separating multiples in the classroom

We’re officially on summer break, here. Unfortunately, summer is fraught with challenges for me and my twins. Things like swimming lessons and bike rides and water and parades and fireworks… Sigh.

Today the boys begin Safety Town, a pre-kindergarten program designed to teach safety basics like crossing the street, learning one’s address and phone number, calling 911, etc. I harangued the school into telling me the boys’ classroom assignment for kindergarten, and we went by and met their teacher. They liked her, liked their classroom. I’m overjoyed that they’ll be together, and so are they. For kindergarten, in our district, parents can note on the registration form whether they’d like their children placed with or separated from any other child. For multiples, the school makes certain the request is honored.

My boys are very close, and struggled in preschool when they were placed in separate groups, especially in the beginning of the year. By the end of the year they still disliked being separated, but were able to participate and keep from crying. We have all-day kindergarten here, so the full days 5x/week will be a big adjustment from three 2-hour days at preschool. I knew I didn’t want them to tackle that adjustment separately.

But I’m already worrying about first grade. I’d planned on separating them after kindergarten, but then my daughter had such a wonderful first grade teacher that I’d really like all my other children to have him, too. I started researching keeping multiples together after kindergarten, and found some interesting information supporting keeping multiples together until they request to be separated.

This sentence, in particular, caught my attention:

Many people view the bond between multiples as unhealthy — a dependency, a limitation that excludes outside relationships, a suffocation of individuality, a font of jealousy and rivalry.”

I absolutely find this to be the case. People comment on my boys’ relationship the way they commented on the kids having pacifiers beyond an acceptable age. It’s as though it’s an unhealthy crutch that society will tolerate, to a point, but just barely.

Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with several twins in real life (as opposed to online) who have related how painful the school separation was for them and their co-twin. These people are healthy, normal adults with separate lives now, so I can only assume the school separation happened before they were ready, and eventually they were ready and made that separation, internally, on their own.

Maybe my boys will be ready for separate classrooms in first grade, (and then I’ll just have to feel sorry for the one who doesn’t get the awesome teacher) but if they aren’t, I feel empowered to request they be placed together.

What have your experiences been with separating your kids in daycare or school, or even placing them in separate bedrooms? How has it gone?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of  5-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 7. She also blogs at http://www.diagnosisurine.com/.

18 thoughts on “separating multiples in the classroom

  1. My twins just finished their first year of Pre-school with one or maybe two more years to go before Kinder. At this stage I’m hoping to keep them together and I don’t see any reason for separating them. They are very independsnt little people who don’t seem to rely on each other being there to get through the day. While my daughter immediately runs off to play with her girlfriends, to draw or play with the kitchen or dolls, my little boy gravitates to the ‘boy’ toys. They rarely sit together at lunch and have their own friends to play with during outdoor play. I think by keeping them together I can also spend more time celebrating field trips, class parties and special days with the both of them rather than picking and choosing which class I should visit or hopping between the two.

  2. My girls are in their second year of preschool, and are not separated from one another. Meagan and Morgan are 4 years old. The first year, we didn’t have the option of splitting them up. The second year, we chose for their older sister to be in a separate classroom (she’s only 16.5 months older) and the twins to remain together.

    Every report we receive mentions that while Meagan and Morgan tend to gravitate toward one another, they happily engage other children to play and readily separate for art, music, Spanish, etc.

    They also share the same bedroom, and the absolute worst threat at night when they won’t stop talking and go to sleep is that I will separate them and send someone to the guest room to sleep! ;)

    My girls are identical, and for about 6 months in the Fall they did want different haircuts. We obliged and one had bangs and longer hair and one shorter hair. When we went for Summer haircuts, they wanted to match again.

    We follow their lead in everything concerning their bond and togetherness. Afterall, they are the ones that really know what it feels like to be in their shoes!

  3. Anna started preschool in April when she turned 3 – it was a transition from EI. She needs physical therapy due to having spina bifida. Her sisters are starting in September and in Mass, we can request to keep multiples together but I allowed the school to separate them. It works better for the school’s program and the girls don’t seem to mind – Anna is in class now by herself. I may place them together when they hit first grade and classrooms are larger.

