Separating Twins into Different Classes at School?
June 22, 2013 10:15 PM   Subscribe

My (boy / girl) twins will be entering kindergarten this September. We've been asked if we want them placed into separate classes, or left together in the same class. Need to give them our answer by Monday and frankly, I'm at a loss and have no idea what I should do. If you are a parent of school-age or older twins, can you please share what you did and why? If you yourself are a twin, how did your parents handle it? How did it work out? Other knowledgeable anecdotes and advice welcome. Links to any online resources I can read on the topic would also be appreciated.
posted by zarq to Education (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm a twin. My brother and I lasted about a week in the same classroom in first grade, before it became clear that we would do better in separate classes. I can't say I remember the exact reasons, but I'm sure we ended up competing and fighting a bit.

We ended up going to the same schools up until college, and had overlapping (but not identical) sets of friends, and it all worked out just fine.

What particular concerns do you have? What are your kids like?
posted by xil at 10:24 PM on June 22, 2013

Best answer: Most twins are separated, to allow them to develop separate identities (and have less competition/comparison) and to keep them from being disruptive in class by being all sibling-y (not just a twin problem, but a family-members-in-class problem that you used to see more often when you had one-room and two-room schoolhouses). Even if they're kept together the first couple of years (when school is mostly about social-emotional development, not academics), they're usually separated by second or third grade. Especially K-2, districts want to do what's best for the kids emotionally, which might be separate or together. After second grade, you might start running into "twin policies" that want them separated.

That doesn't tell you what's best for twins, just that it's most typical for them to be separated. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:27 PM on June 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My identical twin and I were never in the same class and it worked out rather well. I mean we saw each other all day, every day at home, why would we want to be stuck together in the same classroom all day at school too? Besides, it gave us different friends, different interests, and different world views, not to mention things to talk about on the way home.

Twins are just like any other siblings except a bit closer, but they shouldn't be so close that they can't be in separate classrooms for a few hours a day.
posted by patheral at 10:41 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

For some reason, I grew up with several sets of twins in elementary and middle school -- the same grade level had five sets of twins all told, with an additional set of Irish twins (born in a single 12-month period).

In all honesty, the only sets that seemed well-balanced were the ones that had been separated. The others were insular to the extreme -- same classes, same friends, same hobbies, etc. Didn't seem to have their own fully formed identities.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:58 PM on June 22, 2013

My friend's twin daughters were together for kindergarten because neither had done any kind of preschool or been in day care before that. The school, the parents and the twins all agreed that separate would be better from Grade 1 on, though. One twin really dominates the other, so they wanted a chance for the other to get out of her shadow. Their school experience has been a mixed bag, but I think they still all agree that separate is best.
posted by looli at 11:13 PM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

My nephews are twins in a Montessori school. They have been separated, and together, as various things happen. My brother and sister-in-law think that the separation is good for them, as they get to learn things and not have reinforcement from each other. They were a little weirded out by it when it started in kindergarten, but now it's just normal for them to be separated for part of the day to do something else.

That's the anecdata I have for you.
posted by mephron at 12:12 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: A couple of advices also here:

I don't have twins but there are many many many pairs at my child's elementary school. Some families separate 'em, some don't. It really depends on their personalities. One pair I know have stayed together in the same class all the way through to 5th grade, another pair started together and after third grade started splitting them up.

One thing to consider is that with them in separate classrooms, you have two teachers to get to know, twice as many classmates and their parents to meet and figure out, and different expectations and schedules from each class for volunteering in the classroom and going on field trips etc. Unless there's a clear reason that the kids are not going to do well together, most families I know keep them together at least for the Kindergarten year while you all adjust to the whole new world of grade school.
posted by gubenuj at 12:18 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't have twins, but I do have a kindergartener. At my son's school, twins are usually kept together in kindergarten, to ease the transition to school, then separated after that. Not sure if they're separated at 1st grade or later.
posted by Joh at 12:58 AM on June 23, 2013

My brothers went to a charter school with only one class per grade and they turned out fine. They went to the same college and still live together--they are very close, which I think is good.
posted by chaiminda at 2:31 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: Something to keep in mind when seeking advice is that for a long time the prevailing wisdom was to separate twins. This wasn't based on any kind of research as far as I know, and now there is a move toward letting parents choose. However, because this was the practice for so long, there will be a bias toward separating them among most people - since this is what folks are familiar with.
posted by latkes at 3:56 AM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My b/g twins started preschool at age 3 in the same class. By Christmas break, one of them had shown such behavioral issues that we were given the choice of either moving one to another class that met at the same time or removing the troubled one from the school. The problem was that they bothered each other too much - wrestling, tackling during circle time, etc. Also, the more verbal one tried to speak for the other all the time. When they were separated after the break, it was much better. For 4's pre-K, they were in separate classes and both did well.

