“Pervy Principal Means I’ll Never Go Free-Range”

Dear Readers:  As the new year begins, I’m looking back on things I meant to comment on and here’s addnednsbe
a piece
from November that gets my goat. It’s an essay by a mom who declares she would like to be more of a Free-Range parent, but she simply cannot. How come? Because she recently heard the story of an elementary school principal in some city not her own, who secretly videotaped boys using the bathroom.

Now, this sounds like a disturbed and disturbing guy. Yecch. But the mom strikes me as disturbed as well. She seems to be saying that since sometimes some people in the world are bad to children, she simply MUST assume the worst first. And hence she will never be “Free-Range.” As if…Free-Range parents posit there are no bad people in the world?

That is not our position at all. In fact, our position is that since there ARE rotten people and situations — always were and always will be — the best thing we can do is prepare our kids to be street-wise, confident and self-reliant.

The other thing the writer seems to believe is that one single incident is enough to indict the entire human race. That’s a problem I encounter all the time:  The belief that ANY travesty, ANYWHERE in the world means that all bets are off EVERYWHERE, for EVERMORE, for THEIR kids. It is overreacting in the extreme and somewhat self-absorbed, too because it boils down to: I don’t care if the odds are a million to one. If something is going to happen to anyone in the world, surely it will happen to MY child and therefore it is MY job to be constantly on guard duty. (It also confers superhero status on the parent.)

Finally, while I think the principal sounds like an absolute creep, the essayist’s description of his crime seems to be that he videotaped the boys, period.  This is an invasion of privacy and certainly revolting. But let’s not conflate it with molesting or rape.

Yes, let us teach our children to recognize, resist and report abuse. But no, let’s not look at every adult as a probable pervert, and every moment as quite possibly our children’s last. Free-Range parents don’t clip terrible stories from the newspaper as proof that our kids need our constant supervision.  We figure that if those terrible stories make the paper, they must be  rare enough to be noteworthy. In other words, we try to keep things in perspective. That is indeed a Free-Range trait. — Lenore

, , , , ,

81 Responses to “Pervy Principal Means I’ll Never Go Free-Range”

  1. just2chicks January 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    I would just like to know the name of the book, people have discussed in your comment section in some of your other posts. The one that helps you teach your kids awareness as if it were a 6th sense? My kids are teens and have never been sheltered, but I would like to buy the book for my new parent friends.

  2. Stephanie January 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I agree. My husband and I have talked to our kids about the kinds of things they need to be aware of, and that they can tell us whatever they need to. There’s no guarantee that we can protect them from all bad things, but we can help them to know that we’ll do what we can to protect them and to help them if something does happen.

    There’s no doubt that I would be outraged if it were my child being secretly recorded like that. There might also be a touch of relief that the damage was indirect. Traumatizing to find out you’d been recorded like that, absolutely, but as bad as being abused in person? I doubt it.

  3. Gina January 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    And how exactly would being “Non-Free Range” have helped this woman to protect her kids from being videotaped in a bathroom by the principal in school? Or did she intend to keep her kids at home, under lock and key, 24 hours a day…not allowing them to go to school?
    It just amazes me how people can use these examples to generalize and they don’t even realize that the examples don’t make sense!

  4. Meredith January 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I agree with most of your comment but are disgusted at the value judgements regarding sexual abuse. Sexual abuse and its effects are about long lasting consequences on the young person involved. It does not matter if it is rape, molestation, or some old pervert with a camera. It is up to the person who experienced the trauma to assess the impact on their life rather than ignorant people who were not involved in the situation, determining that these boys would have been more traumatised if they were raped. Why rank abuse? It is offensive and adds nothing to your arguement.

  5. Taradlion January 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    On the last post, an anti-freerange parent stopped by and intending to support her argument for over protecting children wrote: “Google Leiby Kletsky and see what happens to a boy who walks home from school without an adult to protect him”. I saw the comment late, but wanted to say, “Google my daughter’s name you will see what USUALLY happens when a child walks home from school without an adult” (that is …NOTHING).

    The horrible and tragic events that make the news are terrible, and are news because they are so rare. If not, we wouldn’t be talking about a principal in Iowa or a child in brooklyn as “proof” we would all have experienced these events personally…

    I also have no idea how an overprotective parent could have prevented this. Adults were taped without their knowledge in starbux restrooms too. There are sick people out there. Free range parents are neither ignorant or uncaring about that fact

  6. sexhysteria January 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    The faulty logic of sex hysteria is no accident. Some people want to believe there are perverts all over the place. It gives inhibited people an excuse to fantasize about adult-child sex under the cover of “moral outrage” and “protection.”

    Read Prof. James Kincaid’s book “Erotic Innocence.” Look at the Amazon statistics on sales of the book “The Courage to Heal,” a book that encourages confused people to fantasize about having been molested when they were children. I think it’s time to stop pretending that hysteriics “mean well.” They don’t mean well; they are the worst perverts themselves.

  7. Uly January 3, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    The whole Lieby comment really bugged me too.

    First, because Lieby should never have gotten lost. That whole section of Brooklyn is under the grid system. An 8 year old child should be capable of going from one numbered street to the next, especially in his own neighborhood. (In fact, I asked my same-aged niece at the time what she’d do if she was at 55th street and wanted to go to 42nd street, and when she next checked a sign found herself at 56th street. She looked at me like I was nuts and say that OBVIOUSLY she’d turn around and walk the other way!)

    I can’t figure out how it happened that he was unable to navigate under a transparent system in a familiar area. I mean, I actually can’t understand this. Obviously it was the case, but I think this shouldn’t be too difficult for most eight year olds. (Of course, if your kid really can’t manage to navigate, you’ll want to take extra care in teaching them before they try it solo. I’m guessing his parents didn’t realize this gap in his understanding.)

    Secondly, of course, is the fact that we can be reasonably certain that if he’d asked ANYbody else on that street for help, he’d be safe home right now. Even if he’d walked off with that other person, very nearly anybody else would’ve done nothing more than bring him home safely. He was unlucky, but he could have just as easily been unlucky with his parents and stepped in front of a car or died in a fire. It really was a freak occurrence, even more so than child abductions by strangers usually are.


  8. John January 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    Merideth, if you equate someday snapping a picture of you in the bathroom the same as being forcibly raped, then not only do you lack common sense but you also do a huge injustice to those people who were forcibly raped as children and even as adults. Somebody taking a pic of you in a compromising situation is certainly not cool but it does not come close to the magnitude of being sodomized. The truth is, there are varying degrees of sexual abuse.

  9. Sera January 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm #


    I absolutely agree. I made a comment to that effect at the time, but didn’t want to go too in-depth because it might have been a bit too insensitive.

    The fact remains that what happened to Leiby Kletzky involved an awful lot of bad luck – the fact that he ran across ONE guy who offered to help him, and that guy happened to be mentally ill – but also a staggering amount of incompetence on the part of Leiby himself.

    Not only did he fail to walk along a very short route he knew and had walked before with his parents, but he went in completely the wrong direction, for a very long way (something like 2 or 3 times the length of the intended route), and finally got into the car of someone he didn’t know, then let that guy take him back to the guy’s house… where he then failed to attempt to call his parents.

    There are plenty of reasons why this series of events may have occurred, most of which were pointed out in the thread. It may have been that Leiby trusted this guy a lot more than he should have because he recognised him from his congregation. Leiby may not have “gotten lost”, but rather, disobeyed his parents and went exploring/wandering on purpose. Leiby may have had a (diagnosed or undiagnosed) cognitive disability that led him to make such poor choices. Somebody else in that thread had mentioned that they had noticed that children from an insular Jewish community often lacked some “life skills” that other children had.

    In any case, the skills that Leiby displayed were far below that of the average 8-year-old (or so I feel). I’m fairly sure that the average 8-year old is capable of walking a few blocks along a known route without getting extremely lost, and/or accepting an invitation into a stranger’s car, let alone allowing the stranger to take them to the stranger’s house and then not calling their parents from there.


