School placement is such an important decision. “Of course I sometimes worry if I’m doing the right thing,” remarks Katie O’Sullivan, mother of 4-year-old twins, Meghan and Ryan. “But I think it is right to insist that my twins be in the same preschool class. After all, I know them best.”
For all parents of twins, the same questions arise sooner or later: When our children begin school, should they be in the same class? Should they start out in the same class and be separated later on? Will being in the same class discourage independence? Will separation create anxiety? And most notably, if the school has a policy of separating twins, should we object?
You might wonder why schools adopt certain blanket policies about twins in the first place. After all, isn’t each twin relationship unique? Doesn’t each family deserve to participate in the decision about whether or not their twins stay together? As far as many school administrators are concerned the answer to these questions is firm yes and no.
It’s not that educators are insensitive to the needs of twins—it’s their job to provide the best learning environment for each student. It’s just that most schools operate with a “for the good of all” philosophy and most of the time, what works for the majority of students and teachers, works for all. Many educators believe what works best for a twin is separation.
Parents know that there is not just one kind of twin relationship, just one kind of twin relationship, just as there isn’t one kind of relationship between singleton siblings. But most people have erroneous notions about twins. For example, some people believe that the strong bond between twins is unhealthy. Hence, twins should be separated whenever possible in order for them to develop autonomy and self-esteem. Some believe that twins are really fiercely competitive and that placing them in the same class only fosters jealousy.
Also, in cases of identical twins, a policy to separate twins makes the teachers’ job easier. They aren’t confused about who’s who or how comparative grading will affect the children. What’s more, one blanket policy makes administrators’ lives easier. They can eschew pesky family meetings that consist of dickering over which twins will be separated and which won’t.
We did it our way
When the O’Sullivan family enrolled Meghan and Ryan in preschool, they insisted that the children be together. According to Katie, the twins are very close and would do well in a classroom together. She also felt that separating them for their first school experience would make them anxious. “Of course the school felt compelled to go along with us. After all, we were paying them,” Katie chuckles.
Unfortunately, the children’s teacher wasn’t supportive of the decision. Determining that Meghan and Ryan needed to be autonomous, she kept them apart whenever possible. She objected to Meghan playing with Ryan and his friends, claiming that she was missing out on relationships with other little girls. “She even labeled Meghan as codependent,” Katie declares.
The O’Sullivans responded quickly. Not only did they voice their objections to the teacher and school administrator, they supplied the school with articles about twin relationships from TWINS Magazine. Ultimately, the school officials responded positively and subsequently held a seminar to educate their own faculty.
After all, isn’t that what all parents of twins want—the right to choose what they think is best for their children.
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