Birthday Party Quandary

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Categories Birthdays, Classroom Placement, School-AgeTags , , , 8 Comments

J was just invited to her first birthday party since we moved to El Paso. The invitation came from a classmate. I assume the entire class was invited, since this was J’s first week in the class.

Even before I read the invitation, I reminded M that this was one of the things that was going to different, now that she and her sister were in different classrooms. They wouldn’t always be invited to the same parties any more. She was fine with that.

When I looked at the invitation, though, it was addressed to “Fam. J”.

Should I take M to the party, or leave her at home? There was no RSVP information, so I can’t ask the birthday girl’s parents. I’ve never dealt with this etiquette issue before.

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Classroom Placement: Part I – Separate Classrooms

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Categories Classroom Placement, Parenting Twins, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , , , 7 Comments

Who knows best whether your multiples should be placed in the same classroom or separated at school? You, right? For our family, separation in kindergarten was the right answer, but it’s different for everyone.

Many educators and school administrators believe that same-age siblings should never be placed in a classroom together. I would argue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that applies to all multiples. “Never say never,” I say. Like many other parents of multiples, it is my husband and I who know our daughters well enough to make the final decision regarding their classroom placement. Coming to an agreement as co-parents is an altogether different matter, as I’ll talk about next week…

We are fortunate to live in Texas, one of the 12 US states whose laws give parents the right to choose whether our multiples should stay together in public school. Oklahoma and Illinois have resolutions to the same effect. (As I understand it, resolutions involve moral rather than legal support from lawmakers, but I suspect Mommy, Esq. could give us a clearer explanation.) Another 10 states have sponsors for such bills. I wasn’t able to find information on similar laws in other countries, but my research made it clear that neither Canada nor the UK have such protections in place. Readers elsewhere in the world, where does your country stand?

Our daughters were in the same class from infancy until pre-kindergarten. Their preschool had only one class per age group, so we didn’t have the option of separating. There was one disastrous year at a larger program where we could have elected to split them up, but we kept them together there. A new school with Daddy leaving for Korea seemed shakeup enough, and we thought our 2-year-olds would be better off together.

Until relatively recently, I figured we’d keep the girls in the same classroom until they wanted to split up. By all accounts, they were well-adjusted and played with both each other and other classmates. They are horrified at the thought of having separate bedrooms, so I couldn’t imagine they’d consider separate classrooms.

The first time I considered separating J and M early was after talking to a friend. She and her twin sister had gone to college with me. My friend told me that separating them in elementary school was the best thing her parents had done for her. Because both she and her sister were in honours classes and heavily involved in their school music program, they ended up in a lot of same classes in high school by default. Elementary school was their opportunity to make friends as individuals instead of a twin pair, and that was when they grew to be as comfortable as individuals as they were as twins. She and her sister have the sort of relationship I hope my girls will have decades from now. They are close, yet pursue separate interests and have both shared and separate friends. One is married, and the other is not. I spent three years at college with these sisters, and had plenty of opportunities to witness their relationship, and my friend’s opinion carried a lot of weight.

I thought about keeping M and J together in kindergarten and separating them later in elementary school, but by the end of pre-K it was clear to both me and my husband that they should be in separate classrooms. After having been the dominant sister on and off over the years, M was depending increasingly on J. We got reports from school that M was expressing jealousy when J played with other friends. Worst of all, I noticed that M was taking less of an interest in reading independently because, “Sissy’s the good reader.” J, on the other hand, was oblivious to this, and balancing her relationship with M with her separate friendships and activities as she always has.

If this were the girls’ first foray out into the world without us, I might have considered keeping them in a single classroom anyway. After 5 years in daycare, though, they seemed ready to separate. We told the girls several weeks before school started that we would be asking the school to assign them different teachers. Neither of them expressed disappointment, or even surprise. M reported that she was a little sad about missing Sissy early on the first day of school, but their classes shared recess, lunch and PE. J said the best part of the day was seeing Sissy at the bus at the end of the day. Each of our girls introduced the other to her new friends, and they were able to be the bridge between the classes—at least the girls—on the playground.

For us, the choice to separate our girls was the right one. I’m glad it was ours to make. I don’t want an administrator who has never even met them dictating their placement based on preconceptions about multiples. After all, the twin bond is an extraordinary thing, but many who have never witnessed it consider it aberrant. I’ll admit that I held my own stereotypes about twins before M and J were born. I was convinced that fostering their independence and separate identities would be the biggest challenge of raising twins. They soon taught me that twinship was a gift, not a curse.

Have you thought about whether you want your multiples together or apart in school? What factors play into your decision?

What were your preconceptions of twinship before you met your newborns?

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Is it Labor Day yet?

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Categories Fraternal, Preschoolers, Theme WeekTags , 4 Comments

My four-year-old twins go back to school in three and a half weeks. 24 days, in fact. What, you think I’m counting?