    Back to the topic at hand, how about this as a rule of thumb:

    If it could just as easily happen to an adult, you should not worry about protecting your children from it (because you can’t).

    Hidden camera in the bathroom? That could absolutely have happened to me (or you!) already (or in the future) without my knowledge, in a public toilet, or a toilet at a shopping mall, or at my university, or at work. If anything, I’m MORE vulnerable, because I’m sure that, statistically speaking, there are a lot more pervy straight men/lesbians out there than there are pedophiles.

    Or is the logic that if someone is going to remotely perve on little boys, then that is obviously indicative of people existing in the same area who will assault/rape/molest little boys? Technically true, I suppose, but still crazy. It’s an awful lot easier to videotape someone without their knowledge than it is to sexually assault them, especially if they know how to spot and resist grooming, sexual attention or getting into dangerous, isolated situations.

  10. Meredith January 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Actually John, my comment was that the person experiencing the abuse should have the right to assess the impact on their life rather than others making judgements about their experience. I also did have enough common sense to ascertain the message being conveyed before responding to it. I have been following this blog with some interest for some time now. I think that the reality is that numerous dangers do exist for young people out in the community. Should this result in them being locked away in their homes forever? Of course not. However, I think that the attention needs to be on advocating for people to look out for children in our local communities and to encourage parents to get kids outdoors as we have become an indoor generation. I don’t think that criticism and negativity about individual families and their practices is helpful for our children.

  11. Claudia Conway January 3, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    That is crazy – it’s like saying ‘Well, someone got murdered on the street somewhere, so I’ll never go outside in case I get murdered’ and I totally agree with Gina – hovering around your kid wouldn’t protect them from pervy filming anyway.

  12. gap.runner January 3, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    The woman who wrote the original piece got it wrong about this being a free range issue. This is neither a free range nor a helicopter parenting issue. The real problem is a sick, twisted individual whose position involved working with children. Even if the author decided to accompany her son in the bathroom until he was 18 (which is a bit weird in itself), the boy still would have been secretly videotaped.

    Another problem, as Lenore stated above, is the tendency to generalize from a rare, isolated event. People tend to generalize more when the event is highly emotional. Plane crashes and train derailments are reported on the news because they are so rare. But the continuing coverage of those events can lead people to believe that planes are constantly crashing or that trains come off of their tracks every day. Anything involving children is also highly emotional and therefore sticks in our memories. Just because there is one male school principal who is a pedophile does not mean that every man is. But people see 24/7 coverage of this particular principal and think that all men are sexual deviants and shouldn’t be allowed around children. Generalization also promotes fear and could potentially put a child in more danger than if he was taught about the best strangers to ask for help. Free range parenting means giving your children the skills to differentiate between good and bad strangers and what to do if a situation seems “off.”

    I wonder how many men who sincerely love children are being scared off from joining professions that involve working with them because of the prevailing societal attitude that all men are perverts. It would be interesting to see figures for the numbers of men who become teachers (all levels from preschool to high school), pediatricians, pediatric nurses, or day care center operators now compared to 30 years ago.

  13. Nicole K January 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    I’m confused, how would being non-free-range prevent the videotaping? Is she going to forbid them from using the bathroom?

  14. Sean January 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Global, instant communication means rare news seems common to the human brain. If you act based on the rare as if it was common, you will guard against some strange stuff….like wearing a helmet to guard against an asteroid strike.

  15. Uly January 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    No, Nicole, she’s going to go in with him every time and watch him to make sure there’s no pervs watching instead.

  16. socalledauthor January 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    By the same logic the article writer used, since my mother, brother, and sister-in-law have all been in accidents, therefore, I should never take my son in the car. It’s just TOO dangerous! (We’ll even ignore the fact that I live in semi-rural Michigan, aka home of the lack-of-public-transportation.) The argument is just as foolish– it’s not worth it to avoid all car travel with my son, nor does the threat of automobile accident actually warrant it.

    I actually think the single-case example (which doesn’t even make logical sense) is not the reason she’s never going to be Free-Range. She already decided she wouldn’t/ couldn’t and then looked for her favorite one-off example to justify her decision. It’s not about rational thought, imho, but finding support for irrational feelings (likely fed by media and or cultural influences.)

    I was talking with my SIL the other day about her son walking to school when he’s in middle school. For the first time in his schooling, he’s close enough to walk and on ‘good days’ several neighborhood kids will all walk together. While this is good, my SIL still voices that she’s a little uneasy about it, but she is unable to articulate what ‘something’ is actually likely to happen. But she feels this unease and will, at best, cite one-off stories of what could happen.

  17. Beth January 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    I agree with those who say this example doesn’t even make any sense. If the mom is going to follow her son to the restroom at every age….shudder. But the comments on the story are even more ridiculous. For example, the condescending “I know my babies are safe, do you?” to “Many species of mother animals do not allow males anywhere near their young. So why is the human species so different.” Double shudder. Presumably she made her children with a male, and might even have a male child. I can’t even believe people think that way.

  18. Lollipoplover January 3, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    I sure hope this woman never shops in department stores with changing rooms. They are videotaping her and her children, too. Does this make the security staff perverts?

    Whenever I see this type of reasoning, I am brought back to my medical research days of n=1. You do not draw conclussions on an entire research group based on the findings of 1 patient. I try to follow this logic when parenting as well. If I allowed every single incident in the news to throw me into a police state of parenting, my kids would never be involved in Boy Scouts, Little League, or any sports in general. THIS is what should be considered bad parenting.

  19. Sam January 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I too have a concern. First, this article starts out by suggesting that “free range” is synonymous with a lackadaisical style of parenting. Free range is not lazy. As dilligent and aware we like to believe we are as parents, we simply can’t control everything. In this case what can anyone do to prevent the act of a pervert? Second, the argument against the “idea” of free range parenting implies there is a set of universal laws of adherence. If “x” do/don’t do “y”. Kind of silly. Third, is it good parenting to confer our fears upon our children? Do we really want our kids to be governed by fear? Seems a bit archaic. There are monsters under your bed so don’t get out of it at night. There are murders in this world so stay in your house. People break their legs ice skating so why bother. Your principle is a “perv” so don’t go to school or maybe don’t go to the bathroom or dress out in gym class. I am losing my point…..grrrrr.

  20. Nicole K January 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    You know what I hate? Teenage boys in the ladies’ room because the moms are afraid to leave them alone. One can debate the merits of single-sex bathrooms, but as long as we DO have them, I don’t think it makes sense to have boys over the age of say, five or so, in them. Certainly not teens.

    Now that young men are a regularity in womens’ rooms, we have no way of knowing when a real perv is in there, because we are all assuming he’s with his overprotective mom.

    I kid you not. Especially at rest stops, I’ve seen guys who could be anywhere between 12-20 with their moms, looking sheepish and embarrassed.

  21. Jennifer January 3, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I worry about the emphasis on the idea that Leiby Kletzky shouldn’t have gotten lost. It sounds too much to me like the emphasis on the idea that he shouldn’t have been walking by himself in the first place. It’s the sort of “if only” thinking that makes people feel they can control the world and safety of their children more than we actually can. Anyone can get lost. I try hard to teach my kids (both Leiby Kletzky’s age) to be aware of their surroundings and know familiar routes. I also talk about what to do if they get lost. But I know their attention could wander and they could overshoot a turn and get disoriented. I’ve certainly missed turns walking or driving a car along a familiar route this way.

    There are risks in the world. I do sometimes worry about them. But I think it is very important for my kids to learn to navigate the world on their own. I try to give my children the skills they need. But I can’t ensure they’ll never get lost or never make a wrong decision. That’s part of being human, as is learning to accept the fact that we cannot control everything.

  22. pentamom January 3, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    I can’t follow the logic here. The kids were in the bathroom at the school. Is there some way of being a helicopter parent that prevents your kid from going to the bathroom at school?

  23. Heila January 4, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Not on this topic… I need some moral support from other free-range parents.

