Free Range Kids

“Chances are, your childhood was not all about fear… Chances are you walked to school and rode your bike and stayed out till the lights came on, right? Maybe you even ate an unwashed grape.” ~Lenore Skenazy

Lenore Skenazy’s “Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry” (2009, Jossey-Bass) is a down-to-earth and common sense book about how to raise confident children by simply saying no to paranoid parenting, and just letting kids be kids, without invoking the harum-scarum fear tactics which have become commonplace in too many young lives today. As Lenore writes at her website:

“Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing. They have lost confidence in everything: Their neighborhood. Their kids. And their own ability to teach their children how to get by in the world.”

Lenore Skenazy ruffles feathers with her concept of free-range kids, but she’s quick to reassure as well:

“We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence. Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.”

In an article titled “Helicopter Moms vs. Free Range Kids” (Newsweek, April 21, 2008), the usual questions are raised and summarily answered:

“So why are some parents so nervous about letting their children out of their sight? Are cities and towns less safe and kids more vulnerable to crimes like child abduction and sexual abuse than they were in previous generations?
Not exactly. New York City, for instance, is safer than it’s ever been; it’s ranked 136th in crime among all American cities. Nationwide, stranger abductions are extremely rare; there’s a one-in-a-million chance a child will be taken by a stranger, according to the Justice Department. And 90 percent of sexual abuse cases are committed by someone the child knows.”

I suspect many homeschooled kids, especially those of the unschooled variety, are Free-Range Kids. I know ours were.

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One Response to Free Range Kids

  1. Jennifer Fink on May 14, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I love the free-range kids idea, and am so glad that’s stimulating discussion on this important topic. I myself grew up in a climate of fear — town was “bad,” climbing trees might result in broken limbs, etc. — so it’s been very reassuring for me to think a lot of this through and to realize that, yes, life is risky. But not experiencing it is a whole lot riskier.

    Jennifer Fink

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