Walking to school for the first time?

Amomof2miracles0207 - posted on 07/06/2011 ( 28 moms have responded )

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My oldest son will be walking to school for the first time since he started and he may have to do it by himself a couple days a week depending on his brother's preschool schedule. We won't know what the schedule is for the preschooler till next month; I am just trying to look at all options if there is a possibility that I won't be able to walk him.

I would prefer to walk him every day but if the other schedule conflicts with his then I don't know what to do. I am sick to my stomach over what to do because I know either I will be transporting my other child(which is in the opposite direction of my oldest school) or if there will be bus service; the school hasn't gotten back to me yet. The school is 6 blocks from our house. My question is should be invest in walkie talkies or a cell phone for him or see if the neighbors can walk with him if needed? He is 9 years old.

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Anna - posted on 08/07/2011

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#1 Teach him safety rules!
#2 Walk with him a few times before school starts so you know the route and you know that he knows it.
#3 Allow him to walk alone...or think he's walking alone but follow him to "make sure he made it"--forget to send something important with him, like lunch or something so you can check on him by dropping off lunch. If he makes it to school once with no problems then you can probably trust him to do it again.
My husband had serious issues with our 7 year old walking 2 blocks by herself either to or from school, so I let her walk to school one day by herself, but I had to go out that day anyway, so I drove to the school and got there about the same time she did. I pulled up to the drop off area as I did if I drove her to school to drop her off and said to her, "Hey girl! You forgot something this morning." She came to the car and said "What?" I told her, "Come here." And I gave her a hug, kissed the top of her head and told her "Have a great day." Which is something I do EVERY day before she's off to school...been doing it for 3 years now. She's going to eventually tell me she's too old for that, but for now I'm going to plan to continue it as long as she'll allow me to.

Sylvia - posted on 07/14/2011

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Teresa, that's horrible :( When and where did this happen??

I feel terrible for that little boy's family. I hope very much that they will not be re-victimized by being blamed for "putting their son at risk" by letting him do such an ordinary, normal thing as walking home through his own neighbourhood.

Nobody said that horrible things don't happen to children. We all know that occasionally they do. What I said, and Shawnn said, and Robbin said, is that these incidents are NOWHERE NEAR as common as the 24-hour news cycle and the proliferation of TV crime shows has led us to believe they are. There are many aspects of our lives that we can't control. Nothing in life is risk free; but there are different categories of risk. There are things you just don't do because the very great risk so clearly outweighs any possible benefit: walking out into traffic on a busy road without looking, lighting a fire in the middle of the living-room floor. At the other end of the scale are risks so tiny that either it's impossible to guard against them effectively, or the cure is worse than the disease. My point is that in most places in most developed countries, the risk that a stranger will abduct your child while s/he is walking to or from school falls into that category.

There are also significant risks that we just kind of don't think about because the risky activity is one that everybody does all the time and eliminating the risk would be a huge pain in the ass. Driving our kids around in cars is in that category. We take sensible steps to reduce the risks we take when we ride in a car (we wear our seatbelts, don't run red lights, we put our kids in carseats or boosters until they're big enough to use a regular seatbelt safely), but the vast majority of people are not afraid of riding in cars, and when somebody tells us they are afraid, we're tempted to laugh at them. The risk of being hurt or killed in a car crash is not a huge one, but for a kid of the age we're discussing, riding in cars is riskier than walking to school, riskier than playing at the park unsupervised, riskier than staying home alone for an hour. (You're also much more likely to die in a car crash than in a plane crash.) Yet which of those things scare most North American parents?

We are not rational when we think about risk, and especially when we think about risk in relation to our children. And, you know, I think a parent who was always completely rational about everything would be kind of creepy :P (I'm a big fan of Mr Spock, but I wouldn't want him to be my dad.) But I think we have to look at the risks we're taking when we try too hard to keep our kids safe from things that really aren't all that dangerous. When we keep kids too safe from ordinary household germs, they are more likely to develop allergies. When we teach them it's never safe to talk to a stranger, we render them powerless to ask for help when they need it. When we keep them safe from neighbourhood predators by keeping them indoors and driving them everywhere, we put them at increased risk of obesity and type II diabetes and myopia, and we prevent them from learning necessary life skills like how to navigate your local environment and what to do if you get lost. When we keep them too safe from the pain of skinning their knees or failing a maths test, we prevent them from learning how good it feels to try again, work hard at something that doesn't come easily, and eventually succeed.