  4. My twin boys, age 8, have been together since they started daycare at age 11 months. They also share a bedroom.
    They have different clothes (also different size) and shoes (ditto), and when they are with friends they often join different circles. Plus, they have awesomely different personalities, and somewhat different marks.
    All caretakers/teachers have said that although they generally favour separation, in their case togetherness works. I think there’s no unique winning approach; each set of multiples has different needs.
    What I did was asking the twins themselves before they started kindergarten. They didn’t even consider the possibility of being separated… and they weren’t.

  5. I’m keeping mine together until they’re done with preschool. I’m pretty sure I’ll separate them starting in kindergarten…. but my biggest dilemma is HOW to split them. Most grades in our district have no more than three classes, so two of my girls will have to be together. I can already tell one of my girls might need to be by herself… she participates in preschool but tends to sit back and take cues from her sisters. On a similar note, I met a teacher who’s also a mom of triplets. They’re in third grade and have been in the same class the whole time… something she intends to keep doing.

  6. As a multiple myself I strongly feel like I should separate my kids. I absolutely hated being lumped together with my sisters all the time and it was hard to be independent and distinct (especially from the sister that looks like me (unclear if we are identical)). I think it is worthwhile to also separate your kids if you notice one is “doing things” for the other. This tends to happen more in B/G twins. In my elementary through high schools we “switched” classes/subjects and so sometimes I would have one sister in my class, sometimes I would be solo. It was nice to occasionally be together but overall if my kids’ school is an “all or nothing” I will separate them. That said, you should definitely take cues from your boys – we didn’t want to be together and it sounds like yours do.

  7. There is no reason to separate your boys. Despite what adminstrators say, it is not always beneficial, especially in the younger years. There is no research to support mandatory separation and several studies supporting keeping them together.

    You should do what you think is best. You should keep them together if you want them to stay together.

    We kept our girls together in kindergarten. They hesitated in first grade, but decided to stay together. By second grade, I fully expect them to be in their own classrooms. They will develop at their own rate. We will support that development by allowing them to develop at their own pace.

    We are the only parents of multiples in our kindergarten class who want to keep our children together. I guess the point is that all multiples are different. Just because one group is separated or kept together doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for all multiples.

  8. I do not plan to separate my boys (who haven’t even started preschool yet). Their older brother is in second grade so I was knee deep in homework with him all year. I would dread the thought of two sets of homework from two different teachers. I have heard from experienced parents of grade school multiples, that keeping them together GREATLY simplifies certain things like homework, conferences, field trips, class parties, etc etc. It is hard enough keeping straight one classroom activities and homework. I cannot imagine navigating two sets expectations activities and etc. if they end up in separate classrooms. My fraternal boys have very distinct looks and personality, often people don’t think they are twins! So I have few worries about them being lumped together.

  9. Mine are pseudo-twins, adopted from the same orphanage, are four months apart in age, and both visually impaired. I wanted them together in preschool and kindergarten but thought they should seperate in first grade. They were in seperate classes but the classes were on the same team and they were together at lunch, play ground, field trips, etc. They were put back together in the same homeroom in fourth grade. I thought it might be a disaster, but they did very well, but my son is less social and becomes a bit dependent on his sister, so for fifth grade they will again be seperated to try and encourage him to make more friends. I think for middle school, having them together would be a social disaster for my daughter! : )

  10. I agree with everyone, I really think it comes down to knowing your own kids. I don’t think a firm policy on separating multiples in school is a smart thing for schools, because all kids have different needs at different times.

    My kids start preschool (Montessori) in the fall, and they will be in separate classrooms. Especially because the classes in their school are mixed-age and longitudinal (they stay with the same teacher in the same room for 3 years), they do suggest separating multiples. And for my kids, I think it’s going to be the right decision. Being apart from one another is not something that causes them intense distress, and they seem to do well when they have enough space to be out from one another’s shadow. I wasn’t sure at first, but now I’m actually looking forward to it. We’ll see how it goes!

