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Separating Twins in School: How We Handled It

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Is it good for twins to be separated in school? Or should they stay in the same class? This is a question that all twin parents ask themselves. I’ve written a few posts before with the research on the pros and cons of keeping twins together vs. putting twins in separate classes.

Now that my identical twin girls are school-aged and we have done BOTH ways, I wanted to write an updated post that included both the pros and cons of each choice we made, but with my own emotions and experience. I’ll start with our experience and what the ideal decision was for our family. Hint: separating twins in school was a great choice for us, BUT there were some growing pains as we transitioned.

pinnable image of twin girls and talking about them starting separate classes

Our Own Experience and Decision

Preschool: covid preschool and homeschool

Our twins, Josie and Margo, started preschool together in the 2019-2020 school year. As we all know, that year was a dumpster fire of a year. Schools were shut down worldwide and they were stuck at home with my husband, me (36 weeks pregnant with our 4th babe at the time), and their older brother who was in Kindergarten.

The following year, we opted to continue to keep them home and homeschool them for their 2nd year of preschool (and 1st grade for their brother).

Kindergarten: same class

By the time they were ready for Kindergarten, they had been with just our little family unit for so long! I had always assumed that we would put them in different classes for Kindergarten, but I just did not feel ready for it. It was going to be such a shock to them to leave our house and their family… all day, every day (well, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, but that’s a lot for a 5-year-old!), that I didn’t feel right having them leave each other as well.

When I spoke to the principal, she agreed with my decision to keep them together, especially since at that time they were still sometimes quarantining kids for close-contacts. This way, we would be reducing the amount of exposure and possible time spent home quarantining.

They had a great year together. At the parent-teacher conference, I specifically asked their teacher how they were doing being in the same class together. I was very proud when she told me that she never saw a single bit of competitiveness between them. They didn’t rely on each other, they did their own thing, had their own friends and interests, and there was an absence of snarkiness that she said sometimes occurs between twins.

Twin moms: is this not the ideal?! Is this not everything we strive for in our twin parenting?

I was just so happy to hear this. Every choice we make as parents is for the benefit of our children, and this was a reassurance to me that we are making the right choices. We are nurturing their twin bond and also ensuring they know that they are their own, unique, beautiful, individual person.

As Kindergarten ended and summer began, I kept procrastinating on making the official decision on what to do for first grade. It’s like… my brain knew what I needed to do, but my heart didn’t want to do it.

I knew they needed to go their separate ways. Even though they thrived being together in Kindergarten…. even though below I’m going to tell you both the positives and negatives of separating your twins in school…

I knew they needed to be separated. They are identical twins, but they are so different. They have different strengths and weaknesses. One twin is a bit more fluent at reading. One twin has an easier time with social situations. One of them is more athletic. One is more artistic. I don’t want either of them to compare themselves to their twin and feel like they are less than because they have different strengths than their sibling.

Take the research and emotions and everything out of the picture and ask yourself… would you want to be in class with a sibling who was a better reader than you? Or had more friends than you? Or ran faster at recess? Or drew better pictures?

I would absolutely hate that. I want my children to focus on their individual strengths and not the strengths of their twin. I don’t want them to feel inferior if they are picked last for a game and their twin was picked before them. I don’t want them to feel as if they aren’t smart because their twin reads a word off of the board that they can’t figure out.

To me, it was obvious that putting our twins in different classrooms for first grade was what we needed to do to continue to nurture their independence and individuality and avoid any competition and jealousy.

identical twin girls starting separate classes for the first time

1st Grade: officially separating twins in school

OK, so we did it. I made the official call and our principal wholeheartedly agreed with me. She said she likes the idea of separating twins by first grade at the latest. She said in her experience, it avoids problems over the years.

I was confident in my decision. I knew it was the right thing. But my goodness, it was still really hard!!! They have been together since they were in my womb. They share a bedroom. They are best friends and are together constantly and I felt like their separation was this HUGE MILESTONE for them… AND FOR ME!

While I was freaking out and feeling all of the feelings, they were so nonchalant. It was like no big deal to them to be in separate classes. And you know what I realized?

I think that first grade is absolutely the perfect year to separate twins because they both were so comfortable because they had friends from Kindergarten in each of their classes.

They also were comfortable and familiar with their teachers because they’d at least seen them around the school and knew their names.

How It’s Going

We just finished our third week of school and it’s not going at all the way I expected it to. Well, let me back up. One thing that is going AMAZINGLY well is that the bickering and picking on each other and overall behavior problems that we were experiencing at the end of summer are basically gone. The kids all are playing together so nicely, even though the transition back to school is exhausting for them (and meeee!). I think if I was around someone 24/7, I’d be cranky towards them, too!

The surprising thing is that Josie is struggling a little bit. She has been the one who craved her independence the most. Margo is more go-with-the-flow, doesn’t mind when people confuse her for her sister, likes to match, etc. Josie (for the most part) dislikes matching. She strongly advocated for having her own class and she strongly dislikes being confused for her sister or even being asked, “are you twins?!”

She has a deep desire to be independent. Yet she is the one struggling in school. It isn’t obvious that it’s because Margo isn’t there with her. However, she LOVED her year in Kindergarten. This year, she is constantly crying and saying she misses mommy.

