Letting my kid walk home alone

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.

walk homeIn 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.

Walking to school…why is that so unusual?

Every morning at 7:10, I herd the kids out the door, and we walk to school. Along the way, we add other students and parents until there are seven students, four adults and one younger sibling walking to the elementary school. Sometime another student or two joins us.

IMG_1293We do this every day. A few times if it is too cold or rainy, I drive my kids to school. But even in the rain we sometimes walk as you can tell by this photo. (Lexie’s umbrella broke so Jase was sharing his.)

To me, it seems obvious that we should walk. I mean we are only a 10-minute walk from school. It is .4 miles according to Google’s map. However, walking doesn’t always seem to be the norm in my neighborhood. Even though we live close to the school, many of my neighbors decide to drive rather than walk. Now I can understand it if they are dropping off their kids on the way to work or to run errands, but often I see these same people just returning home. Perhaps they just can’t get everyone ready in time to walk.

I guess maybe they don’t understand why we walk or think it is some sort of hardship. Twice in October, someone offered to give me and my kids a ride to school. I was surprised by this. OK maybe I wasn’t surprised on the day that it was raining because I am sure they felt sorry for us walking in the rain. The other time, it wasn’t raining so I am unsure why we were offered a ride. But what really surprised me is I don’t know these people. As nice as these people may seem, I am not getting into the car with them.

I like walking with the kids. It is good exercise for all of us, and it gives me a chance to chat with them. Most morning, the weather is nice. This is Texas after all so the temp is probably no lower than 30, and that is only a few days in December or January. But the walk home in August, September, and May is miserable. We are talking high 90s to low 100s. It is hot. But we still walk and plan to keep it up,  even when the kids go to middle school since that is even closer to our house at .3 miles away.

How fast can your hero travel? (Fantasy writing series)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about food in the fantasy novel. Today I want to discuss travel. If this is modern-day fantasy that takes place on Earth, then this discussion will probably not pertain to you. I am mainly thinking about those of us who have created a world where modern conveniences such as cars and planes don’t exist. Your hero or heroine is walking, riding a horse or riding in a wagon or carriage. Once again, you need to do your research and make the distance traveled in one day or even a month believable.

Walking

Northern Wilderness 109A healthy person can walk three to four miles in an hour on flat, even ground. So figuring your character is walking all day (say 12 hours), then he/she will cover about 36 to 48 miles in one day.  Most websites I checked estimated travel on foot in one day to 30-40 miles. Of course, a well-trained  army might be able to do more (or travel slower if they have to wait for the supply wagons).

The speed of travel also depends on the health of the walker and whether they are used to walking long distances. Keep in mind that a group walking will travel as fast as their slowest member.  And if your crew is traveling over uneven ground (say in the mountains or a thick jungle) then the distance they cover in one day will be affected.

Horses

horseSo instead of walking, you decide your hero and his friends will be riding horses. Now it is much harder to figure out how far in one day they will travel on horseback. Many factors such as type/age of the horse, how much weight they are carrying and the type of terrain will play into the distance traveled.

A horse walks at the speed of about three to four miles per hour, trots at about eight to ten, canter at ten to seventeen and gallops at speeds of thirty to forty miles an hour. But remember that horses do not canter or gallop all day long. Leave the gallop for quick chases from the encroaching hoards.

There are too many variables to give one “correct” answer, but you are probably looking at covering about 20 to 30 miles a day by horse. But horses that are bred and trained for this could possibly go 50 to 60 miles in a day.  Remember horses need to rest and will have to be cooled and rubbed down at the end of the day.

Wagon/carriage

TRNGR090Another option is to have your hero and companions travel in either a wagon or a carriage. But wagon travel is slow. You are looking at covering 15 to 25 miles a day.

If perhaps you are thinking more of a stagecoach that uses relays of fresh teams of horses, then you are probably looking at covering 100 to 150 miles in a 24-hour period. But a lot of this also depends upon the condition of the roads and how much weight the horses have to pull.

Just remember that whatever mode of transportation your hero relies on, it will take them much longer to travel places than it does today. You need to make the time it takes to travel realistic or risk jolting your reader out of the story with your unbelievably fast horses.

When researching travel speeds, I found this information from a group of published western writers particularly interesting.