Parents are not the only influence in kids' lives. After a certain age, we're not even the biggest influence. We are not solely responsible for their success or failure; we don't even get to *define* their success or failure. (I keep trying to tell my mom this: she somehow can't get over believing that my little brother's love of body art represents some kind of parenting fail on her part :P) We are not, in fact, in control of the universe. Life is so much more relaxing when we remember that.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 07/13/2011

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I agree with Sylvia and Robbin. He's 9! You live 6 blocks away! In our area, you have to be over a mile away before you can get bus service to school.

When my kids were that age (9&6), they rode the bus. I didn't take them, unless they had to be to school early for something. After school, they would walk 6-7 blocks to my work. (no, this wasn't in the 70's either...LOL...it was just a few years ago).

If you really are concerned that he is not responsible or levelheaded enough, get him a tracfone. You can get it for $10, spend $20 on minutes (will get 60 minutes), and let him text you when he's there, and again when he leaves to come home. spend the rest of the summer letting him learn the route, and go for it.

By the time my oldest was 9, he'd take his bike to his buddy's house, which was about a mile away. I think you need to realize that your little man is getting older, and you can't hold his hand his whole life.

I deal with the other end...I work at a college, and I CANNOT BELIEVE the numbers of parents who are still trying to walk their kids to class! They want to hold their hands and hover over their entire college career. These kids are spoiled, irresponsible, and in some cases completely incompetent! They have no clue how to navigate in normal society because mommy has always given them rides, held their hand, and never ever let them take a risk. My father served in Iraq, and had to deal with much the same...one of his "grunts" left sensitive information in the watch tower because "I didn't want to lug an extra 15 pounds the 1/2 mile back to my quarters...and NO ONE CAME TO GET ME!!!" This was a young man, about 19. His mother had driven him EVERYWHERE growing up, and didn't expect him to learn any responsibility. Well, I tell you, I met the kid when they got back, and I gave him a piece of my mind. How DARE he be such a whiner? How DARE he put the lives and security of an entire UNIT in danger because "he didn't get a ride".

Sorry for the rant, it's a BIG deal to me. My sons, at 16 and 13, are responsible. Both can cook. Both can either walk or bike to school, both schools being over 3 miles away. Both have been allowed to bike to school since they were 10, but have been allowed to walk over 6 blocks since they were 6 or 7.

I am fairly certain you aren't the only young family in the area. Call the school, meet other parents, and get a group together. The school district should have a "safe walk" route map, which designates preferred routes to schools, that usually have law enforcement somewhere along the route.

But a 9 year old is plenty old enough to walk 6 blocks by himself, unless he has developmental disabilities, which weren't mentioned.

Sylvia - posted on 07/12/2011

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Re-reading my first post now, yeah, the tone was a bit harsh. I apologize for that. (I should never post on CoM late at night!)

I apologize for the tone, but I stand by the content 100%. People talk about how much the world has changed since we were kids, meaning that it's soooo much more dangerous. It's true that the world has changed ... but the difference is, *kids are actually safer*. Unless any of us live in one of the *very few* places in the developed world where crime rates have actually risen since the 1970s, our kids are less likely to be victims of crime than we were as children -- and I bet all the rest of you rode your bikes around the block, walked to the corner store to spend your allowance, walked to school, played outside unsupervised, walked down the street to the park, and climbed trees when you were 9 years old (or even younger), just like my friends and I did, and started babysitting when you were 12, just like I did. At my school the majority of kids walked starting in Grade 1. It's not any more dangerous to do those things now than it was then. It's just that -- as Teresa says -- we all see more horrible things on TV now, which makes us think horrible things happen all the time. In actual fact they don't: that's why they're news.

Here's an interesting statistic: the per-capita incidence of "stereotypical abductions" (i.e., stranger kidnappings) has remained virtually unchanged for decades. And it's minuscule. Actually, just about the most dangerous thing you can do with your kids is let them ride in a car. It's a small risk -- but it's vastly greater than the risk that they'll be kidnapped or molested while walking to school. And the more kids are walking to school, the less they'll be at risk from the one very real danger -- that of getting hit by a car on the way there. Because the more kids are walking or biking to school ... the fewer parents' cars are hogging the road around the school :)

Sylvia - posted on 07/11/2011

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OK, really? It's six blocks from your house, and he's nine, and the very thought is making you sick to your stomach? And seriously, there's a possibility the school would bus him from SIX BLOCKS AWAY?

