Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: F is for Free Range

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.


  1. Yes, times they are different. My kids always took a bus to school, except for grades 4-6. And that school was right next door to our house. I think it depends on the circumstances of where the kids live. I can understand your concern about your grand children. What I like, though, is that they carry devices which can track them and that they can use to call for help if they need it. But of course any safety precaution can be compromised. I can see the pros and cons. It does teach kids a little bit of self reliance.

  2. I often wonder when did things change. Were there no bad guys before 1995 or was there less news programmed and sensationalized? Like you, I was a free range child and so were my children. Like you, also, if my grandchildren are visiting, I keep my eyes on them at all times.

  3. I well remember wandering around with my bike all day long when I wasn't in school. And I was a little surprised when I heard about those parents being cited for neglect. It didn't seem that way to me, but then again, times have changed.

  4. I believe citing those parents was unreasonable. We were free range children; our parents couldn't conceive the half of what we did. But, the parents must also be comfortable with the free-range area, and as grandparents we probably are not in as close touch with a neighborhood as our parents were. And those poor parents are.

  5. If you are raised in a bubble you probably won't ever catch a cold, but then you'll need to spend the rest of your life in that bubble.

  6. Your grandchildren are fortunate to have adults who are both cautious and concerned to raise self sufficient and confident children. We do what we must in every generation to ensure that our kids have these essential characteristics as they grow into responsible adults. These days the devices available that give some sense of security are part of this generations tools. Free Range....a new twist on an old phrase...at least from this Texas raised on a Ranch kid.

    I am visiting from Co-Host AJ Lauer’s Team. Hope you are enjoying the Challenge. I enjoyed your post.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal
    AtoZ 2015 Challenge
    Minion for AJ's wHooligans

  7. I hadn't heard the term Free Range children, but I was definitely one as well. I feel sad that my grandchildren can't enjoy that same freedom, but it is a scar(ier) world now. Sounds like your daughter is taking all necessary precautions though. I'd send them out each morning with a prayer as well!

  8. There is an old saying "Safety in numbers." One child walking more than a block or two by their self is one thing. Two children walking together for a mile, at these ages are probably fine. Of course a lot depends on the reliability of the oldest child and whether the younger child will listen to the older and if they have been stranger proofed. The terms are silly. Children aren't poultry. And child protective services often gets involved in the stupidest scenarios! I've seen children right in front of their own home playing in the edge of the road (which had a speed limit of 55 or more) with no parent in sight. I've seen children riding bikes through a town with four lanes of work hour traffic.
    My Blog: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I'm Ensign B with Tremp's Troops
    of the A to Z Challenge

  9. I'm younger but was also free range, as were all the kids my age...went out at start of day (with a sandwich) and wouldn't be expected back until tea-time, usually worries if not in at whatever time you were expected back but that would be hours after you'd actually left the house. Mind you I did live in a village and nearly everyone knew each other back then.

    Mars xx
    Curling Stones for Lego People

  10. Free Range can be a great learning curve. Just dropping in from the A to Z I have given your blog a shout out from my letter H today https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/

  11. Pros and cons for sure. I liked the 'good old days' when we went out and actually interacted with other kids and played nearly all day, coming home in time for dinner, or as I remember it, when it is 'dusk'. However, today, I'm not sure about it considering the increase in pedophilia, although I'd still encourage outside play. BTW, I'm dropping in from a link on Rosie Amber's blog RosieAmber.wordpress.com.

  12. I was just reading a Dave Barry essay this morning on this very subject. I grew up in the same environment as you where we could go outside and play all around the neighborhood without anyone worrying. I know it's a different world today, but I feel sorry for the kids whose lives are so organized and monitored compared to ours. I'm glad your grandkids are getting to experience a bit more freedom, even though it is scarier to let go that way in this day and age.

  13. All these labels. Free range children. Helicopter parents. Yikes. Considering how many kids have cell phones these days, I would think that they should be able to walk home, but we've all gotten paranoid. But it's not for me to say how anyone should raise their children, so I won't. We'll all find the right way for us, eventually.

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

  14. Free-range parenting is a new term to me. I get it. It's such a different world today and I think it's by far more dangerous than it once was. When I was young we (my friends and I) roamed the neighborhood and played until the street lights came on, then that was a signal to get our butts home. I don't know that I'd be comfortable having my kids out of my sight for that length of time but I really couldn't tell you how I'd actually feel about it because I'm childless. I do believe in giving kids plenty of freedom though. My parents gave me tons of freedom but I had to earn it through being trustworthy. The more trustworthy the more freedom. I'd probably follow suit if I had kids. Good post. Thanks for introducing me to that term, free-range parenting. Interesting term for sure!
    Michele at Angels Bark


Related Posts with Thumbnails