I am an elementary school principal. There are quite a few sets of twins in our school. Sometimes we get requests from parents to assign both children to the same classroom. My practice has always been the opposite for reasons that I think are beneficial to both kids. I'd like to know how people on this list feel about this topic. Also, are there any studies you can refer to that speaks to the topic?
The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) publishes a booklet entitled "Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Educators." This booklet, published in 1991, has a lot of information about what factors parents and teachers should consider when it comes to placing twins, triplets, quads, etc. in separate classrooms or in the same classrooms.
The booklet cites many different studies and authors about the effects of separating multiples in school. The basic gist of most of these references is that each case will be different for each set of multiples. Some twins (or more) may need more time than other sets to separate from each other, for whatever reason (shyness, separation anxiety, etc.) while others will benefit from being apart.
This booklet is available from NOMOTC for $1.50, and you can call 1-800-243-2276. Some books about twins and multiples that discuss school placement and that might be in your local library or bookstore include The Joy of Twins, by Pam Novotny and Twins: Nature's Amazing Mystery, by Kay Cassill. And there's LOTS more out there! Maybe you could call your local Mothers of Twins Club? Check with the hospital in your area, or the Red Cross, or Community Help Line.
I myself am the parent of 9 year old triplet daughters, with two identical. Since their school has only two classes per grade level, we have opted to keep them together since Kindergarten rather than have a two/one split between classrooms. This has worked out quite well over the years (they're in 3rd Grade now). Each year we evaluate if one girl would do better in a separate classroom, but so far we've decided the benefits of the three together are greater. It helps that the identicals have chosen different hair styles, so there's no confusion among their classmates and teachers.
Actually, I think the students and teachers really enjoy the opportunity to have all three together. Multiples can be a wonderful role model to others about how to develop a close relationship with another person and yet be individuals. But, of course, other twins, triplets, etc. would do better apart to help them not feel like "the twins." Like I said, each case is different.
I hope this helps you out. I want to thank you for coming to the Twins List to ask parents how they feel about the subject. I'm sure you'll do a great job for all the twins, triplets, quads and quints (?!) who will be attending your school.
Irv- I'm curious about why YOU think it's beneficial to separate twins? Past experience with multiples? I guess I'm trying to get some insight into the 'School's' perspective on this issue. Thank you Jill for your response. I've printed your response for future reference.
First, I would like to applaud you for asking this very important question. As a mother of 4 year old identical twin girls this topic is very important to me. I have gotten some interesting information on this subject from an organization called "Twin Services" (510-524-0863). I have also read information regarding this subject from various books on raising multiplies as well as the "Twins" magazine. As I understand it, the idea of separating ALL twins into different classrooms is no longer recommended. This may well be the best advice for many twins as they get older, but as with any classification of people, there is rarely one solution that works best for all. I believe very strongly that this decision must be made on an individual basis. From what I have learned, it may in fact be better to allow some twins in the early grades to stay together.
Here is a small section from an article I got off the net from Twin Services:
"There is often confusion made between the physical separation of twins and their development of individual identity and independence. This confusion promotes the placement of twins in separate classrooms as the "best" way to encourage the individual process for all twins.
In reality each set of twins and triplets have their own unique dynamics and developmental time tables. Placement in separate classrooms does not fit the needs of all twins any more than does placement together. What is true for all multiples is that their classroom placement has an important effect on their relationship and their lives. In order for these effects to be positive, their placement needs to be evaluated every year so that it can be adjusted as necessary to meet the changing needs of the children.
...Twins and triplets just starting school usually benefit from the social support they give each other when they are in the same room. They seem to find it easy to engage in different activities when they have the option of being together. When they are forced to separate into different classrooms, they get the message that there is something wrong about being a twin or a triplet. They may suffer emotional stress from worry about their absent co-twin(s) and find it difficult or impossible to do their school work."
There are a host of additional reasons behind this new thinking. As a parent, I find it very gratifying to find someone in your position who is willing to keep an open mind in regard to this subject.
Thank you again, for taking the time to ask questions and listen. It is greatly appreciated.
I am an elementary school teacher and have taught in grades 1-4 over the last 11 years. In both school I've worked in, the final decision about splitting twins in school was always left to the parent, the philosophy being if the parent isn't happy with what is going on, it may be more difficult to work with them. I have had at least one set of twins in class at each grade level and a few sets of twins that were split up. In each case the kids did fine.
