We focused our October meeting on one of the most frequently discussed topics in the multiples community, that of multiples in the classroom.
We were very pleased to be joined by Beth Schaeffer, a preschool consultant for Warren County Public Schools. Additionally, the resources “Twins and Supertwins: A Handbook for Early Childhood Professionals” by Eve-Marie Arce; and NOMOTC’s “Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Educators” were also used to guide the meeting.
Key takeaways were as follows:
1) Work with the school system to ensure that the teachers and administrators understand your children’s unique needs.
Ms. Schaeffer: “Just because a teacher has had twins or triplets in her classroom before, don’t assume that she knows how you would like for your children to be treated.” “ Be direct. Write a list of what is important to you. Write a list of pet peeves. Cover these with the teacher.”
If you do not want your children to be referred to as “the twins”, for example, tell the teacher. Help the teacher understand how to tell you children apart. Tell the teacher if you are concerned about your children being compared to each other.
2) Pros and cons for keeping multiples together or separating them into different classes.
Ms. Schaeffer cited that the majority of the research points towards keeping multiples together through kindergarten. After they are established in the school routine, in early elementary school, most parents consider separating their multiples into different classrooms.
Pros for separation
- Avoids comparison in the classroom
- Encourages independence
- Allows for separate social development and may decrease head-to-head competition
Pros for keeping multiples together
- May allow children to be more confident / they are already dealing with separation from their parents and a new environment
- Some competition among multiples may be healthy
- Multiples may support each other, especially in the cases of developmental delays and/or unique physical or emotional needs
In the Warren County and Bowling Green City systems, the decision to keep multiples together or separate them lies with the individual schools. Ms. Schaeffer encourages parents to work with the school system to determine the best model for their children. She said that spring is the optimal time to talk with the principal of a school. Tell the principal about your children, their likes, dislikes, and needs, so that he or she can take those considerations into account for classroom placement.
Since our meeting, Christina Tinglof of “Talk About Twins” published an article in response to a reader’s question on the topic of classroom separation. She also cited research that supports keeping younger multiples together. Fortunately, though, she also notes research that states that classroom separation does not have significant long-term consequences.
There are pros and cons on both sides of the fence. The “right” decision depends on who our children are and what are their unique needs.
I think Tinglof sums up the question by saying, “If your twins make friends easily, show an interest in being on their own, or have regularly spent some time apart, then enroll them in different classes. Yet if they still cling to each other and show real anxiety about the prospect of being separated, by all means keep them together for kindergarten and then slowing start preparing them for separation in first grade.”
Ultimately, as parents we know our children best. It’s our job to be their number one advocates, and make sure that their needs are known by their teachers and administration.
For those of you with older multiples, what route did you choose for your children? Any insight to share with those parents of younger children?