A Kindergartner Lives 10 Houses from School, And Yet…

Folks ftdzeyenis
– Read this one and gird your loins for a similar battle. Not that I’m quite sure how to gird any loins, and not sure it’s a thing that women can even do. But — forgetting loins for the moment (I said FORGET THEM!), let’s get ready to convince our schools that WE should be allowed to determine how our kids get there. –  L

As we gear up for a new school year, and I have yet another kindergartener starting a new phase in life, I am preparing for the inevitable Walk to School Battle that will commence.  We live about 10 houses down from the elementary school, and yes, there is a street to cross too. On each child’s book bag, a large tag gets attached that indicates to the school administrators and teachers what bus number they will ride, what daycare picks them up, or what relative/guardian will drive to get them.
There is no place for “Walker.” Of course, my Sharpie Marker fixed that.When my now 8 year-old daughter Autumn started school a few years back, I walked her to and from school on her first day – it’s exciting! I let the teacher know that she is a walker. It didn’t appear I was going to have any trouble, until day 2. I waited outside our home because I knew she would still be excited about school (which lasts until she’s old enough to realize what a total DRAG school is, right?), and she never appeared.
No, my “OMG she was abducted!” alarm bells did not go off. I walked down to the school and discovered her teacher was standing out front with her. When I asked why, the teacher exclaimed that she was waiting for someone to walk with her. I reiterated that my 5 year old daughter was perfectly capable (and very experienced at) walking places by herself. The teacher nodded and we walked home.
Day 3. She made it to school again, all by herself (how is this even POSSIBLE, you may ask, but I digress). Again, I waited outside my home for her to come skipping down the sidewalk. No daughter. I stomped back down to the school to find the exact same scenario.
At this point, I got a little upset. I went in to speak to the principal, who I had to educate on the safety of a child actually walking 10 houses and crossing a street (which had a crossing guard) and that yes, I will be responsible for her abduction should a man in a van labeled “Free Candy” drive in front of my house and lure her in.
Day four. My child came home. All in one piece. Imagine my shock and awe..S
So Ayla and I get to begin this battle again in about 4 weeks. Maybe I’m rubbing off on the school — now they have a monthly “Walk to School” day, where all the parents are encouraged to grasp tightly to their tiny human’s hands and warily walk them the two blocks to school, always on the lookout for the child rapists hiding in every bush along the way. Wish us luck! —
Sandra Stehly, Mom to 4 Free-Range Kids
Something tells me, kids were allowed to walk themselves to this school.

87 Responses to A Kindergartner Lives 10 Houses from School, And Yet…

  1. Emily July 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    That’s just ridiculous. However, now that Autumn has walked to school alone, maybe you won’t have a problem with Ayla, because A) The school knows that you and your partner want your children to walk to and from school independently, and B) Autumn will be able to walk back and forth with Ayla.

  2. Stephanie July 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    So many schools are like that now. My kids’ school expects an adult to pick them up from kindergarten and first grade – after that they’re fine. I loved that my son’s first grade teacher was comfortable with letting him walk with his older sister if I let her know in advance, and enforced it. She wouldn’t let parents she knew were family friends give my kids a ride because I had said for them to walk. I didn’t ask often because she was bending the rule, but she was delighted that a parent would even ask.

    Other parents have been far more difficult than the school about it. They still offer my kids rides, and we have rules about who they can take rides with. It’s under a quarter mile, no ride is necessary, and is usually slower than walking due to the crowds in the parking lot. My kids are great about sticking to the rules, although it sometimes leads to awkward situations with the other parents, who tend to interpret refusals as fear of kidnapping rather than obedience to the rule that I have to have met the parents first, or at least have a phone number. Pretty sure most the parents at the school can be trusted, after all; I just like having some notion who they are.

  3. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings July 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I was told my kindergartener wouldn’t be let off the bus (but his second grade sister would be) to walk from the corner to our home THREE DOORS DOWN unless I was at the corner or in front of my house where the bus driver can see me…and I live in a small rural area in a village of fewer than 3000 people!

  4. T. D. July 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    At my son’s school they don’t even let the third graders leave without someone picking them up! A few parents made special requests and stood their ground when they got lectures about safety and how hard it is to keep track of who gets picked up (and by whom) and who walks home alone.
    The rule that really bothers me though is that all kids are supposed to leave the schoolyard for the 15 minutes after school when the teachers are still on yard duty – even if the parents are there! No playing on the playground or kicking a ball around the soccer field, no socializing and keeping fit, just march straight home. The parents at my son’s school refuse to comply (although I know other schools in our board who still enforce the rule) and the kids who have parents there to supervise can stay and play after school. The kids who walk home by themselves are kicked off the school grounds. So while my kids are old enough to walk home on their own, I still have to go pick them up if they want to play with their classmates after school.

  5. Christy Ford July 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    When I was 5, my school was on the next block.I walked to school in the morning, walked home and back for lunch and walked home in the afternoon, no parental supervision required. When I was 8, school was too far for walking, but I went out by myself plenty of other places.

  6. Warren July 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm #


    Don’t know where you live, but like the OP, if you insist, there is really nothing they can do about it.