The ones together in class were never a distraction or too dependant on the other, or felt "overshadowed" by the other's acheivements. The ones that were split, it too worked the best because of some of these same issues.
My initial reaction would be to let the kids be together (if they want) for at least K and 1st, and then maybe suggest different classes, but it has worked at older grades, too. The current teacher and parent should discuss what each thinks is the best placement for the following year(and why), but the final decision should be left up to the parent.(unless there are some real extenuating circumstances)
Next to dressing twins alike, this must be the most controversial topic going! There doesn't seem to be an absolute, correct answer on this one, although most will assure you they are right. I've done some research on this topic (editing a booklet on separation in school for POMBA Canada) and have come to only one conclusion -- every set of twins is different.
It's interesting that you say you have had requests from parents to put their children together. This would be one of the first signs that they should be -- their parents know them as individuals best. However, the parents should be well informed about how each of their children behaves at school. Most of us with kids in school know they can often seemingly act quite out of character at school than they do at home. Parents should also be given all available information about what affects separation or placement together can have on twins.
There are a couple points I feel strongly about:
My daughters (5 1/2) are fraternal and look nothing alike. Most of their classmates don't even know they are sisters. They have been together during preschool, Junior Kindergarten and this year in Kindergarten. I am putting them in separate classes for grade one. I believe they have benefitted being together, especially since they had a change in community and school last year. They are now feeling secure and comfortable and, I feel, are ready to be apart. In fact, I believe they will thrive on their separate paths. At the same time, they will ride the bus together and have recess together if they choose.
Just my thoughts on the subject. For more you might connect with the Australian researcher, Dr. David A. Hay, Director of LaTrobe Twin Study at LaTrobe University's Dep't of Psychology. He's really considered the expert in the field when it comes to twins in school.
Unfortunately, you have opened up a can of worms. This is a topic that is very near and dear to we MOMs (mothers of multiples). You will find varying ideas, but the most important is this. Parents know their kids a whole lot better than you do. They have raised them, fed them, changed them, taught them, lived with them, fought with them, watched them fight, talk and learn together. They know better and should be the ones to decide. Your imput is very important, but the parents need to have the ultimate decision and you need to be at peace with thei decision and not second guess them. I have a friend with I/B's who will be in kindergarten in Sept 97. She has decided to put them in separate classes. From observing them in preschool, they do much better when alone. I agree with her, knowing what I know about her twins.
My feelings toward my twins are compltely the opposite. I will insist that they stay together, at least through first grade. I will certainly re-evaluate this decision on a year-by-year basis, but this is how I feel.
My twins are very independant when together, but cannot exists when they are apart. I was widwowed when they were five months old. Subsequently, I have not had the opportunity, financial or otherwise to separate them. They are always together and feel that they are a pair. I am back at school getting my master's degree in bioenginnerring, and so they are in day care (almost 3 now) full time, for the first time. They love day care and do great, but come unglued when they are apart. This IS NOT A BAD THING! They love another ( and fight with one another). Elementary school will big a hugh transition for them. They will be leaving mom and to force them to suddenly leave one another would be disasterous to their emptional and possibly physical health. I feel that by first, maybe second grade, they will be ready to branch out a bit. They will assist me in making this decision. If they want to be separated, I will absolutely accomdate them. If they want to be together, they will be allowed to. Our school maintains a separate twin policy, from what I have been told, but what I see is twin staying together until third grade. I talked to the parents of these twins and they said they had to fight, but they insisted they be kept together. They would not back down, nor will I, and it worked. I think they insisted in third grade, but by then, personally, I think my twins will be old enough (gosh, I certainly hope so!) that they will make separation transitions easily enough.
I have heard horror stories of twins being separated against the parents wishes and the kids having nothing but horrible recurrent situations. I feel, that if children are not getting the full benefit after six months of being together, that separating them on a trail basis would be easy enough, especially after being together, making the adjustment to school, etc. But the damage that can be done by prematurely separting them could be irrreversible. They could hate school, hate teachers, hate their parents (oh God, every parents worst nightmare!) for forcing them into a traumatizing situation. Acadmemically, they can always adjust, tutoring, etc, but emotionally, the scars can and often do persist.
