Classroom Placement: Part I – Separate Classrooms

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Who knows best whether your multiples should be placed in the same classroom or separated at school? You, right? For our family, separation in kindergarten was the right answer, but it’s different for everyone.

Many educators and school administrators believe that same-age siblings should never be placed in a classroom together. I would argue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that applies to all multiples. “Never say never,” I say. Like many other parents of multiples, it is my husband and I who know our daughters well enough to make the final decision regarding their classroom placement. Coming to an agreement as co-parents is an altogether different matter, as I’ll talk about next week…

We are fortunate to live in Texas, one of the 12 US states whose laws give parents the right to choose whether our multiples should stay together in public school. Oklahoma and Illinois have resolutions to the same effect. (As I understand it, resolutions involve moral rather than legal support from lawmakers, but I suspect Mommy, Esq. could give us a clearer explanation.) Another 10 states have sponsors for such bills. I wasn’t able to find information on similar laws in other countries, but my research made it clear that neither Canada nor the UK have such protections in place. Readers elsewhere in the world, where does your country stand?

Our daughters were in the same class from infancy until pre-kindergarten. Their preschool had only one class per age group, so we didn’t have the option of separating. There was one disastrous year at a larger program where we could have elected to split them up, but we kept them together there. A new school with Daddy leaving for Korea seemed shakeup enough, and we thought our 2-year-olds would be better off together.

Until relatively recently, I figured we’d keep the girls in the same classroom until they wanted to split up. By all accounts, they were well-adjusted and played with both each other and other classmates. They are horrified at the thought of having separate bedrooms, so I couldn’t imagine they’d consider separate classrooms.

The first time I considered separating J and M early was after talking to a friend. She and her twin sister had gone to college with me. My friend told me that separating them in elementary school was the best thing her parents had done for her. Because both she and her sister were in honours classes and heavily involved in their school music program, they ended up in a lot of same classes in high school by default. Elementary school was their opportunity to make friends as individuals instead of a twin pair, and that was when they grew to be as comfortable as individuals as they were as twins. She and her sister have the sort of relationship I hope my girls will have decades from now. They are close, yet pursue separate interests and have both shared and separate friends. One is married, and the other is not. I spent three years at college with these sisters, and had plenty of opportunities to witness their relationship, and my friend’s opinion carried a lot of weight.

I thought about keeping M and J together in kindergarten and separating them later in elementary school, but by the end of pre-K it was clear to both me and my husband that they should be in separate classrooms. After having been the dominant sister on and off over the years, M was depending increasingly on J. We got reports from school that M was expressing jealousy when J played with other friends. Worst of all, I noticed that M was taking less of an interest in reading independently because, “Sissy’s the good reader.” J, on the other hand, was oblivious to this, and balancing her relationship with M with her separate friendships and activities as she always has.

If this were the girls’ first foray out into the world without us, I might have considered keeping them in a single classroom anyway. After 5 years in daycare, though, they seemed ready to separate. We told the girls several weeks before school started that we would be asking the school to assign them different teachers. Neither of them expressed disappointment, or even surprise. M reported that she was a little sad about missing Sissy early on the first day of school, but their classes shared recess, lunch and PE. J said the best part of the day was seeing Sissy at the bus at the end of the day. Each of our girls introduced the other to her new friends, and they were able to be the bridge between the classes—at least the girls—on the playground.

For us, the choice to separate our girls was the right one. I’m glad it was ours to make. I don’t want an administrator who has never even met them dictating their placement based on preconceptions about multiples. After all, the twin bond is an extraordinary thing, but many who have never witnessed it consider it aberrant. I’ll admit that I held my own stereotypes about twins before M and J were born. I was convinced that fostering their independence and separate identities would be the biggest challenge of raising twins. They soon taught me that twinship was a gift, not a curse.

Have you thought about whether you want your multiples together or apart in school? What factors play into your decision?

What were your preconceptions of twinship before you met your newborns?

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

7 thoughts on “Classroom Placement: Part I – Separate Classrooms”

  1. Love this post (and all the ones you write Sadia!)

    We will probably keep our boys together the first year and then see how it goes after that, because it will be their first time in school. I have friends who are identical twins and being separated in first grade (when they started school) was so traumatizing to them that they couldn’t focus/learn in school. I don’t want my boys to have that additional stress in kindergarten.

    But, I do agree wholeheartedly that not all twins are the same (duh! :) and that it’s nice if the parents can make the choice (or at least be involved).

  2. I have identical girls and at 4 1/2, I’m convinced that they need to be in separate classrooms when they go to kindergarten next year. It amazes me that anyone could say that all twins need to be together, or all twins need to be separate, because each set of twins is completely different. Even though my girls are identical, their personalities are so different!

  3. I am quite sure my 2 need to be separated. Not sure if it will be right from the start or a bit into it. It will also depend if there are 2 sections for their age-group in the school.
    Only pre-conception of twinship before I had my own was when I was a little girl who craved companionship and wished for it by way of having a twin sister. Deducing out of that, I imagined the relationship to be close. At the same time, I was afraid of having a sister because “it’s likely we’d fight and be jealous of one other.”

  4. I agree that parents should absolutely have final say as to classroom placement; they do know their children better than anyone else. However, as the mom to 16-year-old twins who have done both (same class/different class), I lean more towards separation simply because when they’re together, OTHERS begin to view them as one, an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s this mindset that is so hard to break once it’s established. Here’s my take on it:

  5. I wonder if there’s any research about separating identical versus fraternal twins. Our girls look very different from each other, and I think their personalities are very different, too.

    We’ve still got a few years to decide what we think will be best. I know there are many other factors at play…but the idea that Christina expressed, “others viewing them as one”…I just wonder if that’s as big of a concern with fraternal twins.

  6. I have 5 year old identical twin girls who just started Kindergarten this year. We chose to put them in the same class. They are in French Immersion and really enjoying full day/everyday school. They do come home tired though and emotionally drained. We live in Canada and because we chose the option of french immersion there was only 1 K class for French Immersion and 1 other for English. So far so good with respect to them getting along and making their own friends. However, if we need to separate them then we will cross that bridge when we get there. Our twins have very different personalities with one being more dominating than the other. Thanks for this post and I love your articles.

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