Archive for the 'school' Category

Prison and school. It’s the same thing, right?

October 23, 2009

There is a group of parents at my kids’ school that want to enforce a playground policy that reminds me of a prison yard.  But, in prison yards, there actually is free association.  The yard rules are made and enforced by the inmates.

Here is the skinny.  There had been issues with older and younger kids having conflicts on the playground.  When, say, the grade four kids and the grade one kids were trying to play a game of basketball or soccer together, there were multiple occasions each recess where the kids would be running to the teachers with complaints of the older kids being bossy and the younger kids following the older kids around even when the game had stopped.  Understandably, the teachers on duty thought it needed to be addressed and a guideline was made that if kids were more than a grade apart, they were not to play together.  This was only a guideline and only to be used as a tool for the teachers to be able to say to the kids that were complaining that they need to stop playing together because of this rule.  The principal is very reluctant to designate certain areas of the yard to only certain grades.  She likes that kids can intermingle, but wants a definite line that teachers can tell kids they’ve crossed if needed.

This, to me, is a symptom of the overprotective parenting so prevalent today.  Had these kids (the younger and older ones) been left to defend themselves and think up solutions outside of the school, they would not have turned to the teachers so frequently to solve their problems.  These are kids who are incapable of compromise because all of the compromising has been done for them.  I can’t blame the teachers for becoming exasperated with it all.

Had the issue ended there, I would be ending this post on a more positive note.  However, there is a group of parents who support this and want it enforced in the most strict way possible by designating an area of the yard for each grade.  I had the opportunity to talk to one of these parents and her attitude scared me.  She was adamant that the only reason a twelve year old would ever associate with a seven year old would be to prey on him.  After I got over the shock and was able to talk again I told her about three real life occurrences at that very school: 1 – siblings have been playing together for years without incident; 2 – a grade seven soccer guru student has been giving “lessons” to his grade four brother and his brother’s friend; 3 – when my oldest was in grade two, she and her friends had a group of grade eight students help them make snowmen.  This is what this group of parents are willing to sacrifice. The fact that they are perfectly willing to turn innocent TWELVE YEAR OLDS into potential predators is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever encountered.

For me, the issue is over.  I am not against the guideline for the teachers to use as needed.  A note is going home to parents to explain exactly what the guideline is and how and when it will be used.  I have a feeling that the issue is not over for the principal and the psycho group of parents.  I will keep on top of it for sure.  I have joined the Home and School Committee for the first time this year and hope to keep brining sanity to the insanity that can happen.  I am happy to report, though, that we are planning not only a bake sale but a cake raffle.  Long live the cupcake!  And long live free play!

Play. It’s dangerous business people!

October 8, 2009

My kids brought home some interesting news from school today.  Aparentally, the principal  announced that it is no longer allowed for a younger student and older student to play together.  In order for two people to play together, they have to be either in the same grade or one grade apart, either higher or lower.  Trying to get to the bottom of it, I asked why.  The answer that my kids gave me is because older students play rougher.  Well, talk about taking the sledgehammer to a problem.  My kids can no longer pay together at recess, even though for the last three years they have played together at recess at least once a week without incident.

Why on earth would someone want to prevent intergenerational play?  It’s good!  Good for the younger kids to look up to the cool older kids.  Good for the older kids to look out for the younger kids.  If there has been an epidemic of injury to the younger kids due to rough play with older kids, I have not heard about it.  If it has been a one case thing, well then GAH! (That was a scream of frustration, just to clarify.)  Last week my five year old ran out onto the street without looking for cars.  So, all five year old must now stay inside at all times.  Got it!  Oh, and on Monday, my almost ten year old fell down the ladder of her bunk beds so no more bunk beds for ten year olds, OK?

I want to address this with the principal.  I think it needs to be addressed.  It is a ridiculous rule that does not need to go into effect becasue 1) older kids are usually less rough when playing with younger kids, and 2) younger kids are just as likely to be rough with each other as older kids, meaning they can still get knocked down, bruised, scraped, bumped and whacked.  There is nothing anyone can do to prevent these things from happening.  If there is something happening, it needs to be addressed on an individual basis and stopped.  But, to ban a grade seven student from helping his grade three brother and his friends practise some soccer moves?  Yep.  Dangerous!