They start kindergarten this fall, and will be in separate classes again. Our district's policy is that the decision is up to the parents, but the principal at their school leans toward separation unless you specifically ask for them to be together.
posted by candyland at 4:48 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: some articles:

Separating Twins at School: What I Wish I Had Known

Special Delivery: Twins at School

Classroom Placement of Twins

As I twin, I was separated, and I think it helped both of us.
posted by blob at 5:29 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a teacher, not a parent, but I had twins in my class last year. At my school the norm is to separate twins, for all the reasons listed above, but in this case the parents had fought so hard to have them in the same class that the head teacher allowed it. In my experience, although the girls were both pretty different, personality-wise, they were very much treated as a single unit by their peers and even other teachers. I was very aware of this so did my best to foster their individualism, but noticed that the default for the other children and teachers was to refer to them as a unit: "Are Jess and Jane [not their real names!] coming outside?"; "How did Jess and Jane do in that test?". The twins shared the same group of friends and it seemed at times that the other children weren't really bothered which one of the girls they played with; they were almost seen as one and the same, even though their characters were actually very different. For this reason, I would lean towards separating them.
posted by schmoo at 5:33 AM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I did know a pair of twins who were never separate and who had real challenges in a post-BA professional training program because they had not until that time been apart in an educational setting. I mean, these challenges were an artifact of our society, since there's no real reason that they could not have set up jointly as professional [JOB] and continued doing everything together, dressing similarly, etc, and they were certainly good at what they did. There's a really long road between your situation and theirs but it did seem like separation at an earlier point would have helped them a lot socially and professionally.
posted by Frowner at 5:35 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 to what schmoo said. This year, I taught identical twins in the same class in middle school who had been in the same class every year, and I thought it was very detrimental. The boys had no separate identities among their teachers or the students. The other kids called both of them "Twin". So if you decide to keep your twins in the same class, I would recommend revisiting that decision every year and probably switching it up pretty early on.
posted by kayram at 6:54 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a a fraternal twin (boy/girl) and my parents refused to put us in a school that wouldn't have us in separate classrooms. We were still in the same nursery school (so younger than your kids) and then pre-K through 1st, so although we had the same class work, field day, and trips we had our own friends and teachers who rarely compared us to each other in front of each other. We ended up being in different schools after that just because we wanted different things from our schools, and I still think separating us was the correct choice. My best friend in elementary school had a sister who was a few years ahead of her, so she spent ten years being compared to a sister who had already graduated. Being a twin in the same small school was still kind of like that, and I am glad we weren't together all the time.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:16 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: I saw a few twins go through primary and secondary education, and now a few friends have twins growing up.

For whatever reason, most of the time the twins were kept together and inevitably seemed to end up as either one "normal" and one "extreme" one, or two undifferentiated ones.

To the former point, I had twin friends who were always in the same programmes, but very different. One was generally agreeable and was just a normal student. The other was an absolute terror to everyone around them. There could not have been two people more different – they looked similar, but other than that, they were massively different individuals. And one not in a great way.

To the latter point, I remember clearly a set of twins that weren't separated until after secondary education. Whilst I knew them, they were practically indistinguishable. They did not dress alike, but they acted alike and participated in many of the same activities. They were, for all intensive purposes, nearly the same person. Years later, they have become totally different people. One looks like an iteration of the person that I once knew. The other looks like a completely different person. One lives in the hometown and has lots of pictures of their children, the other lives somewhere in Asia and there are a lot of nightlife pictures.

I guess my takeaway is two-fold. The first is that twins may be very similar, but they're still two people. The rest of us didn't get to choose the situations that we were most comfortable in – we were challenged to grow. From an objective perspective, I would think that twins should be treated as two individual people, rather than two halves of the same whole. And they're not spontaneously self-generating a twin identity, rather that is being imposed on them by the adults in charge of their general maintenance. If they see themselves as identical people, it is because others see them as identical people and they are modelling that behaviour.

Secondly, children differentiate based on what's immediately around them. If there are two twins in the same class yearning to be different people, they will probably differentiate from each other, rather than from the rest of the children. If they are yearning to be the same people, they will probably differentiate together, from the other children.

In the former case, I imagine the result is having one very "normal" child and then an "extreme" child. In the latter case, I imagine that each individual suppresses their individual needs and desires for the sake of maintaining a common identity. Neither case seems to place a focus on each individual differentiating themselves from the larger class population, which is probably the basis for all the non-twins.
posted by nickrussell at 8:05 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have twin daughters that have just finished grade seven. They have been intentionally kept together every year except one, (grade four maybe?) They want to be together and honestly, school is much simpler (for us the parents) to keep them in the same class.

They are in French immersion, neither my wife nor I speak enough French to be of much assistance with homework, having them in the same class helps immensely. There is not too much sibling rivalry between them, perhaps enough to be healthy, but not more.

The other problem with separating them was field-trips and extra curricular activities were a nightmare to manage.

THey've matured into well adjusted happy kids, so keeping them together has worked well in our situation.