    We live in South Africa, where I’m pretty sure crime is more of a day-to-day concern than it is in the US if you compare similar neighbourhoods. Our daughter is 9. We have for some time now done things like letting her ride her bike in our street without constant supervision (there are several other kids who do the same), walk to a friend’s house down the road, go into shops in our local smallish mall by herself and stay home alone if we’re not going to be gone for more than half an hour. We’ve been thinking about letting her walk to her great grandparents’ house which is less than 10 minutes away but it involves crossing a busy road and she is both hearing impaired and scatterbrained – not a good combination in traffic!

    Now for some of you this might not sound very free-range but believe me, I sometimes get very concerned comments about it, especially the shopping.

    This morning someone tried to break into our house. It’s the third break-in we’ve had in 6 years, which is actually not bad for where we live. I got a call from our private security company an hour after I left for work to say that our alarm had gone off and a pane of glass is missing from our bedroom window. They obviously got a fright when the alarm went and ran away since nothing is missing.

    Now we’ve talked to our daughter about emergencies at home if she is there alone. She knows several people’s numbers to call if she cannot get hold of us, she knows how to unlock and get out of the house through the kitchen and living room doors, and she knows not to answer the door or tell someone on the phone that we’re not home. We’ve talked very briefly about the alarm systems panic buttons, and that a security guard will come within minutes if you press one, but we’ve steered clear of explaining exactly why she might need to do that as we don’t want her to be scared and odds are that she won’t need it. Except that if she had been home this morning, she would have…

    Sorry for the thesis. I just needed to get that off my chest. I’m not going to stop leaving her at home, but I guess we will be discussing the panic buttons a bit more seriously. I don’t think we will tell her what happened this morning though.

  24. pentamom January 4, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    “No, Nicole, she’s going to go in with him every time and watch him to make sure there’s no pervs watching instead.”

    At school? She’s going to give up whatever else she does all day to sit in class with him so she can go to the bathroom with him whenever he needs to?

    I highly doubt she’s thought this through. I think she’s just making a complete non sequitur leap from “this horrible situation happened which there was no real way to prevent except for this principal not having been a perv in the first place” to “in order to prevent such things, it’s bad to be Free Range,” without even actually knowing what a non-Free Range person could do differently in such a situation.

  25. Jenny Islander January 4, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    What? I read The Courage to Heal backwards and forwards while I was in therapy for actual sexual abuse and I have no recollection of any encouragement to fantasize about having been sexually abused. Accepting that a pattern of reactions consonant with PTSD plus an “irrational” fear of someone that we “should” be able to trust probably adds up to abuse that was shoved down past conscious recall in order to enable us to survive in a situation that offered no escape: that’s not telling people to fantasize about sexual abuse. TCTH spends a lot of time telling women who were used for sex by family members and close family friends that no, no matter what their family culture says, they have a right to feel wronged, to drag the family secret out from under its rock, to deny the abusers access to the next generation, to attempt to change the patterns of behavior that they learned in childhood, and to expect other people to respect their human dignity and autonomy.

    The personal stories in TCTH are gut-wrenching. People write about finally feeling safe enough to fall in love and tell the loved one about the past–only to have that person become jealous of the parent who “got there first.” About being parents themselves, and instead of having a grandma for their children, having an unrepentant sexual abuser who is bewildered because the adult child won’t climb into bed and be “smooshed.” About having to submit to a family member for sex because he had stolen her ticket to America out of a war-torn country and wouldn’t give it back until he got what he wanted. These are stories about the evil things that people really do to children. Note that every single one is about a betrayal of trust. Accusing these people of telling their stories in order to fuel somebody’s sick sexual fantasies is another betrayal of trust.

    Shorter answer: If you don’t like thinking about the evil that people do to children in their own families, kindly keep your mouth shut about why we survivors do talk about it amongst ourselves. We don’t care whether you think it’s icky. Your delicate sensibilities are not our concern.

  26. Heila January 4, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    Now on topic, I agree with the other posters that this is not a free-range issue. Unless you forbid your child to go to the bathroom anywhere other than at home, you have no way of avoiding this kind of incident. And while sexual abuse affect people in different ways there IS a big difference between secretly watching, and physically molesting.

  27. justanotherjen January 4, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Ah, a Stir article–that explains it all. I’m pretty sure almost every Stir writer is a paranoid control freak whose sole job is to scare other parents. A good majority of the moms that frequent CafeMom share the same ideas. That’s why I left the site. The moms there are crazy. Their view of the world is so warped I don’t know how they can get out of bed every day.

  28. oncefallendotcom January 4, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    The irony is kids are more likely to be molested in their own homes than anywhere else.

  29. Uly January 4, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    “Many species of mother animals do not allow males anywhere near their young. So why is the human species so different.”

    Seriously? Somebody said that?

    Many species (like baboons) DO let males near their young. (Male baboons can be very protective of the babies of their female friends, even if there’s no chance they’re the father.) Other species, like rabbits, leave their babies alone all day. (Staying near the babies would increase the risk of drawing a predator to them. Leaving them alone except for a short time to feed them is how rabbits are GOOD parents.) Lots and lots and lots of mammals lick their babies’ butts to make them poop. Humans really lucked out on that one!

    And we’re just talking mammals here. If we start discussing how fish and snakes and insects deal with their young, we may well be here all day.

    At school? She’s going to give up whatever else she does all day to sit in class with him so she can go to the bathroom with him whenever he needs to?

    Yes, well, clearly she’s not very logical. I never said it made sense, nothing about this argument makes sense!

  30. pentamom January 4, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    Yeah, that “many species” comment is dumb on so many levels. First, as Uly points out, it’s not humans that are “different,” it’s that there’s variation in how males care for their young across the animal kingdom. It ain’t only the primates that sometimes have present fatherhood — seahorses even incubate the eggs!

    And then, second, also as Uly points out, there are lots of things that animals do that we deliberately *don’t* do and would never consider copying.

    So once again in the world of Internet comments made by the close-minded, you have the “any port in a storm” theory of logic — if you can come up with a reason to support your position, it is absolutely irrelevant whether it makes sense or is factual.

    I just want to grab these people and answer them. “My babies are safe, are yours?” Answer: “Well, mine are reasonably safe from growing up paranoid, incompetent to care for themselves, incapable of dealing with the opposite sex, and socially unable to cope — are yours?”

    “Many species of animals do not allow the males…” etc. Answer: “Yeah. I can see that working out real well when they grow up and find out that half the people in the world are male, and most of the ones they’ll have to deal with are adult males. In fact, if the girls want kids of their own, they’ll actually have to include one in the process and allow them some rights.”

  31. beckyS January 4, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    I don’t care if the odds are a million to one. If something is going to happen to anyone in the world, surely it will happen to MY child and therefore it is MY job to be constantly on guard duty. (It also confers superhero status on the parent.)

    This quote from Lenore really answers the question of WHY parents do this, especially the last line!

  32. Anon January 4, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Um, if we continue to corral kids into tighter and tighter spaces, of course those spaces will become perv magnets.

  33. Amy May January 4, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Thanks for your site, which I enjoy very much. I found it while websurfing nanny-state issues and find myself checking it from time to time. Although I don’t have children, I grew up a free range kid in the late 70s. We were sent out the door to play and told to be home for supper when the porch light came on. What a great childhood all our neighborhood kids had. We learned survival and politics and pecking order, how to deal with bullies, mean dogs, busy streets and yes, even perverts. Many of the worries that plague parents now – sex, drugs, bad people, bullying, peer pressure – were around during my childhood, too. It was not “a simpler time.”
    The summer freedom was filled with playing at a nearby creek, riding bikes, sneaking into the drive in and generally exploring our semi-rural area while negotiating our way around or avoiding things that could hurt us.
    When I was about 11 and walking down the road, a man in a van (yes, I know … that is a cliche) tried to get me to get in. After my telling him no a few times, a woman in a car stopped and offered me a ride to get me away from him. Taking advantage of the distraction, I took off through the bushes. I never remember having the “prevert talk” with my parents, yet I knew, all the same, not to get in a van with a strange man even though I generally trusted adults. Where DO kids learn this?
    I don’t think we give kids enough credit when we constantly worry about “stranger danger,” especially since most molestations, etc., are at the hands of a trusted adult the family knows. My childhood gave me self-sufficience, independence and confidence in my ability to take care of myself, which I have valued all of my life.

