating out. Not to mention the place I had made for myself at my school, in my classroom, with my students.

Fortunately, my daughter was born in May, so maternity leave ran through the end of that school year, and I had all summer to stay at home with her. I worked out a plan to convince my mom to drop her work down to part time (I would compensate for the pay decrease) to watch my daughter while I was at work. She is the only person I trust with my children for any extended period of time, does not act like a grandparent (doesn’t cave to requests for cookies), and comes with the added benefit of speaking only Mandarin. So my daughter went to Grandma’s at 3.5 months, right when she began to reliably sleep through the night. She’s gotten good food, daily love and discipline, and is now fully bilingual. And I’ve gotten every afternoon and all holidays with her (which are pretty numerous as a teacher). It’s worked out great for 2.5 years.

Now, our daughter has a set of siblings, 11 weeks old. Three children under 3. This impossible decision is upon us again. I have already decided to take the rest of the school year off. That part is not in question. There is no way I would have left my twins after 8 weeks of maternity when my firstborn singleton got 3.5 months.

In fact it’s hard to imagine leaving them at all. As it is they are getting one third the attention our firstborn got. And though I am “off work” at 3pm daily, by then I’ve already had a full day of 5 classes, creating lessons, grading papers, and managing teenagers. To take on 3 kids after that may just break the camel’s back. Not to mention how an aging grandmother is supposed to handle them all…

But then again is the mortgage, the car payments (I’ve caved and accepted the fact that we will need a minivan sooner rather than later), the lifestyle we like to live, the TWO ADDITIONAL members of the family to support, and our future dreams to consider. Can we, do we want to, make the financial sacrifices necessary? Am I comfortable putting my career on hold, and if so for how long? The husband says he will support whatever decision I make, but I know that he is terrified of being the only wage earner in our family. Am I being selfish in not wanting to miss out on my children’s babyhood?

What to decide? I have until the end of the school year to do so, before the contracts for next year are signed. I’m hoping by then I will have either fallen in love with the life of parks and playdates, or can’t wait to get back to work.

lunchldyd is a mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and her 11 week old twin brother and sister. She is also a high school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, 3 children under 3, and two neglected dogs.

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Grade Placement Blues 2012, Part II

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Categories Bureaucracy, Classroom Placement, Education, Language, School, School-Age4 Comments

In the first of these posts, I told you how my 6-year-old daughters’ old school failed to maintain accurate academic records for them.

In August of last year, I bought a new house. I packed up my kids, cats and household goods and moved 900 miles from El Paso, where my now ex-husband is stationed with the army,  back to the Austin area where my job and most of my friend are.

One of the first things I did was register my twin daughters, M and J, at their new elementary school. I explained their convoluted academic history to the registrar and showed her the note scribbled at the bottom of each of the girls’ transcripts: “Grades reflect 1st grade curriculum.”

The registrar made it clear that the scribble wasn’t going to solve our problems, and referred me to the school counselors. I explained to them that I wasn’t particularly attached to the idea of J and M progressing through school with kids a year their senior. My biggest concern was that they both continued to love school, and that they both learn something every day.

The counselors suggested that both J and M take a grade placement test to establish whether they were ready to enter 2nd grade at age 6. They would need to demonstrate having mastered at least 90% of the first grade curriculum to be allowed to skip a year and enter 2nd grade, which they would have done if they’d stayed in El Paso. It took only a few days to schedule the tests, and a couple more to get results.

M had qualified to enter 2nd grade in English and math, squeaking past the 90% cutoff with a 91%. She was 2 points below the cutoff for science and social studies, but the school had the right to choose to ignore those scores if they wanted. J, on the other hand, missed the cutoff with a score of 89% in math and in English.

This was déjà vu. I wasn’t about to split my twin daughters into separate grades, possibly for the rest of their school careers, without a very good reason. A 2% difference in test scores wasn’t a good reason in my eyes. Remember, a year earlier, I had caved into my now ex-husband’s desire see have our daughter J skip a grade while her sister stayed behind. The fact that the roles were reversed this time around just convinced me all the more that there was no reason to have the girls rush through school and miss out on being with kids their own age.

The counselors backed me up. They would also prefer to see M and J do first grade over again and stay with kids their own age. I had done intensive research and picked this school for them. It had a reputation of excellent teaching and valuing an individualized approach to learning. I didn’t care what their grade was called as long as J and M were safe, learning new things,  socializing with their peers, and enjoying school.

