I’ve been reading Free-Range Kids at the recommendation of Sylvia-Rachel. Author Lenore Askenazy, head of the Free Range movement, is one of the Forward 50 Influential Jews of 2009 and was interviewed this week by both Time Magazine and CNN.
The premise of her book and blog is that parents stifle their kids when they worry about things that are unlikely to happen, like molestation and kidnapping. By teaching them to be scared of strangers and chauffeuring them everywhere, we deny them the chance to learn life skills and solve problems. There are health implications too: Kids don’t get enough exercise.
I grew up as a “free-range” kid, walking alone to school from the time I turned five. My own kids ride public buses from about 9 and the older ones started walking to school in first grade. But over the years I have become more cautious about walking to school. This is partly because of warnings and partly because of scary things that happened to people I know.
I trust my kids to get to school on their own, although I am still nervous about intersections without traffic lights. Last week I decided to let my first and third-graders walk the three blocks to school on their own, after crossing the busiest intersection with them. They have to cross one dead-end street and another manned by crossing guards. Other than my son complaining that his sister walks too slowly, they were comfortable with the idea.
The commenters on Skenazy’s blog talk about how hard it is to be a “free-ranger” when you are the only one. When I spoke to a mother from my son’s class about having the two third-graders walk home together on the days they finish late, she agreed in theory. “After the winter,” she promised. In the meantime I’m hesitant to let my son walk by himself because the streets are deserted at that hour.
When do you let your kids walk to school alone?
If you enjoyed this post you may also like:
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt