Many Higher Order Multiples (HOM) parents have contacted Multiples of America over the years about a situation probably most HOM parents face: how to best place triplets, quads, etc., in classrooms and how to get the school administration on board.
The Covid 19 pandemic brought huge changes in the 2019-2020 academic year as practically overnight students and teachers (and parents) had to move to the virtual learning environment. This new academic year has presented continuing challenges, with parents needing to consider even more issues in advocating for the best educational strategy for each of their children. One of the chief concerns remains: will my multiples do better together in the same classroom, or will they have more room to grow if they are in separate classrooms?
Multiples of America now offers an updated, online edition of its resource booklet Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Parents and Educators. This resource looks at the issues related to separating twins and HOMs in school settings and includes many conclusions from a variety of studies about educating multiple birth children. The booklet lays out the facts and research findings in an organized, professional way. Many families have told Multiples of America that when they have shown this book to their children’s principal, teacher or administrators, the educators were very impressed by the booklet’s information and willing to hear the parents’ reasons for a specific placement for their multiples.
As most HOM parents can probably predict, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the best classroom situation for your multiples. Consider referring to Placement’s “10 Reasons to Separate Multiples in School” and “10 Reasons NOT to Separate Multiples in School.” Those two perspectives can help parents evaluate each of their children’s academic strengths and skills, as well as each child’s social and emotional outlook.
But what if you run into resistance from your school’s administration?
Here are some words of advice for any “Gripe to Goal” effort with your kids’ school, presented by author and twin mother Pam Novotny at a Multiples of America convention workshop some years ago.
Parents of multiples need to first identify what they want for their children and need to complete the following sentences:
- My gripe is …
- My real concern is …
- What I am really wishing for is …
- Therefore my goal is …
In this case, you want flexibility on classroom placement for your triplets, quads, or more. Next, you need to prepare for discussion about the goal with the school administration:
1) Investigate school policy. Is it in writing? If a written policy exists, find out if it is a teacher, principal, or district-wide policy. Call the school secretary to start the research process.
2) Talk to the teachers the kids’ have had up to now about each child’s classroom experience. What were strengths, areas that needed improving? How did each child interact with other kids and with each other?
3) Talk to your children. What are their ideas about being together and being apart?
4) Look for other information from professional researchers. Again, the Multiples of America booklet is a great guide.
5) Schedule an appointment to meet with the school administrators/teachers, whoever is in on the decision. Dress professionally (even for a virtual meeting!), bring an outline of what you want to discuss, have readily available any books or notes that support your position.
6) During the meeting, be pleasant and respectful. Tell them what you want. Stress that everyone at the meeting wants to make sure each child has the best, most productive educational experience possible. Present your concerns and suggestions; present the information that backs up your view.
7) If necessary, slow down the negotiating process by asking follow-up questions. What does the administrator fear about keeping your kids together (or separate)? What would it take to show the administrator that the kids are doing well in a situation? What kind of flexibility can be built into the decision (for instance, letting the kids eat lunch together, having a reading class together, etc.).
8) If you reach an agreement that satisfies you, get the decision in writing. You can always write a letter thanking the administrator for meeting with you and recapping what action or changes will be taking place.
9) If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can give the issue some time and come back again if you feel your kids need a different classroom situation, using the same steps above.
At a Triplet Connection convention some years ago, a quad mother talked about her experiences with her kids’ school, which were about as unsatisfactory as you could get. There were issues about speech therapy and learning disabilities, as well as classroom placement. She finally told the administrator she was talking to a lawyer because she felt the school was blaming the children for being siblings, and that got the administration’s attention. I don’t know that the “ultimatum” approach is more effective, but if you feel the administration is too heavy handed and not following the spirit of the educational district, it’s always an option.
We hope you will check out Placement in the Members Only section of the Multiples of America website multiplesofamerica.org!
by Jill Heink
This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more