  34. Lollipoplover January 4, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    As for Free-range parents being considered “lazy”, I have to say it is usually the opposite. To teach a child a life skill is a very demanding, time consuming, and ongoing activity. I could just police my child and not let them attempt to learn a basic life skill. Blame it on all the perverts in the world that I am obligated to protect them from with my constant attention.

    If my kids ask if they are allowed to bike by themselves to a new destination, a free-range parent wouldn’t just shoot them down and say that’s too dangerous, they would actually do it with them first!
    I would have to get on a bike, show them the route, point out busy intersections, and where to park their bike. This may take a few runs, depending on their skill. We would go over the do’s and don’ts, and I could quiz them on “what would you do if…” scenerios to see if they can reason and think on their feet. Once they show aptitude, you let them go!
    The EASY alternative would be to just say “NO WAY! That’s too dangerous” and drive them to the desired destination in your heated SUV while they plug into their choice electronic device and feel helpless. But raising a helpless child is wrong on ANY level, no matter your viewpoint on parenting philosophies.

  35. pentamom January 4, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    Amen, Lollipoplover. One reason I was less Free Range when my kids were younger was not so much beliefs about how dangerous things were (though I did buy into the fear more than I do now) but more that it was just a whole lot easier to limit their freedom, and even our activities, than to put forth the effort to deal with the outside world.

  36. Beth January 4, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    @Uly, yes, one of the commenters truly did say that. I believe the next sentence was something like “men need a stop button” or an “off button”. And not one of the following comments said anything to dispute her, like “I like men, I dated them and married one”, or “not all men are pedophiles”…they just all let that comment go. Maybe that was the smart thing considering its stupidity, but had I been reading that when it was first published I would have had a hard time NOT responding

  37. Heather G January 4, 2012 at 4:52 am #

    Beth, there is no use in responding to comments like that. It seems that a great number of women believe that most, if not all, men are pedophiles and/or rapists and either haven’t gotten caught or hadn’t had the opportunity to commit their crimes. Many of these same women also believe that women never commit such crimes. Responding to comments like that just makes them link to articles that spew out incorrect statistics based solely on the authors own bias and not actual fact. Then more women read the linked article and use it to spread the same ugly lies. By not responding you slow the spread.

  38. sylvia_rachel January 4, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    I see this kind of reasoning *constantly* on the parenting message board where I post. There’s a thread that’s been going for months, for example, about how old is too old for little boys to go into the ladies’ with mummy — started by someone who thinks the 7-8-9 range is already over the top — and for every poster saying something sensible like “when they’re able to unzip, pee, zip back up, and wash their hands unaided, they’re old enough to go in the men’s” (or even something somewhat hovery, like “I let my son go in the men’s when I have to, but I stand right outside the door and tell him to call out right away if anyone bothers him”) there’s half a dozen going “my son/s will come in the ladies’ with me until at least age 12/13/15 because I read this one story where something terrible happened so clearly public men’s rooms are TERRIBLY DANGEROUS and all you women complaining about boys in the ladies’ room are clearly SELFISH HORRIBLE PEOPLE”. (I paraphrase … but not very much.) A similar thing happens on virtually every thread about kids walking to/from school, kids staying home alone, the appropriate minimum babysitting age, etc. It’s incredibly frustrating because it doesn’t seem to matter how many times you show people the data — dramatic individual stories are so much more powerful than statistics or logic that people’s brains just short out or something.


  39. Chrissy January 4, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    Kids who are super sheltered are probably more likely to be taken advantage of than those who have some street smarts I would think.

  40. socalledauthor January 4, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    This post reminded me of the Berenstein bears book I had growing up. The book was the Berenstein Bears learn about Strangers. In in, some incident results in Sister Bear learning that strangers can be dangerous and that it’s not safe to talk to strangers (I think that’s the gist of it.) The next day, when Sister goes out to play, she no longer sees the world as a happy, friendly, sunny place– instead, as well illustrated in the picture that I still remember some 20 years later, all the men and women and animals and even the formerly-smiley-face balloons have on Evil Eyes and the world is dark and sinister overall. Sister Bear is terrified of the world!

    Now, in the book, one of Sister Bear’s parents goes on to explain that one bad apple doesn’t ruin the bunch and that while you can’t tell what a person is like on the inside just by how it looks on the outside, they also go on to say that most people are nice. And you just have to be careful. Or something like that. Sister returns to her happy, sunny world view, and the new knoweldge of how to deal with situations is apparently stored away for when it’s needed rather than coloring her world.

    I do wonder how many youngsters with fearful parents are seeing the world as Sister Bear did– sinister and evil and scary. It’s unpleasant to be fearful and anxious even for a little while. I read that there is an increase in children being diagnoses with anti-anxiety meds, I have to wonder if a parent focusing on the bad in the world could lead to that in certain children. There are consequences to any parenting choice, but making your child sick or fearful because something has a slight chance of happening doesn’t seem like much of a trade off to me…

  41. Jenn January 4, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Last year a coworkers daughter was starting kindergarten after having gone to the daycare we worked at of since birth. Well this woman was bragging about how she told her daughter to not talk to any adults in the school that was not her teacher unless she had her teachers permission and that should another school employee engage her in conversation she should run away and tell her teacher right away b/c as she told us you never know who could be working in the school… I can only how terrifying school was for this girl.

  42. Nicole K January 4, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Sylvia, I’m amazed the mothers of daughters aren’t freaking out more about having teenage boys in the ladies’ bathroom…

  43. Vanessa January 4, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    “My babies are safe, are yours?”

    If her elementary-age kids are still babies, she’s got a real problem!

  44. Vanessa January 4, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    It’s a good thing we’ve never run into a teenage boy with his mother in the bathroom – my daughter is 13 and would expire in a supernova of embarrassment if there were a boy her age in there. Even boys who are 8 or 9 are way too old as far as I’m concerned.

  45. Jenn January 4, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    @Taradlion- love the response of googling what happens when you let a child (your daughter) walk home without an adult-NOTHING!

    Free-range or helicopter (or anything in between) this incident could not be prevented. I’m even thinking a trusty old police background check was done on this principal and we saw how well that `protected’ children! I read the original article and some of the comments were beyond stupidity. People saying incidents like this are the reason why they home-school their children. Excuse me??? So your plan is to be with your child 24-7 to protect them for the next 25 years or more???

  46. Donna January 4, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    This author clearly does not do well with basic logic. Helicopter parenting doesn’t prevent hidden cameras in the bathroom; it simply makes you a star of the show too.

  47. Cheryl W January 4, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    @Jenn, this has absolutely NOTHING to do with why WE home school. Good gracious, I want to raise capable adults, able to reach their full potential! (Not that I was thinking that you were implying that was why all people home school.)

    I was not seeing that the school was going to encourage my kids to reach their full potential, mostly is was a “do enough to get by and no more” type of situation. If the kid didn’t need help to get up to test standards, then let them sit back and be quiet in the back of the room. And really, I rather like how they can free range learn at home – focus on what really is interesting to them if we want.

  48. Jennifer J January 4, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I haven’t read the article about the principal videoing the boys. But all this really has me thinking. When I was in middle and high school (1970’s), the doors were removed from the bathroom stalls, and a teacher had to stand in the doorway during every break and lunch time. How is this less pervy, other than the fact that the teacher would rather be anywhere else? I’ll bet lots of principals have bathrooms surveiled in one way or another, and there usually aren’t enough teachers around to do that job anymore. Maybe the boys were peeing all over the walls, and he wanted to catch the culprits. Or they were “smokin’ in the boy’s room”. At my school, they were flushing explosives and blowing the toilets off the wall.
    I raised six children. They all got in scrapes from time to time. But they knew how to problem solve and get help when needed. I don’t think that stopping children from doing things they are perfectly capable of does anybody any good.

