Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Divided We Thrive

The great twin classroom placement debate.

Disclaimer: Our experience is ours – I dare not say ours alone, as other twin parents no doubt have experienced the same – but please don’t feel “judged” if your viewpoint for your family is different.

When our boy/girl twins matriculated into preschool at age 4 their incoming class had four sets of twins and one set of triplets. We had planned on asking to have our two placed in separate classes, but the vast majority of the multiples-blessed families also wished to have their same-day-born siblings separated---causing an insurmountable logistical challenge for the classroom coordinators. We were approached with a very kind “We normally try to give each multiple-birth child their own class; however, we’re stuck. Darren and Sarah seem such individuals already, and do not seem to be nervous about the school year. Would you mind if we placed them in the same preschool class?” We agreed with, and felt flattered by, their observed assessment of our twins’ personalities. We willingly and happily complied.

Flash forward to a few months later, and surprise! Sure, our twosome talked about “new friends” and the other kids in the class; yet every time we asked one child or the other, “Who did you play with today?” or “What did you do on the playground?” invariably, their sibling’s name was front and center in the mix. Come parent-teacher conference time (and yes, preschool has parent-teacher conferences), their teacher shared what we by then surmised: Sarah and Darren were bright and well-behaved. They got along well with others. They played well with others…when they bothered to depart their uterine circle. After 4 years of well-developed social shorthand between the two, it was far easier to simply play together than to initiate interaction with new kids---kids who might not respond as predictably as the playmate known since birth. Despite typical brother/sister confrontations and quibbles, clearly they figured the devil known was better than the one unknown.

September-born, squeaking it in under the deadline babies that they were, we initially believed we’d do a single preschool year and head straight for the Big K. However, after that first year of unexpected clique-y coupledom, as well as for the benefits of lengthier emotional, educational and social development before going to “The Show,” we elected to go for another year---aptly named Pre-K, the minor league of elementary school.

From that year to the present, we’ve had a pluperfectly positive experience in discrete classrooms. Yes, there are parental challenges…the most heart-wrenching of which to date was the kindergarten Mother’s Day Tea, held in two places, at the same time. [Found a way to make it work, you can/could, too.] Frequently, their homework is as different as their room numbers. While it requires double the supervision, they learn independently and any “cheating” due to simple in-house proximity is averted.

But what of the oft-extolled “positives” to having twins share a classroom? Without intended offense to any families who genuinely feel the same-room placement option is best for their situation, when we pondered those believed-to-be-benefits, the “pro” always travelled with an inescapable “con.”

For example:

“They just love being together!”
How wonderful that they do! I love being with my husband, too; that doesn’t mean I get to spend all day with him. Non-simultaneously born siblings frequently love being together, too. They aren’t offered the option to school together. For those who then reply with a “but non-twins aren’t at the same developmental/intellectual/social level,” chances are, neither are your twins. You may be surprised to discover how uniquely placed on all of those curves your twins truly are. Unique classrooms have proven very illuminating in discovering the strengths and challenges of each child that we as their parents didn’t see prior.

“Twin A needs the reassurance Twin B can provide.”
Is twin reassurance in the classroom truly Twin B’s responsibility? Should Twin A not develop some independence? What if Twin A was not a twin? He/She would still need to attend school and wouldn’t have a luck-of-the-draw birth mate to ease their transition. Don’t take advantage of twindom to your children’s detriment. Yes, parenting the less-comfortable twin will be tough, maybe even heartbreaking at times; but you are the one to help them through…not their sibling.

“The same class just makes it easier for me.”
For some families, this may be a very valid reason. For me, the obvious benefits of placing our children in their own class environments made the “difficulty” not so hard to bear.

“There are all sorts of recent study indicating twins flourish in the same classroom!”
For every study that indicates “X,” there’s another study that indicates the opposite. The crux cited in legal documents filed by advocates of the same-class argument is the decision should be the parents’. So do just that! Make your own decision…don’t feel obligated to do what the twin message boards trending…either way!

“We asked our twins if they want to be together and they said ‘Yes!’”
When I ask my kids what they want for dinner, they say, ‘Candy!’ You can take your young twins’ wishes under advisement, but you’re the parent(s). Some parentally-wise decisions may not make your twins happy.