I mean, sure, if there are other kids in the neighbourhood that he can walk with, that's great. If you can walk with him some days, hey, why not? But IMO if you have a nine-year-old and a preschooler, and you can only walk one of them to school, the choice is clear: it's time for Mr Grade 4 to have a little bit of independence. I can almost guarantee that it worries him a lot less than it worries you!

If you're concerned that he doesn't know the way or isn't careful enough about crossing streets or whatever, and to reassure yourself, practise over the summer. You've got 8 weeks until school starts; you could start by going with him the whole way, then go 4 blocks with him and wait while he goes the rest of the way alone, then go 2 blocks, then let him go on his own and come straight back. You want to know how long it takes him to walk on his own (which may be a bit longer than it takes him to walk with you, or it may be shorter, if he likes to run ;)), so that it's clear when he needs to leave the house to get to school on time. If there are places where traffic is an issue, make sure he understands how important it is to pay attention and make sure motorists can see him.

My DD will be in Grade 4 in September, and she will be walking herself home from school every day (actually most of the way she'll be on a city bus). The year after that, bli aynhara, she'll be getting herself to school in the morning, too. The only reason she doesn't now is that DH and I both work and have to leave for work early in the morning, whereas school doesn't start until 8:40, and while DD is a pretty responsible kid for her age, she is not good at getting herself out of bed in the morning :P When I was a kid, nearly everybody walked to school without a parent at least from Grade 1 on, sometimes starting in kindergarten. The more kids in the neighbourhood are out walking, the safer all the parents feel, and the more previously chauffeured kids will have the opportunity to walk. Getting exercise is important for kids. So is learning to navigate their environment. So is learning (gradually, in age-appropriate ways) to become independent. And so is learning to distinguish real dangers (e.g., cars) from imaginary or extremely remote ones (e.g., child molestors driving around subdivisions in vans to snatch kids off their bikes), situations you can control from those you can't control, and scary situations from not-so-scary ones (like walking to school).

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28 Comments

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Terri - posted on 09/04/2011

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I think it's really good exercise for him. I would tell him not to talk to any strangers on the way and if one approaches then yell stranger danger loudly then run to school and report it to his teacher right away. He may be able to walk with other kids. you can call the school and find out if you can get a hold of other parents that live near by and set up some kind of walking partners

Danielle - posted on 08/26/2011

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My son is nine and I don't let him walk to and from the bus stop by himself.

Nicola - posted on 08/08/2011

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how long does that walk take him my son is 9 and has walked to his school by himself before but its a very quite neighborhood and he is very responsible. it takes him around 15 mins he often runs most of the way cutting the time futher. mostly we walk together as my daughter is in pre-primary at the same school but if running or she is sick he goes ahead or by himself.

Rachelle - posted on 08/07/2011

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Me personaly i would find some one to walk him if possible or talk to his teacher about mybe droping him off a little early or late.I have an 8 year old and we live on a dead end road and on it is a wall that has steps that do right into the school and i walk him or wath him walk to our house he is never un supervised.

Nicole - posted on 08/06/2011

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I allowed my son who was 7 last year to walk to school I had the same problem his younger brother pe scool was at a diffrent school but I showed up at the school after I dropped off my youngest to make sure he got there. I still worry but we have police potrol the scool areas where I live witch makes me feel safer. I never allowed him to walk when it was -15 or colder. Best of luck with your decision.

Sara - posted on 07/21/2011

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IMO without reading anyone elses' responses I would say if you must let him walk to school without you I would do 2 things at 9 years old it being my child. 1. Invest in a cell phone. Program in your phone number in speed dial. 2. Have him always walk with a buddy. Kids with friends are less likely to be approached let alone stolen. And it goes without saying (even though I am :) to go over and over the route before school starts. And to talk to him repeatedly about stranger danger and give him a list of who he is allowed to ride with (if offered while he is walking).

Teresa - posted on 07/14/2011

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Thank you all for your understanding of my outlook on this. I grew up in a big city and did learn how to do get around by myself and how to limit the dangers to myself. We live out in the country and my son, nor any of us, can't get anywhere without driving. So I guess I have never had to think about him walking anywhere by himself. Once again, thank you all for your understanding. I think we are all great moms and it is wonderful that we have Circle of Moms to communicate with other moms in different areas and situations to give a different outlook on things.