  49. Cheryl W January 4, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    If I ever saw a 13 year old boy in the women’s room, I think I would be inclined to ask if he was disabled or something. Otherwise, mom should leave him at the courtesy desk or something.

    My youngest son is 7. He has been using the men’s room for a few years now (since he could reach the sink well enough to wash his hands.) He gets some comments from men when he goes into the men’s room – he has hair down to his rear end. And, even though he dresses and acts like a boy, people only look at the hair. Except at the pool, where he wears trunk. He always sets the men straight about his gender, and still says that he never wants to cut his hair. It is a small free range thing, but golly, is there really a GOOD reason for boys to cut their hair, expect that they want to?

  50. Uly January 4, 2012 at 12:10 pm #


    Maybe if they have severe lice, Cheryl?

    And Jenn, you know, from what I can tell most homeschoolers are not chaining themselves to their children. (Some are really intense about family time, but that’s THEM, they’d be just as bad if their kids were in school.) Their kids do all the same things kids in school do except go to school… unless, of course, they are in outside classes as well, which many of them are.

  51. Jenn January 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    @ Cheryl W- wasn’t implying this was why all people homeschool -just thought it was a crazy reason TOO homeschool! Glad we’re on the same page. 🙂 Not sure why I find it hard to believe that people need to control every aspect of their child’s life, including their visits to the washroom (whether it be the one in their own home-schooled bathroom or the one at the local school). Glad I found a great community here that shares similar thoughts on raising kids!

  52. Cheryl W January 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Uly, just asking, not saying you are wrong as we have not yet (knock on wood) had the visit of the arch angle of lice, but, do girls and women (mothers) get their heads shaved for lice?

    When we lived in CA, we had lice go around the school. I did see lots of boys with very short hair, but girls ALWAYS had long beautiful hair. My daughter got disparaging comments from the school nurse about her hair. Unlike most of the rest of the students, she has blond hair, which made it difficult to see any lice. I know that lice repeatedly exposed to chemicals can be resistant, so that may be part of the shaving of heads too. But, should my blonds get them, we will try other methods than shaving first.

    I think a good reason for boys to cut their hair is to donate it to Locks of Love. Which is what we will do if/when my son wants his cut.

  53. Uly January 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Some girls do get very close haircuts if they have had persistent lice.

    Shaving is less likely because it’s seen as not feminine enough, but I definitely knew girls in childhood (heck, I was one of them!) who had their hair cropped short to deal with an ongoing lice infestation.

    Of course, it’s also more socially acceptable for girls to “do stuff” to their hair. Putting product in your hair helps deter lice. Braiding your hair helps deter lice. I sometimes see boys with long hair, but I rarely see boys with long – or even short! – hair that’s braided (and those I do see are ALL African-American.)

    However, with that said, it’s not generally necessary to cut hair to deal with lice. It can help slow their spread, but at most it’s part of treating lice, not the whole thing.

    (Seriously, though, if it’s going around and your kid has long hair, have them keep their hair up or tied back, or else resign yourself to checking daily.)

  54. pentamom January 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    “Sylvia, I’m amazed the mothers of daughters aren’t freaking out more about having teenage boys in the ladies’ bathroom…”

    If I were a betting woman, I’d bet that the moms who think that it’s just wonderful to have older boys in the ladies’ room and you’re some kind of hung-up Victorian if it bothers you….DON’T HAVE DAUGHTERS.

    Many, if not most, normal people would be disturbed by the idea of boys in the ladies’ room with their daughters — people with the mindset of those crazies, would be. But they don’t have daughters so solipsism reigns.

    I saw an extended discussion on another site about this and the “my poor 10 year old baby boy can’t be left alone when I need to use the bathroom” crowd was all over arguments about how only some horribly hung-up inhibited person would be bothered by boys in the ladies’ room — “there ARE stalls after all.” There’s just no way these people would make that argument with a straight face if they were talking about their poor baby girls being anywhere in the proximity of an ACTUAL MALE THING protected only by a stall door.

  55. BMS January 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Somewhat off topic, but my only beef about long haired boys or excessively tomboyish girls (I was one growing up – got mistaken for a boy until puberty) is when parents get hugely bent out of shape when you mistake their kids’ gender. If your son has long curly locks and an ambiguous name like Jordan, correct me politely if I call him a girl. Don’t bite my head off like I called him a Nazi. (Not saying anyone here is doing that – but it has happened to me in the past)

    I remember being out with my dad when I was about 10 and we ran into an acquaintance of his. This guy asked “Oh, is this your grandson?” My dad replied, “No, this is my eldest DAUGHTER.” We laughed afterwards about this man’s ability to call my dad old and mistake my gender all in one efficient sentence.

  56. mollie January 4, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    I just let my nearly-11-year-old walk a few blocks from a silk shop in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam back to our hotel. After crossing streets with him all morning, clearly HE was the one who was able to calmly tread through thousands of speeding motorbikes with ease, and I was the one endangering our lives.

    When I ventured back to the hotel myself an hour later, I was hopeless. Couldn’t figure out where the hotel was without help, couldn’t really deal with crossing the street either. The ladies in the silk shop had wondered about my letting my son go back alone, but I know my kid. I explained that even though he left the country as an infant, he is Vietnamese… this pleased them. They understood that I was identifying the strength, awareness and common sense my son has had all along… perhaps it was hard-wired. But as an 11-year-old, he laughs at me and my terrible sense of direction and my skittishness around the hectic city traffic.

    All this to say that I am grateful I can see my son as he is: quite capable. And I can also see how thrilled he is to be seen. And damnit, he’s a pleasure to travel with, because we have complimentary skills: he always knows where he is, and I am a gold-medal haggler. We’re a dynamic team.

    Man, was he proud of himself today. Yeah, I was a wee bit nervous. I’ll admit it. But this child has transformed in a week: from not leaving my side, to venturing out in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. That’s my boy!!

  57. Dave January 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    When I read this article Lenore the word brave came to mind. I thought you were brave to say the things you were saying. Then I thought how did we get to the place where we view someone with commonsense who speaks logically as being brave.

    We need to turn off the TV news, step away from the newspaper and enjoy life again. Thanks for all that you do. Your voice is needed in this fear struck world that we now live in.

  58. Cheryl W January 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    Uly, thanks for the info! Actually, both my daughter and my son have their hair in braids quite often, good to know that it helps!

    Yes, mostly boys that I have seen that had braids were African American, when I lived on the east coast, and Native American, when I lived in Montana. A few boys, I suspect of mostly Native American decent in CA had long hair and braids, but the area was such a melting pot of nationalities it was hard to tell what their background was. I have seen very few white boys with long hair who were not teens.

    And no BMS, I don’t jump all over people, nor does my son, when they mistake his gender. Although, I did find it funny one time when he was doing a ropes course and the instructor (young female) insisted he was a girl, and several parents said no, he was a boy. She kept insisting although it didn’t make a difference as I was with him (that was her concern, having an adult with him) I did tell her I was his mom and I knew what parts he had. We all thought it was pretty funny that I had to go that far to let her know “she” was a he.

    After working in a large preschool, I have found it is easiest to look at clothing for cues of gender. Girls rarely wear clothes with sports or dinosaur themes, while boys do. Doesn’t always work as some girls wear hand me downs, but very seldom do I see a boy wearing pink or lace.

  59. Diane S. January 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    There are women who bring their boys into the dressing room with them – have them stand outside the curtain while they try on things – and you know how well those curtains actually shut at the sides. I guess I’ve always been free range, that was the way my parents raised me “go outside and play, be home in time for dinner” all summer long, etc. We homeschooled for a while, but that was because we wanted them to not only learn basics, but extras (including how to grocery shop).

