How to handle twins' differences in school

I have twin boys who will be 5 in April. They both have been in preschool for 2 years and should be entering kindergarten in the fall.

The preschool teacher feels that one of my boys is not ready for kindergarten and should go to pre-k for a year (due to immaturity; his skills ie. ABC, color and number identification are fine). The other twin can almost read and I was told that he needs a challenge and would be bored with a year at pre-k.

At this stage we do not want to separate them (due to "you're the dumb one" labeling) We do realize that the one might be held back at some point. Is it wrong for me to send them both to kindergarten and hope for the best?


Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Dear Kirsten,

Your twins, though no doubt very similar in some ways, are clearly different in others. It is not too early to begin to treat them individually. Whether treating them independently includes putting one in kindergarten, while leaving the other in pre-school, however is another question.

It may be possible to support the individual growth and development of each of your boys in kindergarten simultaneously. Academic skills do not seem to be the separating factor here, but "social" readiness, instead. Get a second opinion from a learning specialist about your son's readiness for kindergarten. It is possible that separating the twins by putting them in different kindergarten classrooms would allow for greater individuality with less comparing.

You are right to consider the fact that you could support one child to remain in kindergarten, if necessary next year. It is true that holding your son back now assumes an "unreadiness" next fall. It may be too early to tell what he will be capable of 6 months from now.

As a parent, you must follow your instincts about what is best for your children. Only you and your husband truly understand the family atmosphere your children reside in, and the ways each of your children respond to their environment and to one another. If you feel strongly that it would be detrimental to hold one of your children back from kindergarten, while the other attends, by all means take your feelings into account in this decision.

Consult with a learning specialist to consider the pros and cons of your decision, but do not stop there. Consider evaluating a variety of kindergarten classrooms. Sit in on several and see for yourself what will be expected of each of your children. You may find that they will flourish in different classroom atmospheres, depending on their interests and unique personalities.

After evaluating the different options that may be available to you, consider the uniqueness of your two little guys and visualize each of them separately in your mind. Can you see each of them happy and growing in different kindergartens? Placing them in different classrooms may provide a healthy framework for eliminating competition without "labeling" one child as "ahead" of the other. However, continuing to protect their individuality at home and in other areas will be critical to the development of healthy self-esteem. Identify the individual ways each of your boys excels and support their unique talents.

If you find that you very much want to send both of your boys to kindergarten despite your preschool teacher's concerns, establish ways to help the twin you are concerned about to develop social skills over the summer which will ready him for the challenge.

Remember, experts are there to recommend, not to make parenting decisions. Do your own research, consult, but in the end do not forget that you and your husband are the best "experts" on your child. Do not defer to professionals, unless you feel in your heart it is the right thing for your child.

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