Raising Free-Range Kids in Half Moon Bay and Beyond

International Walk to School Day on Wednesday brings up thoughts and questions about raising free-range kids—safe, self-reliant children—here in Half Moon Bay and beyond.

This morning, my 5-year-old daughter Sasha proposed that her 8-year-old brother A.J. should walk her to school sometime. Her timing could not have been better.

I've been wanting to write about Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids for a while now, but my thoughts on the subject have been swirling around in my head, refusing to coalesce into actual words. Please forgive me if this article seems a little raw, but I'd really like to launch some dialog among parents and other members of our community. (And by "community," I mean everyone who might be reading this article. So whether you live in Half Moon Bay or elsewhere, whether or not you have kids, I want to hear from you.)

When I was in kindergarten, I walked to school with a friend who was also in kindergarten. Without our parents. My husband was chaperoned to kindergarten by his 7-year-old brother. We somehow lived to tell the tale, so why does my blood run cold at the thought of my own kids doing the same thing?

We live about a mile from my kids' elementary school, along a fairly busy street. I have to admit, neither of my kids is very good about looking before crossing the street. Both tend to wander around with their heads in the clouds…but maybe that's because I'm always there to yank them back before they're smashed to a paste?

How old is "old enough" to walk to school alone, here on the Coast or elsewhere? I'll go out on a limb and say that five is too young, and while I think my 8-year-old could get himself to school, he's not quite mature enough to take responsibility for his little sister. I want to say this isn't because my head is filled with media hype and fear-mongering, but because I know my own children…but I'm not sure. If it were just a couple of blocks, I would give it a shot, but instead I told them, "Let's talk about it again in the fall." After all, we've only got two weeks left in this school year, so why not put it off a while longer?

And so, dear readers, I pose my questions for you: what do you think? If you're a parent, are you raising free-range kids? Why or why not? And if you're not a parent, what's your opinion?

Read other articles written by Stephanie Trelogan by clicking here.

Stephanie Trelogan lives in Pacifica with her husband, two children, and a hamster. When not chasing after her kids or embarrassing them in articles, she writes about science, medicine, and forest animals. You can find out more about her at www.maskparadebooks.com.

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Leslie Wakasa October 04, 2012 at 06:09 PM
We moved to the coast from the city a year ago and I'm happy to say that my children have so much more independence and freedom than I had even imagined. My 6 and 8 year old walk or bike around to the neighborhood kids houses and play outside so much more than they ever did! Their sense of self has really grown in this much more free and safe environment. Unfortunately school is not close enough to walk to but we do carpool...
Amy Fothergill October 05, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I think you nailed it when you said it depends upon the child. I was walking my kids to a friend's house, up the street, and my 8 yr old son did not notice a car about to back out of the driveway. Granted, maybe the guy saw my kids but if he hadn't, yikes! I remind him every time we walk or bike ride the streets to "look for brake lights, listen for a car engine". We shall see...
elizabeth October 05, 2012 at 04:05 PM
My son (9 year old) and I walk or ride bikes to school almost every day. I would let him walk to school alone but I use it as a time for exercise and bonding. Also, our streets do not have sidewalks so that does pose a safety risk. None the less he knows which side of the street to walk on and looks both ways at intersections. I let him play with his friends outside unchaperoned. He often walks by himself to his friends' houses.


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