Saturday, September 25, 2010

Free-range Kids

I sort of understand free-range chickens, but what about a website for free-range kids – were these kids out of control or just eating well? The website was mentioned in an article by Lenore Skenazy humorously lamenting the restrictions placed on kids roaming around their own neighborhoods without supervision. She was focused mostly on how kids get to and from school. Her article notes that many parents won’t allow kids to walk or bike to school even when it’s just a few blocks. In some places, bike racks have been removed to discourage kids from riding to schools. I suspect much of this is a direct result of the “fear factor” created in the news. Yes, things can go wrong, but I also wonder about the end result of a micro-managed childhood.

Another view in the article, based on purely antidotal observation is that “you can see the difference in kids who walk or bicycle to school – they’re bright, chatty and ready to go.” New studies seem to back this assertion but it’s probably too early to make any definitive statements.

This leads me to a renewed appreciation for our small town school system. The mornings around Yellow Springs are busy with kids from all over town making their way to school by whatever method works best for that day – walking, biking, yellow bus, carpool, etc. – they do have options. Except for the cell phones, it’s almost as colorful and homey as a Norman Rockwell painting.

I walked to school for most of my elementary years, but I didn’t have to carry a 15 pound backpack – just a P&J sandwich and two Oreo cookies. It was pretty cool walking with friends, talking about “stuff” and just being a kid. I always had a bit of pride about learning to be independent at such an early age and thought it helped shape my later years. I was about 50 years old when my mom finally told me she followed me to school until the 4th grade. At least I got home by myself – well maybe.

A. Reader


Les Groby said...

This topic is a pet peeve of mine. I commented on it here recently on the post "16 Again". The loss of children's freedom of movement and association to irrational fear does, I'm convinced, have serious consequences for their well-being and development. The idea that our world is more dangerous for children than it was for recent generations is not supported by the facts.

Yvonne said...

I don't mind "free range" as in taking themselves to school. I have a problem with it as in "having no boundaries." We have kids come into our business whose parents just let them go; they are into everything and would probably get into the cash register if we didn't stop them; they definitely try to go behind the desk. These kids think that anything is "fair game"; your stuff is their stuff, you know? And the concept of "NO" doesn't seem to exist...

Les Groby said...

Yvonne, I would say the kids you're talking about are a different subject. In fact, when kids are grossly lacking in social skills, that generally indicates that they have had little freedom to interact with others on their own, and so lack the competence to behave appropriately without direct parental supervision. Of course, it's also possible that their parents are boors themselves, and they're just modeling that behavior.

In case anyone is interested, here's the address of the Free Range Kids web site mentioned in the blog: