Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s weekly advice column. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
I’ve been thinking about this for a few years and will need to make a decision soon: Should twins be put in separate classes or stay together for elementary grades? Our twin girls will be going into 1st grade and will have their first school experience next fall. They’re inseparable and have been together, well, since the womb. It’s difficult to think about separating them, but we want to do what’s right for their individual growth. I would especially value your opinion on this since I understand you have twins as well.
Dear Mom of Twinnies,
Yes, I do have twins—both girls, as well—so this is a question I’ve thought a lot about and discussed with other parents. I also have twin brothers who fell in the middle of our large family, so I’ve had twins around all of my life.
There is no one answer to this question—it depends on your kids, the school, and your family situation. It’s a decision that I think should be made year-to-year. What might work best for them in kindergarten may not be so good in 3rd or 4th grade, for instance.
First, you need to consider your kids: Are they competitive with each other? Do they have major differences in abilities? Do their differences constantly attract comparisons? Is one of them "the boss" of the other? If one or more of these is true, it may be a good idea to separate them. (If your twins happen to have been adopted, as mine were, you will also need to consider whether it’s the best time to separate them. Adoption adds another layer to this question.)
You also need to consider the school your twins will be attending—are there factors that cause you to want them to be in the same classroom? For instance, maybe there’s only one teacher you really like that is teaching 1st grade. Or maybe one class is much larger than the other and you prefer them both to have a smaller classroom size. So, consider the practical realities of what each of your twins might experience if you separate them (or keep them together).
Additionally, consider things going on at home that might make it harder for your children to be separated. Are there any major stressors or circumstances, such as family illness, divorce, death, a new child joining the family, etc.? If there are issues going on at home, separating your twins at school may not be a good idea since they derive a lot of security through their bond.
Last but not least, consider what your daughters themselves think about it: Do they express interest in being in different classrooms, or are they adamant about sticking together? Since they haven’t been there yet, they may not have an opinion. Given this will be their first year in school, it might make more sense to keep them together and observe what happens. The first year of school can be intimidating enough and their experience can help you know more about what to do moving forward.
Educators are pretty big on separating twins—and I understand that. In many cases, it helps twins develop their individuality. But it’s not always necessary. My twin brothers—who are very different from each other—were in the same classroom for their entire elementary and junior high school years (it was a small school with only one class for each grade) and had most of their high school classes together. They also had the same circle of friends until they reached adulthood (and still have mutual friends). They went to different universities far away from each other, and handled all of it just fine. I never heard or saw any negative effects from them staying together in school. So it all depends.
I know I’m biased, but having twins is great! It’s our privilege as their parents to help them learn to develop their own identities while maintaining the unique, and often very deep, bond between them.
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, and consultant, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, Instagram, vintage Harleys, and vodka martinis—not necessarily in that order.