Most of the reasons that would justify separation of multiples in school are focused on avoiding some kind of negative circumstance. Many of these factors are potentialities or possibilities, not certainties. However a combination of these factors or a situation where the circumstance truly does exist and create a problem, would certainly dictate separation.
Identical twins who look very similar may confuse teachers and other students. It's distressing for everyone when multiples can't be told apart -- embarrassing for the teacher and frustrating for the children. Teachers who demand that the children wear dissimilar clothes or use other tactics (like nametags) to tell them apart only compound the problem. So do those who ignore the issue and resort to calling both children by a common name or treating them as a unit.
Separating the twins alleviates the issue altogether, however this is a pretty weak argument for separation. In most circumstances, a sensitive and committed teacher can learn within a few days -- weeks at most -- how to distinguish between the children. Classmates will likely be able to tell even sooner!
Parents of multiples know better than anyone that their children's special status attracts attention. Face it, people are fascinated. The presence of multiples in the classroom, and the accompanied attention they generate, can be a distraction to the educational process. So too, can the relationship between the children themselves. Twins have a unique dynamic. Unlike the relationship between fellow classmates, these children are siblings. They share a great deal. Young children cannot be expected to leave their family "baggage" at the door of the schoolroom when their co-twin/classmate provides a constant reminder of their home situation. Thus, the multiples themselves may find each other a distraction in class. And if the teacher has to get involved to settle their disputes or control their shared antics, it's disruptive to the entire class.
From even before birth, multiples are constantly compared and contrasted. "She's bigger than he is." "He eats more than he does." "She has more hair,. " "She crawled first, but he walked sooner." Most of the time, the comparative statements are tolerated and accepted, but once multiples enter school, they may become distressing, especially when one twin consistently outperforms the other.
Even if no one vocalizes the differences in achievement, children are sensitive to them. For example, before entering first grade, one of my identical twin daughters started to read voraciously, selecting more and more challenging books. Meanwhile, her twin sister assumed she was a "bad" reader because she was still tackling grade level-appropriate picture books. It impacted her self-esteem quite negatively, until they started first grade in separate classes. Being allowed to develop at her own pace, out of the shadow of her sister, she realized that she was right on target. She gained confidence and quickly caught up with her sister.
Suppressing Harmful Competition
Out of comparison grows competition. Multiples are constantly in competition for even the most basic resources; from before birth they compete for nutrients and space in the womb. After birth they compete for parental attention, affection, toys, and to be "first" in every conceivable way Some competition is certainly healthy; it drives ambition, encourages achievement, and spurs enthusiasm. But constant competition can be detrimental to multiples in an educational setting, replacing the joy of learning with a pressure to outperform a sibling. Parents of multiples recognize that the competitive dynamic between their children extends beyond the drive to earn higher grades. It exists on every level, from who gets to get on the school bus first to who has more pencils to who has the better best friend. Students who rush through schoolwork simply to finish before their twin won't have much academic success.
Every relationship between multiples is unique. In some situations, there is clearly a codependency, with one twin or triplet established as a leader and the other(s) as follower(s). Parents who want to discourage that dynamic might consider separating the children in school, allowing the dependent child to develop on his own outside the shadow of his co-multilple(s).
Fostering individuality in multiples is certainly an important goal for parents, and one that can be served well by separating the children in school. Separate classrooms may provide an opportunity for each child to develop their own friendships, accomplish their own goals, pursue their own interests and establish their own identity. However, multiples have their entire lives to become individuals -- and they will, at their own pace, no matter what external influence parents prescribe.
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