I need to know what to say to the principal.  I want to let her know the benefits of play between younger kids and older kids.  I want to tell her how sweeping generalizations are never a good thing.  I want to say that kids will get hurt and no amount of rules will ever stop this.  I want to include something about putting kids in a bubble gives them an unrealistic view of the world.  They will get hurt.  It’s going to happen.  Let them  Let them learn how to play with younger kids.  Let them learn that sometimes it’s not a good idea to play with older kids.  Let them learn how to get along with each other.  Don’t isolate them.  Include them.

So, how do I say all of that?  And does anyone have a web site I could point her to?

Free Range Sesame Street!

October 5, 2009

I am wathcing Old School Sesame Street with Victoria and Rosemary. Yes, I ignored the warnings at the beginning of the disks about it not being appropriate for today’s preschoolers. How Sesame Street can be inappropriate for preschoolers of any generation is beyond me, but yes there is a warning at the beginning of each episode.

So far, in this episode this is what I have seen:

  • Louise left his store in the care of a child around seven years of age while he left for five minutes to grab a cup of coffee.  He asked her to answer the phone if it rang and tell the people he would be back in five minutes.  This child is clearly not his.
  • Small kids (some girls) running around without a shirt on.
  • A group of children playing outside the buildings unsupervised and then joined by a man who has no children of his own.
  • A child sitting alone on the stoop of his building.
  • A boy around the age of 11 driving a cart of some kind (his job I assume) while a younger child sits on it.
  • A young girl telling someone who is practically a stranger that she loves him and giving him a kiss.  (The infamous A-B-C Cookie Monster clip.)
  • Lots and lots of bellbottoms.

None of that would ever be shown to todays kids.  And why?  Because all of it has been deemed to be dangerous behaviour.  But is it really?

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Old school vs. new

I would rather my kids watch the outside of the box Sesame Street old school than the formulaic one that is currently offered on PBS. As my brilliant 19 year old nephew put it, old school Sesame Street taught kids how to think and now Sesame Street teaches kids what to think.

Do you remember the yo-yo man and the lost kid? What great advise yo-yo man gave to the boy!  “You should figure it out yourself”.  Do you remember the kid buying a loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter?  No need to write it down mommy!  I can remember!  Neither of those clips would be suitable for today’s preschool children, according to so-called child experts.  And why?  Because those children were left to think for themselves.

What are some clips from new Sesame Street?  Let’s see, there’s Jack Black and the fuzzy red incarnation of evil itself Elmo teaching about octagons.  Then there’s Neil Patrick Harris (love him!) singing about shoes.  Where’s the thinking involved in those?  (And if anyone can show me a new Sesame Street clip that would make me jump for joy and change my stance, please point me to it!  I will even make sure everyone who visits me here will see that I am wrong.)

How about the guest songs?  Well, Feist visited Sesame Street and sang a redone version of her 1-2-3-4 song.  But, way back in the day, Paul Simon visited Sesame Street and sang Me and Julio.  Can you see the difference there?  Which gives you a good feeling about the future generation?  I weep for todays generation of children when the freedom to think for ones self is not considered appropriate for preschoolers.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t include a rant about Elmo’s world in here.  My personal feeling about Elmo aside, I hate Elmo’s world.  A lot.  Sure kids like it, but kids will watch a video consisting of fish swimming in an aquarium.  And I would rather they did.  At least fish are unpredictable.  “Hey, I wonder where the orange one will swim next!  Oh and look!  The angel fish (just for you my friend Angel <3) swam in the same place three times and is now moving to a different area! What will happen next!”  With Elmo’s world, kids know exactly what will happen next.  Right down to the words of the song he will sing at the end of the episode.