I did ask one favour. I wanted both my daughters in the dual language program. I knew that the other kids had had a year of both Spanish and English instruction in kindergarten. I figured that the disadvantage that J and M would be at because they would need to learn Spanish would be balanced out by the fact that they’d already learned the first grade material.

The Spanish-English dual language coordinator interviewed the girls. She reported that, although they had no Spanish comprehension at all, their English was strong enough that they wouldn’t stay lost for long.

I haven’t regretted for a minute letting M and J repeat first grade, although their father sees this as a major failure. He wants them to be evaluated to skip a grade again at the beginning of next year.

To my mind, school is at least as much about teaching social graces and a sense of accountability, learning to interact with peers, learning compassion and generosity, as it is about academics. The girls are flourishing in their new school, and the Spanish they’re learning will be a huge benefit to them here in Texas and in much of the world.

J captured it perfectly not long ago:

M was the only one in her class to get 100% on her science quiz! It was all in Spanish and she got 100%! When Ms C told us how well M did, I was so proud, I wept tears of joy.

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Grade Placement Blues 2012, Part I

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Categories Classroom Placement, Difference, Education, School-Age4 Comments

In the autumn of 2011, when the US school year starts, I fretted over my daughters’ grade placement. To make an extra-painfully long part of this painfully long story short, after starting kindergarten with their age peers, J and M were skipped, at different points in the year, up to first grade. They started and ended their school year in the same grade as each other. For a while, though, there was a good chance that the twins would end up in different grades for the remainder of their academic careers, a prospect that made me feel a little sick.

One might think that the matter of the girls’ grade placement was resolved. They had both completed first grade with awards attesting to their all around academic excellence.  They had qualified for the 2nd grade Gifted and Talented program for this academic year. They’d carried themselves remarkably well in the face of the reality of how mean 7-year-olds can be. They’d even worked together to protect a classmate who was facing bullying.

As luck would have it, I requested official transcripts as part of my preparation for our 900 mile move. That’s when things got really ugly.

I reviewed their transcripts and began to suspect a problem. Both transcripts showed the girls as having completed kindergarten, not first grade. In retrospect, I’m glad that both sets of records had the same problem, so I didn’t have inconsistency between J’s and M’s. That might have landed me in the loony bin.

I called the school. I was referred to the registrar. I left a voicemail. After not hearing back for several days, I called back to see if there was someone else in the office who could help. I was referred to the assistant principal. I left a message in her voicemail too.

I gave up on telephonic technology and decided to play this old school. I drove down to the school and asked to see the registrar. She referred me to the assistant principal. Once I cornered her, she informed me that since the girls didn’t have placement tests on file, they had no way update their records to reflect their grade. I asked her why the placement tests weren’t on file. She told me the girls had never taken any. I reminded her that the school had conducted an extensive evaluation before recommending that J and M skip a grade. She said they didn’t include the testing piece because it involved ordering a test from the district. I reacted the way you would expect.

The girls could take the test now, she said, just to get the scores into their records. I agreed. I needed accurate transcripts for the new school district. Fortunately, M and J, like their mother, love tests. They just see them as extended puzzles. I filled out the form requesting testing twice, the form we’d never been offered before. I secured a promise that I would receive a phone call as soon as the tests arrived. I inhaled a smallish box of chocolates, then called my ex-husband to fill him in. He didn’t take it as well as I did.

Time scurried on, but I didn’t hear a peep from the school. I called to follow up, and was told that the district didn’t like to administer the tests on odd dates. Could M and J possibly sit for the test in August. Sure, I said, as long as it was before the 15th. We were moving away after that.

The end of July drew near, and I heard nothing from the school. I didn’t even mess with the phone and went in to find out what was going on. The assistant principal was on leave, I was told. I told them to find me the principal. They got me the registrar. She told me they were getting a new assistant principal.

I met with the new assistant principal before she’d had a chance to put photos of her kids on her desk. She said she’d follow up with her predecessor to find out what was going on. I asked whether I could give her what information I had. She pulled out a legal pad, grabbed a pen, and turned my Mama Bear wrath into a full page of notes. She would take care of things, she told me, and whether or not she’d made progress, she’d call me by Friday.

She actually called me on Friday. I began to hope that things cold be cleared up. Too soon. She apologized profusely, and herself acknowledged that had the school dotted their Is in the first place, we wouldn’t be here. However, district policy was that every application to be tested to skip a grade had to be approved by the school board, and they wouldn’t meet again until after the next school year had begun.

Fine, I told her. I surrendered. Was there any way that they could attach a letter to their official transcript explaining the situation? She agreed to do so.

To Be Continued

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