Sherri - posted on 07/14/2011

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But some places are not conducive to having children walk safely anywhere. We happen to be one of those places. We live off an extremely busy thoroughfare, there is no sidewalks, crosswalks etc. and there is literally nothing within any walking distance anything is at least 5+miles away.

So some of us depending on circumstances where we live etc. dictate whether we can allow our children to do such things without literally risking their lives in the process.

Now if we lived where my parents live. I would allow my 12 & 14 yr old to walk or ride bikes to the corner store. etc. With no fears but here it will never happen. They will never be able to leave on their own until they can drive themselves.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 07/14/2011

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It happened in NYC, which is the ONE place I would NOT let my 9 (or even 14-15) yo walk alone! Heck, I wouldn't even walk alone in NYC!

Plus, the boy didn't look for a reliable (police officer, etc) means of assistance, he asked a stranger on the street.

I am in no way criticizing his parents, nor their decision, my heart breaks for them!

However, Theresa, not everywhere is NYC. You do need to remain within your comfort zone, as far as what you will allow your children to do, but you also need to make sure that your comfort zone is not going to create problems with things later.

If children never learn to cope with anything, they become useless adults. I see it daily, and strive to make sure that my kids have the tools needed to get through their lives and progress in a forward/upward manner.

I am not implying that you are wrong in your methods. Just offering my opinion. As my husband says, things really aren't that different than they were 100 years ago. People got murdered. People died of various ailments. Children went missing, were found, or weren't. It's just that with all of the media (TV, internet, radio, etc) it is much more publicized than it ever was, which tends to create more panic than it needs to.

Teresa - posted on 07/13/2011

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Well, funny thing happened as i was waiting for my post to upload. We are having bad storms and the lights flicked and I had to reboot my wireless band. When it ccame up, there was news flash about a parent's worst nightmare. While walking home from an orthodox Jewish day camp, an 8-year-old was abducted, IN HIS NEIGHBOORHOOD, and found dismembered. I KNOW this does not help, but as the ending of my post that never got posted said, "I know that the chances of my son being abducted when I am with him is nil compared to if he is walking alone." Now I add, "even in his own neighborhood". It is up to the parent. I don't hover, but I do know who is in charge of him and they are adults approved by me and I do know what they plan to do and where they plan to go. I agree with Sylvia about the dangers of car accidents, and I can't control what another driver is going to do, But if I am with my child walking anywhere, I control who has contact with him. That at least I can control. Do what you feel comfortable with, personally any child that cannot physically defend itself from an adult is a target. Sorry.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 07/13/2011

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Well, Sylvia, I think you're doing fine! Sounds like your daughter will be naturally cautious, if she's worried about using knives...LOL...my hubby is a knife sharpener, and I've always been careful to teach the boys proper skills, but being boys...LOL...I'm afraid they will forget!

Honestly, it's nice to see another mom with their head on straight! And I'm finding that most here are that way. I love this site!

Sylvia - posted on 07/13/2011

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LOL, Shawnn!

I feel like I have to really watch my tendency to hover because DD is this fantastic miracle baby (and we have so far utterly failed to produce the other 2 kids we originally wanted to have) and I honestly am sometimes terrified that Something Bad will happen to her. (The difference between me and most helicopter moms I meet is that they're terrified of kidnappers and child molesters while I'm terrified of careless drivers and of DD falling off things and landing on her head (she's a climber). I should note that although she has fallen off any number of things, so far kenahora she has sustained no permanent damage as a result.) I also sometimes have to fight her native caution: she's reluctant to use a kitchen knife now, for instance, because at school she cut herself while sculpting soap with a plastic knife o_O. It's a lot more work raising your kids to get along without your constant hovering presence someday, but so worth it!!

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 07/13/2011

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Oh, my, it is! (part of my frustration stems from the fact that, at 16, my son can complete a full application process for camps, scholarships, travel grants, etc, but your average 20-24 year old cannot!)

I guess I should note that I am considered to be the "hard-ass" parent in the neighborhood because I do expect my kids to handle responsibility...LOL

This may be a dead thread, since the mom who started it no longer seems to be active...I was going to say "best of luck" for whatever she decided to do...

Sylvia - posted on 07/13/2011

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Shawnn, I've met some of those post-helicopter-parenting "kids", too. I've worked with them and supervised them. Of course some things are just people's individual temperament, but believe me, nobody wants to work with a young adult who has never been permitted to make decisions, take risks, be responsible, and own the consequences of their choices. It's painful.

