Alanna McGinn, mom of two
Before my kids, Lila and Duncan, were even out of diapers, I was fielding the question every parent of twins is asked endlessly: “When they start school, will you keep them in the same class?” While my husband and I understand the reasons twins are often separated, my gut has always told me to keep them together—and that’s exactly what we’re doing when they enter junior kindergarten this fall.
Starting school is a big step for little ones, so why wouldn’t I ease the transition by keeping them in the same class as their best friend? Perhaps if they were the same sex I might feel differently, but they are boy-girl twins, so I’m not overly concerned that they won’t branch off and make their own buddies.
I understand that two main reasons for separating twins are to avoid competition and to curb dependence on each other. But Lila and Duncan each have their own interests and skill levels, and instead of being overly competitive, we see them helping and supporting their twin when one struggles more than the other.
My son is slightly more dependent on his sister: In social situations, she branches out easily and searches for new friends, whereas he tends to hang back and either plays by himself or relies on his sister to make friends for them both. This is something I’ll keep my eye on, but I’m not splitting them up because of it. His sister may act as his icebreaker, but once my son has made that connection, he doesn’t have trouble flying solo with his new friend.
And to be honest, a side benefit of having them in the same class is that I’ll only be dealing with one teacher. I’d like to be very involved throughout the year, and working with one teaching style and homework routine will simplify things. (You may call it parental laziness, but I choose to think of it as parental convenience.)
Things may change as they grow during their first year of school. I may decide they do need to be separated, but I want to base my decision on my kids’ development, and for now I believe my twins will flourish together.
Cindy Currie, mom of three
We’ve never thought twice about our decision to put our twins, Addison and Bren, in separate classes. They started out in the same class in junior kindergarten, and it worked well. But after that year, we looked at how they had evolved and we decided they needed a chance to develop their own personalities and grow in their own ways.
While some parents might worry about their twins missing each other when they’re put in separate classes, we were more concerned with them being too close. They have a tendency to play with each other first, and we felt that being split up at school would force them to choose others to play with and learn from. It’s worked—they’ve really broadened their friendships over the past year.
It’s also had an added benefit: When they were in the same class, Addison was friends with the girls, while Bren tended to play with the boys; now they each have their own set of pals, both boys and girls. And in making these friendships, they’ve developed key social skills. Addison is very outgoing, so she’s learned how to tone it down for some people in some cases. And being a little bit more quiet, Bren has had to figure out how to come out of his shell.
Twins are also notoriously competitive, and being in different classes has helped Addison and Bren focus on their own strengths rather than trying to do something—artwork, for example—better than their twin. Now they want to do their own things better than anyone else. And as they’re developing their own sense of self, each has something to learn from the other.
One of the greatest benefits of having different teachers is the individual attention they’re now getting. When they were in the same class, the teachers would talk about them as a unit (we heard a lot of “Addison and Bren”). Apart, their teachers can see them as individuals and nurture each of them as they develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
It’s been really cool watching our kids figure out how to get through the day without their twin to lean on. They’ll always be there for each other, but they’re thriving on their own.
A version of this article appeared in our September 2015 issue with the headline, “Should twins be in the same class,” p. 140.