Every day, I walk my kids (ages 9 and 6) to and from school. As we walk, we typically meet up with other kids and adults. If people in our neighborhood aren’t walking their kids, they are dropping them off on their way to work. You rarely see a kid walking alone to the elementary school.
On the way home, we sometimes see groups of kids walking home together with no adult supervision. There is even a group of girls who walk home the same way we do. The youngest is in kindergarten. The oldest is in fifth grade.
There have been many news stories lately about people getting in trouble for allowing their kids to do things on their own. In one instance, parents got in trouble for allowing their kids to walk to the neighborhood park unsupervised.
Now the article raised all sorts of questions for me. I don’t think you can decide without knowing all the facts whether it was a wise decision for those parents. How far away was the park? Was it down the street? Five streets over? A good 15-minute walk away? What type of neighborhood do they live in? How mature are the kids? Are they responsible? Do they know what to do in an emergency?
In this case, the kids were 6 and 10, and they walked 1 mile to the park. The comments on the story were mostly about how everyone ran around unsupervised when they were children and that it was no big deal then so it should be no big deal that these kids were unsupervised.
This article had had me wondering if I would allow my kids to do the same thing. Well, first of all, we don’t have a neighborhood park close enough so it is a moot consideration. But our neighborhood pool is close. Now suppose there was a playground there. Would I let them walk by themselves? Yes, I think I would. It is in our neighborhood. They wouldn’t be crossing any major streets, and they would be together. At this age, I would certainly let them do it. However, if the park was further away, then probably not.
My friend Heather posted on Facebook about this article. She said that while in Germany, her daughter at age 6 was taking the bus by herself. Again, most of the responses were about parents being too protective. I think you have to do what you feel comfortable with. Looking at my own 6-year-old, I don’t think she is ready to ride a city bus by herself. The school bus would be no problem.
In January, Jase brought home a permission slip for him to attend a program after school for an hour for some additional reading help. On the slip, it asked how he was to go home afterwards. He could go to the after school program (KINS), be picked up by an adult, or he could walk home. Jase was all for walking home by himself.
I mentally ran through a list in my head. He is a responsible, rule-following type kid (check). We live in a safe neighborhood. (check) School is only a 5-minute walk away, and he would only travel through our neighborhood streets (with only one big neighborhood street to cross). (check) He knows all about stranger danger and wouldn’t be lured into anyone’s vehicle. (check) And he is 9 years old, certainly old enough for some independence. (check)
So after discussing it with my husband, we decide to give it a try. If he didn’t like it, then I could always tell the school that I would pick him up instead. I talked to him about which way he was walking home (we have two options – one through our neighborhood and one down some busier streets going around the neighborhood) I told him if he wasn’t home within 15 minutes of release time, I would be coming to find him.
When I told several people that I was letting him walk home alone, most of them seemed surprised. They all asked me if I was okay with that. One even asked me if Jase was okay with that. I am not sure why letting my 9-year-old (he will be 10 in May) walk alone seems so odd. Even my in-laws seemed surprised when I said I was letting him walk home alone.
I have every confidence that he can handle it. And he has been for the past three weeks. And I haven’t worried about him one bit. Next thing I know, he won’t want me to walk him to or from school on the other days.