  11. Interesting to read that pro-keeping them together article — I haven’t seen much from that perspective! I agree with so many comments here — its clear that this issue can really depend on the specific kids and school(s).

    At age 2 my (ID) twin girls are okay with leaving each other playing by themselves/other kids, so I’m planning to separate them for preschool in a year (if nothing changes drastically, anyway). A great thing about our preschool is that they’ll be able to join each other in a common “studio” if they want, which should be great for them!

    My biggest worry if they are in the same class is that their peers and teachers won’t be able to tell them apart, and therefore won’t treat them as individuals (I’ve seen some evidence of this with twins in my eldest’s class and it feels not good to me). But I am sure there are things that you can to do help keep that from happening (different haircuts, shoes, colors, etc), so its certainly not a given!

    I absolutely see that some situations would lead to placement in the same classroom the ideal choice — and support making it the parents (and eventually the kids themselves) choice.

  12. I have 6 year old boy/girl twins. They have stayed in the same class from Preschool through Kindergarten last year (Montessori). They still need to know that they other is there, but they are not dependent on the other. For us, keeping them in the same class was a MUST. We would have it no other way. As long as one child is not holding the other back, what is so bad with keeping them together? Twin bonds are extremely strong – parents/teachers/school systems should not destroy that. If the time comes that we feel they need to be separated, we’ll revisit it. But as long as they are in Montessori they will stay in the same class – at least until the 7th grade where we’ll be forced to change school.

  13. My 3 year old b/g twins DO NOT have that special twin connection. At all. As such, they will be in separate class rooms as soon as they are in school and I think they will thrive. They thrived when we put them in separate cribs, and then separate rooms, and they adore spending the occassional weekend away at the grandparents, one at a time. They are not cuddly, or super-sweet for prolonged periods of time with each other. Honestly, I have spent a lot of my career as a mother just trying to keep them from seriously injuring each other

    Does anyone think identicals are more connected that fraternal twins? I wonder if that is part of the difference…

  14. I am an elementary school teacher and a mother of 2yr B/G twins. Before having twins, as an educator, I always felt it was important for twins to be separated in school. However, now being a MoM- I feel differently. There has been research that shows that separating twins before grade 2 (when they say they can developmentally understand why they are being separated) can actually cause more harm to kids. They can get anxiety about what the other twin is doing- causing them to struggle with their own learning. They can also think they are being punished for “being a twin” and that is why they are separated. Kindergarten as it is, is a huge change- So separating kids that have been “together” their whole lives can be tough. Most educators will say that twins should be separated in order form them to become individuals. However, separating them does not make them individuals, how you foster their individuality is what makes them individuals and that can be done whether they are together or not! With that being said. There are definitely times when parents know if their kids should be separated and why. I personally feel that keeping them together or not really depends on them as a “set”- And things change from year to year, so whether or not they stay together from year to year should be looked at too!

  15. I love Jill’s comment. I think the burden on treating twins as individuals is on the teacher. My daughters have mostly had wonderful daycare teachers, who get to know them and treat them as separate people, but also honour their closeness (letting them nap side-by-side, holding hands if they want). The one time that I had concerns about their individuation was when they had a teacher who refused to learn to tell them apart.

    We will likely put our daughters in separate classrooms starting in 1st grade, but that’s because Melody tends to answer for Jessica, and Jessica lets her unless she has something burning to say.

  16. I have identical boy twins, who will be going off to preschool this fall. I was completely appalled when the director (whom I’ve known for years) asked me how I felt about separating them.

    I told her absolutely not.

    I don’t know what it that just gets me so much over those comments — these are my youngest children, and quite possibly my last. They’ve been together from Day one — why in the world would I want to separate them now??

    When they get older, I will be completely fine if they ask to be apart, but for right now, I’m keeping them together.

    Thanks for the great post!

  17. We’re too young to have done any classroom separation bit yet.

    But giving separate bedrooms was the BEST DECISION EVER. Case in point: our boy was happily (us, not so much) singing at the breakfast table at 650 this morning, and our girl was still sleeping soundly at 740. Had they been in the same room, we’d have a major case of the cranks.

  18. Pingback: From the Archives: Back to School - How Do You Do It?

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