Seperating Twins in Grades

Updated on March 17, 2014
J.H. asks from Wilton, IA
25 answers

I just returned from my children's parent/teacher conferences. Not surprisingly, the twins (seperate kindergarten classrooms) had different accounts from their teachers. I am aware my daughters are young (August bday), but we confidently sent them to school. Taylor's teacher said she is in the top 3 of her class, outgoing, socially doing great, and in no way should be held back to repeat K. Abby's teacher said she struggles to retain easy information, is very shy, and struggles greatly with day-to-day tasks. While Abby is a very sweet loving girl, she is just immature and needs to repeat kindergarten. And in no way should Taylor be held back since it would hinder her greatly, and she would be severely bored. I am aware a crystal ball is out of the question, but are there any parents out there that have gone through this? I just don't want the "dumb/smart" twin stigma to follow them in school; e.g. bullies. A side note is they are very much not identical twins, currently in seperate kindergarten classes, and do not even play together at recess. They are however each other's best friend and staunchest ally. I'm lost with this one as a parent.

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answers from Atlanta on

My cousin is a pediatrician and is VERY against the grade separation. She says it is extremely damaging to the self esteem of the child that gets "left back" and it does stamp them with a smart twin/dumb twin thing. In the end, if you have to leave one back, you have to. However, I would do everything I could to work with Abby at home so that she is able to move onto 1st grade with her sister.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

In Canada we never hold students back. Students stay with their peers, and are provided the help they need. I would ask for her to be promoted with her peers and ask for an adapted learning plan.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There is no, no, no, no way I would hold one back. You KNOW that would follow her forever. The first thing anyone asks a kid they are meeting is "What grade are you in?"

I would do same teacher, same classroom. If one needs extra help--give it to her. If one needs extra stimulation--give it to her. I think Abby needs her sister.

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answers from New York on

I feel like I should preface this with OPINIONATEDNESS ALERT or something. I do feel strongly about this issue, so take it for what it's worth.

Among the kids who repeat a grade, about 10 percent really benefit from it. For the other 90 percent, they do much worse than they would otherwise. A whole lot worse.

First of all, it IS stigmatized. Even in a zero-bullying environment, there is stigma attached to repeating a grade. With twins, I can't see there NOT being issues, honestly.

Also, if a child struggles in school, usually there's a reason for it, and that reason is not going to magically go away with another year. A dyslexic 6 year old will be just as dyslexic in kindergarten as in first grade, for example. I'm not saying Abby is dyslexic, but could she have, say, a sensory reaction to chaos? It might worth getting her tested, rather than going on the very untested assumption that whatever the issue is, it'll magically vanish in a year.

I also hate, hate, hate even the suggestion that a child be made to repeat a year on the basis of being shy. All through school, shyness is an *advantage* in the classroom. Shy kids listen. They stay out of trouble. They want to please their teachers. Not all of them, of course, but this is the predominant pattern.

Very short version, of my whole rant? Get Abby tested. Try to get her some extra support/services. Talk to the principal about pairing her with a 1st-grade teacher who's very gentle and is good with shy, sensitive kids. It's *possible* that she might be fine with repeating a grade, but the odds are really against it.

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answers from Dallas on

I would advise you read the available studies on grade retention. Most of the studies don't support the "common sense" theory that another year will get them caught up. The short term gains don't outweigh the long term consequences. The studies also show that the short term gains are usually lost within a couple grade levels. If it were me, I would send her to first grade and make sure the school is implementing interventions that will help her be successful. Good luck in your decision.

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answers from Washington DC on