Ask any parents of multiples and they will tell you, Identical or Fraternal, there is no bond like a twin (multiple bond). They share so much besides just a birthday. They know one another's every move and loves, likes, everything. In one day of kindergarten, first grade, etc, you can destroy that bond forever. They will never be close to anyone in their lives like they will their twin. No one, I repeat, no one has a right to come into their lives and destroy their bond.
It upsets me a bit that you "HAVE YOUR REASONS" How can you know anything about these kids...anything? You know them almost not at all. You, as an educator, have the obligation to do everything in your power to make sure that these children will succeed in school, emoitonally and academically.
You owe it to them to give them every opportuntity to assure that this happens, regardless of what you personally believe. I firmly believe that if you had twins, you would be singing a completely different tune. I really do appreciate you asking for input, because until you have twins (multiples) or are one yourself, you will never know what they truly need to excel. Ask their parents and ask them....I know this news may upset you...but regardless of how many degrees you posses or have eared, they still know more than you do.
Just my $.02 worth (maybe worth a bit more than that). Thanks for listening (you asked for it!)
As a twin my self:, READ THIS PLEASE!!! should twins stay , together.
I just recently joined this group and I followed the discussion about whether or not seperate a twin at school. I am 24 years old and I am a (dutch)twin my self.
My identical sister and me went together to the same class in primary school and spent 5 years togehter in the same class at highschool. After school we seperated. I went to another town studying history. She went to Amsterdam, studying sociology. We love each other very much and nowadays we can get along much better than while we were in the same class.
I don't know what would be the result if we were seperated at school,but I know the result from our experience. We had a lot of arguments in those days, but we soon settled things as well. Our tolerance towards each other was very
DE DIGITALE STAD
I have suffered (and still a bit) from the fact that people always compared us with each other and wanted to mark us. "She is more serious, less female, better in school'etc. I hated that. I felt very insecure because I always felt that people liked my sister better because of her better looks and sunny nature. In a way it is very ironical. I did not like the fact that some people regarded us a unity, but I also did not like it when people said that there were so much differences between us, because I felt like the lesser part. The projections of the outside world has infected our relation very much. When people say you look more serious you start to act more serious. During our shared shool years we always had the same friends. I never had a friend for my self, together we had best friends. In a way it was comfortable, we were both pretty shy and we could divide the task of making the dates. I suppose we developed less independance that way than 'normal' kids. I still have very much dificulties with making decions by my self. I do not want to blame everything on the fact that I am a twin, but there is some connection.
Another thing was that when I was exited to tell some news, it often was the case that my sister had told it already. Sometimes we had to make adivision who told what.
Our graduation from high shool was a little trauma for us. I had very good results, better than my sister. We had very high expectations from that day. Every one from the class was asked individually to come to the stage and get the diploma. Exept for us. The teacher said something like it is still difficult to see who is who so I ask them to come together.
He said nothing personally, it was only about the fact that we were funny because we were a twin. We were very angry at him.
Ofcource there are advantages as well when you share the same class.We could always talk things over after school what happenend and could support each other in difficult times. Sometimes I was proud on the fact that I was part of a twin, I felt special. People do not easily forget you because they notice you soon.
So mummies and daddies, it is up to you to decide. I advise you to look at your childeren individually and to discover what is good for them. Perhaps you can put them togehter in primary school and watch very carefully how it works. Perhaps secundary school is a more appropriate time to divide your twin. But at that stage they are old enough to decide for them self.
Jamie, I agree with you, just remember to say "MAY BE READY" b/c I don't think there is any magical age when all multiples will be ready to seperate. As you said, THEY will let us know when THEY are ready. No parent or school system can decide when they should be developmentally ready to be seperated only they and their bodys can answer this question. Each set of multiples must be looked at individually and not as a group or whole. No standard can be set for all children multiples or otherwise.
Good luck on you schooling and the kidos
As the son, husband and brother of, respectively, a high school assistant principal, elementary school art teacher and elementary school special ed teacher, I feel the need to jump into this discussion and defend educators as group.
