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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
My twin daughters M and J are in different classrooms at elementary school. Their teachers collaborate a lot, so the girls tend to cover the same course material at the same time, and are actually taught together–along with the other set of identical twins in their classes–for Language Arts.
When it comes to art, physical education, and music, though, the girls’ classes are on different schedules. They have different music teachers and learn different songs in music class while learning the same musical concepts.
Yesterday, M told me, she knew all the answers in music class. She “cheated” (her word) because J had told her all about her music class the day before. She earned a sticker for being about to explain the difference between beat and rhythm. M told the teacher that she had an unfair advantage because J had told her everything already, and the teacher didn’t seem to think much of it.
I can imagine that J’s music teacher might be pleased that J took away enough from class to want to and be able to share her new knowledge with a peer. However, I don’t want either of my daughters to be deprived of the joy of discovery in the classroom. I don’t want them to have an unfair advantage over their peers, either, from the early access to classroom material having a twin provides. When the time comes, I want them to choose to avoid previews of test questions, for instance, that would allow them to game the system. J and M are only 6 years old now, but I can only imagine that the next 6 years will rush by me just as fast as the last 6 did.
At the recommendation of some friends, I think I will talk to both girls about holding back from spilling the beans on new knowledge in the classroom until Sissy has had a chance to have the same experience with her teacher. Of course, I want them to feel like they can talk to each other, especially if they find schoolwork engaging. Some of my most effective learning in school came from discussing classroom material with my friends and getting their insights and perspectives.
How would you approach the matter of exposure to common course material at different times with your multiples? Has this come up?
Sadia’s identical twin daughters, J and M, attend dual language Spanish-English first grade in Central Texas. They have the same homework assignments, but get to choose 3 of 7 possible homework exercises each week per language, which keeps things interesting. They are lucky to have art and music at their school, in this age of funding cuts.
Our identical (we think?) twin boys are in 1st grade now. While their speech issues hinder their spelling, they’re still performing above grade level in language arts. But math is where they really excel. This fall, G’s standardized test scores for math were the highest in the class, well above the 99th percentile threshold. Right now a parent volunteer is running a pull-out group for some of the kids who can do more challenging work, but next year that might not be an option. We wondered if the boys might be able to jump a grade for math. This isn’t something our district does readily, so we knew we’d have to push. We requested that our boys be tested for the district’s gifted program — if they qualified, we’d have the leverage we need to push for differentiation.
We were surprised by our results. G did not qualify for the gifted program, missing the cut-off by 4 IQ points. P did qualify.
Initially, I was upset with myself for even requesting the test. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of one qualifying and the other not. Now we had this bona fide test result, on paper, saying G was less capable than his brother. And G has always struggled with self-confidence.
The more I’ve thought about it, the less I trust the IQ test results. I consulted with the director of the university speech clinic the boys attend, and she felt his speech issues could have thrown off the results. G is very aware of his articulation errors, and speaks very slowly to strangers so they can understand him. P does not make any effort to slow his speech for the benefit of others. The speech clinic director said G is likely to choose his words based on what will be easy for him to pronounce and for others to understand, rather than choosing the words that best convey his meaning. G is a kid who asks for math work on his days off of school, because he says he feels anxious on days when he doesn’t get to do math. He picked up his sister’s 4th grade math workbook and started completing the pages for fun. My other two kids who do qualify for the gifted program don’t do anything like this.
We will probably have him retested at some point, so we know what all of our options are. Our oldest child attends a charter school for academically gifted students, and our public schools have various levels of differentiation available. For now we won’t retest — G said he didn’t like the test and it was boring, so I hate to put him through the same thing with the same test administrator this school year. In the meantime we’ve decided to home school next year — we can let them work at their own pace, and provide as much enrichment as either of them needs.
What would you do? Have you run into a similar situation? How would your multiples handle one being placed in a gifted program, while the other remained in the regular classroom?
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver. Once in a while.
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.
When I told you that my twin daughters were now in separate grades, many of you provided very thoughtful, thought-provoking responses.