    As for lice in blonde hair, there used to be a product that was a color spray (hot pink) that would only adhere to the nits, and not to the hair – made them VERY easy to see and get rid of. I don’t know if this spray is still made.

    I see parents on all ranges – from helicopter, to those who just have a total hands off approach to their kids – i.e. the ones who don’t bother to do anything at all with their kids, including teaching them how to act. Both extremes are bad, IMHO.

  60. therese January 5, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    I drank a half bottle of rubbing alcohol when I was 4 (1987) because my sister left it out after cleaning her ears (from newly pierced ears). MY mother rushed me to the hospital and I have been fine since. No one arrested my mother or called CPS for her negeligence. UGH!!!! ACCIDENTS HAPPEN!!!

    second I must tell you…

    I live in a mobile home community. A very small one at that next to a corn field in a farming town. There are 30 home sin this park (one that can hold 100). My daughter walked over to a friends house at 4pm when she got off the bus. the house I can see from ym driveway clearly. At 6pm there was a knock on our door. The friend and her mother had walked my daughter home because they thought we were coming to get her and when we did not show they walked her down because she should not walk by herself. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! No we just allow our children to walk home all by them selves and didn’t know i needed to hold my 9YR OLD daughters hand wherever she goes!!!

  61. sylvia_rachel January 5, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    @NicoleK, @pentamom, I know, right? It’s fascinating.

    I have a 9yo DD. I took her and a friend swimming one Sunday this summer (which turned out to be a somewhat hair-raising experience because although DD, who swims reasonably well, blithely assured me that “of course” her friend can also swim, it turned out the friend really can’t, much, and both girls are small for their ages and this pool is HUGE and INSANELY CROWDED … but we did all survive, and I’m pretty sure the kids didn’t realize that I wasn’t having as much fun as they were ;)), and when we got into the women’s change room, lo! there were boys in there. Some really little boys, yes, but also some that I’m sure were older than “my” kids. DD and her friend made faces of consternation and said, “Mom! There are boys in here! Why are there BOYS in here?!?” (or words to that effect). They absolutely would not change out in the open, even though that meant waiting for one of the very few curtained changing stalls.

    I get the same complaint whenever DD and I go into a public washroom and she sees boys anywhere near her own age. What am I supposed to tell her? “Some parents don’t trust their kids”? “Some parents don’t trust anyone with a Y chromosome”? “Some parents don’t trust anyone at all“? ::sigh::

    My 9yo, btw, has been going into public ladies’ rooms on her own as necessary since she was about 5. I was very surprised and puzzled recently when, at a restaurant we go to regularly, she asked her dad to walk over to the washrooms with her — it turned out she wanted to get him alone to talk about shopping for a present for me 😀

  62. mollie January 5, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Years ago, my friend was totally scandalized when I was gearing up to allow my 6-year-old son to go from his seat at a minor-league baseball game to a public men’s room to use the toilet and come back again. I knew he could do it! Her son was a few months younger and she couldn’t abide the thought. I took the boys myself, but waited outside the door. I couldn’t see taking boys that age into the women’s toilet. My son went back to his seat on his own, and I waited and waited for the other boy. He didn’t come out, didn’t come out. His mother came to wait with me. She was furious with me, because I had let him go into the men’s room alone, even though I stood at the doorway. She became more and more hysterical, and I felt terrible for her. I asked a man to check in there for us, was there a blonde boy of six? No. Well, then even I got worried. Turned out the kid had PURPOSELY EVADED DETECTION coming out of the damned washroom and was running around the stadium a bit… in my estimation, to get his ya-yas out, since even going to a freaking toilet alone was too much independence to handle after being helicoptered all his young life.

    This is my complaint about kids who are never given any independence or responsibility as young children… they go a bit crazy when they do get it. Ugh.

    My friend blamed me for my crazy idea to let him use the toilet without my hawkeye direct supervision. I could barely speak to her the rest of the game. Thank God for Lenore and this community. It’s easy enough to find people who think there is an inevitability of stranger molestation everywehre, at all times. It’s harder to find people who live their lives with grace, ease, acceptance, and common sense.

  63. Donna January 5, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    “And Jenn, you know, from what I can tell most homeschoolers are not chaining themselves to their children.”

    But would you know the ones who ARE chaining themselves to their children? If the reason that you choose to homeschool is to protect your children from the world, you are unlikely to then enroll them in activities that then expose them to the world, thus meeting other homeschoolers. I’m not saying that most homeschoolers fall into this category; just that we truly have no idea how many do.

  64. Uly January 5, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    But would you know the ones who ARE chaining themselves to their children?

    In person? No. I don’t actually like people that much.

    Through reading about them because I’m concerned about the creeping fundamentalism in America? Maybe. It’s not that hard to get statistics on these things, what bugs me is that people say things (not here, elsewhere, but in the past few days) like “Studies show 90% of all homeschooling families are religious extremists” and never bother to back it up.

    I have no idea what the actual percentages are, and because of that I’m not going around saying that most homeschooling families are awesome (or awful) people.

  65. pentamom January 5, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    “But would you know the ones who ARE chaining themselves to their children?”

    Well, as a homeschooler, I would, because I go places where homeschoolers go *with* their children. And I talk to other homeschoolers in contexts where whether they chain themselves to their children or not, does not affect whether I’d “see” them or not.

    And I have to say, in my experience, no, it’s not “most.” I think the proportions are probably about the same as the rest of the world, it’s just that some of the underlying attitudes, methods, and motivations look a little different. But on the whole, there are just as many homeschoolers who believe that giving the kids independence is important, as the rest of the world. Done right, homeschooling can actually force a kid to be more independent, because it requires going out and about outside your comfort zone more. For example, many homeschoolers take classes or play on sports teams at local public schools, or take college classes. That’s more out of the comfort zone than most schooled kids who know their classmates from year to year, have their parents enroll them in the same school year after year, etc. Even if you stay within the “homeschooling community,” chances are there is going to be a lot more turnover in meeting different people from year to year or activity to activity, than the typical public school kid (assuming a child whose family moves a lot is not entirely “typical.”)

    FWIW, there’s a whole other level of “fear of government meddling” when it comes to homeschooling. Some people worry excessively about having their kids out in public during “school hours,” even though technically we’re allowed to set our own schedules so long as we meet all the necessary requirements. Others have good reason to worry, as some localities can be rather meddlesome, but even then, it’s usually safe to let your kids be “seen” out in public between 8 and 3. But some people do worry.

  66. Donna January 7, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    “Well, as a homeschooler, I would, because I go places where homeschoolers go *with* their children. And I talk to other homeschoolers in contexts where whether they chain themselves to their children or not, does not affect whether I’d “see” them or not.”

    But only if those parents are taking their children to places where homeschoolers go. I know several homeschoolers, mostly through the courts, whose children are not involved in ANY activities whatsoever outside the family unit. I don’t think this is anywhere near the majority of homeschoolers but I also don’t think we have a good grasp as a society on what the true numbers that fall into this category are because, unless they come to the attention of the courts or CPS for some reason, they are allowed to live their lives as off the grid as they please.

    “It’s not that hard to get statistics on these things”

    Actually, it is hard to get statistics on these things since it is perfectly acceptable to go off the grid or simply not answer personal questions in the US at least. The school system has some requirements as to reporting certain information pertaining to homeschooling children in the district but those statistics don’t answer (a) reasons for homeschooling; (b) number of outside activities the children engage in; (c) religious extremism; (d) helicopter parenting or free range or anything else regarding the actual parenting of the children.

    Again, I’m not saying that homeschooling is bad; just that you can’t conclude that “most homeschoolers” do anything based on the ones you happen to know who involve themselves in your outside activities anymore than I can conclude that most 6-year olds do X based on my limited knowledge of my 6 year old and her friends. More than any other form of education,there is a wide variety of homeschoolers, ranging from the religious extremists and militia members to extremely liberal “unschoolers.” I imagine that the majority probably fall somewhere in the middle, Average Joe range but homeschooling is highly appealing to the fringes of society so the concentration of extremists in homeschooling is higher than the concentration of extremists in traditional schools.