i just don't get our society. rather than placing children where they ought to be, 'social promotion' and 'stigma' are the most important considerations. instead of working on a society that encourages people to judge others on individual abilities and milestones, we allow ridiculous pejorative judgments about 'peerage' to affect a child's entire academic development.
that's a big overview, J., and not especially pertinent to your situation. i'm sorry. there's no fix for the paradigm as long as we segregate kids so rigidly into groups where age is the only thing that defines a 'peer.'
i think you're doing the right thing by treating your girls as individuals, and allowing abby to spend time where her cognitive and social development indicates she should be, instead of pushing her into a class where she'll feel lost and harried. it's also possible she'd catch up in a year or three, and all would be well. but it would surely make for an anxious early elementary experience.
i wish all parents would focus on teaching kids to let go of the artificial and school-created prejudice against red-shirting. the dumb-smart stigma is an adult perception that's passed onto kids, who would accept differences in ages and abilities if they were raised in a society that valued these differences.
as it is, if you do hold abby back, you CAN work with her on pride in herself and her own unique accomplishments. you cannot totally insulate her from hurtful comments from kids whose parents don't consider this type of empathy training important, but you can help her deal with them and rise above them.
i'm glad you're not considering holding taylor back.
it's a tough call, but your girls have a great mom. whatever you decide, you're clearly tuned in and ready to support in whatever way they need.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I don't have twins, but I would think that if one needs to stay back, then she should stay back. I would think that you could avoid any possible "dumb/smart twin" issues if you aren't making their twinness the focus of their lives. Yes, they have the same birthday, but they are very different PEOPLE, and that needs to be the focus. You do what is best for EACH child, not what is best for "the twins."
They are Taylor AND Abby, not Taylornabby.

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answers from Chicago on

I am assuming you have 2-3 months before making any kind of decision. Of course, I could be wrong. :) The way you describe Abby is the way I was in K. I was very shy, slow to warm up to people and things and not confident at all. If I was asked a question, I might mumble it but if you did not hear it, oh well. You were not going to get it again. I was this way until maybe 4th grade. I had an excellent 5th grade teacher the knew how to draw things out of me. I never wanted to say anything because if I was wrong, I would look stupid.

My suggestion is, put the twins together at home and go over things. See how they each respond. More comfortable with mommy, ya know? Then take them separately. See how Abby responds. It may be that she is too shy to answer and does actually know her stuff.

My triplets were in the same class until 3rd grade when they transferred out of Catholic school. For pre-k and Kinder, they never really played with each other. People would come by and want to check out the triplets and could never tell who they were. One of my girls was a lot more outgoing, one was extremely shy and my son was in between the 2. My outgoing girl had lots of issues. In K, my shy girl turned into an extreme perfectionist.

As they grew up, I did notice--as mentioned by another poster, that my outgoing girl learned differently. She is more of a visual learner. I was able to work with the teachers in elementary and middle school to help her. This is something you can watch out for. It is one thing to tell someone that 1 plus 1 equals 2, but showing it really lets it register. I am kind of noticing a bit of this with my current kindergartner.

BTW: my trips are currently in 9th, HS. My son takes an AP class and has honors for most others. My shy girl has been recommended for honors, and my very outgoing girl is very talented (taught herself to draw, animate, and play guitar), is on track team and does not take any honors. The only bullying we have had to deal with is kids just plain being mean for the different personalities the kids have.

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answers from Chicago on

Kindergarten is too early to separate them . I would put them back together and work extra hard at getting the one up to speed . Talk to both teachers . Maybe she would do better with the other teacher . My son was lost without his sister in preschool because they separated them into different groups without my knowledge . Then they said we can't understand him . I said " and you didn't keep him with the only person here who could" ! When we put them back together he was fine. Now they are in second grade and he is going to pass her up ! Hang in there:)

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answers from New York on

this is really a question for Solomon. What a dilemma. I have a few points for you to consider:

my husband was an identical twin. My MIL dressed them identically well into junior high school - at some point the boys realized they looked dorky and began to wear different outfits to school each day. My MIL continued to buy them the same clothes until the day she could no longer shop (she's in a nursing home). They were well into their 40s by that time - living half a country away, etc. All this to say that it's often a good thing for twins to be allowed to grow up the way they should. Your child who should, perhaps be allowed to grow another year before 2st grade is not any less intelligent - but has a diffferent way of being intelligent. maybe she's no the social butterfly her sister is - but maybe she'll be the engineer or mathmatician. Alot of highly intelligent people are not social, and are less socially mature - but they're geniuses. My hsuband and his brother, although identical haev very different skills - my BIL is a horrible test-taker - he will freeze and get a super low grade. But he can take apart and rebuild a motor of any size with great ease. My husband aces tests. But he can't follow a diagram or put together an IKEA bookshelf if his life depended on it.

