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Should Twins Be Separated in School?


Twin Parenting Blogger

If you’re reading this, I’ll bet you’ve had many (and I mean MANY) discussions with your friends and family members about this very question: should twins be separated in school? I’m also pretty confident everyone has an opinion they are keen to share with you. Not sure what’s right for your twins? Then keep reading….



Things I Worried About Before My Twins Started School


You may have others, but here are the questions that kept me up at night when I was trying to decide what if I should keep my twins together or put them in separate classrooms:


  • What if one of my twins gets a better teacher than the other?

  • What if I am doing a disservice to my twins by keeping them together…or separating them?

  • What if one has a ‘better’ class than the other?

  • What if one (or both) twins develop separation anxiety?


I decided to dig a little deeper to help me make a more informed decision, and what I found out was surprising.


Factors That Help Determine if Twins should be Separated at School


Before we get started, there are a number of factors that might determine if your twins should be/will be separated at school that may be outside of your control.


  • Their relationship with one another. One of my fellow twin parent friends knew from very early on (way before they were even school age) that her twins needed to be in different classes. They were (and still are) extremely competitive with one another. This was not the case with my twins, who were more like yin and yang, especially in the early school years. They were cooperative and supportive of one another, not overly competitive. They had also already demonstrated (yes, even at that tender young age) they could work independently of one another.

  • The size of the school they attend. If you go to a smaller school, you may have no choice but to keep your twins/multiples in the same class. 

  • Advanced Academic or Special Education Classes. Likewise, in some schools, the availability of advanced academic placement or special education classes might mean your twins will end up in the same class together. 

  • School Policy. Most schools default to separating twins at school, but did you know there are certain “parent right to decide” states with twin laws on their statutes? Read more below.


Twin Laws/’Right to Decide’ States


It may be your school’s policy to put twins in different classes, but certain US States are ‘right to decide’ states, meaning it is up to parents to make the decision if their twins should be separated in school or not. There are currently no federal laws regarding this, but the list of states with twin laws mandating parents, not educators, have the right to decide classroom placements is growing. States with current twin laws include Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Check your State laws as this is a constantly changing and evolving list. Likewise, different countries have different approaches and laws governing decisions on twin education.


The fact there is state legislation around this very issue in the USA reassured me that, when it came down to it, I knew my twins best and needed to make a decision based on what I felt was right for them. I was also lucky I lived in a ‘right to decide’ state.


The takeaway from all of this for me was this: it has been recognized by some states that parents or guardians are best placed to make the decision on what is right for their kids, not educators who may or may not have any knowledge about twin research, twin psychology and/or the unique emotional development of twins.


First Day of Elementary School for Twins

Research on Separating Twins in Schools


Most educators default to separating twins in school. I was frequently told my twins would “do better” if they were separated. I asked on more than one occasion what research was available to back this up. After some general statements about “social independence” and “emotional growth”, no educator was ever able to point me to any solid empirical data. 


The data and research on the outcomes of separating or not separating twins in school is still somewhat limited and, quite honestly, it can be confusing.  However, interest in this area has grown significantly in recent years with increased research conducted (perhaps because so many of us twin parents are asking the exact same question!).  I found this study particularly interesting. It examined the effects of classroom placement in a sample of 560 twin pairs whose behaviors were assessed from ages 5 to 12 years. No detrimental effect was found on twins’ social development when they shared a classroom. The study actually provides evidence that educating twins together is associated with “modest positive twins’ behaviors and social functioning at school”. 


Clearly, it’s an area that is ripe for further research. This may not help you in time to make a decision for your twins/multiples, but it should provide you with confidence you are not making the “wrong” decision if you disagree with your School Principal or Administration and want to keep your twins in the same class. You are not alone!


My Personal Experience Deciding if I Should Separate My Twins in School


My twins went to a small “Little House on Prairie”-esque pre-school. Transitioning them from that environment into a much larger school within an even larger school system I didn’t go through myself terrified ME, never mind my little twinnies!  


For their first year in elementary/primary, we decided to keep them together, despite the school asking us to put them in different classes (right to decide in action!). They had a great year. After a switch up of teaching staff the following year, they stayed in the same class again. All fine. By the time they were ready for 2nd grade (Year 4), we discussed it with our twins and their teachers and decided to try separate classes. After a little separation anxiety and nervousness at first, we all settled into this new normal. They were in classrooms next door to one another and could ‘check in’ during break/lunch which helped a lot. Birthday parties got quite interesting after that, however. Two classes certainly makes for a very large circle of same-age friends! 


However, in 3rd grade (Year 5), with only one class option available, my twins ended up back in the same classroom. By coincidence, their teacher was an identical twin herself! She really understood the mechanics of twin life and the need to ensure my children were seated separately and were assigned separate work groups independent of one another. That really helped set the tone for the remainder of their elementary education. 


We had no option after that but to keep them in the same class each year. At the beginning of every school year, we’d meet with the teacher to discuss the need to separate them in the classroom setting and let them thrive independent of each other. Honestly, it all worked out just fine.


As your twins get older, they will naturally start to make different friends, pick different classes when it comes time for middle/high school and follow their own interests. There is no ‘one size fits all' approach here and, unfortunately, there is no “do this” right answer. What worked for my friends’ twins didn’t work for mine and vice-versa. 


As a parent, you know your own kids. Explore options, talk to your school and understand any applicable regulations to help you make the best decision for your dynamic duo!



 

Although I am happy to share ideas and my personal experiences about life with twins/multiples, I am not endorsing effectiveness, safety or making any other claims about use and suitability of methods, approaches or products. Always do your own research and make decisions based on what is best for you and your family. 

 

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