    For anyone facing a school that dislikes walkers, just remind them that it is not their call. Stand firm like the OP did. We need more like her.

  7. OneOrganicMama July 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    I love living within walking distance of the middle school in my town. Every afternoon at 3 the streets are swarmed with the “walkers.” I can’t wait until my kids are in that group! YES. They will walk to school.

  8. Janice July 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    I guess this depends on where you live. Bus service has been cut in our area. You have to pay extra to ride a bus. So many kids are walking…by themselves. I remember as a Kindergartner I missed the bus to my babysitters (whose house was behind the school and no streets to even cross) and I thought I would just walk there. But noooooooo! The principal drove me there! Even at the tender age of 5 I could not understand why I had to take a bus. And what year was this? 1972. The only logical answer I can come up with is as a taxpayer, your money funds schools and in most places this includes bus service. If you walk when there is a route provided then that is wasted money and school districts don’t want to be seen as wasting their money. Inciting safety is just an easy way to make you go away faster.

  9. ChicagoDad July 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    We live in a great, walkable neighborhood in Chicago. At our elementary school, lots of kids walk, no specific age requirement, just when they are ready and capable. We are a half-mile from the school, with 4 or 5 smaller side streets to cross (depending on the route). I’ve been walking & biking with the kids since our daughter was in 3 y.o. preschool, and she’s starting kindergarten now and our son is starting preschool. I sometimes wonder how I’ll know when they are ready to go to school by themselves. There are a few streets around here where drivers just don’t pay attention. It will probably be like other things, like when I knew they could climb the stairs without me, when they could carry their own plates to the dining room without spilling, or go out in the backyard and play without me, etc. I’ll teach them, watch them, test them and when I have some confidence they can handle it, let them give it a go.

  10. TaraK July 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Why are we bowing down and letting the schools dictate how we raise our children??? If we say they walk, they walk! Schools are way overstepping boundaries with rules about how kids can and cannot get to school. It is ridiculous.

  11. Papilio July 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I don’t get why schools even have a say in how children travel there and back. I first thought it had to do with the schoolbus system (school provides transport for some kids and just expands the meddlesomeness to the rest), but then I remembered that the UK is (sometimes?) just as bad, even without buses.

    The ten houses and one street to cross remind me of my own walk to school (no cross-over, but with zebra crossing, speed limit 32mph). Problem is I honestly don’t remember from what year my younger brother and I started to walk there and back by ourselves – I guess we were either 8&6 or 9&7. So that’s actually late compared to your kids. Maybe my parents didn’t like the morning rush, or it was just the convenience of my grandmother living close by, so she could walk us those first years. Hmm.

  12. Emily July 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    >>Why are we bowing down and letting the schools dictate how we raise our children??? If we say they walk, they walk! Schools are way overstepping boundaries with rules about how kids can and cannot get to school. It is ridiculous.<<

    Yeah, this. Also, around here, school playgrounds double as public playgrounds after school hours, so even if the powers-that-be PREFER students to check in with their parents before going about their business after school (even if that "business" is staying on the school grounds to play), they can't require it. Besides, so many kids have cell phones these days, "checking in" would only require a quick text–"Hi Mom/Dad, I'm staying after school to play soccer with some friends, and I'll be home for dinner."

  13. Kendra July 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    I had almost the identical experience except we live 3 houses away fom the school. Even more ridiculous. In the end, I wrote a very pointed letter to the principal and my son became the only kindergartener in the whole school with permission to walk home alone.

  14. Sara July 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    The school we came from in MI required parents (of everyone, even fifth graders) to get out of their cars and walk inside the school and sign their kids out like they were in pre-school if their kids weren’t riding the bus (no one was allowed to walk even if they were right next to the school). I wouldn’t go out with my daughter to the bus because the stop was in front of the house and I thought it was stupid, but the driver wouldn’t leave until he saw me wave in the afternoon even though the stop was right in front of the house.

    The school my daughter goes to now didn’t even blink when I told the teacher she was getting herself to and from school and that she was leaving on her own after me (I did get some, wow she’s responsible comments from other parents but my kid is responsible for her age). It’s amazing the differences in different areas of the country.

  15. Ruth July 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I’m trying to figure out why this school even employs a crossing guard if teachers or others are preventing kids from actually walking.

  16. lollipoplover July 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    The only time my daughter’s 1st grade teacher stopped her from biking home from school was when she forgot her helmet. She left it in the classroom so the teacher ran after her and stopped her to give it back. It’s the law, she reminded her.
    The teachers think it’s great they get to and from school on their own.
    It’s the parents that stop them and offer rides and tell me they look cold or question what will happen if it rains as if they will melt.

    Schools can’t tell students how to commute. I find it crazy and confusing this double talk about getting kids more active but not allowing them to walk safe, short distances to and from school. Let them walk (and get much needed exercise!)

  17. Brooks July 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Good for you! I continue to fight the “no bikes allowed” battle at my son’s middle school. I will win, but I may have to wait out the current “safety safety safety” principal. He is revered (rightly so, at least in other areas), so there’s no winning now. He retires at the end of this school year. In the meantime, my son will ride his bike to a friend’s house just off of the school property and there’s not a damn thing Mr. X can do about it.

  18. Forsythia July 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Don’t we all just LOVE how school adminstrators will bray on and on about how “parents just aren’t doing their jobs” and its so unfair blather blather blather … and then will PREVENT us PARENTS from doing our jobs at every opportunity they see for a takeover?

    I’m told that I have to take my kid to the doctor EVERY TIME he has to stay home sick – even when the state public health people were URGING people to stay away unless they had complications! Ugh!

  19. Scott July 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    When I was in Kindergarten, I walked the quarter mile (two fairly large blocks with two 90 deg turns to make) to and from home, including crossing a moderately busy street. I recall coming home for lunch, but I can’t remember if I went back for the afternoon or not. But for the rest of elementary and middle school (half mile), I walked, rain, snow or shine (like the mail carriers used to do!). I was even a crossing guard in 5th grade (could you imagine schools letting students be the crossing guards today?!?). There was even a time during 1st semester of my freshman year in high school, I had to ride my bicycle four and a half miles and through 2 or 3 towns, to get to my new school, before we moved. So, 10 doors down is nothing!

  20. Forsythia July 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    To get to first grade, I had to cross a state highway and a major inter-mountain railway freight line! By myself! I can’t believe that things are possibly so *different* now.

  21. Are we there yet? July 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    I knew two kids, 3 years apart in age who lived 6 houses away on a street that dead-ended at the school: you could see the school and most of the street from the house. Those kids never walked unaccompanied, even though (because?) their dad was a cop.

    In fourth grade, I walked about a mile to school or rode a bike along busy streets with no bike lane or sidewalks, across the main east coast rail corridor (where my parents saw a boy killed through inattention: he got hit by a train he didn’t see while watching another). Some of us went further as kids around the world still do.

  22. Are we there yet? July 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Oh, and the other anecdotal tidbit: the kids who walk, unaccompanied or not, are never tardy. Traffic or weather or mechanical issues are never a factor for a walker.

    But the kids who get driven each day, that’s another story. And you know it’s not always them. It’s the adult, either by their own unpunctuality or their inability to instill that in the child.

  23. Karen July 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    This time, put “Independent Walker” on the tag, rather than just “Walker.” And instead of marching up there, call the school and ask suggest that you’d like your daughter’s teacher changed if s/he isn’t literate.

  24. Karen July 19, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    On the tardiness: The reason “walkers” aren’t late is because if they’re late, they have the option of becoming “runners.” Which, I believe, has only happened once with my son. Running a mile before school is just not how he wants to start his day.

  25. Renee Anne July 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Dear lord! About 20ish years ago, when I was in the 5th grade, a new school opened. It was a mile from my house. I was expected to walk. The third grader that lived across the street was expected to walk. The kinder that lived six blocks further away on the other side of the river was expected to walk. The only kids that were bussed were the ones that physically lived outside the city limits. That wasn’t that long ago. Now if a kid lives more than two houses away, they’re expected to ride a bus or have a parent take them two and fro.

    What. The. Heck?!

  26. Tracy July 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I work at an Elementary School and the majority of kids are walkers. The Middle School nearby is even let out 10 minutes before the Elementary to give older siblings the chance to walk over to pick up their younger siblings. At the school my kids go to, you have to designate if your child is a walker, but that’s just because walkers get excused 5 minutes early so that they can leave school before all the crazy traffic is going. These stories about not letting kids walk home boggles my mind.

  27. anonymous this time July 19, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Wow, Tracy, that’s just so… practical and logical, letting older kids out a little early to pick up younger sibs, letting walkers out early so they don’t get squashed by the teeming hordes of vehicle that rush the school for pickup… a small, glimmering light of rational thought in an otherwise hysterical world.

    Thanks for sharing.

  28. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt July 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm #


    My daughter is about to start kindergarten, and I look forward to letting her walk to school. One problem: there are no sidewalks and a really crazy intersection without a crosswalk. But there are ways around that, and I’m already thinking about how to convince the school to cut a path through the woods for her (and other kids) to walk through. Yes, I know. Child rapists will lurk there every day…

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  29. JaneW July 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Here in my town, kindergarten students must be picked up by a designated adult, but for first grade and up, parents sign a form at the beginning of the school year indicating whether the child can walk/run/ride home alone or should be released only to a specific list of adults.

    I think that’s a pretty reasonable compromise. We have quite a bit of traffic in some areas, and a lot of students are traveling a significant distance even to elementary school.

  30. Emily July 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    One thing that bugs me about these policies is, they make it really difficult for parents who work. Do kids’ after-school programs nowadays all include school pick-up services?

  31. lollipoplover July 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    @Let Her Eat Dirt-
    Ask your state transportation department to do a safety study to make your school more pedestrian friendly. Our school forbid biking to school before it cut busing. Parents petitioned for a traffic study and based on the findings, we got bike paths, crosswalks, and sidewalks (paid for by our school district to the tune of 300,000- so much for cost savings) but we have quite an improvement to make it easy to walk to school, the way it should be!
    You can also look into safe routes to school:

  32. nancey July 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    Back in the old days of phone modem, I was online and totally spaced out that it was time to meet my kindergartner off the bus. I was mortified to realize that the school had called and left voice mail that my daughter had been taken back to school to wait for me. But, when I arrived, the staff was sympathetic and let me know I was not the only one to miss bus time. My daughter was upset only because she did not get to finish the book they had lent her. The bus driver had cheerfully told her that I was probably in the bath and could not hear the bus!
    While kindergartners are not allowed off the bus unless an adult is in sight, after that, kids are let off the bus alone unless parents specify otherwise.

  33. PamalaW July 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    At my daughter’s elementary school the only grade that is not allowed to walk to or from school by themselves is Kindergarten.. however if there is an older sibling they can be picked up by the sibling.. even if it’s only 1st grade..
    On the other hand, most parents don’t allow their kids to walk alone and the kids tend to have groups or else the parents drop off and pick up…

    I think distance and simplicity are main concerns for a Kindergarten IMO… straight down the street and especially where you can see the school from the house, that should be fine… 1/4 mile and 3 or 4 different streets to take, maybe not.. at least not for a while…

  34. Donna July 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    For once I agree with Warren – at some point in the past, way too many parents abdicated their authority to schools on this issue. Schools have no right to control how any kid gets to and fro school unless it is on a school bus. But when schools first started to grab power, no parents pushed back and now we have schools with all these rules and regulations over something they have no right to control. It is a now a much harder fight for us now that the rules are engrained and well … rules.

    I want to go back to the days of my childhood when a bell rang and kids ran out of the classroom; some to buses, some to their bikes, some to the playground. Nobody really cared as long as they left the classroom (a “you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” attitude). I was a walker/biker for 2-4 grades. For 5-6, I lived in the bus zone but still close enough to walk. My mode of transportation to and fro school changed according to my whim and nobody cared. Not my parents. Not the school. Some days I rode the bus. Some days I walked. It was usually decided at the last minute and depended on the weather and my afternoon plans.

    My kid is in the same situation – within a bus zone but a perfectly walkable distance from school. Once she starts staying home alone by herself after school, I want her to have the same option I did to walk or bus depending on her own whims. But we need to specify at the start of the year exactly how our child is getting home every day and any alteration to that has to be provided in writing by the parent in the morning and cannot be changed during the day. But that is a battle for another day since we are not there yet and who knows if we will still be living where we are when we are.

    And off-topic (although kinda related), why do so many people want to control what other people completely unknown to them do? I’ve just returned back to our hometown but apparently there has been a lengthy battle over a book in the middle school library while I’ve been gone. This is not a book that is being read in a classroom. It simply exists in the school library. And one set of parents is fighting to have it removed (because someone drops an f-bomb in it). The superintendent has repeatedly refused so they are taking their battle to the state board of ed. Which just makes me go huh? If you don’t want your child to read the book, tell your child not to read the book. Why is preventing 800 children who are not yours from reading the book so damn important to you?

  35. Julie July 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    Lots of kids in my district walk, but they are almost always supervised by a parent/adult. We don’t have any bussing service at all, so everyone either walks or is driven. The school itself really wants the kids to walk or ride bikes because of the traffic problems, but it seems that most parents walk their kids until about 3rd or 4th grade. So I guess 9 or 10 is the magic age in my neighborhood. I do occasionally see an unaccompanied child, but not usually.

    I walk my son, who is now going into 3rd (and my daughter who will be starting kindergarten this year will be with us now.) But really, I only do it because he likes me to and I don’t mind. I am SAHM, so I don’t have to be at work immediately afterward, and honestly, my days of holding my boy’s hand as we walk down the street together won’t last much longer, so why not enjoy it while I can.

  36. Tsu Dho Nimh July 19, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Egads … I had 3rd-grade classmates who rode their own horses to school if the bus couldn’t make it through the mud or snow.

  37. Michelle July 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    @ Warren: “Don’t know where you live, but like the OP, if you insist, there is really nothing they can do about it.”

    There’s an elementary school in my neighborhood. My neighbor, two houses down, has a daughter in 3rd or 4th grade. She is required to meet her daughter at the bus stop every day, or the driver will not let her daughter disembark. One day she called to say she was going to be late, and was told that if she wasn’t at the stop, they’d take her daughter to the police station. And since she wasn’t able to make it, that’s exactly what they did. So there is something they can do — they can abduct your child and drop them off with the police, and make you deal with the cops (and possibly CPS), all for the crime of not showing up at the bus stop.

    The driver also would not let my teenaged daughter pick the girl up from the bus stop. It HAS to be an adult. Doesn’t matter who the adult is, a total stranger would be fine, as long as they are over 18. 🙁

  38. Jana July 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    That’s obviously unconstitutional if you live in the U.S. We have a fundamental right to move around and that extends to everyone, including children. No government agency(school, police, etc.) has any right to infringe upon that right. That’s kidnapping.

  39. Tsu Dho Nimh July 19, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    @Donna But we need to specify at the start of the year exactly how our child is getting home every day and any alteration to that has to be provided in writing by the parent in the morning and cannot be changed during the day.

    That one’s relatively easy to fix … declare the most common option up front, then give your child notes that cover the other situation or situations, undated.