So - i don't think they'll have as tough a time as you think they will by being in separate grades. As long as the shy sister is allowed to try the things that interest her. For all you know she may really blossom and flourish by being allowed to go at her own pace.

Also - ask to talk to the school psychologist. See what he/she thinks. I don't think there's a perfect answer. It's like on of those things in life )almost all) where you have to figure out which is the least worse option. Get out the old pros vs cons lists and see what you come up with.

Keep in mind too that just becuase they'd be in two different grades doesn't mean they wouldn't still be best friends. I am 13 months younger than my brother and we were always good buddies (til he met and married his wife many years ago but that's a different story...). My husband and his brother, although identical twins were never best friends. They are closer now at 47 living 5 states away than they were as kids.

Finally pray for wisdom and discernment. You still have a few months to go before final decision is needed. Kids develope and change alot at this age -a few months can make a big difference.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I know the school likes to separate twins but would your shy daughter do better if her sister was around during the day? I have boy/girl twins and when my hubby signed them up for kindergarten he requested they be put in the same classroom (above the school's objections). They had a really good year with each other's support. They each made their own friends but I have to say that having the same experience with the same teacher was easier for us.

For the following years they were always in 'buddy' classrooms. The teachers had a buddy teacher so 2 classes would get together for gym, library, art, lunch, recess, and special activities during the week. That allowed them to be together without being together all the time.

While I understand doing what's best for the child I also know that separating twins by keeping one back is like rubber stamping 1 as being stupid and the other as being smart. Can you work with Abby at home reinforcing what's being taught? They wanted to hold my son back because he couldn't read so I taught him to read at home. Or you could have them play school with Taylor teaching what they are currently learning and Abbey being the student.

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answers from Chicago on

This is a tough one for sure! I think if you separate them, the stigma will be there all the way through school. Any time they meet new people, and have to explain "No, we're actually twins but she's/I'm a grade behind", Abby will feel bad.

However, the smart twin/dumb twin thing can happen even if they're in the same grade. My daughter is friend's with a twin. The twin sister is the star student, star athlete, the popular dd's friend has been in counseling for years over her feelings of inferiority.

Whatever you do decide, it's best to do it now while they're still young. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Abby might just need a different method of learning. Holding her back would be a mistake, I think. My youngest has never been able to sit still at a desk for hours on end. She struggled within the framework of the traditional public school model - her teachers said she was inattentive, and often times she would cry. :( Well, it turns out the kiddo has ADHD, and she has benefited from going toward a project-based instructional method (we do Waldorf, but Montessori would probably work, too). She's like a different kid now.

So my point is, just because Abby doesn't learn in the same way as her peers doesn't mean she can't succeed. You know what they say about insanity - that it's doing the same thing again and expecting a different result. I think holding kids back in school is the same thing; if she hasn't responded well to what they're doing in the classroom, more of the same isn't going to help. I'd explore different schools for Abby (and Taylor, too, because it would make your life crazy to have them at different schools, I'm sure). Good luck!

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answers from New York on

Definitely send her to first. Keep a close eye on her. If she seems to be struggling, get her support services. Six months and a summer to grow, will definitely help.

Everybody Loves Raymond did an episode on just this problem.

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answers from Seattle on

I don't understand why you would hold BOTH back if only one NEEDS it. While Taylor and Abby share the same birthday, they are NOT the same person.

I had a friend in Kindergarten with a July birthday. Near the end of the year, it was decided that she just was NOT ready for 1st grade. Her parents, both teachers, made the decision to have her repeat kindergarten. It was the best thing they could have ever done for her.

If Abby needs to repeat, she needs to repeat. There is a LOT less stigma about it in Kindergarten than there is in Middle or High school.

Edit to add: Another way to look at it: What if the ONLY child you had was Abby? You get a report from her teacher that she's just NOT ready for 1st grade yet, and the teacher's recommendation is to have her repeat kindergarten. Does that change the dynamic at all?

Abby is struggling. She's not ready for first grade yet. Do what you think best for HER.

Taylor is a different child. She's doing great and is ready. Do what you think best for HER.

Kids in school are jerks, no matter what you do. All you really CAN do is teach your kids how to be good people and how do deal with the jerks in a positive manner.