And just for fun, watch the clip of Elmo’s song with Big Bird and Snuffy and put a sarcastic undertone on everything Big Bird and Snuffy sing and say.  “To think, he wrote that himself” *roll eyes and snicker*

Risk your child’s safety, for the sake of their sanity – Part 3 Let’s talk about sex (offender registry)

September 30, 2009

People who commit sexual offences against children are probably the most hated people around.  And they should be.  To take the trust of a child and abuse that trust in such a way to create emotional damage from which a child will likely never recover takes a certain kind of evil.  To look at a child’s innocence and want to gain power over them in a perverse way is such a serious crime the the public needs to be informed when a person has in the past been convicted of such a crime. The sex offender’s registry is a good tool for a parent to use to keep their children safe, right?

Not necessarily.  If the registry were designed to include only those who are a threat to children it would be a good tool.  However, the way it is designed now, a child of 14 can end up on the registration for life for having sex with his 13 year old girlfriend.  The 14 year will be labelled as the most dangerous of sex offenders due to the nature of their “crime”.  Please read the following links.  They explain the failings of the sex offender’s registry better than I can.

Classically liberal writes about children labelled as offenders and in another post clarifies and backs up her statements.
Read about Ricky who was labelled a sex offender at age 16 for having sex with a girl who told him she was 16.  He will be on the registry for life.
Read about AJ and List Dameree who were at risk of being put on the sex offender’s registry for taking bath time pictures of their three daughters.
And then read about the residency restrictions these “offenders” will have  – even the “offenders” who are not convicted may end up on the list.

Add to the above the fact that the registry only includes those who have been caught and most abusers will have hurt a dozen children before they are caught, and we have to ask ourselves just how effective such a registry really is.

Proponents say it’s worth it if one child is saved from abuse. I say if we are willing to let innocent people suffer for crimes they did not commit then we don’t deserve to call ourselves a free society.

Negligent  mother example #3

The risk: Not knowing if someone convicted of a sex offence involing children lives near me or has contact with my kids.

I have never looked at a sex offender registration and so I have no clue if the man down the street that my kids talk to from time to time is a convicted sex offender.  I have never taught my kids to stay out of strangers houses if they are invited in for a cookie.

The precautions: Instilling a healthy respect for their bodies and talking to them about what to do if they feel uncomfortable in any situation.

I know that my children are most likely to be abused by someone they know and so have taken the route of telling them to put up a fight and run away from anyone who is doing anything to them that they feel uncomfortable with.  I have not put a fear of strangers into them, nor have I instilled a fear that everyone is out there to get them.  I have taught them to respect their bodies and that no one has a right to touch them anywhere if they don’t want them to.  They identify their genitals and man’s genitals using proper terms.  Cute names like “pee pee” and “tinkle box” give children a view of their body the is unrealistic cute. We have an open attitude about sexuality in this house.  If I make it taboo, then how likely are my kids going to come to me to tell me if anything does happen?

The reaction from other parents: None because I don’t talk about it with them

I will admit to keeping silent on my beliefs that the sex offender’s registry is more harmful right now than it is helpful.  Many parents are supportive of the sex offender’s registry and it’s not an argument I want to have while sitting chatting over a cup of coffee.

Why it’s worth the risk:  Fearful kids will grow up to be fearful adults

I have no stats to back me up on any of this, but Helene Guldberg, Ph.D. in psychology and the author of Reclaiming Childhood: freedom and play in an age of fear, has written an article on the consequences of teaching children to fear all strangers.  Here are a few excerpts from that article:

Inculcating children with a fear of all strangers is counterproductive. The message this imparts to parents and children is to be suspicious of any adult who wants to work with children.

The sad consequence of all this regulation is that, one way or another, children will pick up signals about stranger danger, the problem of photography, the implications of vetting – and the only message it is possible to draw from this is that it should not be taken for granted that you can trust adults.

Another side effect of today’s culture of fear – and in particular of the paedophile panic – is that adults no longer feel confident to step in to help children in trouble.

