Earlier this year the Internet was filled with numerous stories about a family in Maryland that had been reprimanded by Child Protective Services for allowing their children, ages 10 and 6, to walk home by themselves from a playground about a mile from their home. The parents were investigated and cited for not supervising their children. These parents are part of the "free range" parenting movement.
The free range movement promotes the idea that children need the freedom to explore their world on their own without hovering parents in order to develop self-sufficiency and self-confidence.
This year my granddaughters, ages 9 and 7, have walked home from school alone. They are free range children.
No, this is not a picture of them walking home from school. They do not live in the wilderness. They live in the suburbs and walk from school through a residential area about a mile to get home. They started practicing walking home at the end of the previous school year. First with their parents by their side, and then trailed by their parents, and then finally on their own they walked home through suburbia. They each carry a communication device that allows them to call their parents and allows their parents to track their movements. They phone when leaving school and when arriving home. Their parents arrive home a short time after they do.
I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about the free range concept even though my brother and I and all our friends in the neighborhood were definitely raised as free range children. We left the house in the morning and didn't return until late in the day when our mother would ring a cowbell and sing out our names calling us to dinner. We didn't have play dates. We just knocked on the door and asked our friends to come out and play. We played outside...all day and ate lunch at whatever house was nearest, or not at all.
I agree that kids need time to explore and develop self sufficiency, but I have to admit that when the granddaughters stay with me in the summer, they are rarely out of sight.