  67. Diane S. January 8, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    @Donna – what difference does it make how they feel about their religion? I know homeschoolers who are Wiccan, I know some who are devoutly Christian. And again, I’m glad I live in Texas, where there are *no* requirements for homeschooling. Some states, the parents need a bachelors in order to homeschool. Why? Does a piece of paper saying that they majored in underwater basketweaving really give them more of a capability to homeschool? Not by a long shot. My oldest went to public school for the first 3 years – and I received notes home with bad grammar, words spelled wrong, etc. Like they’re, their, and there. If people choose to live off the grid, why should they be ‘monitored’ by anyone? Its the nosey nannies that wish to keep track of everyone, especially other people and their children, to “make sure they’re not doing something that the nosey nanny thinks they shouldn’t be doing”. I.E. letting their kids ride bicycles without helmets, climb trees, jump out of trees, jump off swings while swinging, or do anything that “think of the children!” might get hurt. And while you say “fringes of society”, homeschooling appeals to a wide swath of society, in that you *know* what your child is learning, and the time spent on the lessons is best for your child – a friend’s son finished high school at 15, his twin sisters were upset, as they were 17 when they completed high school. If they need to spend 2 weeks getting a subject down, that’s fine, then take the two weeks, or however long necessary to be able to do it – whereas in public school, you’re swept along, whether you can keep up or not. Plus public schools failing students – while working at a private school, we got in a boy that was being passed to 3rd grade. His mother pulled him out of public, as he could not read. He was tested at beginning of 1st grade level. After a year of private schooling, he was able to rejoin public school reading at a higher grade level than they put him in. So, which is better? public or homeschooling?

  68. NicoleK January 8, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Most of my friends who homeschool are fans of this site. They tend to have an “attachment parenting for little kids, freerange for older ones” attitude. IE, if your kid wants to be close keep your kid close, and once your kid wants more independence give them* more independence.

    * I am aware this is grammatically incorrect but am using it for lack of a gender neutral option.

  69. Kevin January 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    ” I know several homeschoolers, mostly through the courts, whose children are not involved in ANY activities whatsoever outside the family unit.”

    You don’t need – nor is it necessarily desirable- to be involved with organized activities in order to expose your kids to a wide range of people and experiences. Perhaps these families are taking their kids on lots of day trips to a wide range of places, talking to the guy at the local market or post office, performing charity work, playing at playgrounds, hiking in state parks, observing nature, letting their kids roam with the neighborhood kids on bikes, visiting friends, etc. But on “paper” there is nothing about little Johnny being on a soccer team or little Susie taking ballet. But they are still being exposed to a lot of things in the “real world”. Maybe some of these people are truly living a free range life. (Although I’m sure there are a few out there who literally lock themselves up at home and never take their kids anywhere or let them talk to anyone. But definitely a minority, in my opinion.)

  70. pentamom January 9, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    But Donna, the original statement was about whether people “chain themselves” to their kids, not about whether they never let them out of the house. I have gone to places where even people who “chain themselves to their kids” might be found, since they don’t need to be separated from their kids to do it — and few to none of them give any indication that they actually don’t let their kids out of their sight.

    And of course people you meet “mostly though the courts” are by definition not typical of any group. I’d think you’d take the testimony of people who know a wide cross-section of homeschoolers, over your own experience of people who are by definition involved in some kind of difficulty or dysfunction. No one here’s denying that the “chain themselves to their kids” types exist, but you said no one had any way of knowing how common they are; I contend that knowing lots and lots of homeschoolers both through “homeschooler activities” and through more general activities (e.g. church) where their proclivities of “chaining themselves to their kids” wouldn’t be a barrier to participation, is a “way of knowing” that though those people exist, they’re evidently not common, or at least it’s reasonable enough to assume that it’s unlikely that they’re common.

  71. An Onny January 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    When I think “Chain themselves to their kids” I do, rightly or wrongly, first think of things like attachment parenting, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding and homeschooling. I think of myself as very “free-range” and practiced things like CIO – hey, my kids never had any problems sleeping through the night in their own rooms from 5-6 months on! – allowing my babies to hold their own bottles, and so on. In school they live their own lives from 8-3 every day and seem to be getting a pretty good education. It’s just hard for me to grasp that someone that is in charge of arranging and monitoring their kids’ whole school schedule and shuttling them to kindermusik classes and organized soccer for enrichment can be truly “free-range”? Isn’t it more freeing for them to be out there learning from a variety of teachers whom you may have never even met, and playing with kids that aren’t just from a pre-approved homeschool group get-together?

  72. Kevin January 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I don’t think you are judging fairly, An Onny. Kids in school are exposed to a WHOLE lot more NON free range things than homeschoolers are. Just read back through past articles on this site! 🙂 Story after story of ridiculous rules about rules about parents accompanying kids to classroom, ridiculous sign out policies, closed campus lunches, controlling what they eat at lunch, no running on the playground, lack of recess, no balls on the playground, etc. etc. etc. We homeschool our kids and we find it very free range and non “government controlling”. Our kids have more freedom more hours of the day than any public school kid I know. They are free to explore their interests, roam all over our little town, and just be kids. Everyone knows and loves our kids in our town. We quickly figured out our kids only needed 3 or 4 hours to accomplish more in a day than the 7+ hours in public school – not to mention the 2-3 hours of homework they get in PS. And all of our kids are above grade level. Our older kids have gotten numerous opportunities to be apprentices in various places – which they inquired about and got on their own and where they were not chained to us, LOL. The reason they were able to do this was because they did not have their afternoons and evenings filled with extracurricular activities and homework. So when my eldest son was very interested in being a veterinarian, he was able to go down to the local vets and talk to them and volunteer to help out and observe so he could learn more about it. He’s now almost finished with his degree and loving it and he’s thankful for the practical experience he gained. They have done numerous “business ventures” all on their own throughout the neighborhood and they play with all the neighborhood kids on a regular basis. (Yep – not just our “pre approved” homeschool group, LOL.) As for extracurricular activities – sure our kids have done some. Not a lot, but some. But so do kids in public school. And we didn’t always know the teacher beforehand, but it was never an issue. And we aren’t special. Most homeschoolers we’ve come across – and we’ve come across A LOT, take advantage of the same opportunities and their kids get to interact with a much wider range of people than in the secluded little classroom of public school with children ONLY their own age. So it’s fine that you send them off to the government to micro regulate them for 7 hours a day, but we prefer a more free range, independent lifestyle for our kids. Also, I really don’t see where meeting your baby’s needs at night has anything to do with being anti free range. We don’t believe in CIO, yet all our babies slept just fine, and in fact asked to go to bed when they were tired because they felt secure. Nothing anti free range there. Just what we considered to be common sense. 🙂 But we were pretty relaxed when they were babies. We didn’t worry about them “sleeping through the night” and trying to “train them” with CIO methods. We enjoyed our babies and rocked them and they’d doze off and life was good. If they woke up in the middle of the night we’d bring them in bed with us and my wife would nurse and we’d all cuddle together and sleep. I miss those days now that our youngest is 10. 🙂

  73. Uly January 10, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    It’s just hard for me to grasp that someone that is in charge of arranging and monitoring their kids’ whole school schedule and shuttling them to kindermusik classes and organized soccer for enrichment can be truly “free-range”? Isn’t it more freeing for them to be out there learning from a variety of teachers whom you may have never even met, and playing with kids that aren’t just from a pre-approved homeschool group get-together?

    You’re making a lot of assumptions which I don’t think hold up, just from what I’ve read from people who homeschool.

    First, unless you’re sending your child to a “free school” or a “democratic school” somebody is planning your child’s education, minute by minute. Your child is not picking their own schedule at school until, at the earliest, high school (and then they’re only picking choices within restricted possibilities).