I am insulted by the insinuation that the principal who asked for input or any other educator would have anything less than the best interests of his students at heart. Those of you who have said as much, or implied that educators make decisions based on what makes their lives easier, have, by implication, insulted my mother, wife and sister and I will not stand by passively and let that happen. I see the dedication to their work and the devotion they have for their students.
It is true that parents know their children better than a principal who is just meeting them; no one could argue with that. But just as someone said that the principal knows nothing about the children (complete with capital letters and exclamation points) the parents, most likely, know nothing about operating a school with hundreds of children and the interactions that go on in that situation. There is room here for discussion -- there is no absolute. This principal may have years of experience and may have introduced dozens of sets of multiples into his school -- as a parent, I'd like to hear from him before I make a decision that I've never had to make before.
I used to work for a Congressman and while debate on the floor of the House gets nasty sometimes, there was one absolute rule followed by all: Do not speculate on the motives of others. I would suggest that that's a good rule to apply in this situation as well.
Thanks for listen, er, reading.
I suspect you will be getting a lot of mail on this issue. At least I hope so. Im sending this to you personally and to the list since I dont know if you subscribe to the list.
Some history first: We have four children. The triplets are currently in the same class in kindergarten. Our school policy is also to separate multiples, but since there where only two morning and two afternoon kindergartens, they agreed to place all three in the same class. Next year they will be in separate first grades, which is what the triplets want, so we have no objection. Prior to kindergarten they went to Pre-K for two years. The first year they were all together, the second year they were in separate classes. Both years they did very well.
I am against any formal policy regarding multiples. If you want to encourage their individuality, than do that and treat each case separately. My advise would be to go with the parents wishes threw second grade. After that, to force separation only if there are supportive facts, not solely on the base of their multiplicity of birth. The reason being that the parents know the child the best. In our school district, the school basically sees the child for 20 minutes in a pre-kindergarten screening. That is it. Hardly enough time to come to any conclusion about the child.
Last semester I wrote a short paper for school discussing the placement of multiples. Ive attached a copy to this. My wife also suggests you contact
Synopsis: There is a strong tendency to separate multiples in schools. This paper argues that separation based solely on the multiplicity of the birth is neither warranted nor in the interest of the school or the children.
There is a strong tendency to separate multiples in school based solely on the fact of a multiple birth. The assumption is that separation is healthy for multiple birth children to help insure a positive self-concept. The school wants the children to develop as individuals rather than as one of a group (the twin, triplet etc.). While this is a noble goal, there are a number of problems with it:
It assumes all multiples are the same. It ignores the fact that for twins you can have identical or fraternal. For fraternal twins you may have same sex or boy/girl twins. For higher multiples, you can have any combination of identical and fraternal as well as the sex differences. The advancements made in infertility treatment over the years makes the occurrence of higher order multiples much more likely.
While trying to help them develop as individuals, the school denies them the very individuality it hopes to instill in them by treating all multiples alike. Unequal education may result due to teachers employing different methods of teaching. Even when the teaching methods normally would lead to the same results (e.g. similar scores on standardized tests), this result may not be obtainable with multiples. The teachers will be compared much more closely among the multiples then among friends. The parents have very limited means of dealing with this comparison. The options normally available to parents are not available in the case of multiples. There is no distinction by grade as is the case with siblings. Even when all ofthe teachers follow the same methodology and teach in very similar ways, problems can arise due to the order in which topics are covered by each teacher. This can result in the multiples perceiving the teachers as using a different methodology due to different sequencing.
This can especially be difficult if the parents want to take an active role in their childrens education. It may be impossible to schedule extra-curricula activities such as trips to museums and libraries when the children are learning different things at different times. If classrooms are skill-based, forced separation can result in one or more of the multiples being placed in a class either above or below their level since placement will be based not on their level but on the perceived need to have the multiples in separate classes.
Parents philosophies on how to bring up multiples will differ. Some will see it as a special gift which should be nurtured. Others will not place any importance on it. This views will impact how well the parents can support the schools philosophy.
There are, however, individual circumstances which would indicate separation is desirable. Some of these are: Constant togetherness is hindering the development of one or more of the multiples. Insensitive comparisons have led to feelings of inadequacy in one or more of the multiples. Note that these comparisons can be made either by peers or by teachers. A childs problems are attributed to the fact that he/she is one of a multiple. The multiples cause disruptive behavior as a group. One or more of the multiples appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom. One or more of the multiples proves to be a constant distraction to the other. The multiples want to be separated.