 Want to take a risk?:   Don’t look at the sex offender’s registry

There is nothing I can say or do that will convince someone to let go of their fear of paedophiles.  All I can do is to say that there is a certain freedom in trusting people.  Not only for my kids, but for me too.  I am free not to worry about the dangers lurking behind the closed doors of a neighbours house.  As Helene Guldberg says at the end of her article:

If we can harness a more positive outlook about our fellow human beings and challenge institutionalized suspicion and state-authorized scaremongering, then we really might free up our children’s lives and allow them both to enjoy themselves and to learn through living.

Part 4 Turning parents into criminals – coming sometime this century

"Meet the teacher" night is so overrated.

September 25, 2009

I don’t know how constructive this will be or if it will be more of a rant. Let me start by saying that I was in the ER with Kevin (again) the night before and was just exhausted. The kids were all hyper, I had to go to “Meet the Teacher” night with all four of them as the solo parent. The school is always overcrowded and I was just not in the right frame of mind to deal with all of that. So, perhaps I’m just being a crank.

Let me get the main point out of the way, and then go on with my pity party.  I really don’t like meet the teacher night.  It’s supposedly for parents to see the class and just spend two or so minutes with the teacher and then leave.  But that’s not how it goes.  You get a room full of lingering parents who think that their child is just the best child to ever grace the face of the planet, and don’t you think so teacher?  And oooooooh look!  Isn’t that the most beautiful picture you have ever seen?  Can you believe that their child did such a good drawing?  I know!  It’s just unbelievable how talented their precious little dew drop is! 

Maybe it’s just a problem at the school my kids attend that a lot of parents talk loud enough to be overheard so you can pay attention to how wonderful their child is.  It’s been my experience since Lilly’s been in Kindergarten, though, and I hate it.  My approach is “Hi, how are you, I’m Sara, Lilly/Madeline/Victoria’s mom.  How’s the year going so far.  Any issues?  No, good.  Well, I’ll see you later!” And then I say “OK, Lilly/Madeleine/Victoria, show me what you want me to see”.  I get a kid guided tour where I oooh and aaahh privately over what they show me and then we go home.  It just sucks the energy out of me to listen to all of the praises a lot of the parents heap on to their kids.  But, let’s face it, the yellow, red and orange finger paintings all of Madeleine’s class did all looked pretty much the same.  Really, I do care about your kids artistic ability, but only in the same way that you care about my kid’s artistic ability.  So, just keep it to yourself, mmmkay?  (Yes, I am a bitch.)

Any other mommies with school aged kids out there experience this?  Am I being a big crank?  Let me have it, I can take it!

So, on with the pity party.  We set out last night at 6:30. Living right behind the school, it took us less than a minute to get there, but by the time we got there I was ready to inflict great amounts of harm on the kids. I told Lilly and Madeleine I would meet them in their classrooms and they took off.  But Victoria and Rosemary took off with them.  No, that was not the plan!  So I yelled for them to come back and told them that they will stay with me or I would chose a family at random and they would go home with that family.  (OK, no I didn’t tell them that, but I was tempted. They were bouncing off the walls since about 4:30 that day and I was at the end of my rope already.)

We get to Victoria’s class and… no teacher.  OK then.  We wait around a bit and… no teacher.  I decided to go out front to buy them the one cookie each I said they could have and there is Victoria’s teacher at the bake stand selling goodies.  OK, then, let’s go see Madeleine’s teacher.

We get to Madeleine’s class and I say hello to Mme. Grouette and took the time to tell her about Kevin’s condition.  It’s usually something I tell the teacher’s during the first week of school, but I forgot this year.  So, we said hi and I told her that from time to time there will be a note saying there was an emergency and it’s always having to do with Kevin’s brain, but I that I like to keep the teacher’s informed of things like surgery etc. when life is a little more hectic for us.

Then on to Lilly’s class.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  But for both of those visits, all four of my kids were out of control.  So, we get outside of Lilly’s portable and I send the kids away to play for a bit, hoping it would burn off some energy.  I chatted with some parents I knew for about 10 minutes and then gathered Victoria and Rosemary to go to Victoria’s class.  I told Lilly and Madeleine to stay out of the classrooms and just go home when their friends did.

