Tag Archives: free range kids

Win a copy of It’s OK Not to Share!

It’s time to celebrate kids and summer – summer reading that is. Some of you may already be back to school, but there’s still time to dig into good books. And win books! For the finale to the Book-Lover’s Summer … Continue reading

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Escaping Supervision

Writers of children’s books have always struggled with a challenge: how to get rid of the parents. Have you ever noticed how many children’s books feature orphans? Now authors have a new layer of challenge: how to get rid of … Continue reading

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3 Responses to Escaping Supervision

  1. Rosalie Talarzyk says:

    This email sent from me to Joanne Frantz (SYC) and our group of grandma aged friends.
    Joanne suggested I send it on to you. Enjoy my grandma saga of unsupervised adventures of three eight year old and one ten year old grand girls written in response to your article:

    ok…..now i have to share my latest adventure with my grand girls.

    after our easter egg hunt at westover park where my six plus our chinese friend were joined at the end by maggie and rees…….
    the girls all asked if they could sleep over since there was no monday school.
    i claimed some time for clean up and quiet. they were to come back at 6:30 with sleeping bags and having had dinner.

    they arrived.

    we went straight to play in the creek….since it was SO WARM.
    three ended up shoeless in the water.
    they all shed jackets.
    abby found a quarter in the water.
    lauren found a big blue shooter marble in the water.
    they performed gymnastics and musical pieces LOUDLY from the top of the culvert cover at the east end.
    we came home at 8pm for showers and general mayhem till lights out at nine for their basement sleepover.

    abby came up crying at midnight with an accident….but went right back to sleep.

    at five i heard them in the front hallway.
    i flipped on the light and went down.
    i wished with all my heart that i had had a camera.
    three of them were dressed for the day in same clothes from creek play.
    they all looked like deer in the headlights…..or night at the museum just before dawn…caught in the act.

    i sent them to different corners of the house and they all promptly went back to sleep.
    two woke up at 7:30, one at 8:30, one at 9.

    we walked to chef-o-nette for breakfast where chris met us after her morning IPE meetings at barrington.
    on the walk, evan shared that they had all gotten up at 3:00 and played till 5.
    abby shared that grace was sad and they talked it out.
    they got out a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle but decided it was too hard.
    they shared their animals….etc.

    while the waitress was taking orders evan announced to her mom and the waitress that “it was all fun till we got busted.”
    the first of many times….i am sure.
    i am still laughing at the looks on their faces when i came downstairs.
    they kept saying, “we thought we were being so quiet.”
    bubbe

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Rosalie, thanks for sharing this wonderful account of unsupervised adventures! Keep them coming.

Why Less School is Good

It’s another Snow Day for our local schools today. A day of universal rejoicing around here. Of course, unexpected Snow Days add inconvenience for adults. For me, that means scurrying to reschedule interviews and arrange last minute sitters, but most … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

15 Responses to Why Less School is Good

  1. Elizabeth Dell says:

    So glad you shared this with your readers Heather. It is a fantastic article that I wish was required reading for every educator and policy maker.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for sending it on, Elizabeth!

      Perhaps the policy makers need it most. So many teachers understand play’s value but have a lot of requirements to follow.

  2. Holly Dean says:

    So true. And not to mention the absurd amounts of homework children have to do. How are children supposed to find themselves or explore what they want if they have no private time or ME time? It blows my mind that more people don’t think about how their own children spend the majority of their time. The excuse that all that time is required to learn is refuted when one realized it only takes about 100 hrs to learn to read, write, and do basic math. My children unschool.. and it’s the most wonderful gift I could have possibly given them. We don’t have to make jokes about going someplace we dislike every single day until the age of 18.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      This is really meaning of life, isn’t it? How we spend our time, both as children and adults. Life is the gift of time and we have to decide what to do with it.

      Glad the unschooling works for your family. Good for you! Though I know school can be marvelous – I loved my elementary school so much that I was sad about weekends – so school can be done right.

  3. Martha Amezquita says:

    I agree but in Calif. Even in the suburbs I would never let them go alone to the park. Sad sign of the times out here.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I hear you. Every neighborhood has its own situation and I know you’ll find another spot for your kids to gain that independence.

  4. Zane says:

    Hooray for snow days, free time, play, and homeschooling! We cherish our “open space” time around here too and consider it the very best gift. When I was in college I took a wonderful class team taught by three professors from different disciplines. They included “open space” in our schedule — a classroom period for which nothing was planned. Those “open space” days resulted in some of the most memorable and through-provoking conversations I remember. It was a lesson well taken!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love your story of open space days. What wonderful professors to recognize the value of open space time and the life long lessons you obviously absorbed so well.

  5. Katie says:

    I agree. Letting a child use their brains and bodies for what they want to do, instead of following the exact instructions on a page, will hopefully encourage creative thinking. Even in my little 15 month old babe, I find that she is learning more new things just by entertaining herself, rather than by me sitting down with her and trying to have her put the puzzle pieces in the correct spot.

  6. Jill Dodds says:

    We were remembering you fondly this evening Heather and your fantastic presentation you gave us! Tomorrow we are hosting Peter Gray for our conference. Another wonderful learning opportunity supporting the importance of play! Stay warm!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Enjoy every minute of your time with Peter Gray. Thanks for your fond remembrances. Keep opening doors in Iowa!