    Not all homeschoolers put that much thought into their kids’ “school day”, but even those who do have a huge advantage over teachers – they have less students! Even with an enormous family, you have fewer students than the local public school, unless their classes are really tiny. So they can afford to be more flexible than school teachers are – which means LESS micromanaging and MORE following the child’s interests is possible. This doesn’t mean schools are bad, it means they have to deal with more students.

    You’re also assuming that all homeschooling parents highly schedule their children’s “enrichment” and that parents who don’t homeschool do not do this. I think that’s really wishful thinking! (That’s also assuming, in both cases, that the parents are choosing the activities, and that they’re not allowing their children to get to those places under their own power. Possible, but not required for either sort of education. Many parents in BOTH groups allow their children to pick what activities they are in and/or to get to and from activities on their own.)

    You say it’s “more freeing” to learn from a “variety of teachers”, but again, you assume that homeschoolers all educate their own children in all subjects. This can be true, but again, not necessarily. Some people, knowing their own weaknesses, pay people to teach certain subjects to their children, or they participate in co-ops where parents take turns teaching. And while it’s possible every single child and parent in these co-ops is carefully screened and vetted to make sure there are no “problems”, I have a hard time believing that’s possible for MOST parents. Remember, there are fewer homeschoolers than non-homeschoolers. If you want to organize a group of kids that all are homeschooled for some activity, unless there are really a lot of you, you can’t really pick and choose.

    That’s also assuming that homeschoolers only socialize with other homeschoolers. Again, that’s possible – there are people who only let their kids socialize with people from their church or family, after all – but unlikely. I would guess that most homeschoolers are happy allowing their kids to socialize with other kids at the playground, in the neighborhood, and from any extracurricular classes they might take (and no, you cannot vet every child in a class you pay for).

    Now, if our hypothetical homeschooler really does only allow their kids to socialize in certain situations with a specific group of other homeschooled children – congratulations! That person really does hover! But most people, homeschooling or otherwise, are, y’know, sane.

    And of course, to answer Kevin, not all schools are that controlling and restrictive either. However, in most cases, sending your child to school doesn’t mean you’re putting them in a less hovering environment, it just means you’ve changed the people doing the hovering.

  74. Uly January 10, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Also, is there a simple noun for families that choose to send their child to school? We’ve got unschoolers, homeschoolers, and… what? I want a nice, simple noun that doesn’t take sides on either side of the issue (so not “normal” or “unloving”) and I think “schoolers” just sounds stupid.

  75. DH January 10, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    “Kids in school are exposed to a WHOLE lot more NON free range things than homeschoolers are.”

    My mom’s a teacher, and the rules she has to obey for her SEVENTH graders as of this year are driving her batty. Her school has no busing and parents/adults doing pick up have to park, come up to her, and she has to acknowledge that they are taking each particular child. I didn’t ask her if they’d outlawed walking at all, but she said that no student could leave her supervision “unsupervised” any longer.

    And these are 7th graders. Junior high schoolers. When I was in 7th grade, I could take the school bus but if I missed it, it was call mom from the payphone, who might suggest walking or public transit depending on her mood. Once the final bell rang, nobody cared what any student did, how they got home, if they even went home.

  76. Uly January 10, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Oh, and also, finally, conversations about homeschooling all assume that every family that homeschools does so for all grades and for all children.

    This is just not true. Some only homeschool some of their children, and many only homeschool for a few grades, depending on which part of their local school system is weakest. It doesn’t have to be an either-or thing.

    I don’t even homeschool and I’ve worked that out by reading a few comments about it here and there! I wish (honestly) that people would make an attempt to get some facts before talking. But then, I’m as bad at that at anybody sometimes.

  77. pentamom January 10, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    Go, Uly! You’re making a lot of good points. I’ll just throw this in:

    “That’s also assuming that homeschoolers only socialize with other homeschoolers.”

    AND assuming that homeschoolers are a narrow, non-diverse (racially, ethnically, socially, economically) group.

    Which isn’t true, either. Yes, homeschoolers skew white, middle class and above, educated and religious — but if you get more than a handful of homeschooling families together, you’ll find variation on that almost every time. A skewing doesn’t mean exceptions are absent, or even rare. Homeschoolers are probably more likely than average to be in trans-racial families — though that’s admittedly just my impression; I have no stats for that.

    So even if you only socialized with homeschoolers, which is definitely true of a minority but definitely NOT true of a majority, you’d probably have as much diversity as you’d have in a typical neighborhood elementary school in a small town or suburb, if you didn’t choose to highly restrict the kind of homeschoolers you hung out with — which no homeschooler I’ve actually known does, though you read about the strange types who do in the media, now and then.

    You’re right about the need for a noun. I don’t have any suggestions, though.

  78. pentamom January 10, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    “In school they live their own lives from 8-3 every day”

    I don’t think we have the same definition of “living their own lives.” My kids are much freer at home than they would be in school. Yes, they’re required to do a few hours of prescribed schoolwork, as a teacher would have them do. They have me directly teaching them for some of that time, as a teacher would do — I don’t know why the fact that it’s me, and not a teacher, is a big factor in how “independent” they are, since I am not performing mind control on them to think only what I want them to think — I’m teaching them, like teachers do. And then they spend the rest of the day pretty much doing their own thing. I don’t, for example, tell them what room they have to be in or what piece of furniture they have to sit at, or that they have to not talk at all during certain hours or request permission to perform bodily functions. I don’t tell them what order they have to do their work in or what they can keep in their desks.

    But the kids off at school “living their own lives” have to submit to all those kinds of controls and more. And if they complain that their history book is really boring, I might just get a different one (actually I have done that kind of thing repeatedly.) They actually have input into what and how they learn, though I ensure that they are learning a certain core set of things.

    I can’t imagine other kids having that much control over their own lives, just because they go off to school and make friends that they’re not really supposed to be talking to most of the time anyway, rather than playing with them all afternoon when school lets out, like my kids do. Only, for some reason, the kids around here who go to school don’t seem to have as much freedom even after school as my kids do. Makes you think.

  79. Beth January 10, 2012 at 2:48 am #

    Off the topic of home schooling but sort of on the “pervy” topic…a thoughtful but ultimately sad commentary on coaching in the wake of Sandusky:


  80. Uly January 13, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    AND assuming that homeschoolers are a narrow, non-diverse (racially, ethnically, socially, economically) group.

    Indeed. But you know what IS often a narrow, non-diverse group? Your local zoned public school!

    The two nieces are in different schools this year. One of them goes to a nearby public school. It’s NOT zoned, and it’s literally 1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/3 Hispanic. Each class has at least two biracial children. This is a novelty.

    The other niece goes to a school much further away, and other than the gifted classes (which she’s in), the entire school, from students to teachers, is Italian. Not just Italian, but Sicilian and most of them moved to that area directly from one specific neighborhood in Brooklyn. (That’s the neighborhood I grew up in, actually. Whole stores have packed up and moved because their customer base has come to live on Staten Island instead.)

    Instead of mixed classes, it’s very common to see a whole school that’s all black, or all Hispanic (often all from one or two countries, so it might be a Dominican school or a Puerto Rican school) or all Chinese. Our local *zoned* school is almost entirely Hispanic right now.

    I take the train with the younger niece every day. The trains on Staten Island are four cars long (and free!). Each car in the afternoon is taken up with one, and only one high school. One day I was sitting in the last car (Staten Island Tech and also the elementary school kids) when three girls from New Dorp walked in, looking for a friend. “No, she ain’t here with all the white kids, she ain’t even on the train!” Why? Because New Dorp is largely black (at least, judging from the kids who take the train in the FIRST car) and Staten Island Tech, only one stop away, is almost entirely white and Asian.

    There’s diversity in the public school system, but there’s not that much diversity in any individual school.


  1. Vote Against the Establishment (and other news…) » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog - January 3, 2012

    […] Lenore Skenazy: “Pervy Principal Means I’ll Never Go Free-Range” […]