Robbin - posted on 07/13/2011

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Wow! If it weren't for tv and interent! I walked to and from school from kindergarten till I had to ride the bus in high school! I plan onthe same thing wiht my kids. We are moving in less than a month. This past school year we live too far so they had to ride the bus! There is a playground about a block from our home and I let my three kids (currentl ages 6, 9, & 11) go there by themselves. My kids also have watched and are given a time to check in. The younger two are given a half hour, the oldest is given an hour.
My husband can also whistle really loud, and my other rule is they have to be with in shouting distance. No going into any friends home without asking first. By giving them this bit of independence they have become friends with all the kids in about two blocks! My kids also don't play very often with the kids whose parents are hovering!
I 100% agree with Sylvia.

Sherri - posted on 07/11/2011

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I completely 100% disagree with Sylvia and think her opinion is amazingly harsh.

He seems very young to me to be able to walk to school on his own. I would definitely see if the neighbors could walk with him. I think I am very grateful right now that EVERY child in this school district can be bussed as they are NOT allowed to walk to school until they reach 7th grade. The must be bussed, driven or walked by a parent to and from school. The school also knows they are picked up by a parent because the parent must walk in show ID and sign your child into your care, unless they are bussed.

Teresa - posted on 07/11/2011

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Ok, that last post was kinda harsh. I've said it before, I guess I watch too much TruTV and child abductions shows and things. Walking with a trusted adult, I can see. A kid, and 9 is still a kid, has no physical defense against an adult. I don't know how long these blocks are but can you at least drive him within sight of the school. I'm sure the prescool will understand. And if you have to cross this bridge again next year, which maybe for that one year, they'll be at the same school, then you have a whole year to work something out to make you feel comfortable. I personally have thought about one of those cell phones for kids, so my son can reach me if needed. But I never put him in a situation where that would be his only out. I know I'm overprotective in this point, but this is a big, crazy world, and he is the only him I have.I know where he is 24/7, who he is with, and what the plans are. This is even when he's visiting Gparents.

Louise - posted on 07/10/2011

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Hi I think personally he is too young yet, and i guess from your question that you live in usa somewhere that you said the school was six blocks away. I think personally that is a very long walk for your 9 year old to walk by himself. My sons school is only down the road from us but he is 11 years old. I didnt let him walk to school till he was 10 and we live closer!. You don't know who's out there today and you don't know if they will be safe especially with the amount of transport. I suggest that if you can, try and get another parent to walk with him on the days that you can't. Surely you have another mother who will compromise with you on this situation

Michelle - posted on 07/09/2011

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If you are that concern pick him up a pay as you go cell phone so that he can call or text you when he gets to school. My son has been riding the city transit bus to and from school everyday since he was 8 he does this by himself approx 45 mins each way he is now 10 we purchased a cell phone for him that was just for emergencies in the beginning but he now of course uses it to text his buddies as well. The cell made both him and me feel more at ease as to his getting to and from school. That being said there are many other kids from his school on the same bus who look out for him since he is the youngest one riding the bus. I would definitely check with the school and see if there is anyone in your area he can walk with.

Michelle - posted on 07/09/2011

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If he does end up having to walk all by himself, make sure he calls you from the school when he gets there. Also practice walking the same route all the time that way he knows what way to go and ypou know what way he went.

Teresa - posted on 07/08/2011

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I am probably NOT the best to answer this. I won't even let my son ride the bus! ALthough our school is a charter school and isn't supported by the local school system for transportation. I walked to KINDERGARTEN, if you can beleive that (1975) and walked home with a neighbor kid. I know my son"s prescool started at 8:00 and now he can be in his classroom by 7:30. If your son's school is only 6 blocks away maybe you could figure a way to drop them both off. Once again, I am NOT the best person to answer this but thought I would give my suggestion about the schedules.

SomeRandomMother - posted on 07/07/2011

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My son had to walk home from school everyday by himself when he was in first grade. I contacted the school and asked if there were other kids walking in the same direction whom he could walk with. They set up a little gaggle of kids to walk together. I was able to see him coming down our street for two blocks so I would watch for him ... on the school end the crossing guard would keep an eye on the gaggle for the two blocks they could. It worked out fine in the end but I was sick over it too!

Walkie talkies are a fine idea, too ... just for your own peace of mind.

Best of Luck!

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