You've survived the sleepless nights of infancy and the chaos of toddlerhood. Now it's time to conquer the next big challenge in your multiples' lives: starting school. Along with this milestone comes an important decision regarding their education: should your twins (triplets, or more) attend the same class, or be assigned to different teachers in separate classrooms?
Unlike multiple choice quizzes in school, there is no single correct answer to the question of classroom placement with twins and other multiples. There are good reasons supporting both choices. However, it is an issue that can't be taken lightly, and ideally one that should be reevaluated every school year. Ultimately, the decision should be made by parents, based on recommendations from past and present teachers, school administrators, and with consideration for the wishes of the children involved.
However, many school systems would prefer to make the choice for parents, by instituting a blanket policy that covers all multiples that enroll in public school. A recent survey by the National Organization of Mother of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) indicated that 43% of educators believe that all multiples should be separated in school, beginning in kindergarten. Generally, these policies reflect that belief, claiming that separation benefits the individual children. However, many parents suspect the policies are implemented for the convenience of educators, and are based on a misunderstanding of the true nature of twinship. Parents who believe that separation would be detrimental to their children may have to confront school administrators in order to keep them together.
So how can parents confidently make this crucial decision for their children? This article provides some criteria to consider. In recent years, psychologists and twin experts recommend that unless there is a compelling reason to separate multiples, the benefits of keeping them together -- especially in the early primary years -- outweigh the detriments.
As you go through the decision-making process, seek input from every available source: Ask questions and listen to the answers carefully.
* Talk to other parents of multiples who have school-aged children. You can meet them in your local multiples club or in our online forum. Find out what worked -- and what didn't work -- for their children, and what factors figured into their decision.
* Talk to teachers. Talk to your multiples' past, present and future teachers. If they've not yet been involved in a school environment, talk to babysitters and care givers at your daycare, church or playgroup. Ask them how your multiples interact with playmates and each other when you're not around. Are they sociable? Do they play only with each other and exclude others? Is one more shy or outgoing? You would be surprised at the discrepancy between parents' perceptions of their children and teachers' experience. Even though you know your children best, don't discount the teacher's evaluation.
Discuss the issue with administrators and counselors at the schools your children will attend. Find out what their policies are and question the reasoning behind them.
* Talk to your twins, triplets, quads or more. Ask your multiples what they want. Even if their wishes don't factor into the ultimate decisions, you should consider their feelings. You might be surprised at what they tell you. Depending on their maturity level, try to schedule a time to discuss the issue with each child privately.
* Listen to your heart. You know your children better than anyone else. Have confidence in your instincts. As your multiples grow and develop, so will their needs, and the best option may fluctuate from school year to school year. Recognize that the situation may be different next year -- and sometimes even next month! -- so give yourself flexibility to reconsider your options.