The bulk of the opinions were on the side of keeping M and J at the same grade level, rather than having J skip 75% of kindergarten and 25% of first grade to become a 5-year-old in first grade, while her twin sister M stayed in her kindergarten class.
I can’t say I disagree with any of the arguments, although we decided as a couple to skip J up.
Yesterday, J made an offhand comment that M doesn’t enjoy reading, and my husband decided it was time to take her down a peg. After I reminded J that it was M who had recommended The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales to her, Daddy told J that she was no better a reader than M was. In fact, there were hardly any skills at which any one of them was significantly more adept at than the other. M was unsurprised by this announcement, but J was visibly deflated. I think she’s better for her ego having been somewhat shrunk, but time will tell.
M woke this morning to tell me that she had had a bad dream. She had dreamed that she had to leave her kindergarten teacher to go to first grade. I told her that this was something that would eventually come to pass, and reminded her that her past teachers had, for the most part, remained in our lives after she left their classrooms.
Many of the moms who commented on our decision to move J to first grade noted that, while supporting the individuality of children is key, being a multiple is a real and tangible part of our kids’ lives. To ignore that fact is to ignore a key component of their self-image. It’s interesting that my mother-in-law and I made that same argument when we were trying to come to decision. My husband and father-in-law were on the other side of that. Could there be a gender component at play here? Are MoMs and FoMs basically different in their outlook? How would your male partners vote?
As it happens, we ran into M’s kindergarten teacher, her beloved Mrs. K, at a birthday party over the weekend. Mrs. K’s daughter is in J’s first grade class, so our mommy circles overlap. M was giddy at the sight of her teacher and firmly attached herself to Mrs. K’s leg while we talked. In the midst of smalltalk, Mrs. K told me that M wasn’t getting the benefit of interacting with peers to encourage her reading; she will be joining J’s first-grade class during reading time. She has made leaps and bounds in her time management, both at home and in the classroom, and her confidence has shot up. If she stayed on the this trajectory, Mrs. K said, she would be recommending that M also move to first grade in 9 weeks’ time. While Mrs. K can find work to challenge her, she believes that she would benefit from having peers who challenge her too. J’s first grade class is already at the state-mandated maximum of 22 students, so they would most likely not be in the same classroom.
Does the possibility of M now going through school on the same schedule as her sister change your opinions about the wisdom of having J bypass kindergarten?
To the teachers out there, is kindergarten any less critical a year to children who have attended structured pre-K programs, or does pre-K simply give them a better chance for kindergarten success?
When not pondering parenting decisions, Sadia and her husband work from home as a geek and on base as a soldier, respectively. With their identical daughters, J and M, they are exploring life in El Paso after having been Austin-area suburbanites for the majority of their relationship.
I thought that once we’d decided that to place our twins in public school and in separate classrooms, we could sit back and let the kindergarten year unfold.
Some of you may recall that getting M and J into their kindergarten classes was a little stressful. Fortunately, both their teachers turned out to be skilled and committed educators who value their student’s individuality and learning styles.
In her second week of kindergarten, M brought home a list of her week’s homework assignments. J did not. A few days later, J told us that she was the only child in her classroom who didn’t have homework. We contacted her teacher, who informed us that she and M’s teacher didn’t think that their homework assignments would challenge them, and were working with a 1st grade teacher to get them 1st grade assignments to work on. J’s teacher hadn’t realized that M’s teacher had given her kindergarten assignments in the interim.
Before long, J’s teacher told us that both teachers would talk to the school administration about whether moving J and M to 1st grade would be a possibility. I panicked. I didn’t think my husband and I could look at this development objectively. He had been held back in kindergarten, and felt that he was worse off for it. It didn’t help that being held back put him in the same grade as his younger sister. My parents had turned down an opportunity for me to skip 5th grade, and I firmly believe I’m better off for completing school with my same-age peers. I couldn’t see any middle ground, and we were both solid in our beliefs. I took a less-than-mature route, and avoided thinking about the whole thing. Out of mind, out of mind.