    So if you declared “walking”, and she decides to bus, she pulls out the note and takes the bus.

  40. Warren July 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm #


    One thing that really threw me this year, was my sister in law, and her son in high school. On days where he had exams, she drove, or arranged someone in the family to drive him to and from school. Because she didnt want him to take the bus, and have to wait for his exam, and then wait for the bus afterward.

    She is still pissed at me, that I wouldn’t do her the favour of leaving my shop, driving just over an hour to pick him up and get him home 30 mins before the bus would.

    Apparently this is the new norm. We used to use this time to cram, or hook up with a girlfriend, or whatever. We never expected to be chauffered like that.

  41. Warren July 19, 2013 at 10:50 pm #


    Have the bus driver charged. Alot of possible things come to mind.

    If you don’t do this I will keep your kid from you. Sounds like extortion and or kidnapping.

    This is one of those situations that does call for making noise, since they have already taken the child to the cops. Raise hell, get the press involved, do whatever it takes.

  42. Warren July 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Moms and Dads…………

    Take the time to remind the bus company, the school, and all the staff within, that regardless of how they may see things………….THEY ALL WORK FOR YOU!!!

  43. Amanda Matthews July 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    So schools are way overstepping their bounds, illegally detaining children after school, and all they’re getting is a stern talking to, if even that?

  44. Michelle July 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    If it were my kid, I’d throw a fit about it, but my kids are homeschooled, and therefore free from the whims of power hungry school administrators.

    My neighbor was pretty angry, but I doubt she’ll do anything about it.

  45. WendyW July 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    If more little boys walked or ran to school in the morning, I bet there’d be a lot fewer ADHD diagnoses.

  46. Warren July 20, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    So if you sent a letter that your “sister” was going to pick up your kid, and something changed and your mom went to do the pick up, it wouldn’t be allowed?

    Or you call and plans are changed, your kid is to walk home, not take the bus to the pool……….it wouldn’t be allowed?

    They would only pull that crap once with me. I suspect they won’t get away with it, with you either.

  47. Warren July 20, 2013 at 12:57 am #


    Simple answer for the school, on the doctor’s appointment thing……….”.My kid, and I will have her seek medical attention when and if I decide it is needed. Not you.”

    There is no way in hell they have the authority to force anyone to see a doctor.

  48. J.T. Wenting July 20, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    “Why are we bowing down and letting the schools dictate how we raise our children??? If we say they walk, they walk! Schools are way overstepping boundaries with rules about how kids can and cannot get to school. It is ridiculous.”

    many parents are more than happy to offload the entire business of raising their kids on “professionals” so they can get on with life without having to look after their offspring.

    We’ve “24/7 daycare” here now, where you can literally dump your kids on monday morning and pick them up again friday evening (for example).

  49. Katie July 20, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    I still cannot understand how these policies that require a parent to pick up the child or meet the bus both coming and going can work. I can’t believe that every single household in a district can always have an adult available at both ends of the school day. If we were using the public school system, yes, I’d be home, but plenty of people aren’t. Why is no one wailing about that inconvenience? (I don’t mean people posting here- I mean in general.)

  50. Donna July 20, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    @ Warren –

    It is just the method that can’t change. Supposedly I can’t say my kid will ride the bus and then decide to pick her up. I can’t say I am going to pick her up and then call later and say put her on the bus. I can decide to pick her up by walking instead of car without any issue as I did that a couple times when I worked from home on my usual pick up day. My kid never rode the bus (went to the Y, did afterschool or I picked her up) so it was not a battle I ever needed to fight.

    The problem is that if it is a choice being made by my child on the fly, then it is a 7-8 year old fighting the school, not me. I can yell and scream at them all day but ultimately it comes down to her insisting at the time. I don’t think that is fair to make an 8 year old fight what is really my battle with the school. My kid loves going to the Y and afterschool so I don’t know when, or if during elementary school, we will make the leap to staying home alone but it will be up to her if this is a fight she wants to make.

  51. Donna July 20, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    @ Katie – At elementary school level, most kids of working parents are probably in some afterschool program and are not going home on the bus. It does seem from here that most of the rules only apply to the youngest kids – kids who would not be staying home alone anyway – so there are no parents fighting them. It is easier to just pick the kid up at the bus if you are home and it isn’t an issue at all if you work and your kid is in afterschool.

  52. Donna July 20, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    @Tsu Dho Nimh – The change has to be written in the agenda (a book they all bring home every day) and has to be presented to the teacher in the morning. While we can easily change day-by-day – I can write in her agenda before she leaves every day, it doesn’t allow her to change DURING THE DAY. She can’t decide at 2:30 that it’s raining and she’d rather bus it than walk that day after all. Or make a playdate during the day and decide to walk with the friend rather than ride the bus.

  53. Natalie July 20, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    I told our school that my 6 yr old daughter would be walking the half mile home from the bus this year. They recommended 8, but didn’t argue with me.

    I won’t be telling them that she’ll be home alone for 10 min or so until I get home from work.