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answers from New York on

I'm sorry that you have to make this decision, it's a rough one, for sure. I feel that you have to do what is right for each child's education.

If you think that having them in the same grade eliminates the dumb/smart stigma, you are mistaken. If you move Abby ahead, and if you do there is no guarantee she'll ever catch up, and she's at the bottom of her class forever, that's when the stigma kicks in. Trust me, the kids in elementary school know who the low performers are (I work in an elementary building). Keeping her back is her chance to shine, to success, not to always be compared to her sister who is more academically advanced. Putting them in the same grade is what will lead to that. Remember that the new kindergartners that Abby would have as classmates next year will not know that she has a twin in first grade. Abby won't have much contact with the first graders that she went to kindy with, except on the bus - her grade probably won't mix with first grade for recess, specials, and other events.

Is it possible for you to put Abby in a different school for her second year of kindy? That'll give the other kids a chance not to see her in the same grade as her sister. By the time she returns in first grade and the other kids are in second, she won't have seen her friends move on without her. I have a teacher colleague who did this when she had her daughter repeat a grade.

Good luck. I am sorry that there is no perfect solution.

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answers from Indianapolis on

Yes Everybody Loves Raymond did an episode about this. I don't remember what choice they made. But I honestly don't see the advantage to holding a child back. With twins involved it isn't like she just won't know. My daughters are Irish twins - only a year apart. (You'd be amazed how often I'm asked if they're twins!) Anyway, if one of them had to be held back, then it would be obvious. I agree with others that maybe they need to be in the same classroom.

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answers from Boston on

So frustrating. My neighbors have twins (they are fraternal although they looked identical until they were about 8!).

Having them in separate classrooms is good - my neighbors did that, as did another family I know whose sons are my own son's age. The kids have separate social circles as well, as yours do already.

Your children are totally separate individuals despite sharing a birthday. I think any change you make now is much easier than anything you try to deal with 3 or 4 years from now. I understand why you are worried about bullies, and it's a shame when kids use "dumb/smart" labels. However, there is bullying on a whole host of topics and for all kinds of reasons (kids who don't wear designer sneakers, kids who need braces, kids who are introspective, kids on the autism spectrum, you name it). There was just a report on our local news about a Massachusetts high school having to deal with a resurgence in anti-Semitism with kids being targeted because they are Jewish. So it's rampant.

That said, I'd say that it's hard to protect kids from cruelty from other kids. So we all have to start early to teach our kids compassion and how to have a backbone. I think you can't make an educational/social decision based on what might happen - in fact, Abby's just as likely to have problems because she's already not up to the rigors of large classes, workload, social interaction and whatever else. So I'd make the decision that's best for her right now and down the road.

The girls will always be close as sisters, but they've already forged separate paths socially, which is great. A lot of twins feel pressure the other way - they have to be together all the time, dress alike, face assumptions by others that they are clones in every way.

I didn't think my son was ready for kindergarten at 5 - he was a 3-hour-napper (and he would have had afternoon kindergarten), he was small for his age, and he wasn't ready in terms of concentration and social skills. He was outgoing and made friends easily, but he wasn't ready to be in a group of 22 kids. My brother, on the other hand, was the youngest in his class (where we lived, the cut off was 12/31, and he is a late October birthday and was SO young). He STILL suffers from never having felt adequate, and frankly, he's developed some pretty terrible habits (he brags, fabricate things, tries so hard to show people up). I wish every day of my life that he had been given an extra year or had been able to repeat kindergarten.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

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answers from Dallas on

I would not separate the grade levels. This could put a stigma on Abby that she may never be able to recover. Can you imaging the embarrassment of being twins and in different grade levels as they get older and have to answer "why aren't you in the same grade if you are twins". I see nothing good that could come from separation.

I have seen both twins held back when one needed the extra help and that was not a good situation. The girl in this situation was bright and her brother needed some intervention with special ed. They are in middle school now but when I had them in class through 5th grade, you could tell that she had no interest to do her best and excel. I believe she would have been a much better student if she had stayed with her peers. EVERYONE knew she was help back because of her brother and it hurt her esteem.

