It’s kindergarten registration time for many of you in the US and Canada, and parents of multiples are hit with the age-old question: Together or apart?
Check out our full list of HDYDI posts on classroom placement for multiples.
Historically, many schools have had policies insisting that multiples be placed in separate classrooms. This has been changing in recent years. Likely due to the increase of multiples in the population, there has been increasing awareness of the variation between sets of multiples . Some twins do, in fact, perform better in separate classrooms, but some do better together, as Dr. Nancy Segal points out in her guest post “Separating Twins in School“.
We owe a debt of gratitude to parents who have been advocating for each set of siblings being treated individually. A number of laws have been passed around the world putting classroom placement decisions in the hands of parents, who know their children best.
My Twins Do Equally Well Together or Apart: Sadia
I thought very hard about whether my daughters should be in the same class in elementary school. I pushed aside all generalizations about what worked “for twins in general” and looked at my daughters as individuals in a relationship. They were used to being away from home for large stretches of the day, thanks to starting daycare at 11 weeks old. They were accustomed to classroom discipline. Starting kindergarten wasn’t going to be nearly as disruptive to their lives as for children with a stay-at-home parent.
M and J loved being together, but reports from their daycare program indicated that they were as likely to select different activities to participate in and friends to play with as they were to play together. They had the same friends, but different best friends. They loved being twins, but they also loved being “just J” and “just M”. Some kids had trouble telling them apart.
Given all this information, I elected to request separate classrooms for my daughters as they started kindergarten. We were late to enroll in school, thanks to last-minute Army orders, and the school asked if they could be placed in a single classroom, where they could make room. We stood firm. We wanted our daughters in separate classrooms to minimize comparison and to put focus on the girls’ individuality over their twinship.
They did just fine apart. Later in the year, when the school moved them into the same first grade class, they did fine together. When they went to first grade for real, they performed wonderfully, both socially and academically, apart. In the two years since, when they’ve been in the same classroom by their own request, they’ve done well too.
For my girls, it’s just a matter of preference. They’re equally successful being in a classroom together or classrooms apart. They just prefer to be together.
My Twins Are Better Off Together: Janna
We are so fortunate that our school district allows parents to choose whether or not twins should be in the same classroom. We chose to place our identical twin boys in the same classroom when they started kindergarten last September.
Our reasoning: we didn’t do daycare or preschool so this was the first time they were away from me and their dad, other than the occasional day with the grandparents. We didn’t want the first time away from mom to also be their first time away from each other. When at home or at the park or library story time, they had always gotten along really well, without fighting, and we hadn’t seen any negative competitive behavior between them. When they are with other children, they play both with each other and with other kids, so we were fairly confident there wouldn’t be any negative effects with them in the same class.
Also, based on logistics, having them in the same classroom is so much easier. I only send one email with information about absences, illnesses, questions, etc. I can volunteer in just one classroom. They get invited to the same birthday parties and playdates. We don’t have to deal with jealousy because one twin’s class got extra recess that day or other such things (that are a very big deal to a five year old).
And finally, (and really what probably affected our decision the most) we have friends who are 30 year old identical twins. They both agreed that being separated in elementary school made them anxious and miserable. One twin said he specifically remembers being worried while sitting in first grade, because he couldn’t physically see his brother. Because our boys are also identical and very traditionally close, this conversation definitely impacted our decision.
The result: our boys have thrived being in the same classroom. They are both doing well academically, socially, behaviorally and physically. Their report cards look the exact same (which we’ve also noticed at home — they just learn things at the same time and have the same abilities so far). They love school and they love being in the same class. According to their teacher, there are no negative effects having our boys in the same class. They rarely choose each other for their partner and sit at different tables, but they do play together at recess, along with their other friends. She sees them occasionally looking for their twin and then going back to work during the day. Their teacher was able to tell them apart (based on head shape and a small red mark on one twin) after one week of school. Their classmates definitely have more trouble telling them apart, but so far it hasn’t bothered my boys to casually correct their friends.
This year, based on the recommendation of their teacher, logistics and my boys’ own opinions when asked, we’ve decided to keep them in the same classroom next year for first grade. Would they be okay separated? Probably, yes. But, it’s easier for me if they’re in the same classroom; they enjoy being in the same classroom; it’s easy enough for their teacher to tell them apart; and there are just no negative side effects having these two identical twin boys in the same classroom, so until there are, we’ll continue placing them in the same classroom.
My Boy Twin Needs Togetherness. My Girl Twin Is Okay Apart: Beth
When the idea for this post started, and I decided to participate, I was on the side of twins should be together. My boy/girl twins were 21 months old and were never apart until he got sick and had to stay home from day care one day. By then he was fine and spent the day asking for his sister. Now a bit of background here. She is a firecracker. She is independent, headstrong, stubborn, and has a stare of doom that will freak you out. He is a cuddle bug, and has been since day one. He is older and bigger, but she has achieved most milestones first, including walking. Once she started walking, she became even more independent. At 21 months he is was just starting to walk and was still very unsteady.
My twins were in the baby room at day care. The next room up is for 2-3 year olds, but most kids move in at about 16 months. At the time of writing this post, my kids were 21 months. And Miss Independent with the stare of doom was so ready to move up. So we did it.
And she thrived. Every morning in the new room was fabulous. She barely waved goodbye to me before going off to check everything out. She was happy. So clearly, twins should be separated.
But here is the thing. My boy was not happy. Every drop off at day care was a heartbreaking mess. Whether we dropped her off first or him, he was clinging to me and sobbing for dear life. I could hear him after I left the room. (OK, I could hear him crying for hours, which logically is not possible, but moms have that kind of super power.) Day care promised me that he calmed down each day and did fine, but you know when you just have a feeling….
So I started pushing them to move him up too. But he was not walking well enough for that room. Fast forward, we came up with a plan…a brilliant plan! Both babies get dropped off in the baby room. She (thankfully) was fine with it. He was fabulous with it. But it did bring up face to face with the idea of separation.
The day care kept telling me that twins need to be separated. That he was fine, eventually. And that may be the case. But not yet. At 21 months old he was going through some things and needs his sister. At 21 months old, they were still babies and while she seems to understand and appreciate (and at times accept) logic, he wasn’t there yet. They slept in separate cribs, sat in separate car seats, and they spend time apart 2 days a week in school (while he was transitioning). But in school he needs his sister, and that is good enough for me. She helps him walk, she gives him more confidence, and he thrived during this transition.
My twins need to be together in school, at least for now. Check back with me in 2 years when we need to talk about Kindergarten classes.
What are you thinking? Do you think your kids will be better off together or apart in school?