Saturday, April 26, 2008

Free Range Kids

I was very pleasantly surprised to read an article in the New York Sun a few weeks ago about Lenore Skenazywho allowed her 9 year old son to ride the subway home on his own.

She's subsequently started a blog, Free Range Kids, dedicated to sane parenting.

Do you ever let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site dedicated to sane parenting. Share your stories, tell your tips and maybe one day I will try to collect them in a book. Meantime, let's try to help our kids embrace life! (And maybe even clear the table.)

She links to an article about how few children are actually kidnapped each year.

This time, Today was more conservative in its estimate, claiming that only 5,000 children go missing each year. While this is an improvement over 58,000, the implication is still that there are 5,000 stereotypical kidnappings, in which a stranger or acquaintance abducts a child to hold for ransom or abuse and kill him or her. According to the Justice Department, there are only about 115 such incidents each year.

I'm definitely a free range parent and have received a lot of flack because I allow my children to ride their bicycles around the block without an adult. I've had people remind me countless times about stranger danger and how we live in different times from when we were kids and stranger danger to our children is on the increase.

I've always reminded them that when we were growing up we had primarily local newspapers, radio which tended to be local and depending on where you grew up, ether no TV or just broadcast channels. If a child was abducted in Sidney, Australia, you did not hear about it in Podunk, West Virginia. However, now, with the changes in media, you are instantly aware of all children who are abducted, no matter where it is. This makes it seem to us that more children are being abducted or abused every year. It just isn't the case.

Interestingly enough, the people who give me the most grief about my free range parenting are not homeschoolers. The homeschoolers that I know appear to have free range tendencies themselves. I was mildly surprised at this consider that one of the criticisms leveled at homeschoolers is that we homeschool because we're over protective of our kids.

I think we often homeschool to protect our children against the excesses in modern life and to give them a safe place in which to grow up. Speaking purely for myself, I don't want my kids being surrounded by pop culture and children with no manners but I do want them to feel empowered and independent.

I'll never forget speaking to a woman with a 13 year old child who was unable to cook himself a meal. I was horrified. I've expected my children to be able get themselves a very basic meal since they were 4 years old. Hopefully by the end of summer, both children will be able to make a full family meal on their own.

Go on over to Free Range Kids for a healthy dose of reason.


Laura said...

We're fairly free range here too. The school where my kids would be going if we weren't homeschooling has almost no kids walking to it. Instead, the moms all DRIVE their kids the few blocks to the school. In the afternoon, the vans are all lined up to get the kids. I remember walking myself across several streets to school in kindergarten--I was 5!

My son has ridden around the block on his bike since he was 7. My daughter will be able to join him this summer. A few weeks ago, my kids made me scrambled eggs by themselves.

If we want our kids to grow up to be capable, sensible, poised adults, I think we should allow them the chances to reach that now as kids. It means they need to try things for themselves. They need practice handling themselves.

Shez said...

Laura, I hear you about moms driving their kids to school. We live three houses from a Montessori school and I am always flabbergasted at the number of locals who I see driving their kids to school.

Ben and Shira turned 7 this month and this week I started allowing them to ride around the block on their bicycle. Though last year I started allowing them to walk around the block. They had to walk as a pair but I now allow them to ride on their own.

I also remember walking to school when I started. We started school at 6. I either walked 3 blocks to the bus, or walked 20 min to school.

I was reading the Free Range blog where one woman was appalled that 15 or 16 year olds were allowed to ride the train into the city on their own. My friends and I started riding the train into the Johannesburg on our own when we were 13. We walked 30 min to the train station, then rode the train for an hour.