Free Ranging It

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I read the Free Range Kids Blog for quite a while.  It talks about giving your kids freedom.  I really liked it, but then it just seemed to be the same thing.  You’re giving your kids freedom, and people are thinking you are dumb or a bad parent..

Anyway, I have really looked for ways to incorporate it into our lives.  I’m particularly bugged that our school isn’t within walking distance.  I’ve even thought of switching a few times, but decided against it, only because we love our school SO. MUCH.

So, we can’t walk to school, unless we want to leave at 7:30… and they surely couldn’t do it unaccompanied as they have to cross an almost-freeway-type road.

We recently started Karate, and it’s about 2 blocks away.  The boys are doing it together and I’ve been letting them walk there, or walk home (I usually accompany once, and they go on their own once) on their own.  So far, the teacher has flipped out on me, and another parent also.  The teacher didn’t like her having to take that responsibility, I reminded her that Conner was 10 and I felt he was ready.  Another parent didn’t feel like they were taking enough caution crossing the road.  I talked to them about it, but she was like, “well, if you can’t walk them I could bring them home.”  I just said that half of why we’re doing this class is to teach responsibility, and walking home was part of it.  A lot of it could be that C doesn’t exactly look 10… so…

In the back of my head I am thinking that from Kindergarten ON I walked home I did a great job and a few times one of the neighborhood bullies whipped out his belt and was going to beat us with it.  Luckily, we made it out unscathed….

Also, I’ve left Conner home alone a few times, sometimes with all the kids, usually P is asleep.  We were caught in a bind the day we did our loan and he was our option, so we took him.  He did great.  We hope to just take baby steps on this one.  I want to make sure he’s comfortable.  We’ll keep having sitters but he’s our wing man. :)

Anyway, a few questions:
1.  How do you free range with your kids?
2.  Do you judge other moms who free range it?
3.  How do you know when your free ranging has gone too far?

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  1. says

    Warning: blunt honesty ahead. I’m really not a fan of the free range movement. I’ve seen parents do it, and to me, it just comes across as irresponsible. Yes, children need to learn responsibility, but I believe they can learn that within boundaries and under the watchful eyes of a parent. That said, each child is going to be different. There are some 16 year old girls I wouldn’t let babysit my kids. There are some 14 year olds that I would. Children mature at different rates, and what one 10 year old can handle, another 12 year old can’t.

    I believe in giving kids just a hair more responsibility than they’re ready for, bit by bit, until they have it all down. I guess my biggest criticisms of the kids of seen “free ranging it” have been that they really don’t seem to be ready for it, IMHO. They’re running wild all over the place, endangering others and themselves, yada yada yada . . .

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. says

    Well, I let them walk to/from school alone in Utah, but we were only a block away and I could see them the entire way.

    I did let them walk to the bus stop alone yesterday. Only because Sophia was having a melt down and I couldn’t take her wailing down the street, so the big girls just went on their own. Joel got up when he realized I did that and went and stood on the corner in his pajamas to make sure they crossed the road safely. I’m still not totally comfy with it, but I think by next year I’ll be okay. B will be in middle school after all.

    I let B cook dinner sometimes. She does a good job.

  3. says

    Warning: MORE blunt honesty ahead.

    I find that Bryce’s attitude is precisely why those of us who practice free range parenting have such a hard time.

    There is a difference between free range parenting and not parenting at all.

    Those kids that are running amok and not ready for responsibility — being left to their own devices when not ready.

    That is not free range parenting. That is the abdication of parental responsibility.

    Free range parenting is all about teaching your children how to do things, giving them responsibility, and feeling confident in their ability to carry out said responsibility.

    Does this mean that they will never make mistakes? Of course not.

    Because if you waited until someone was perfect until you have them a responsibility, then who of us would be able to bear any responsibility at all?

    Parenting is all about doing what you can to prepare your children to be responsible adults. If you never allow your children any freedom, then they will never learn and they will never grow.

    All children will be ready to experience things at different times in their lives.

    But instead of hovering and making sure our children never fall down and never experience consequences — that’s what parents do today…learning “under the watchful eyes of a parent.”


    Some of the best learning moments for kids are when their parents aren’t around at all.

    Sorry to go on and on…but to paint free rangers all with that broad brush of you having seen it and just comes off as irresponsible is just offensive.

    To answer your questions.

    1. All much children get chores. They learn how to accept responsibility and perform to the best of their ability.

    They are also allowed to take excursions on their own, after having done it at least once with mom.

    I always try to say yes whenever I can. I allow them to try new things and I always require them to stand up for themselves before I intervene (e.g. with teachers, friends, etc).

    2. I do not judge parents who free range. I admire them and believe that it takes courage in the face of harsh judgement.

    3. I do a gut check when the kids do things…and unfortunately I do try and imagine how my actions are going to be perceived so that I don’t find myself on the bad end of a CPS call.

    wow. uh…yeah.

  4. says


    I think you and I are actually in agreement, we’re just using different terms. What I picture when I hear “free range parenting” is what you describe when you say “abdication of parental responsibility.” I didn’t mean to mislabel a group or offend anyone, and this might be a case of me sticking my nose into terminology that I don’t understand properly. If that’s the case, then I apologize.

  5. says

    I’ve seen that website before and think it is great. Here is over-helicopter parenting land people get all freaked out by letting my kids play while I’m sitting a little distance away watching them. Drive me nuts.

    I let my kids walk by themselves 0.7 miles home from school along a busy street all the time. It was the one thing I was sad about leaving behind when we left that house. I even let my older kids go shopping alone and pay for their own things with their own allowance. Shocking, I know.

    I do have one acquaintance who twists “free ranging” type ideas as an excuse to let her kids run wild. Then she wonders why no one like going with them out in public.

  6. says

    Hooray for free range parenting and good for you! It’s getting to the point where kids can’t even walk to the mailbox without their parents worrying. As my girls grow I plan to teach them responsibility and then allow them to try things. Yes the things I allow them to do will be based on each child’s maturity, but I plan to allow them as much responsible independence as possible.

  7. says

    Thanks Bryce. I appreciate that.

    I guess that many people look at free range parenting and see kids run amok.

    But I really make a conscious effort to allow my children freedom and responsibility and hope that they are well equipped to deal with what they will encounter in the world.

    I think free rangers (actual free rangers) get lumped in with the others and it gives us all a bad rap.

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