We get to Victoria’s class and there’s still no teacher.  So I have Victoria show me stuff around her class, show me some stuff she did, grab her shoes that she’s supposed to bring home every day and then we head on home causing Victoria and Rosemary to dissolve into a fit of tears because they want to play with Lilly and Madeleine.  But, it’s 7:15 by this point and they have to get to bed.  So, I go home and tuck them in to bed and go to collect Lilly and Madeleine so they can have a shower before bed. 

I send those two home and go for a walk to hopefully ease my frame of mind.  I walk around the park for about 20 minutes, and head on home.  On the way home, I see a plastic fireman’s hat that I pick up to give to the school, thinking they could use it.  When I get back to the school, I see them tearing down the baked goods stand and ask if they want some help.  And in turn for that I get attitude.  Big attitude.  This is from the teacher whose class Victoria was supposed to be in but ended up needing to be switched.  Thank. God.  She is a royal bitch.  I was met with resistance from everything I talked to her about the one day Victoria was in her class.  A friend of mine had an awful experience with her.  And then she bitched at me when I asked if she wanted my help?  So, I just held my hands up and said “fine” and walked away.  (She was pissy that there were a bunch of unlabelled containers that people didn’t pick up and when I asked if she wanted help she said in a snotty tone “Well, unless all of these are yours, there’s nothing you can do.”  So I jokingly said “You know, I live right over there (pointing to my yard) and I can easily take them off your hands!”  M. Baugley laughed, she glowered.  “What, are you going to go get a container?  I don’t have time for this.”  So, that is when I walked away.)

I went to see the principal to ask her a couple of questions and to give her the hat I found, which she said could be put to good use in one of the Kindergarten classes.  And then she complimented me on my jacket (for all of you visiting from The Parent Path, yeah, that jacket. The upholstery one.  See, Joann and I are not the only ones who think it rocks!)  I then left and went home.

So, along with my usual “Meet the Teacher” issues, I had the extra bonus of super hyper kids, being overly tired from the ER visit the night before, having to solo the visit and a snotty teacher.  I am going to add another level to my own personal hells.  There is buffet hell, and now there is “Meet the Teacher” hell.  But, on a plus side, I really like all of the kids’ teachers!

Risk your children’s safety, for the sake of their sanity – Part 2 Alone in the park

September 18, 2009

“Hi mom! I’m going to the park! Bye mom!” – That is often the only “conversation” I have with Lilly between the time she comes home from school and supper.

It used to be the case that from the second the end of the day bell rang to when kids had to be dragged home for supper, a park would be filled with kids climbing and playing while a pick up game of soccer was going on in the field nearby. Now, those parks are empty and silent during this time. What has caused this change? Certainly, dual income homes means that kids are going to daycares and after school programmes instead of the park. But then, what about after supper? Why are parks so barren then? The homework load that most children are saddled with means that kids have to spend their time between supper and bed doing their work, cutting into their play time. But, then why on the weekends and during school holidays are these parks so empty? Is it because they are all playing in their yards or on their streets? I see little evidence of that in my neighbourhood, but I suppose it’s possible. Mostly, though, kids are simply not allowed to go to a park without a parent – and most parents don’t want to go to the park.

Negligent mother example #2

The risk: Letting my kids play out of eyesight at the park or letting them go to the park alone.

When we lived 25 minutes from the school, I would often meet my kids at the park beside the school where they would play from 2:40, when the bell let them out of school, until 5:00, when we finally decided to go home. While there, I would let the older three (then 7, 5 and 3) play on the hill away from the equipment while I stayed with my then one year old. This put them out of my direct line of sight as there are many trees both on the hill and between the equipment and the hill. When we moved to our current house, I allowed my then 8 and 6 year olds to go to the park without me. Before our move, I would let them go to the school playground nearby without me.

The park has many paths that wind around the three baseball fields. I have taken to walking those paths after the school day is done while my kids play on the equipment or on the hill, leaving my 9 year old responsible for my 3 and 5 year old. And by that I mean if they get hurt or in trouble, Lilly has to yell for me and I’ll be there, her only responsibility. (I need to get more exercise.)

The precautions: None

I figure that if they are in earshot, I will be able to tell if someone is lying bleeding to death in a pool of their own blood. The thought of someone coming to abduct or hurt them didn’t really cross my mind, but we had the “stranger danger” talk before and they knew to scream loudly and fight. I guess I would hear that too. Once they started to go to the park without me, the only thing I told them was if there were any kids there who were making them uncomfortable to just come home. I also told them to come and tell me if they decided to go to a friend’s house.

The reaction from other parents: Some didn’t care about the hill but most are uncomfortable with the idea of my sending my kids to play alone at the park.

Other parents would let their kids play over on the hill as well. There was three of us who I would group under the “relaxed parent” profile. But, when it comes to letting my kids go it alone, I am again in the very small minority (like the “I’m the only one in the neighbourhood who allows it” kind of small). It is the fear of “what if” that makes other parents reluctant to tread in the territory that I am willing to. I have experienced shocked raised eyebrows when I say my kids go to the park alone.

Why it is worth the risk: Unsupervised play has many health benefits – physically and psychologically

A study by University College London monitored 330 kids aged 8 to 11. They put tracking systems on their wrists and motion sensors on their belts and tracked their movement, direction, calories burned and speed for 4 days, including one weekend. The kids who were allowed unsupervised play were more active and used more calories than the kids whose play were supervised. The unsupervised kids also moved in less direct lines and took time to socialize and explore as they moved from activity to activity.

Lilly has been meeting her friends at the park after school since we moved to this house, not quite a year ago. She did not have friends in our old neighbourhood due to school location and the age of the residents (most of them were empty nesters). I have noticed a change in Lilly’s ability to interact with her peers since then. She a bit socially awkward but allowing her to explore social norms on her own in an unstructured environment has allowed her to conform without losing her spirit. I know that conformity is seen as a bad thing to some, but it happens to everyone to some extent. I am glad it happened for Lilly in a way that lets her keep her uniqueness. Could this just be her maturing as she gets older? Yes it could, but unsupervised play aides in the maturing process.

There is a climbing wall at the park that Madeleine loves. She doesn’t want to wait until I have time to take her and so her visits are frequently made without me. One day, she came running in the house all excited. “Mom! Mom! Next time we go to the park I have to show you something!” Not only has she mastered climbing the climbing wall, she has mastered standing on the climbing wall. Since the two friends I used to meet at the park have moved away, I don’t go as often as I used to. It took more time for Madeleine to learn her new trick than I was willing to spend at the park. Her sense of accomplishment and pride was almost contagious when she showed me. Could she have found something just as challenging in the back yard? Probably, but without having me there to watch over her she got to show me her trick once it was perfected, without me seeing the times that she fell. (I don’t know if that was more a benefit for her or me!)

Want to take a risk?: Take your kids to the park and let them loose.

Many neighbourhoods lack a green area or park. If this is the case for you and you don’t feel comfortable letting your kids travel to one alone, go with them. Bring a book, park yourself on a bench and read. See what your kids can get up to without you monitoring them. Let them play as far away from you as you feel comfortable with. Sit back and relax and enjoy the fresh air. Or you could drop them off if the park is close by and not a half hour trek from your house. Tell them you’ll be there to pick them up in two hours. If you have a park near by, let them go it alone. Give them a watch and let them know that they have until the alarm goes off and then it’s time to come home.

An empty field will do just as well as any park. Or a school yard, or a soccer field not in use, or a parking lot of an empty or closed store. There are many places for kids to explore! Giving your child a cell phone can help ease your anxieties, just make sure they aren’t the type who will lose it.

Next – Let’s talk about sex (offender registry).

Risk your child’s safety, for the sake of their sanity – Part 1 The Long Walk Home

September 17, 2009

I hate it when my anti-commercial stance is put to the challenge. Such is the case with the documentary that my mom recorded for me called “The Lost Adventures of Childhood”. My mom frequently records things she thinks I may like and I watch them at my leisure. None of them have ever made me want to get even basic cable. This one, however, makes me think that I am missing out on something. I am probably really biased in my view of this documentary because it reaffirms my parenting style. A parenting style that has people accusing me of being too relaxed and borderline negligent. A parenting style that has a movement behind it called Free Range Kids.