  7. Thanks again for spreading the renegade word to the world, Heather. The US education system needs a massive overhaul and you have many of the answers to the questions that everyone doesn’t quite know how to ask because they don’t understand one of the root problems with regard to education–the inability of a rigid system to cater to millions of individuals.

  8. deidra says:

    I loved snow days as a child. I wish I could stay home on snow days with my child. I work and it would mean using up one of my precious vacation days that I like to save for summer vacation, time off at the holidays, school field trips, etc. I am a big proponent of less school, more play and the like. But these snow days are so hard on working parents. It is easier for us to buck the system and take a sick day if we need a day off.

Solo Adventures

Part of my research for my next book involves train travel, so I’ve been querying train companies in England.  Today I received an email with a highly satisfying answer: yes, kids can ride the train without an adult. As the … Continue reading

Posted in Books for Kids, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Solo Adventures

  1. My parents put me, my sister, and my aunt (also our age) on a train from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to visit our great grandparents’ farm in Elkhorn, WI. My sister and aunt were 9, I was 8 at the time. We were so-o-o-o scared to be leaving our parents, but had a great time on the farm, and came back much more confident (I presume- don’t remember a lot of the details of that trip). Back in the 60s we didn’t have Amtrak, just the Milwaukee Road or whatever that particular railroad was named.

    Of course, I don’t know if it took a lot of negotiation by our parents to let us travel alone, but we were met by the great grandparents in Milwaukee, so there was no chance of us getting into trouble unless we got off the train before Milwaukee, which we weren’t eager to do since we figured our only chance of survival was to trust these relatives we barely remembered from their last visit, maybe when we were 4 or 5.

    Other than that, we had pretty much free range of town once we got old enough to ride a bike, tell time, and understood bus schedules. It wasn’t unusual to ride bikes into Minneapolis to swim at one of the lakes or play miniature golf, or take the bus downtown to watch “BIlly Jack” 4 straight shows at the movie theater.

    That freedom was one of the best memories of my childhood, and I mourn that loss of adventure and freedom that today’s kids have. I think its huge for building independence and self-confidence.

    Chris

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love the story of your train journey! Can’t do that with cars… It’s trips like that that really create memories – the independence of it is something that can only be experienced first hand. Hooray for the ‘Milwaukee Road.’

  2. Laurie says:

    “When we step to the side, kids can experience their own lives and adventures.”

    I respect your words of wisdom. My parents were huge advocates of this mindset. One small example is them putting my sister and I on an airplane in San Diego and flying us to our aunt and uncle in Chicago. We’d have a blast with them while mom and dad were making their way across county in the car. Then we’d have a family road trip back again. It was a win-win situation!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Bet your parents enjoyed the peace and quiet of the long car drive, too! Definitely a win-win. Love your story.

  3. Zane says:

    This is interesting, Heather. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that so many children characters in classic books are orphans or away from their parents—because of a vacation or some other circumstance. I agree that it’s important to let children (fictional and real!) have their own adventures (parent-free). But I must admit that some of my favorite scenes from The Penderwicks (our recent favorite books) are the interactions between parents/adults and children. There is a lot of wisdom in the way these relationships are developed. The children struggle with certain aspects of their parents/adults, of course, but readers also feel very assured that the father, in particular, has a deep respect, admiration, and love for his daughters. And this love buoys the main characters throughout their darkest moments.

    So, I’m striving for that balance in my stories: creating children characters who have the freedom necessary to have proper adventures while also nurturing their relationships with wise adults.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I’ve just been reading the Penderwicks myself! Lovely books. In these books, adults function to give the kids a good cornerstone of comfort and strength, but if you look at them, parents are still fairly absent. The mother is dead. The father is kindly but often lost in his own world walking in the woods looking at botanical specimens. The oldest girl basically raises the 4-year-old. In the third book the parents are completely gone and the kids are entrusted to an aunt (who conveniently sprains her ankle and is therefore out of commission).

      I do think your point about adults respecting kids and being there for them in their darkest moments is extremely important. In fiction and real life. Like Mr. Penderwick, or Dumbledore in Harry Potter, kids can turn to wise adults they respect in times of need and know they will be listened to.

  4. Deidra says:

    I never traveled like that as a child, but had a lot of freedom to roam the neighborhood. Rode our bikes or walked to friends, local store to buy candy. Took the bus to the mall to shop or see movies. I now live in NYC and try to give my 6 year old age appropriate independence whenever possible.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Trips to the candy store are just as important. Glad you experienced that freedom yourself and are finding ways to give that gift to your 6-year-old. It’s amazing to realize how much independence kids used to have, even in NYC (“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…”).

  5. Cari says:

    I was pretty protected as a kid. I do remember the landmark day when I was allowed to walk to the corner candy store with only my friends. My mom did make us go the long way — to the end of the block where there was a stop sign, instead of jaywalking kiddie-corner. I also remember my first ten-speed and the freedom it afforded. Both were probably when I was 9-10ish. As a parent, I’m sometimes frustrated by the rules that limit our ability to incrementally expose our kids to independence, and thus build the self-confidence it requires to handle it. When my son was five, I started allowing him to go upstairs at the library by himself, either via stairs or elevator, while I took the other route and met him there. Turned out what I thought was a controlled lesson was violating library policy. Ironic, as one of my favorite kids’ books, no doubt available in that library, is Mop Top, about a six-year-old whose mom lets him go get his very own haircut –across vacant lots, no less!