I find it interesting that she didn’t miss me last year, during Kindergarten, and what should have been a harder year. This year, she cries every morning before school.

How We’re Handling It

I waited a few weeks to see if it resolved on its own before I talked to her teacher. We actually had an open house and I got to see their classrooms and learn about their day. It sounds really fun! They are learning but there is a lot of play/games, and they do a lot of outdoor learning. Josie’s teacher seems SO fun and lovely, so I know that there are zero issues there.

So, I addressed the issues with her teacher, who actually has twins herself! I mean, it’s a pretty perfect situation. We both agreed that her not wanting to come to school could be because she just feels uncomfortable/nervous/off without her twin in her classroom. She might not realize that this is how she’s feeling because it’s not like she is desiring to play or spend time with Margo, she just misses the comfort of knowing she’s there.

Her teacher is handling it in the most perfect way! She invited Margo to come to their classroom during the last portion of the day. Both girls absolutely LOVED it! She also said she would arrange a special lunch for Josie and Margo and some of their friends. I love that she is taking the time to help Josie with this transition and to ensure that she loves coming to school.

What We’re Doing at Home

Since Josie is flat-out saying that she misses mommy, I am making sure to really pour into her. It’s tricky because she comes home and just wants to PLAY but then at bedtime, she cries because she misses me. So I am practically forcing her to spend time cuddling with me.

I am also making sure that the girls get solo time playing by themselves (we call it independent playtime) and also enough time playing together to make up for being apart at school. Whew! It’s a lot more work helping them through this transition than I thought it would be.

Josie finally told me that she got used to her Kindergarten classroom and teacher really quickly and she just can’t get used to her first-grade classroom. I asked her if she thought she couldn’t get used to it because Margo wasn’t with her and she said “well, I think so.”

I don’t think she likes to admit that she misses her twin and feels like she “needs” her and she is also reluctant to tell her teacher when she is feeling nervous.

I told her we will send her to school with a journal and every time she has a feeling (whether it’s nervousness, boredom, loneliness, etc), she can write it down and bring it home so we can talk it out. I explained to her that mommy, daddy, and her teacher are all on a team together to make sure she has a fun and safe year in first-grade and that we will continue to work together to help her feel comfortable.

Do I Regret the Decision?

No! I fully believe that we made the right decision and would do it again. They are definitely ready and need the space. I think that prolonging the separation would make it that much harder on them.

They have been much happier and content with each other overall, other than the crying about going to school. But according to both of their teachers, they are super happy and engaged in school, and I am confident we will work through these challenges and have a wonderful year!

Keep reading for more of the pros and cons of keeping your twins together vs separating them…

The Pros and Cons of Separating Twins in School

Let me say this loud and clear: there is no one right choice. Every family and set of twins will have different needs. I will give my experience and advice based on the research… so take my thoughts and opinions and use them to form YOUR own decision of what will truly be the best for your little family unit.

Keeping Your Twins in the Same Class

Here are Some Pros of Keeping Twins Together

  • The buddy system! Your twins will have a best friend in class with them.
  • Ease of communication: If your twins have the same teacher, you don’t have to worry about responding to TWO sets of e-mails.
  • Ease of organization: Only ONE set of things to keep track of. Homework, due dates, things to send into school.
  • No exclusion: If your twins are in the same class, they will BOTH be invited to the same birthday parties, etc. No hurt feelings!
  • Homework: All homework assignments will be the same. You don’t have to worry about one twin being upset because they have more homework than the other.

Here are Some Cons of Keeping Twins Together

  • No time apart: space is good for everybody. I love my family, but I personally still need space from both my husband and my children. Being around the same person constantly can be draining.
  • Lack of independence: twins are less likely to develop their own independence and express their unique personalities if they are constantly influenced by their twin.
  • Comparison and competition: every child develops at their own pace. One twin may excel at something that is a struggle for the other twin. This could cause several problems. It could cause a lack of confidence in the twin who’s struggling. It can also cause resentment towards the twin who is stronger. Another problem, is the twin who is stronger could sense their twin is struggling and hold back themselves.

There are, of course, solutions to this! If you really feel like your twins need to be in the same class, consider giving them separate bedrooms at home or different extracurricular activities so that they can develop some independence.

Putting Your Twins in Different Classes

Pros of Separating Twins

  • Independence: At some point in life, twins need to be OK doing things on their own. Learning to function without their twin at school is a great way to be comfortable with this transition.
  • Unique Interests: Being in a separate class from their twin will allow them to explore their own individual interests without the influence of their built-in best friend.
  • No comparison: There won’t be any (or at least less!) comparison and competition between the twins.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder: Since they aren’t around each other all day, they are more likely to miss each other and less likely to bicker and argue when they are back home.

Cons of Separating Twins

  • It will be more effort for the parent to organize homework assignments, field trips, etc.
  • If one twin gets more homework than the other twin, this could cause resentment!
  • The transition period might be rough. Even if they are ready and you think it’s the right choice, anything new takes time to adjust to.

Do you have anything else to add to this list? Is separating twins in school a choice that your family made? I’d love to hear how it went! Let me know in the comments!

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Elizabeth Westcott

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Thank you! That was very interesting and informative! I love following your family and reading your wise words.

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