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A Biker mom in Pa writes:

Dear Free-Range Kids? I could have written this letter [about being scared to let a child, 10, walk to school on his own] 4 years ago.  We lost our bus service and most parents opted to drive their kids to school but a small group of students (my son was one) wanted to bike to school. So I let him.

We did practice runs before school started and had lots of conversations about “what ifs”.  Learning together the route and where safe places to go along the way helped a lot. His circle of friends expanded to include his commuting friends.  They are a close knit bunch and great kids. I bet your 10 year-old knows others who walk to school and that’s why he is asking for this independence.  Maybe you can have him meet up with friends (strength in numbers!)to help you with giving him freedom.  

The responsibility of biking to school transferred into other areas of his life.

His grades improved (he was always the first one in class each morning) from B’s to A’s.  He is more confident and independent- he can get his baseball gear together and ready for practice without being asked.  He gets odd jobs (dog walking, shoveling snow,watering plants, babysitting) because neighbors recognize him and know he is a responsible kid and trustworthy.  He biked 5 younger kids (three 1st graders) last year to school and won a citizenship award for community service. He was beaming.

As for cell phones, we didn’t get one until he turned 12 and needed it for middle school.  They can be more of a distraction and crutch for parents. Most of the problems that came up were handled without any adults needed.  Busted bike? He just ran the bike home.  Wipeout and shredded knees?  Bandaids and encouraging words from friends got them home to get cleaned up by a parent.  Kids this age have the capacity to solve most problems without needing to call an adult for every glitch. So go for it!  He sounds like a great kid.

And here’s ANOTHER letter!

When my son was 10, he decided he wanted to bike to school. In lobbying me, he even went on Mapquest to measure the route – 1.61 miles – and show me the path he would take. Since he had to cross a major street (with stoplights but no crossing guard), what I did was ride my bike with him the first week, to make sure that he was indeed paying attention to traffic and crossing with the light (he has ADHD/borderline ASD, so impulse control was a concern), then let him go to it. There were a few times the crossing guard at the school had words with him because he kept “forgetting” to get off and walk his bike once he was on school property, but losing his biking privileges a couple times got the message across.

Benefits – not only did he get extra exercise twice a day, but he also ended up making friends with other walkers/bikers. For a kid who struggled to connect with other kids, this was huge.

The glow on his face when he’d come home and tell me how he and his friends had stopped at the local deli to buy lemonade and cookies on the way home was priceless. And even better, when I would pick up lunch at that same deli, the workers would compliment his behavior and tell me how polite he was. (All this, while the school considered him a behavior problem in the classroom for not being able to sit still and work quietly.)

Three years later, he’s still walking or biking when the weather is good, classroom problems have nearly disappeared (in a new school that understands active boys much better), and still glows when he talks about stopping for a snack at local businesses with his friends. :)


Caution: Tasks may be easier than they appear.

Caution: Tasks may be easier than they appear.



Readers — How I love this piece from DGIwire by Louis M. Profeta, an emergency physician practicing in Indianapolis and author of  The Patient in Room Nine Says He’s GodOnce we accept the good doctor’s words, we can let kids spend at least some time playing on their own again, because Jerry Maguire (most likely) isn’t calling. – L 

Your Kid and My Kid Are Not Playing in the Pros

by Dr. Louis Profet

I don’t care if your eight year old can throw a baseball through six inches of plywood. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your twelve-year-old scored seven touchdowns last week in Pop Warner. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your sixteen -year-old made first team all-state in basketball. He is not playing in the pros…. There are far too many variables working against your child. Injury, burnout, others who are better – these things are just a fraction of the barriers preventing your child from becoming “the one.”

So…why are we spending our entire weekends schlepping from county to county, town to town, state to state to play in some bullshit regional, junior, mid-west, southeast, invitational, elite, prep, all- state, conference, blah, blah, blah tourney? We decorate our cars with washable paint, streamers, numbers and names. We roll in little carpool caravans trekking down the interstate honking and waiving at each other like Rev. Jim Jones followers in a Kool-Aide line. Greyhounds, Hawks, Panthers, Eagles, Bobcats, Screaming Devils, Scorching Gonads or whatever other mascot adorns their jerseys….. But why do we do this?….

It’s because, just like everyone else, we’re afraid.

We are afraid that Emma will make the cheerleading squad instead of Suzy and that Mitch will start at first base instead of my Dillon. But it doesn’t stop there. You see, if Mitch starts instead of Dillon then Dillon will feel like a failure, and if Dillon feels like a failure then he will sulk and cower in his room, and he will lose his friends because all his friends are on the baseball team, too, and if he loses his friends then he will start dressing in Goth duds, pierce his testicles, start using drugs and begin listening to headbanging music with his door locked. Then, of course, it’s just a matter of time until he’s surfing the net for neo-Nazi memorabilia, visiting gun shows and then opening fire in the school cafeteria. That is why so many fathers who bring their injured sons to the ER are so afraid that they won’t be able to practice this week, or that he may miss the game this weekend. Miss a game, you become a mass murderer – it’s that simple.

Read the whole wild ride here.

He didn't make the team and it was all downhill...

He didn’t make the team and it was all downhill…

Readers, you will be SHOCKED to learn that the driver of the car that was “caught on tape” practically abducting a child (or so the media told us) was actually on a nefarious mission to … buy boat parts! So says this Sheriff’s Report, send to us by Mike Smith:

Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office Locates Suspect Vehicle - 04/07/14 

The Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office reports the suspicious vehicle and driver reported on Ballston Road outside of Sheridan has been identified.