  54. Beth Holmes July 20, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    I am very lucky to live in a school district that encourages walking and biking — in fact it’s really a necessity in many cases because for Middle and High School there is not bus service if you live less than a mile and a half from the school. (Budget issue mostly, but will good side effects). We live just under a mile from the Middle School and my daughter walks with a friend everyday unless there is snow covering the side walks that is too deep to walk through. I work outside the home until 4 so I can’t pick her up from school even in bad weather. Sometimes if it’s really pouring her friends Mom will pick them up. Occasionally they ride their bikes. There are tons of bikers — in fact they need more bike racks. The 4th and 5th grade school actively encourages walkers and bikers too which is great. It IS possible that there are rules just for Kindergarden that kids have to be met at school or at the bus — I don’t know the specifics. We are in Barrington, Rhode Island, a small town — mostly a suburb now — about 10 miles from the city of Providence.

  55. Linda Wightman July 20, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Just for fun, I looked up the current rules for the elementary school I walked to (1 km) oh-so-many years ago (upstate New York):

    “Good common sense and basic safety rules should be followed while walking to and from school. Refrain from trespassing on private property. Use the sidewalk, if available, or walk on the shoulder of the road and cross the streets only at intersections. When possible, use intersections that are supervised by crossing guards and always stay away from the roadway.”

    That’s what we need: “good common sense.”

  56. Warren July 20, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Don’t worry schools do eventually learn. They will eventually either see the light, or they just don’t bother with you anymore, because they know you won’t give into their demands.

    5 years ago, my youngest in gr4 at the time, wanted to go to the same pizza joint, that her highschool sister went to, for lunch. The pizza joint is across the road from the highschool, and about 200 yards from my daughters elementary school. So I sent a note, and called the school ahead of time. It was hard to contain my laughter, as the secretary was informing me, that she would forward it on to the principal, the principal would then get back to me with her decision as to whether they would/could allow such a thing.

    ” I am sorry. You misunderstood. I am not calling to ask permission. I was calling to inform you of my decision, as her Father. She has the money, she has my permission and she will be going out for lunch. I only call now out of courteousy, because this is the first time, of what may be many.”

    Schools can be quite understanding when given no other option.

  57. Warren July 20, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Unfortunately no other parent would allow their child to go with her, so she only went a couple of times before graduating gr 8.

    It really was a shame, because it would have been great memories made, had friends been allowed to do it.

  58. forsythia July 20, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    My kids were late for school once while walking. I knew that they left on time, so I asked them why.

    We live on the edge of a substantial intraurban forestland. What happened was that two hawks got to battling over territory, and resorted to an epic sky battle. The boys stopped to watch the areal display (they described it rather physically and vividly!).

    I wrote them a note and they were excused – but the principal wanted to hear the story himself 😉

  59. bmommyx2 July 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    I know what you mean. My son was in kindergarten last year & the pick up circle was a nightmare. They were not consistent as far as the time they let the kids go, sometimes they were as much as 10 or 15 min after the bell. If I got there late & the rest of the kids were gone instead of letting my son wait in front of the school he had to wait in the office. The funny thing is that all of the other grade just wait outside & they don’t micro manage the pick ups although they do have an adult supervising.

  60. Nerd-faced Girl July 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I walked two blocks to school when I was in kindergarten, at least when we lived that close to school. I had to cross what seemed to me to be a major street (it had no light) and I was terrified every time. I’m not saying that means every kindergartner should be walked, only that my mom should have known me and paid attention to my fears (though I know that was difficult for her because I was never one to discuss anything as a child).

    The teacher and school had no problem with this, and after a while I met an older boy who lived a couple doors down who started to wait for me so I could cross with him. (Exactly the sort of problem solving I believe free-ranging encourages)

  61. Shannon July 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I was just reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/Your-Five-Year-Old-Louise-Bates-Ames/dp/0440506735/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374350488&sr=8-1&keywords=your+five-year-old, and it lists in the “Is your child ready for school?” section the ability to walk 2 blocks by themselves, to a neighborhood store or some such. This series was written in the late 70’s/early 80’s, how have we really lost this much faith we have lost in our children.
    At the same time, they expected a lot less academically from kids. A kindergarten ready child might know how to write their first name, be able to point to three colors, and identify a few shapes. Maybe we are so busy focusing on the basics of reading, writing, etc, that we have forgotten we also need to teach them to navigate their own world.

  62. Steve July 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    The local district where I live will not normally provide bus service for K-5 that live less than 1.25 miles from school unless the parent pays an extra fee. The district also encourages walking or biking over being given a ride, claiming it is safer for everybody to cut the number of cars picing up and dropping off students.

  63. tessa July 21, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    yes, because kids will always look both ways or not get distracted and wander away or run around or get roped in by someone “looking for their puppy” etc…
    I lived for 10 years near a private school where many of the kids walked home. Many were fine, but a few totally ignored the crossing guards on a regular basis and ran out into the street without looking (I had to slam my brakes a few times to avoid hitting them). Older siblings would ignore their younger ones, causing the younger ones to act out or to run to catch up without paying attention to what was going on.

    Then there were the kids who used the opportunity of being unsupervised to chase other kids with sticks and act in general like little a-holes.