Most of these reasons apply to other groups of children as well. You may have close friendships which hinder the development of one or more of the children. Some children are disruptive when grouped together. For individual children, these issues will be at best partially addressed due to a number of factors--the number of classes; the number of students in a group with discipline problems; the academic level of the students, etc.
With multiples, often times the fact that they are multiples will be the primary focus regardless of their educational needs. They may be well developed individuals not needing any special consideration yet forced into separate classes even when there are strong educational indications to do otherwise.
What policy should be used for multiples? The best policy, is no policy at all. The best way to foster individuality, is to treat the children as individuals from the start. For kindergarten and first grade, the parents are the best source of information on whether they should be separated or kept together. In general, their wishes should be followed. As the school becomes more familiar with the students, the principal and their teachers can have more input, however, it should be based on the individuals concerned not on the fact that they are multiples. If there are specific concerns backed by supportivefacts, the multiples should be separated.
They should also, at times be separated to insure that they can function as individuals. This separation, however, does not necessarily mean separate classes all the time. Separation can also be handled by having the multiples work in different groups or on different topics. While the teacher must be aware that they are multiples so that he can look for dependence, the teacher must also realize that at times the multiples will in fact be most independent when work on the same project! The similar likes and dislikes may be caused by their common home environment. Before assuming it is a sign of dependence the teacher should ask himself if he would be concerned if he saw similar behavior from siblingsseparated by a year. If not, then he should proceed with extreme caution and consult with the parents before jumping to any conclusions.
The fact that they are multiples, should be considered sufficient reason for action by itself only when different teaching methodologies are employed and in those cases will tend to bring the multiples together rather than separate them.
Bibliography Dreyer, L.H. (1991). Placement of Multiple Birth
Children in School A Guide for Educators. National Organization of
Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. McNamara B.E. & McNamara F.J. (1986),
Same or Separate Classes? Twins, March/April 1986, Volume 2, Number
5, pp. 18-19. Theroux, R.J. & Tingley, J.F. (1983). Twins in
School. Research Reports from The Center for Study of Multiple Birth.
Chuck, Alough I believe your point may be well taken and your family may indeed not be one of the many who are at fault there is a LOT of school personel that do not take the children into account on an individaul basis and are truly at fault. I believe this is the problem as a whole and not the few who do a very good job at taking each child and set of multiples into account. I have personally been lied to on many occasions over the 13 years my older children have been in school and again now that my multiples are entering school. This as always becomes a generalization. I too went armed to the teeth when speaking with the principal of the boys school they will be entering next year only to be disappointed that she agreed with everything we said, agreed with us and even gave us our teacher preferance.. not that we are truly disappointed, just that I put so much energy into my preperation because of our prior experiance and those of others and didn't get to use it). Actually we are THRILLED to have been received so well, it gives me hope for not having to fight there way through school as we have had to with our sons ADD and most reciently our daughters LOVELY behavior that the school would not follow through with in helping us keep her in line. There are many good teachers etc. out there, they are however becoming fewer and this makes our life as consumers/parents even more difficult.
In the letter from the principal I was impressed that he was asking but he did state that (and I parphrase) that he in the past had insisted that multples be seperated, I too asked what he based his cartblanch (sp) decissions on. As I too believe this is not fair to the children. AND ....if a principal decides across the board to seperate than your mother (the great teacher she is) has no opportunity to teach the multiples in the way that is best for them and ultimately has to also suffer the brunt of that principles decission if the multiples do not do well seperated. This then is not good for the multiples, the family, the school or the other children in the class. When this attitude starts at the top there is no (or little) hope for those under him or her.
As always no one way is approperiate for each set of multiples or every classroom. I, personally only want to see each childs needs (multiple or singleton, regular ed. or special ed. , mine or someone elses) addressed on on individual basis.
[Addressed to the twin who shared her experience above]
I liked your post very much. Here in the United States, there are so many different classes that children are almost always separated starting at about age 12, Junior High and then also at High school. It is primary or elementary school that is so important. I dont think they would ever consider trying to put twins in the same class in Junior High or High school...I could be wrong...maybe the Principal who initially posted this could respond...but I am pretty sure...I would be surprised at a request to keep twins together in Junior High or High School!!! Anyway...thank you for your honesty. I will remember what you said for always...as there will be a time to consider what you said.
