Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Walking home from school

This term, we've started allowing our two older boys (one aged almost ten, the other seven and a half) to walk home from school by themselves on a couple of days each week. Their school is about five hundred metres from our house.

The first day they did it, Chris hid a little way up the road from their walking route and stalked them on the way back to make sure they were okay. They have one busy-ish street to cross on the way but the rest of the walking route is pretty quiet. They managed it fine. Last week, they walked home by themselves on two days. I'm letting them walk home alone today as well.

It dawned on me today that perhaps I should check out whether other parents of school aged children allow their kids to do this. So I visited a couple of parenting websites and found a range of opinions, varying from "not ever...you don't know what weirdos are out there these days" to "not until they go to high school" to "my daughter is in Year 1 and she walks by herself." The weirdo one made me stop and think for a bit. A year or two ago there was an abduction scare at our school. At that stage, the kids all had the stranger danger talk. I should probably do that again.

For us, it's been a matter of making sure the walking route they take is safe enough for them. The one road they cross can get busy around school pick up time, but Chris said they were really good at checking for traffic on the day he followed them. And it's not that far for them to walk. They get some exercise. A major bonus for me is that I don't have to wake up the baby and toddler to do the school run.

I used to walk home from school (much further than the boys do) when I was a kid. My dad was at work and my mother didn't drive. I remember getting lifts with people or my mother walking to school with us when we were little. Since I was the eldest, once all four of the kids in our family were at school, I had to make sure all of us made it home safely. There were some moments. Magpie season was challenging. We had to walk past a park on a busy road and there were a few times when we just had to make a run for it with our bags on our heads while the magpies were divebombing us from above.

When we bought our house, one of the things we liked about it was that it was within walking distance of school. It's good to finally take advantage of this feature and teach our kids to be responsible. They seem to like it that we've trusted them to do it as well.

That's not to say I don't feel uneasy about it sometimes. But I guess that's what growing up and allowing them some independence is all about.


One for a wish.. said...

My kids do essentially the same walk as yours do. Ie 700m and only cross one really busy road. They started when I was really ill one time and have just continued.
I figure that as long as they aren't walking alone, it should be pretty safe.
Even though I tend to feel a bit uneasy, I figure it's the first steps to independence. At 8 a friend and I used to head to the river by ourselves and my mother thought that was fine!

simone r said...

our kids walk to and from school along. 20m each way!

Karen said...

Thanks, ladies...good to know others have done this!
It already feels so much less stressful just reducing the number of days I have to pick them up down to three. On two of those days, they do sport after school so it's a late pick up and I can park right in front of the school gate so I don't need to unload the small folk then. And one day a week of walking from the car with the baby and toddler across to school (so I can say hi to the teacher at the gate and look like I'm an interested and involved parent....) is manageable

Meredith said...

I'm like Simone. We have about a 20m walk - crossing a lane way that does take school traffic - but 9 and 6 year old do it alone. I go some days even so, like you, so that I can pop my face in and say hi to the teacher.

It is a big step though. I think we can all remember rambling all around our own suburbs and beyond at a much earlier age but either the world seems a little less safe or else there is the IDEA that the world is less safe and we mustn't leave our children to move about the place unattended. I am wondering at what age you let your kids go the park on their own without being frowned upon as a negligent parent. I'm not in any hurry especially - I quite like heading out with the kids - but I don't even know where that line is these days. Any thoughts?

Karen said...

Our local parks aren't that exciting, Meredith. Anything worth going to requires a drive in the car.

But we do have a park/green space (no play equipment) down one house and through an easement from our place. I can't see it from home, but when we bought our house, which only has a small yard space, I thought it would be good to send the boys into the park to kick a football or whatever sometimes. I haven't let them do it yet though. This park is not particularly visible from the road either, which has pros and cons.

I have just started letting them ride their bikes up to the other end of our culdesac street though (I can't see them up the other end of the street at all), so maybe it's time to let them out to the park every so often too.

Just wanted to let you know too that the book arrived today, and thanks so much for the lovely note :)

Meredith said...

Actually, walking there this morning, I think it is closer to 40 metres. :-)