Is it beneficial to separate multiples in the classroom?

Image credit: NY Metro Parents

With back to school right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss whether or not our multiples should be kept in the same, or different, classrooms. I contacted the experts and here’s what they had to say.

Caren Begun, of Mommy’s Point of View, is a twin and has this to share:

“My mother decided when my twin sister and I were young that she would have us in separate classrooms. I have to tell you that it was a GREAT idea. It teaches children to learn to be on their own without a parent or sibling they know and they can develop as a individual, versus a multiple, in the presence of others, and be measured against fellow classmates instead of each other. It wasn’t until middle school where my sister and I started to take classes together only because we liked certain subjects only taught by one teacher. From my experience, it’s best to keep multiples in different classroom settings to provide them an environment to flourish and grow independently of their siblings and where they can forge relationships with other children on their own. I believe that it makes children appreciate their siblings that much more when they see them at the end of the school day and treasure that relationship even more.”

Another twin, and current executive director of policy development for Alexandria City Public Schools, Margee Walsh had some great input from both a personal and professional level. I asked Ms. Walsh what parents should consider when deciding if they should keep their kids in the same or separate class. Here’s what she had to say:

“Parents should always consider what they know about their children, including the strengths and challenges of their relationships; the academic, social and emotional strengths; and related issues. Parents may come to a different understanding of what is best for their children as they progress from elementary to middle to high school. ACPS will always attempt to personalize its response in the best interests of the students and according to the parents’ wishes. However, if the assessment / recommendation of the professional educators is different from the wishes of the parents, the superintendent or superintendent’s designee will make the placement decision. Please refer to our policy: ( http://www.acps.k12.va.us/board/manual/jcj.pdf )”

I asked Ms. Walsh if it is beneficial, in her professional opinion, to have children in separate classrooms.

“There are no absolute criteria for making this decision, other than to support the highest levels of achievement and social-emotional growth for all students. As noted above, the issues are specific to the children themselves. Parents may choose to consult with counselors, psychologists or medical doctors if they are uncertain of the best recommendation.”

Finally, I asked Ms. Walsh if she shared a classroom with her twin sister and she told me that they did from kindergarten through 8th grade. “While this caused no concern for me, I think my sister would have preferred a separate placement. We are fraternal twins, not identical. That may contribute to the issue. We attended the same high school and the only class we had together was Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry our junior year. This worked out better so that we could fully develop our own personalities and interests.”

The final expert that I spoke with is Dr. Fran Walfish, celebrity Doctor and leading child, teen, parent, and family psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, CA. Here are Dr. Walfish’s top tips to consider when separating your multiples:

* AGE – Consider the age of your twins, triplets, or quads. Multiples under the age of 5 years generally do better in the same class. By age 5 or when entering Kindergarten most kids do better in their own class with their own separate teacher and group of friends. This separateness is healthy for fostering one’s own identity as uniquely different from their twin or triplet siblings.

* INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITIES – Consider the individual personalities of your children. If you have twins, for instance, and one is an extravert while the other is shy and introverted you may decide to not separate the kids for an extra year to benefit the introverted child. You may, on the other hand, decide that your shy child is ready to be nudged out of her cozy cocoon and sprout wings of her own. Carefully evaluate each child’s needs and try your best to do what works for both (all) kids.

* If you have triplets or quads and there aren’t enough teachers in a grade level for each child you may be in a pickle. It might be worthwhile to put two in one school and two at a close by school. I treated a child who was a twin. The kids attended a small prestigious private school that had only one class per grade level. The twins were never separated. They were in the same class at school, as well as in after school activities. The more shy, introverted twin developed a profound dependency on her sister. By 6th grade, she was referred to me for help to develop her own separate identity. She was lost without her sister.

* MOM’S ENERGY – Consider what will work best for you, too. You can’t be driving all across town several times each day just for the sake of the kids. It must work for you, too. If you are a low energy person you need to consider that in your decision about where to send your children to school. Having a mom and dad who are calm, rested, patient, and happy is much more important to your child than which school class they attend.

* BEST TEACHER FIT – Consider the optimal match of teacher to your child’s personality and needs. If you have an active, talkative child who pushed limits, you can’t match him with a soft, loosey-goosey teacher. He needs someone warm and nurturing while clear and firm on boundary setting and follow-through.

When it comes down to it, it really is about what you think will work best in your own situation. Every family, and each set of multiples, is different. What works for your friend and their multiples may not work for your own. It’s best to trust your gut and work with your school district and teachers to help make the best decision for your family.

Let’s keep the conversation going! If you have school age multiples, how did you decide if you were going to separate or keep them together? If your kiddos are not in school yet, what is your plan?

About our experts:

Margee Walsh is the current executive director of policy development for Alexandria City Public Schools. She’s been an educator for four decades, serving as a teacher and a principal, as well as a consultant on education and health services. Ms. Walsh is also a twin.