I've seen different cases with twins in school. MOST are separated into different classrooms so they can make friends, be individuals, etc and that works well. However, there are 2 sets of twins (boy/girl) that the parents were adamant that they stay together in their classes and so far that seems to have no effect on them educationally or socially.

Best wishes to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Don't hold anyone back in kindergarten..let them both move forward. It might be the one twin would do better with the other twin in her classroom. They are individuals of course but there is that ingrained innate need for them that others just can't imagine.

Put them both in first grade and then if the one doesn't move up to her latency stage during that year and start being a sponge learning stuff like crazy.

Kindergarten is harder for kids now than it was in our own day but still. They play, they take naps, they work a couple of hours per day and then do circle time and have daily activities.

Kindergarten is still kindergarten. DO not hold her back unless she is totally in need to keep taking naps for 2 hours per day, playing with toys in the classroom half an hour each day plus 3 recesses, and doing songs and activities like marching to music during circle time.

The small amount of table time they do is writing in their journals, working on simple math, tracing letters in sand or finger paint or on stencils. They work on pre-reading skills and she's already done this.

Some kids won't read until 1st or 2nd grade. They don't need to still be sitting in kindergarten stagnated on other subjects because one skill is behind.

I suggest you move her to first grade regardless of her issues. Try it. She doesn't need kindergarten another year. She could need a transitional first grade but if she does well in there she needs to move on to second grade.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I would not separate them at this point. Work hard with Abby for the next six months to get her up to speed for first grade. Do you notice at home that Abby isn't retaining basic information? Ask the teacher for some tips to help. Find some fun educational games that you can play together so she can learn while you're playing. Memory might be a good game, since it will force her to think about where she saw something and retain that info.

If she knows all of the letters and their sounds and is beginning to sound out simple words (cat, bag, fun, etc), I wouldn't worry. I would tell the teacher you are not comfortable holding her back and ask her to help you create a plan to get her ready for first grade.

The long-term repercussions of holding one back will be huge, I think. Abby will face a lot of teasing and might be labeled dumb, even though you know that isn't really the case.


answers from Norfolk on

I think many kids face boredom in the classroom at one time or another.
So I wouldn't necessarily use that as the one deciding factor in promoting the twin that seems ready for it.



answers from Kansas City on

I would not hold her back.

Work through the summer on retaining the concepts that were taught during K so that she will be on track when school starts next fall. If she needs additional help, find it for her.




answers from Minneapolis on

Hi J.- tough spot. We fortunately had old twins so that was not a decision we had to make. My best friend however had the exact issue for his twins but in first grade. First off its k garten! Either way your decision will be good. My friend chose to move Both ahead regardless. With twins there is immense behind the scene competition. His school highly recommended whatever decision they made it was crucial to keep the twins together in the same grade and to repeat first or move both to second and use remedial work for the one who struggled. Their twins are now in 6th grade. They are both doing fabulous and were able to retain the friends they made in first grade. If your girls aren't in a tight circle they would never know they repeated kgarten without you telling them. . My friends decided for first grade that to repeat and not carry that stigma with them, they would have to also change school. They have never regretted moving both boys ahead . Most kids equal out by 2nd grade. Best of luck. You know best in your gut. I do strongly believe in keeping twins in the same grade. Mine are almost 13 and not a day goes by that they aren't in small ways comparing themselves to each other- very opposite yet friends in the same circle but don't hang together even within that circle. They are still 'off' if one is absent do to illness for example and have each others back.
About me: 53 yo percussionist and part time wellness coach with very tall fraternal twins.



answers from Los Angeles on

I don't think I would separate the twins (not yet anyway). I'd give Abby another year. If it has to happen, I would consider sending them to separate schools. There are many years of school ahead, that's a lot of explaining to future peers and teachers why the twins are a grade apart, with Abby always coming out on the short end of the stick. I'm thinking of her 9th grade English teacher saying "oh you're Taylor's sister! Wait, Taylor's twin? Why are you in different grades?" Well, I was held back waaay back in kindergarten....

As a school counselor, who usually would support the "gift of time" another year in kinder can afford some kids, I totally support moving Abby on another year in this instance. It IS a different situation when twins are involved. If she is still painfully behind 1/2way through 1st grade, I would go the Special Ed assessment route and try to get some services in place.

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