    I’m sure all of you have perfect angels that know not to talk to strangers, even innocent looking ones, wouldn’t chase other kids with sticks, ignore the crossing guard, run into traffic or whatever…. but, not all children are perfect smart angels and could get themselves or others into a lot of trouble. Would your child run into the street to get away from a bully? Would they know how to avoid oncoming cars when they are being chased? No. Probably not.

    So get off your a$$ and walk over to the school (clearly you’re not working outside of the home and are able to walk the entire block over) and pick your child up to ensure that she’s safe. We do not live in the same world as that log cabin schoolhouse, sorry but no matter how much you wish it the days of Little House on the Prairie no longer exist.

  64. Jen July 21, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    I wish I could let my kids walk to school once they’re old enough. however, we live in a pretty rural area, and the elementary school is just over 3 miles away by the shortest route. that route takes you along a very busy major road with no sidewalks and no traffic signals, just stop signs, at the crossings. The best safe route is closer to 5 miles. The district does encourage walking, but only for kids living within 1 mile (i think) of each school. The middle school and high school are even worse, since it’s about 10 miles from here. bus stop craziness hasn’t hit us yet, at least. our village of approximately 500 people has a total of 2 bus stops, and the kids all walk to the nearest one. of course, all that could be moot if I decide on private school, since our local district doesn’t really educate anyone. but that’s a different rant…

    @tessa: what, pray tell, are you even doing on this site, if that is your attitude? oh wait, nevermind, I really shouldn’t feed the trolls.

  65. Puzzled July 21, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    Why would I want my children to not talk to innocent-looking strangers?

  66. Ben July 21, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    tessa, why not take the advice Lenore always gives?
    It’s okay to talk to strangers, but you can’t take off with them.

    That store clerk who scans your groceries is a stranger. The first time you meet that new teacher, they’re a stranger and the cop walking his route is a stranger too.

    Everyone is a stranger before you get to know them. It doesn’t make sense from a child’s perspective to not be allowed to talk to strangers when mom and dad do it on a daily basis.

  67. Krolik July 21, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    Taking on the elementary school (re: 5th grade daughter riding the city bus to school) was really empowering for us. When (thanks to Lenore) the local newspapers and websites picked up the story, it was a little scary at first (every predator knows what bus stop my child gets off at!) but so heartening to see that the majority of the comments were on our side. And when the positive responses from other parents at the school, even those that are much more protective with their own kids, finally started to trickle in, it felt really good. And hopefully all our friends who advised us againt “taking on the system” even in this small matter for fear of horrible consequences were also encouraged when nothing bad happened.

  68. Kvirtue July 21, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Bravo mom! I am waiting for the day when I can have my now 5 y.o. walk to school. We don’t have close friends or family attending the same school, so it will be interesting to see how the school addresses this.

    Here is link to another community’s solution…I’m hoping once the first couple years (?) are done, the program will be self perpetuating. Culture change is a good thing! http://portlandwalkingschoolbus.org/

  69. tdr July 21, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as an adult. I loved the part where Pa sends the girls to school. It was a 2 -mile walk down a dirt road. They didn’t get driven on the first day, just sent on their way, and were expected to walk back when it was over. I doubt Ma and Pa were wringing their hands all day wondering if their little sweeties were ok.

    When I was a kid I attended Phila public schools. As I recall the doors simply opened and let the kids out at 3pm. I did have a friend who lived 4 blocks away whose mom picked her up… in a car seat no less! in the 70’s! in 1st grade! How embarrassing that was…

  70. Andy July 21, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    On the tardiness: If you are late enough, being “runner” will not save you. Walkers will be late for exactly the same reason as those using public transport or those driven in car: cause they left the house too late to come in time.

    We used to walk or use public transport to school and both groups of kids have been late occasionally.

  71. Captain America July 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I used to walk to school in a Chicago suburb. Often tardy; lots of things to see and do along the way, rather than tedious hours in school.

    In my fantasies, I imagine a large tent school in the middle of a field surrounded by a few creeks and brambles and a nice lagoon. There you go! Perfect.

    The School Hysteria Panic disease comes about from school people wanting to “demonstrate professionalism” in our overly pseudo-technical world. . . as well as fears of weird lawsuits. Too many lawyers, no? Or at least too many Nonsensical Judges (we see THIS problem more and more).

  72. lollipoplover July 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    There comes a time as parents that our children can be independent walkers and bikers. Every kid is different. I’ve biked to school hundreds of times with them, walked all the way and then halfway, rode a tandem bike, pushed siblings in strollers or pulling a wagon for th with the 4 yo on back, pushed strollers and pulled a wagon for the ones who got tired and needed a break. Now they are independent. They learned street smarts and how to think like a good pedestrian or biker, to always assume drivers DON’T see them and respect cars and traffic. Have they run on the sidewalk, throw footballs to friends or chased friends with sticks? Probably. But they’ve never been late for school walking or biking and are usually the first ones there. They learned where to find the best weather forecast (Weather Channel app) and prepare accordingly. Each morning they call their crew to see who is biking, walking, or being driven and plan their stops accordingly. My oldest is the kid who can fix anyone else’s bike when the pop a chain or wipe out. My middle daughter carries a first aid kit and hands out bandaids daily.

