"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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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 , , , , , , , 7 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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Classroom Placement: Part III – Full Circle

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Categories Balance, Classroom Placement, Identical, Other people, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , 7 Comments

This afternoon, I received an email from my daughters’ school informing me that a spot had been secured in Mrs. G’s 1st grade classroom for our daughter M. She starts Monday.

Mrs. G is a great teacher, and a warm and lovely person. I once ran into her at the grocery store and we chatted for an hour. I’ve met her granddaughter, a sweet, well-behaved little girl. In the classroom, Mrs. G is loving but firm, supportive but demanding. Still, my head began to pound as I tried to think through the repercussions of this placement.

Our daughter J, you see, is already in Mrs. G’s class. At the recommendation of J’s kindergarten teacher, and following much agonizing soul-searching, we decided to allow her to skip 75% of kindergarten and 25% of 1st grade to join Mrs. G’s class midstream. M stayed in kindergarten for a further 9 weeks, which brings us to today.

Having M skip to 1st grade mid-year is a no-brainer. The academic work is no challenge for her, and her wonderful kindergarten teacher took the time to make sure that M is emotionally ready. M even spent some time in the 1st grade classroom before the holidays to confirm that she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. My husband and I have already talked through the consequences of J being a year younger than her peers, and having one fewer year in school. The same concerns apply to M. Weighing everything, we decided to let J move on up when her teacher recommended it, and we’re simply doing the same with M. That headache has, for the most part, dulled.

The source of today’s headache is that M and J will be in the same classroom. A lot of thought went into our choosing to exercise our right to have our daughters placed in different classrooms when they entered school. In a nutshell, we thought that the girls needed to establish themselves as individuals, both in their own perception and in that of their peers. Texas state law gives us the right to demand that our daughters be separated, but I recognize that the school has already gone to lengths to accomodate the girls’ learning styles, prior education and emotional maturity.

I may be worn out by the emotional drain of trying to make the right decisions for our daughters in uncharted territory. I certainly don’t have any desire to fight the school. My husband and I spoke briefly this evening, and agreed that the basic goals of splitting the girls into separate classes had been accomplished. They have separate friends. They know that they are liked as individuals, and not just as a set. They have learned to rely on friends for companionship, and to do so without Sissy to fall back on. J and M understand that they don’t have to do everything together.

There’s an entirely new set of concerns now. Mrs. G’s class is J’s territory. Will M be treated as her own person by the other kids, or will she simply be seen as J’s twin, the target of all the attention and assumptions about twins we were trying to avoid?

The girls are a little hesitant about the change. M doesn’t want to leave her kindergarten teacher, whom she loves dearly. J isn’t quite ready to share her spot as class cutie. She was a little miffed at her classmates’ excitement when M visited last month. She told me that she felt that the girls who told M she was cute were “M’s 1st grade girls.” They usually tell J that she is cute; she’s the class clown. She didn’t say that it had upset her, but I could read between the lines. Mrs. G told me that she had sat M next to another child during the school day, but recess and lunch are a different matter.

Mrs. G is someone we trust to teach our children, so it’s time for a leap of faith. We can always request the school to place M and J in different classrooms next year.

What do you think? Should I be asking the school to accomodate M and J’s placement in separate classrooms for the rest of the school year?

Sadia and her husband parent their 5-year-old daughters in El Paso, TX as full-time volunteers. They each have income-generating careers on the side, she in IT and he in the military.

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separating multiples in the classroom

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Categories Classroom Placement, Development, Other people, Parenting Twins, Preschoolers, Relationships, School-AgeTags , , , 17 Comments

We’re officially on summer break, here. Unfortunately, summer is fraught with challenges for me and my twins. Things like swimming lessons and bike rides and water and parades and fireworks… Sigh.

Today the boys begin Safety Town, a pre-kindergarten program designed to teach safety basics like crossing the street, learning one’s address and phone number, calling 911, etc. I harangued the school into telling me the boys’ classroom assignment for kindergarten, and we went by and met their teacher. They liked her, liked their classroom. I’m overjoyed that they’ll be together, and so are they. For kindergarten, in our district, parents can note on the registration form whether they’d like their children placed with or separated from any other child. For multiples, the school makes certain the request is honored.

My boys are very close, and struggled in preschool when they were placed in separate groups, especially in the beginning of the year. By the end of the year they still disliked being separated, but were able to participate and keep from crying. We have all-day kindergarten here, so the full days 5x/week will be a big adjustment from three 2-hour days at preschool. I knew I didn’t want them to tackle that adjustment separately.

But I’m already worrying about first grade. I’d planned on separating them after kindergarten, but then my daughter had such a wonderful first grade teacher that I’d really like all my other children to have him, too. I started researching keeping multiples together after kindergarten, and found some interesting information supporting keeping multiples together until they request to be separated.

This sentence, in particular, caught my attention:

Many people view the bond between multiples as unhealthy — a dependency, a limitation that excludes outside relationships, a suffocation of individuality, a font of jealousy and rivalry.”

I absolutely find this to be the case. People comment on my boys’ relationship the way they commented on the kids having pacifiers beyond an acceptable age. It’s as though it’s an unhealthy crutch that society will tolerate, to a point, but just barely.

Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with several twins in real life (as opposed to online) who have related how painful the school separation was for them and their co-twin. These people are healthy, normal adults with separate lives now, so I can only assume the school separation happened before they were ready, and eventually they were ready and made that separation, internally, on their own.

Maybe my boys will be ready for separate classrooms in first grade, (and then I’ll just have to feel sorry for the one who doesn’t get the awesome teacher) but if they aren’t, I feel empowered to request they be placed together.

What have your experiences been with separating your kids in daycare or school, or even placing them in separate bedrooms? How has it gone?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of  5-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 7. She also blogs at http://www.diagnosisurine.com/.

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