While I hate to wish away the summer, this one will not go down as one of the best on record. My kids need routine, they need structure, and they need some time away from each other. I am so thrilled that they are in separate classrooms.

When I first learned that my twins’ Montessori preschool “strongly preferred” not to put siblings in the same classroom, my stomach dropped a little. My little ones would be only just three years old and going to school for the first time, having been at home with me this whole time. I always assumed they’d be in the same class in preschool, and then maybe I’d split them up in elementary school. But I loved the school so much, I decided to take the plunge.

I am so, so, so glad that I did.

Don’t get me wrong, my son and daughter really are the best of friends. They play together all day long, and it makes my heart practically burst to see how much fun they have together.  They fight, sure, and push each other’s buttons like any siblings would. But the arguments are forgotten as quickly as they start, and back they go.

silly pair

At the same time, however, they are not completely dependent on one another. Both are pretty independent, adaptable, low-anxiety kids.  They love doing separate outings on the weekends, and were thrilled to get their own rooms when we made the move to toddler beds.  In the months before school started, I did my best to explain that they would be in different classrooms, with different teachers, and they thought that was simply peachy.

We have a full year of school under our belts, and I have never regretted having them in separate classrooms. The worst I can say about it is that there’s a little extra juggling on meet-the-teacher night.  While it’s certainly no secret that they are twins, I love that the teacher can see the individual kid, rather than having any temptation to compare to their twin. I love that they can make their own friends and do their own work, relatively free from the influence or distraction of their “other half.”

And for those who would have anxiety over this setup, I will provide the perspective someone pointed out to me. They are in school three hours a day, five days a week. They’re dropped off in the same car, at the same time, to the same building. They play on the same playground at the same time (I’m told they often look for each other – how sweet is that?). They are picked up together, and then spend the other 21 hours of the day in the same house, doing the same activities.  There is no shortage of togetherness.

But as the summer winds down and they are in each other’s faces all day long, I know I’m not the only one who is looking forward to school starting again.  They can’t wait to see their teachers (“and tell her I’m FOUR now!”), and though I don’t expect they’d ever say it in so many words, I think they’re just as excited to have a little personal space, too.

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A Tale of Two Classrooms

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Categories Classroom Placement, PreschoolersTags , , 13 Comments

Last week, my pair of three-year-olds started preschool.

Second day of school

Did you hear that heavenly chorus bursting forth from your computer? That’s coming from my house.  Five mornings a week, we hit the car drop-off line, and in they go to their bright, beautiful Montessori classrooms.  And yes, that’s plural.  My three-year-olds are in separate classrooms.

The curriculum is designed as a longitudinal program, so the children stay in the same classroom, with the same teacher, for three years.  In large part because of that structure, the expectation is that siblings will be in separate classrooms, twins or otherwise.  I was initially a little taken aback, as I had always assumed my kids would stay together in preschool and separate later on.  But when I stopped to think about it, and thought about my own kids and how they relate to one another, I really believe that it’s the best thing for them.  (And if I hadn’t, I could have found another school, or possibly argued my case.)

My kids are reasonably close, as siblings go, but nowhere near as much as some sets of twins. I don’t say that as a good or bad thing, just as a point of fact. They play well together (until they start fighting, of course), but they don’t mind having time away from one another.  They love it when my husband and I split them up for part of the day on the weekends.  They were thrilled to move into their own bedrooms.

For my children, I think the separate classrooms work well.  My son gets a break from being bossed around by his sister, and won’t be distracted because he’s too busy poking her.  My daughter gets to come out of her brother’s more-outgoing shadow, and not spend so much time concerned with what he’s doing (and whether he’s doing it “right”).  They get to be known as individuals, instead of always being seen as a unit.  Yes, boy/girl twins have it easier in that regard than same-sex (and, especially, identical) twins.  But I still think that, when they’re together, even the most well-meaning person can tend to see them as a pair and sometimes treat them as such.  Heck, I know I do it, and I’m their mother!

And you know what? Being in separate classrooms does not seem to have phased them in the slightest. Certainly, we talked about it ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise when school started.  But every day, they have walked their own way with nary a backwards glance.  They sometimes find each other on the playground at the end of the morning, but not always.  They are happy to see each other at pick-up, and play together all afternoon and all weekend.  But I think they might actually like that three hours a day that is, in a sense, their own.

Oh, sure, it presents some logistical challenges for mama.  On orientation day, when parents were supposed to stay in the classrooms with their kids, I had to make sure my husband could take the morning off.  It makes me a little twitchy that I have gotten to know my son’s teacher better than my daughter’s (yes, seriously, it’s still only a few days into the year, I’ll get over it).  The two teachers do things slightly differently, which makes for a few extra things to remember, and minor conflicts when one child brings home drawings whenever they’re done, and the other is supposed to save them for Fridays.

But even just a week and a half into our first school year, I feel confident that having my kids in separate classrooms was the right call for us.

What about you? Are your kids together in school, or separate? If you haven’t hit school age yet, what do you think would work in your twins’ relationship?

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