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Free-range parenting: Middle class kids are walking home from school alone and folks are mad!

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A few days ago I read a post that said parents were being investigated because their children were walking home alone from school. People call it “free-range parenting.” Free-range parenting is when parents allow their children to “explore” the world alone. There are websites and even a movement dedicated to it.

At first I thought it was a joke that these parents were being targeted because I grew up like this. The name “free range parenting” is nothing more than being a latchkey kid. It is upper middle-class jargon to accept what working class parents have done for centuries. That is letting kids walk to and from school alone and play alone. The difference between latchkey kids’ and “free-range parenting” is that latchkey parents do not have a choice. Working poor parents have to work or they cannot provide for their families.  The only reason people are outraged about “free-range parenting” is because now it is happening to upper middle class kids.


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Being alone without my parent was my norm. I started walking home alone with my friends and family when I was nine years old. From fourth grade to through high school my sister, my friends and I would walk at least one mile home together. We’d stop at the local bakery for sweets or the restaurant for patties and coco bread. Sometimes we’d take the shorter way home and stop at the grocery store for chips or at the Chinese restaurant where we’d share a meal. We walked, and no one complained. When we got home, we knew what to do. Of course, we ate our snacks first. Next, we did our homework. When we finished our homework, we’d change our clothes, do our chores and go outside and play until the street lights came on. Eventually, our parents came home from work. The only ones who complained were our parents because we didn’t get our chores done. I will admit I saw a lot of crazy things walking home, but that was because of the neighborhood and the time I grew up in. I grew up a poor Black girl in the Bronx during the 80’s.

Today, walking home and being home alone is the reality for millions of kids all across America. The truth is having parents that can walk and drive you to and from school or even be at home after school is a luxury few people can afford. What makes these kids so different? Nothing except parental income. Here are some solutions if you really worried about all children:

  • Instead of complaining and calling these parents negligent why not ask these parents if you can drive the kids home? Set up car pools.
  • Offer to babysit for free or a small fee.
  • Ask the school districts to offer school buses for shorter routes or routes outside of the school zone.
  • Ask for more school crossing guards and affordable after-school programs.

Until then, everything else is just talk. Leave these parents alone as you have left millions of working poor parents alone. What do you think about “free-range parenting? Is there a difference from being a latchkey kid? Never let someone’s low expectations become your limitations. Think and be limitless.

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3 comments

  1. Monica 25 April, 2015 at 15:34 Reply

    I think the outrage is ridiculous and I agree, rather than be outraged, do something about it. Even middle class black kids were latchkey kids when I grew up. In order to go to certain schools when I grew up, you had to ride the city bus, walk, and be a latchkey key. It helped me be independent and most of us didn’t feel helpless as young adults managing through the world. I wouldn’t let a five year old manage the world alone but if they had an older sibling I would. We have to be reasonable.

  2. linda 11 May, 2015 at 00:10 Reply

    this is really just about meddling white women. I live in an overwhelmingly white city and grew up in a poorer white neighborhood, where there were plenty of white latchkey kids. no one called anybody on anyone for any reason. upper-middle class and upper-class white women tend to get bored easily with their privileged lives, so they create crises where none exist. this’ll all blow over when they find something new to interfere with.

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