The vehicle and driver of the suspicious vehicle reported to the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, March 31st has been located and is of no further interest. The Sheriff’s Office would like to thank everyone for their concern and assistance in locating the suspicious vehicle.

Family members located the vehicle at a McMinnville business on Saturday afternoon, April 5th. The driver and owner of the vehicle was cooperative with Sheriff’s Deputies, and stated he had driven to the Sheridan area to look for and purchase boat parts and became lost while looking for the business. Sheriff’s Deputies were able to confirm the driver and his dog had been to the area on the day of the reported incident looking for the boat shop, and ultimately made a purchase there. 

And to refresh your memory, here’s the original story…caught on tape!

Readers — So a 79-year-old sub in New Hampshire (the good ol’ “Live Free or Die” state) was given the choice: De-friend all the students you’ve friended on Facebook or never work in this school system again.

She chose the latter.

This story is dismaying for a bunch of reasons, the first being that Facebook is like the modern-day town center, where people meet and greet — even people of different ages. Seeing it as the Pedophile Pages is like seeing the outside world as Child Snatch-o-Rama.

Also disturbing is the comment one supporter of the rule wrote on Facebook itself (the devil’s tool):  “Rules are rules and while her intentions MIGHT be good, I am sure parents don’t want male teachers friending their 14/15 year old daughters on facebook!”

MIGHT be good? Like there’s a decent chance this lady was really out to lure jail bait back to her lair? And what’s with the demonization of male teachers? Oh right…it’s the demonization of males who are teachers. Because if all teachers are suspect, MALE teachers are simply terrifying. – L.

P.S. Thanks to William Noren for sending and bringing up all these great points!

UPDATE: Reader Crystallee Newton  explains what brought this case to the fore:

This was a new rule in response to a recent scandal where a young male teacher was sexually abusing a female student. This happened about 30 minutes from where I live. Local news stories interviewed current and former students of this teacher (who is a substitute, by the way, not a full time teacher) and by all accounts she is a lovely older woman who uses her FB page to spread inspiration to her friends (yes, including students) and for years has been a positive influence to the students she interacted with. This town is known for it’s crippling poverty and drug abuse. The kids in that district need more people like this woman. After the abuse scandal, the school district made a knee-jerk reaction policy to ban FB friendships between students and teachers in an attempt to look like they were doing something. The student who was assaulted by her teacher (allegedly multiple times) was not assaulted over FB, she was sexually molested in a classroom at her school. The school boa
rd should try figuring out how that happened with no one noticing or being aware of the situation. It certainly had nothing to do with an almost 80 year old substitute teacher passing along inspirational quotes to kids who look up to her. That’s why this is a Free-Range issue. This is just another example of these blanket bans that protect no one, and punish innocent people. – Crystallee 

I do NOT like this school's anti-social paranoia.

I do NOT like this school’s anti-social paranoia.




Note that the superintendent is quoted as saying, “School law MANDATES we investigate whenever anyone in the school feels threatened or uncomfortable with the actions of another student.”

Making someone “uncomfortable” is all it takes to warrant an investigation? So if I say, “I like hamburgers” to a student who’s vegan…should I get ready for a 5-hour evaluation? After all, the other kid may feel uncomfortable about my carnivorous ways. Call the cops! Or the thought police! Or Nurse Ratched!

Superintendent: “We never know what’s percolating in the mind of children, okay? And when they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty.”

I feel the same way about superintendents who raise red flags by getting to a position of authority without demonstrating any common sense. – L.

P.S. The dad has set up an email account if you wish to get in touch: njpencil@gmail.com

Readers — This story is headlined, “Attempted kidnapping caught on tape!” but…was it? I’m glad the girl is safe but does a slowing car really equal = “kidnap threat”?

Unless there’s more to this story than what we see here, it strikes me as bizarre that everyone is acting as if the girl somehow only barely slipped the clutches of a demon. – L



Readers — You will LOVE this essay, by Bunmi Laditan, author of The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting. (What a great title!) An excerpt:

…Today, parents are being fed the idea that it benefits children to constantly be hand in hand, face to face, “What do you need my precious darling? How can I make your childhood amazing?” You can’t walk through Pinterest without tripping over 100 Indoor Summer Craft Ideas, 200 Inside Activities for Winter, 600 Things To Do With Your Kids In The Summer. 14 Million Pose Ideas For Elf on The Shelf. 12 Billion Tooth Fairy Strategies. 400 Trillion Birthday Themes.

Parents do not make childhood magical. Abuse and gross neglect can mar it, of course, but for the average child, the magic is something inherent to the age. Seeing the world through innocent eyes is magical. Experiencing winter and playing in the snow as a 5-year-old is magical. Getting lost in your toys on the floor of your family room is magical. Collecting rocks and keeping them in your pockets is magical. Walking with a branch is magical.

It is not our responsibility to manufacture contrived memories on a daily basis.

None of this negates the importance of time spent as a family, but there is a huge difference between focusing on being together and focusing on the construction of an “activity.” One feels forced and is based on a pre-determined goal, while the other is more natural and relaxed. The immense pressure that parents put on themselves to create ethereal experiences is tangible.

Read the whole essay here.

e. In my day, kids got sticks!

In my day, kids got sticks!