My aunt, an elementary school pricipal, told me of B/G twins entering 1st grade whose father insisted that they be split up. (Their school leaves it up to the parents). The girl seemed to handle this situation alright, but the boy was more shy and missed his sister during the day (which was why the father wanted them apart!) My aunt suggested that it would be really nice if *every* shy kid in first grade had a special friend around whom he felt completely comfortable and it was sad that this boy had his taken away.
Certainly not every set of twins has the same needs when it comes to being together, but it can't *always* be best to split them up. I'm amazed when I hear of schools which have this policy, as though all sets of twins are made from the same cookie cutter! Will and I have a few years before we need to make this decision (and a few years to find a school which will let *us* make it!), but I hope we decide based on the boys' needs, not our own agenda for their personality development (which was apparently the criteria for the father at my aunt's school!)
I totally agreed with Chuck's support for educators and couldn't have said it better myself. In our small town here in Ames, IA (25,000) the principal for our particular elementary school (there are several) knows every student (350 total) in the school by name, is aware of circumstances in their lives that may effect school performance, and is a dedicated professional. When she solicits information regarding students in general, multiples, or individual students, I see it as her way of making sure she's meeting the needs of her students in the best way possible for them as individuals and members of the community.
To my mind, being a principal is very hard work. Think of all the people a principal has to listen to and try to keep happy. (This is about as appealing a job as being president of the United States - yuck.) As Chuck said, we as parents cannot possibly know all the issues they have to consider in running a school and should respect their professional abilities and knowledge.
"..I would be surprised at a request to keep twins together in Junior High or High School!!! "
As the students get into picking their classes this can be an excellant opportunity for seperation without the possible anxiety of forced seperation.
When have a set of twins B/G at my daughters school. They had separate classes mostly but where always together between classes and in band. B/c they had the same last name and looked VERY different some of the kids thought they were married. It never occured to them that they were twins or siblings at the very least. They took it as fun and seem to have no problems from their natural/casual seperation over the years (they baby sit our boys and the boys love having other big twins in their lives, it is VERY special). At parties and other events/functions no one would ever think on not inviting both of them but they have different friends just in the same cirlce. They graduated last night with out daughter. We were all so very proud.
"I am against any formal policy regarding multiples."
Stan, I agree with you whole heartedly. Lets ALL treat ALL of our children on an individual basis.
I guess I have one of the older sets of identical boy twins on the twin digest. Our boys will be 15 years old tomorrow (the 28th of May).
Since they are now in ninth grade, I can answer the question about keeping children together in school and say what we did. Our boys were together in kindergarten bacause I requested it. When I spoke to one of the first grade teachers, she said that her mom was a twin and had been separated in second grade. The mom had never forgotten it, and said that it was a traumatic experience for her & her sister. Since our boys wanted to be together and the teacher was agreeable, they were placed in the same class.
In the second grade they were tested for the gifted program here in San Diego, and they both tested for a seminar gifted program. They had exactly the same score! They spent 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade together in small seminar gifted classes. In junior high, they were in gifted and advanced classes together (their only different class was a section of p.e.). They have enjoyed being together. They quizzed one another on spelling words, studied for history tests together, practiced Spanish dialogs together. They have both worked on the yearbook, been on student government, and this year as freshmen in h.s., they were on the football team and on the tennis team. They love being together.. and they are still in the small advanced classes together and this will probably continue during the rest of highschool.
Cannot say it will work for others, but for our boys, it was the right thing to do. They have been straight A students and they credit it with working and studying together.
My daughters (almost three) are going to kindergarten 2 days a week and are in separate groups now for 10 months.
We noticed that they are not trying to get together and seem to be playing more peacefully with other children. When they are together they focus on each other and large parts of the day are filled with trying to steal each others toys.
They don't seem to miss each other Of course, even when in different groups, they still meet several times a day (playing outside, birthday parties etc), so the separation isn't very strict.
We have however decided to get them in different groups when they go to primary school at four. The school gives us the opportunity to reverse on this decision when we notice the girls not being happy about it.
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