I am in complete awe that what I have felt instinctively is what experts in psychology are now recommending for our kids: Less structured play and the freedom to take risks. The focus of the documentary was unstructured play, but it touched on the lack of freedom in general for the kids growing up in this generation of paranoia. The feedback from acquaintances on my parenting style ranges from incredulous to horror. Here are a few things I allow my kids to do that I get the response “I would never do that!”. I will be posting one at a time over the next few days.

Negligent mother example #1

The risk: Letting my kids walk to and from school alone when they were 7 and 5.

Lilly was 7 when I first let her walk home from school alone. Madeleine was in kindergarten and on her school days I would pick the both of them up, but on the days Lilly was alone, I let her make the 25 minute trek to school and the 25 minute trek home. When Madeleine was in grade 1 (she was 5), I let them walk to and from together. The main reason I walked them when Madeleine was in kindergarten is because she was not there daily and I didn’t want Lilly to forget Madeleine – Lilly being the sort who would do just that. Had that not been the case, I would have let them walk together starting when Madeleine was in Kindergarten. When I did pick them up, I would often drive. The school day ends at 2:40 for the girls’ school and it was right in the middle of the nap time for the younger two, so the car was used often to go pick them up just to squeeze an extra 10 or 15 minutes of napping in.

The precautions: Making sure the kids knew the way and making sure they knew what to do if the crossing guard wasn’t there.

I made sure Lilly knew the way home before I let her solo it. I waited until she was out of sight one day before I started walking home with the rest of the girls to make a sort of test run for her. When she was home waiting for us on the front porch, I knew then that she was comfortable and knew the way home.

The crossing guard we had was less than reliable. When I walked with the kids, there were some occasions where he wasn’t there in the morning and a couple of times where he showed up after the bell had gone in the afternoon. I drilled it into their heads that they were to come back home if he wasn’t there in the morning even though it would make them late, and that they were to go to the arena right behind the road crossing and to give me a call. It is a busy street with no lights at the crossing and I didn’t want the kids to cross it without the crossing guard.

The reaction from other parents: Horror mostly

There was one parent who lived down the street from me at that time whose daughter was in grade seven and was not allowed to walk home from school alone. She was picked up every day because we lived too close to be eligible for the bus. This girl started to tutor Lilly at the school twice a week and her mom had her older brother from high school pick her up to walk home. When I told this woman that Lilly had been walking home alone since she was 7, I was informed that it’s a bad scary world out there and I should be more responsible as a parent. Other parents reactions, while not quite as direct and offensive, were pretty much the same. A horrified look.

Why it is worth the risk: Increased exercise, less likelihood of injury and it shows my kids that they are trusted.

With the amount of driving around that kids get these days, adding in more exercise is never a bad thing. I don’t think even the most hardcore critics of my parenting style would ever argue that more exercise for kids is a bad thing.

According to an article by Ygoy from July 2009, “nearly 75% of the parents in U.S fear that their children might become victims of abduction.” I don’t know what the stats on that are for Canada, but we have very similar cultures and so I would imagine that the number would be very close. It is this fear that is the main reason why many parents choose to drive their kids to school. However, the likelihood of a child being abducted by a complete stranger is much smaller than the likelihood of a child being injured or killed in a vehicle collision while a passenger in a car. According to the RCMP, in 2007 60,582 children were declared missing. Of those, 56 were kidnappings not involving a parent and 33 were considered an accident where the child was not found and no body has been found. Compare that to the three children per day who end up seriously injured in the hospital due to being in a vehicle collision, with an additional 100 per year dying according to Safe Kids Canada. 30 kids per year die due to pedestrian/vehicle accidents, while an additional six per day are injured. However, the addition of crossing guards at busy intersections reduces the likelihood of a child being hit by a car to almost zero at that intersection. Studies have shown that more people out and walking on a street increases driver caution and awareness while on that street. The likelihood of a child being abducted is greater if there is a custody dispute. I will never promote dangerous parenting and so if a child is at a greater risk of being taken, then a parent must be cautious. But to the average kid, walking home presents less of a risk than driving home if crossing guards are present at dangerous intersections.