    The Drive-Thru-School mentality as the only way needs to end. Kids are perfectly capable of traveling reasonable distances on their own. There are so many rewarding experiences to be had that you just can’t get sitting in the backseat with your chaffeur service. I fear we are raising a whole generation of kids who see being driven everywhere as a necessity and not a luxury. Our poor planet Earth.

  73. Gary July 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I cannot help but notice tessa did not wax poetic about her children and how she handles a situation like this.

    I can only assume she could not find anyone wanting to have children with someone who has such a sunny disposition…

    or maybe they were afraid she would season them with something they were allergic to prior to her stuffing them in the oven.

  74. CrazyCatLady July 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Tessa must have had particularly bratty and snotty entitled kids who went to that private school near her. Our district has a walking policy and from what I have seen the kids are well behaved, especially where there are crossing guards (as I do believe the crossing guards can and do report back to the school.)

    Mostly what I have seen is kids walking too or from school, chatting with friends, riding their bikes, carrying their instruments that are not allowed on the buses, and generally pretty well behaved. Some parents do walk with their littler kids, but I often see older kids walking with, and talking to smiling younger kids. It is really one of the few times of the day that kids can interact with children who are not in their own grade, which is a great thing.

    We did have one student get hit and ended up dying, from walking from school. But she was a high school student, walking home after practice in the dark in the winter. From what she said before she died, the car did not have on their turn signal so she thought it was safe to cross. The driver was found at fault for being inattentive and distracted. Horrible, sad, yes. But this was a HIGH SCHOOL student, and could have easily have been an adult walking their dog.

  75. Joel July 21, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Between zero tolerance and helicopter parents we are creating a generation of losers.

  76. gap.runner July 22, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Off-topic, but you made the Los Angeles Times.

  77. Captain America July 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    lotta rage in tessa. Woah there!

  78. Tsu Dho Nimh July 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    @Donna The change has to be written in the agenda (a book they all bring home every day) and has to be presented to the teacher in the morning. While we can easily change day-by-day – I can write in her agenda before she leaves every day, it doesn’t allow her to change DURING THE DAY.

    Ah .. they don’t teach contingency plans and flexibility and thinking on your feet.

    Have you tried writing ALL THE OPTIONS in there? I’d give them a paragraph like … “If the weather is good DD will walk home, but if it’s too rainy she will take the bus, unless Suzy’s mom says yes to the play date, in which case Suzy’s mom will pick them both up. DD will let you know at the end of the day which of these options she is pursuing, and will, of course let me know if she’s going to Suzy’s by calling me from there.”

  79. Havva July 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    @Donna/Tsu Dho Nimh
    Simpler statement to put in the agenda. “[Daughter’s name] will chose her mode of transport at end of day.”

  80. Adriana July 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    @Tessa- Wow…
    You should realize that even if a parent was walking next to a child that the child might still take off into the street. Kids are not always rational thinkers. They’re kids. I’m sure there were signs posted all around the school warning drivers to slow down when children are present. So yes kids should not be running into the street, but you as a driver should be aware of your surroundings at all times. So when driving near schools you too should be aware of the kids.

  81. Donna July 22, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Havva – That may work should my daughter ever want to give up the afterschool program and go home alone.

  82. Warren July 22, 2013 at 10:54 pm #


    For one thing, if you had to slam on your brakes, then you were travelling far to fast in a school zone.
    Next, if you do not like being around kids, move away from the school. Find one of those fine gated adult living communities. You know the ones, with Canasta Mondays, Shuffleboard Tuesdays, Euchre on Weds. and so on.

  83. Emily July 25, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Warren–I couldn’t resist:


  84. Warren July 25, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    LOL Emily nice one.

  85. pentamom July 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Tessa, any of those things could happen when the kids are playing outside after school and on weekends, too. But this is Free Range Kids, where we don’t believe that kids have to be watched 24/7 and not allowed to play unsupervised, so if you think you’re on a site where “they might do something bad so they can’t do XYZ alone” is going to convince us, you’re a bit mistaken. Or else, you think there’s something special about walking home from school that is different from the other times kids get to do things, in which case you’re also mistaken.

  86. pentamom July 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    When I was in kindergarten, I walked the two and a half blocks to school with some other neighborhood girls, the oldest of whom were at most 3 or 4 years older. Since it was half-day kindergarten, I actually don’t remember how I got home — I think my mom or grandmother did pick me up, but often combined it with a trip downtown to shop or run errands for my dad’s business. By first grade, I walked alone, and by 2nd grade, I was the older walking buddy for a KG girl in my neighborhood. ALL the kids walked by first grade except for a very few who got picked up and a small number who lived across the busing line.

    We didn’t lose a single kid to kidnapping or devastating injury before graduation.

  87. Amanda Matthews July 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    “I’m sure all of you have perfect angels that know not to talk to strangers, even innocent looking ones, wouldn’t chase other kids with sticks”

    Nope, my kids talk to strangers all the time. Through that, they make new friends, or learn something new, or just get a dose of the human interaction we all need.

    They also chase other kids with sticks quite often – it’s called PLAYING, and it’s another thing that kids need.