Born within minutes of each other, identical twins Kyle and Thomas Kruip are used to doing things together. So it was a shock to the 5-year-old boys when they were assigned to separate classes this fall as they entered kindergarten at the Helen Estock Elementary School.
“Kyle took it harder than Thomas,” said the boys’ father, Hans Kruip, 34, a substitute teacher in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. “He could not understand why they can’t be together.”
But the boys have now settled down. It helps that in a school of 120 kindergarten students, there are five other sets of identical twins, in addition to the Kruips.
There could have been a seventh set, but the mother of the twin boys decided to hold them until next year, Principal Pete Schaefer said Wednesday.
“I’ve never seen so many (twins) in one grade,” said an amused Schaefer as the twins gathered for a school picture. He said another set of twins is in fifth grade.
Schaefer said there is no school policy to separate twins. But parents request it anyway to avoid the often intense competition between the siblings and allow them to become more independent.
Twins compete fiercely against each other or they rely too much on each other, said Chris Davidson, the Tustin Unified School District’s director of special education, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and child psychology from Cal State Long Beach.
“They have to be separated to allow them to develop separate personalities,” she said.
Davidson said twins often create a protective shell. “They could develop a language only they could understand,” she said.
By separating them, they are able to expand their circle of friends, she said.
Hans Kruip said his boys are developing to be individuals with different tastes. Kyle is artistic and Thomas likes to tinker with things, he said.
“We let them express themselves,” Kruip said. “We want them know they are individuals, separate from each other.”
To foster that feeling, Hans Kruip said he and his wife, Kathleen, do not dress the boys alike.
But Lucy Salzrosas, the mother of twins Elizabeth and Nancy, said she intentionally dresses her daughters alike for school.
“That way, I can easily spot them when I pick them up,” said the 42-year old Tustin resident.
At home, the girls dress differently, she said.
Although Salzrosas said she sometimes cannot tell them apart, “it seems they are so different. When one is happy, the other is sad. When one likes to eat potato, the other likes rice. It’s weird.”
Cathy Hubbard, mother of Donovan and Douglas, said having the boys go to separate classes offers a respite from their constant competition.
“Now, they want to teach each other what they have learned in school,” said Hubbard, 31. “They were scared to be separated in the beginning, but knowing that they will see each other at recess, they have adjusted.”
Schaefer said there is also a practical reason why twins are separated.
“Teachers can’t tell them apart,” he said.