Dr. Fran Walfish, is a celebrity Doctor and leading child, teen, parent, and family psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, CA. In addition to her full private practice where she treats many celebrities and their families, she was on clinical staff in the Department of Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for 15 years. She was a school psychologist and recently completed her 4 year-term as Chair of the Board of The Early Childhood Parenting Center founded at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles. She was trained by world-reknown psychoanalyst, Saul L. Brown, M.D., Director of the Department of Psychiatry, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Caren Begun, mom of a preschooler and PR/media relations professional, founded Mommy’s Point of View — www.mommyspointofview.com — in 2009 with the goal to share her experiences as a first time parent while also providing valuable tips and insights in areas such as health, arts and crafts, product recalls, and other pertinent news relevant for parents to be in the know about. Caren’s parenting recommendations and insights, which often come with a good laugh, and the occasional cry, have also been included in parenting magazines and websites including New Parent, Parents Connect, MommyMDGuides, and The New York Times.

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8 comments

  1. My girls started daycare at two where they were in the same class. I felt that starting daycare and being apart from one another would be too much transition for them all at once. By age three it became apparent that they would fare better at school and at home if they had a little time away from each other, so we put them in different classes. Amelia is a social butterfly and didn’t have any problems with the adjustment. Julia is a little more introverted and lives in her own little world for a good part of the day. Without her sister around she is participating more with the rest of the class. Joining circle time and even allowing a few other kids to join in her imaginary play. This also gives her the chance to have some alone time, which I think she was in desperate need of. At home we notice that the girls play much better together. There is far less bickering and they each have their own stories to tell.
    TwinMomMichelle recently posted…How thick is your bubble?My Profile

  2. Our daycare refused to separate from age 3 even though we wanted to, and it was a natural change because all kids change rooms from age 3 anyways. We decided to not take “no” for an answer this time around (at 4) and they started in separate rooms as of today! I am convinced this will reduce stress for the “parent” in my pair of identical twins – and encourage the “baby” to take responsibility for herself. I am also absolutely positive that there’ll be less bickering!
    Lene Kristin recently posted…Glade feriebarn!My Profile

  3. My kids start kindy next month, and we are doing separate classrooms. My main reason is that I think they will be ok apart, and I’d rather start them off that way instead of having to make the decision about when to separate them and then have to explain that to them. By starting them off apart, they’ll never know any other way. My son also is academically ahead of my daughter, and I think it will be good not to have that competition by having them in the same class. They are at day care together now, but my daughter tends to play with the girls and my son with the boys. I don’t feel they need the security of having their twin in the same class.
    Jessie recently posted…Meal Plan Mondays, Week of July 30-August 4My Profile

  4. My girls went through preschool together and rarely separated. Even in a class of 12, they would travel from center to center together, play on the playground excluding others, and I was eager to separate them in kindergarten. They did great! My quieter twin really opened up, getting a chance to shine, and my more dominant twin had to learn to socialize with others. After school, they would huddle together to talk about their day, then play happily. They’re identical and I’m always looking for opportunities to separate them, especially since they have to share a room.
    Gina recently posted…Meal Plan MondayMy Profile

  5. I have identical (we think) sons. They were in preschool together, kindergarten separate, Transitional 1st together and 1st separate (mistake from school). I really thought (and hoped) the separate rooms would help with the sibling rivalry. NOT in our case. At least so far it hasn’t. They fight like I’ve never seen them fight, but the next minute they are holding hands. I’m really curious to see what happens in another year. They will stay separated this yet also. Although they have separate classes, they still fight over who tells me about their day 1st. Never ending I guess 🙂 On another note, the dominating twin is best friends with his teacher. Not sure if this is good or bad. The other twin has a couple friends but not many. Even when they are in the same room, they still play with others. I don’t see a real big difference between the 2 options except the homework load seems more dramatic cause they have different assignments instead of the same. It was easier when they had the same….IMO 🙂

  6. I’ve met three sets of identical twins (all adult males now) who are so close that if one gets in a relationship, and the current girlfriend says something about the other brother hanging around too much, then the girl gets booted! These men are in ages ranging from 30-60! Another set, both married live next door to each other. I’m all about sibling closeness but this seems to cross the line to dependent. I have ID girls and while I havent met girls doing this, I’m sure they are out there!

    Part of this I’m sure is because being same age siblings, they just do everything together. Because I’ve seen this though, I worry about my girls feeling dependent on each other. I am more about separating them so they can each learn who she is an an individual. They will be in the same class at preschool but hopefully at separate tables.

    School prepares them for real life. While I’m all about my girls being best friends, I want them also to be the best individuals they can be too!

  7. It seems like with same-sex or identical twins, the issue of separate or together is especially difficult. Since mine are boy/girl, they aren’t thought of as one unit by others and they naturally gravitate toward different friends and interests. I am worried about the double load of having two kids in different classes. Their kindergarten orientations are at the same time too…I’ll have to go to one and my husband to another. I feel like that is just going to be the beginning. Two classrooms to volunteer in, two snack schedules, two homework schedules and routines, etc.
    Jessie recently posted…A Success Story that Inspired MeMy Profile

    • I have the same thoughts as you! Is it as necessary for boy/girl twins to be separated? I really don’t look forward to two different homework schedules, volunteering between two etc. Mine are only 4 and won’t start kindergarten until next year. I’m interested to see how it works out for you. I hope there is a follow up post to this. I’d love if you posted on my website anytime and let me know how it works for you.

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