It’s back to school time for many areas of the country! Here in Pennsylvania, my twin daughters will be heading back to school next week. As they start fifth grade, their last year of elementary school, it seems appropriate to look back on their school experience.
It still seems like yesterday that they were starting Preschool. We sent them to the local High School’s Preschool Lab. This was a unique preschool run by a certified teacher along with high school juniors and seniors. Each preschooler was assigned a high school student as their “big teacher” while also participating in group activities. I appreciated that their first school experience had this unique combination of individual attention in the same classroom.
Together or Separate?
When they were ready to move to Kindergarten we struggled with the decision of whether to keep them together or separate them. We are lucky to live in one of the 12 states that have a law which gives parents of multiple birth children the right to decide on the classroom placement of their multiples.
We weighed the following into our decision:
-How hard would it be for them to be confused by classmates and possibly the teacher? Because they have lots of identical twins friends through my Mothers of Multiples Club, they wouldn’t get too upset if people can’t tell them apart. But we weren’t sure if it would hurt them socially or emotionally.
-Did they have any dependence on their twin that could be a problem in the future? For instance, one of my friends had an experience where one of her twins was further behind when they separated classrooms after a year together because one twin would help the other twin so much.
-How did they act when they were separated? Would it interfere with their ability to learn? We didn’t think this would be an issue for our girls. We worked hard to create one on one time for each of them often bringing only one of them on errands while the other stayed home with the other parent. We knew that they were used to being separated from time to time and didn’t think it would interfere with their ability to concentrate in school.
-Was one stronger academically than the other? While twins may naturally end up competing with each other, we didn’t want our girls to have their sister’s strengths spotlighted to them. We also didn’t want to be in a situation where the teacher or other students would be comparing them. No one wants to hear “How come your sister can read/count/color better than you?”
-Would it be easier for them to adjust to being apart for a half day than to be together for Kindergarten and then be separated later on? At the same time, we did think about how to make their first true school experience a positive one.
-They would get their own teacher. While this means two people to communicate with and two sets of homework, we felt they would like the chance to have someone all their own. We also figured that if we’d had children one at a time instead of at the same time, we would be dealing with two sets of homework anyway.
Ultimately, we decided that the best thing for our girls would be to be separated. They were okay with this decision and we talked about it often leading up to the first day of school. I also made a point to talk to their teachers about their special relationship and was pleased that both teachers were very supportive and said that if it’s a problem they can visit each other. They had a great time in Kindergarten and the transition to First Grade was a smooth one. Because they were in separate classrooms for Kindergarten, they had double the friends in First Grade. (Along with a few kids who didn’t realize they were twins and were REALLY confused to meet a different sister.)
The reality is that placement for twins is a unique decision for each set of twins. What worked out for my girls is not necessarily the best choice for other. Parents and educators have fought for state laws that give them the power to decide how multiples are placed because parents are the most familiar with their multiples’ relationship and needs. As your multiples head back to school be familiar with the state laws and school policies that affect your children.
About the Author
Alison Dobbins, TLC’s Prepartum Associate, is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area and the proud mother of identical twin girls. She credits the advice and example of the experienced members for her own ability to handle the challenges of twin motherhood – and the ability to enjoy the awesomeness that is being a twin mom! She’s held several leadership positions in her local Mothers of Multiples group and continues to help parents throughout the tri-state area. You can reach Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our Philadelphia and New Jersey area services.