Since our twins are now in the second grade, and have 3+ years of classroom separation under their backpack straps, thought I’d go ahead and ask our He-Twin (who happens to be home from school sick) for his input.

What is the best thing about being in your own class at school?
Darren: “Probably less homework.”

So there you have it. For all the projecting of assumed anxieties and affections between our twins, when it comes to school, for them it boils down to homework volume! In all seriousness, we all might benefit from easing our parental angst about this---and many other---perceived as psychologically high-impact decisions. Stay open. Stay flexible. Stay true to what you genuinely feel is best for your family….and don’t kowtow to popular parenting du jour.

I’d be very curious to hear your perspectives. Comment away!

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Tracy said...

It always seem to boil down to homework volume, doesn't it?

I loved this post. Even though E&R are only 13 months, I'm starting to think about what we'll do since mine are September babies, too. We have a program called "young 5's" and I'm thinking we'll do that as our "pre-K." Again, I know it's early, but this decision somewhat effects whether or not we do an extra year of preschool (starting NEXT YEAR - cue anxious heart flutters.)

Sigh, the decisions.

But I think we'll probably split E&R up as well, and I appreciate your perspective (and experience) so much.

Missy (Two Little Monkeys) said...

Great post! As usual Cheryl your post is thought provoking (which I LOVE!) My girl will start school in August next year. We all are still weighing the pros and cons so your post was a great read. I promise to post when the day arrives (sniff, sniff).

Donna said...

Great info, gal! If I ever find myself "waffling" I'll think back to this post! We do plan on separating in the Big K (our Preschool only has 1 class per age). The biggest con is the "two" different homeworks/teachers. But, oh well, we'll survive!

monica said...

Your post is very much on my mind lately. Since the boys have been 4 months old they have been in some type of daycare (school) type setting. Next year (at 4) is the first year that they could be put into seperate clases becuase there are 4 differnt teachers for 4 yo. They also have a friend that the 3 of them are inseperable. I would hate to break the three of them up, they have such a awesome friendship. I thought that I would split them up but I am still in the air. That's the other things like you mentioned how do I get into both classes to participate...It's a lot of think about! Great post. Sorry for the rambling!

angie said...

Excellent article. I'm torn. I was thinking about asking for my boys to be together in kindergarten and then seperating them in 1st grade. Kindergarteners don't share recess so they wouldn't see each other all day. However, my other kids don't either and they are perfectly well adjusted. I'm also torn with trying to be in 2 places at once. I'm already dealing with this with my older kids. If the twins are in the same class, I can volunteer in the one room rather than have to do both........in the end I know that my boys would do fine apart.......I think the issue now is whether or not I'm willing to give up the ease of them being together that first year.

Nancy said...

Oh I LOVE this!! My two are in the same pre-school class (again), and I've often wondered if they would be better off in separate classes. And part of me was like "I think I'd be more apt to do it if they were the same sex..." But reading your post makes me think about it again.

I don't even know if I'll have the option of separate classrooms for Kindergarten next year, but I'm definitely going to be getting input from their current teachers before making a final decision.

Terra said...

I don't have an opinion that is of value because I don't have twins = but I HAVE learned to listen to my girls at least some of the times and the things Lauren have asked us to do for her (skipping a grade for one) that we were TOTALLY against and ended up doing have worked out to be EXACTLY The right thing to do...so I tell you -listen to your kids (at least a little) and let yourself off the hook...(a little)

Rebecca said...

Thank you for pointing out that this decision should NOT be left up to the children...duh! Speaking from a teacher's perspective, too many parents let their kids call the shots...not cool! Oh yeah, and "uterine circle" may be the best thing I've ever heard!

Steph said...

LOL at uterine circle. Will have to try to incorporate that in to conversation sometime (I'll give you credit)!

Anyways, thanks for posting this. My girls aren't in preschool yet but I honestly have no idea what we'll do. Will look back at this article for reference (and another chuckle at uterine circle).

cat said...

Without a doubt we are planning separate classes as soon as possible. The Lil miss has her birthday in January - the month our school starts and the cut-off for that year's admissions. We also made the decision not to send her earlier.