The first day Lilly walked home by herself was the start of a new relationship between us. She now had freedom to travel as slow as she wanted (my goal was to just get home!). She stopped and picked flowers, stood looking at the “happy tree” for a few minutes and got lost in thought about her day (and possibly her life). It was the first time that she was really alone in the world at large (let’s face it, the backyard doesn’t count). There were days that Lilly and Madeleine didn’t get home from school until 3:30. That is almost an hour past the school bell for a 25 minute walk. What they did for those extra 25 minutes, I would love to know! I wanted to be there to see what they do when I’m not around, to hear their conversations when I’m not in earshot. But those moments of freedom that the girls experienced walking to and from school were more important than my desire to experience every moment with my children.

To take this risk: Ensure the school district has crossing guards at all busy intersections (including ones with traffic lights) and teach your children basic road safety.

If your city does not have crossing guards, start a movement to get them. Walk 21 is a good place to start as is iWalk International. In the mean time, you may want to start by walking with your kids if the route is not safe. Help them cross the dangerous intersection and let them go it alone from that point on. You could also try starting a walking school bus in your neighbourhood to get more people interested in it. Teach your children to walk facing traffic on roads with no sidewalks and to stop at each intersection to look for cars no matter how safe it looks. And always model proper road safety yourself.

Part 2 tomorrow – Alone in the park.

Hypocrisy in public school? Say it aint’ so!

May 8, 2009

Be forewarned, the following post contains a bit of a rant.

Lilly and Madeleine go to a school that promotes litterless lunches. That means that the school doesn’t want parents to send things like yogurt containers, snackables or any single use container that will be thrown out at the end of lunch. This is something I support and take part in. It is a rare occasion that my kids have something that is not organic that needs to be thrown out. That means sandwich containers instead of baggies. Tupperware containers instead of yogurt containers. Reusable drink containers instead of juice boxes. It has been something I have been doing for quite a while now.

This acutally has two benefits. The first one is, of course, the environmental impact. Not just the landfill issue but the manufacturing process has less of an impact. The second benefit is that I get to control their portions. It is a rare thing that either Lilly or Madeleine would eat an entire yogurt container but Victoria would eat more than one. So, for Lilly and Madeleine I will put two spoonfuls in their container while Victoria’s container is full.

Lilly and Madeleine’s school has just implemented a new rule stating that any waste left at the end of lunch will be sent home with the kids. This wouldn’t really phase me, except it includes organic waste. To send home a yogurt container as a reminder that it needs to thrown out and is not necessary is one thing. But, telling kids (and parents) that organic waste is avoidable is setting the bar a bit too high. I really can’t think of a way to avoid sending a banana other than wrapped in a peel. Apples turn brown when sliced. And, to top it off, organic waste is actually GOOD for the environment when composted.

This is something I would let go and just live with if it weren’t for one other thing. Every Friday, there is a catered lunch for the entire school from East Side Mario’s. Not every other Friday. Not once a month. But EVERY FRIDAY. Let’s just stop and think about the process that is involved in getting that lunch to the students.

  1. Food must be prepared in a processing plant (which would have other steps previous to this one involving getting the ingredients to the processing plant etc.)
  2. Food must then be delivered to East Side Mario’s.
  3. Food must then be cooked at East Side Mario’s.
  4. Food must then be put in non-reusable containers.
  5. All containers must then be placed in boxes for transportation to the school.
  6. Food must then be delivered to the school.
  7. When food is eaten, all waste, including utensils and containers, is then thrown out.

Is it me, or does that not seem a tad more wasteful than putting an orange peel in the garbage? Sure, there are steps that the orange had to take to get into my house, same with the bread for sandwiches etc. but I can’t see how the school in one breath can tell us “All litter is bad” and then have weekly catered lunch. It smacks of hypocrisy and “Do as I say, not as I do” is never a good way to teach people.