They've always had the option to stick together or be separated as they wish, so maybe giving them the decision making power is best.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:07 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have identical twins that were together in kindergarten. They were together in preschool and had no classroom issues being in the same class. That being said, I'm not sure what their placement will be like in first grade, but I think one reason for separation is that it might be less difficult to accidentally compare them against each other in terms of grades, etc if they are getting different assignments. They've also said at times that they want to be in different classrooms, but they are not terribly consistent about this. I'm leaning towards separating them.
posted by gnat at 9:29 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: My mother and aunt are twins, and were put in the same classes when they were kids. Mom hated it because she always felt like she was being unfairly compared to her sister.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:36 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: I don't have twins, but I have more than one child. Yes, having kids in more than one classroom makes for more parental work, but that's just part of having more than one kid - twins or not.
posted by thatone at 10:01 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Twin here. So glad we were in separate classes. Until then, we had the same group of friends, so one perk no one mentions is that you get twice the number of friends!
posted by HeyAllie at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: I teach high school, and I've had twins (identical time, I had two sets of identical twins in the SAME CLASS!) in my class together.

Other than telling them apart, it was not a problem. In fact, it seemed to be a positive factor socially and academically. From what I understand, they were separated as younger children, then opted into being together in middle school and high school.

I think most schools would be flexible with you, so if you decide to have them together and it doesn't work out, you would probably be able to switch.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:34 AM on June 23, 2013

Best answer: Twin here. Another vote for separating the kids at school. It is a lot more work for the parents, but I think it's worth it. One of the main challenges of being a twin is that it complicates your main job as a child - learning who you are and how to be in the world.

Having been slapped with the label "The Twins" early on - both at home and at school - made it harder than it had to be for both of us to develop our own individual strengths and identities. I'm sure you're much more sensitive with your kids, this is just asking you to keep in mind how pervasive it can be to carry that twin identity everywhere. It's important to be mindful of how valuable an experience it is to relate to the world (and be related to) as the unique individuals your kids are.

Good luck!
posted by Space Kitty at 11:30 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My wife's a teacher, and we have identical twins. They're in the same class in preschool now, but we'll be separating them as soon as they hit kindergarten.

The identity thing mentioned above is a big driving factor for us, we'd like them to be known as individuals not as "The boys" or "The twins" which, unfortunately, is often what they get referred to by kids and teachers at school now. This is obviously less of a factor for you (with b/g twins).
posted by togdon at 7:49 AM on June 24, 2013

Best answer: I started to get curious whether there was a difference between how fraternal twins and identical twins do and what decisions are made, because anecdotally (here and from my own observations) it looks like identical seem to end up doing better by being separated, but fraternal tend to stay together. So I tried to find some formal research on this and though I came up pretty empty on that particular concept, I did find some scholarly articles to add to your food for thought (full text of the first two is behind paywalls, but you can probably get things to think about for your own situation from the abstracts):

To separate or not to separate? Parental decision-making regarding the separation of twins in the early years of schooling
Pretty much presents an argument for "keep them together" from an Australian perspective.

No effect of classroom sharing on educational achievement in twins: a prospective, longitudinal cohort study
The results of a study showing that from an academic achievement perspective (as measured by a standardized test score at age 12) it didn't make a difference whether the twins are kept together or not (they didn't seem to look at any other outcomes like behaviors, mental health, etc).

From the Twin Cities to "Twin" States: Legislating the Classroom Placement of Twins and Other Higher Order Multiples
This is a full text link that describes how Minnesota was the first state (in 2005!) to legislate that parents (not schools) should be allowed to decide classroom placement for their twins. I didn't read the whole long thing, but it looks like there's some thoughtful discussion, basically concluding that everyone's different and there's no "right" way to decide this (and thus school's shouldn't enforce any single policy of separate or together).
posted by gubenuj at 8:39 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a little late to it, but as I have triplets about to enter kindergarten, I figured I'd add my experience.

They just finished up their second year of full-time preschool. For the first year, we kept them together. At the end of the year, their teacher recommended we separate them for the second year, as they were having some issues being together. One was kind of overshadowing the other two, one was getting left out, they wouldn't play with other kids, etc.

So this past year, they were in three separate classes. It was great for them. They all thrived, academically (I know, it's preschool, but it's also a French immersion program) and made their own friends. It was great, in that regard.

For me, it was a logistical nightmare. I know that parents of three kids of different ages have to deal with this all the time, but I don't know. Maybe I was just too disorganized. But dealing with three classes worth of field trips and potluck lunches and teacher conferences and was really rough.

So we're keeping them separated for kindergarten, but I'm thinking for first grade, when homework starts, we'll probably put them back together.

More details about our kids that might be relevant: they're all boys, they're all identical.

I think the main thing is, it depends on your kids. You know if your kids are codependent on each other. Mine were, so we separated them. They're still known as "the triplets", and the other kids still can't tell them apart (damn uniforms!) but I think as time goes on, that will improve. I was happy that there were parents in the boys' classes that didn't even realize they were triplets (until their birthday party, ha ha.)
posted by pyjammy at 10:10 AM on June 24, 2013

Best answer: I grew up with a fraternal twin of the opposite sex (like yours), so there wasn't an identity issue, but probably competitiveness and implicit comparison was more of an issue than with different-age children. We were in different classes all the way from kindergarten to the end of high school, and I think it was a good idea. We still had pretty much the same circle of friends once we were old enough to have lots of friends of both sexes.
posted by dfan at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2013

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