As the first 9-week quarter drew to a close, J’s teacher told us that the principal had given J’s advancement to 1st grade her blessing. The decision was ours to make. M’s teacher, on the other hand, told us that she would like to keep M in her kindergarten class. While the academics were no challenge for M, she needed to work on time management. M inherits from me a degree of perfectionism that can be paralyzing. In her efforts to get everything absolutely right, she was having trouble completing her work. Her teacher felt that a year doing schoolwork that came easily to her would help her confidence and her ability to finish things on time.
To me, that answer was clear. There was no way I was splitting my twins into different grades. I spoke to my mommy friends, and they were all of the same mind. Whatever benefit J gleaned from skipping ahead could just as easily be accomplished by providing challenges at home. The potential impact to M’s self-esteem wasn’t worth it. This was a long-term fix for a short-term problem. It wasn’t like J was disruptive in class, or any less interested in learning than she had been before. Skipping the remainder of kindergarten would mean that J would be graduating from high school a year before her twin. No way.
My husband, however, didn’t see it that way. To him, the girls’ twinhood should be a non-issue. The question was not whether J should leave M behind, but whether J would do well in 1st grade. If J wasn’t ready to go to college at 17, she could do an extra high school year.
We went around and around. I wrote up all 19 parts of my argument so that he could respond to each one. He wrote up his 4-point perspective. We both kept “healthy, happy and whole” adulthood for our daughters at the forefront of our minds. Finally, I gave in. I hadn’t changed my mind, but he was much surer in his stance. His belief that J would benefit from being skipped ahead was stronger than my fears of harm coming to both our daughters. The argument that turned me was my husband’s statement that we shouldn’t let our fears hold our kids back when they were willing to try something new.
There was also part of me that gave in because my husband’s duties as a soldier means he rarely has a say in child-rearing decisions. He has been overseas more than he has been home in our children’s lifetime. I make most parenting decisions solo. I try to include him in big decisions, but I often can’t reach him, and whether something is a big decision or not is my call. My mother-in-law is my backup co-parent, but in this case, mommy and grandma came down on one side, and daddy and grampy on the other.
It’s been nearly two weeks now that our twins have been in different grades.
M is flourishing. She and J no longer share recess, and her confidence and self-discipline have blossomed with the realization that J’s old kindergarten classmates are her friends, not just because she’s J’s sister, but in her own right. Because she is the only child in her class who can already read, M gets to be her teacher’s special helper. J gets out of school 45 minutes later than M, so the two of us have a 45-minute block every day that is ours alone, for M to tell me about her day, for us to read to each other, for M to get her extravert time in.
J is doing pretty well. I realized yesterday that she’s unaware that she was the only child to transition classes this quarter, and we’re electing to keep her in the dark. She could use some modesty. They did have to find a new desk for her. She couldn’t see over the ones already in the room. She’s a head and a half shorter than her classmates.
Still, she’s made friends, and is learning that she isn’t always the best at everything. This afternoon was graced with an hour-long tear-storm because J had come in second in her classroom spelling bee. She had wanted to win. While I didn’t exactly enjoy that hour, I think it was good for J to learn that sometimes doing one’s best needs to be a reward in itself.
What with their different grades, their different schedules, and their different haircuts, J and M are definitely not perceived as “the twins” at school. Each of them is seen, liked, and valued for who she is.
I’m not completely convinced that this was the right decision. I spoke to an old classmate from elementary school. He and his twin skipped grades at different times. His message to me read, in part, “On a high level, the pros are that each twin develops their own circle of friends (sometimes overlapping) and that gives each of them a sense of independence. The cons are that the twin that skips usually uses it to create an air of superiority over the other twin (kids being kids and all).”
What would you have done in our shoes?
Sadia earns her paycheck doing geeky stuff at a university. The rest of her time is devoted to raising her 5-year identical girls J and M with her US soldier husband. She’s not sure where she’s from, but possesses British and Bangladeshi passports and an American green card. The family is still finding their way around their new home in El Paso, Texas.