Lady Helps Boy Down from Tree, School Accuses Her of “Trespassing”

Dear Readers: This one just proves what monkeys we become when we refuse to use our brains (or tails). A 5-year-old boy in England climbed up a tree at the end of recess. Fine. But rather than helping — or even ordering — him down, the teachers followed their “health and safety” guidelines…and left him there. Their rules apparently say they are supposed to  “observe from a distance” (lest they distract the child) rather than actually DO anything.

Well they observed from such a distance that it wasn’t until about 45 minutes later that some lady passing by saw the boy, still up the tree, and helped him down. Then she walked him back into school whereupon she was reported to the police for trespassing.

As a school official put it, “The safety of our pupils is our top priority and we should like to make it clear that this child was being observed at all times during this very short incident…. To protect children we cannot assume that people who enter the school grounds without permission have innocent intentions and must act accordingly.”

Yes, let’s not judge their intentions by the fact that they are showing up WITH a child, rather than running off with one.The “trespasser” herself put it best: “I am a mother myself and I find it a bit ridiculous that the school’s policy is to leave a child up a tree.”

As you know, Free-Range is all for kids climbing trees. It also very unlikely that the boy was in danger (as the Samaritan worried) of being “snatched.” Nonetheless, we are all for kids coming down from trees when it’s time for school to begin again. To go by “rules and regulations” rather than common sense when a kid is stuck up a tree makes as much sense as leaving a family in a burning building because the sign on the door says, “Authorized Personnel Only.”

Actually, what this whole incident comes down to, as so much Free-Ranging does, is this: When we rigidly adhere to oppressive, catch-all rules — rules that are sometimes only in place for legal reasons, or “cover your rear” reasons — we lose the great thing that makes us human: our ability to think and reason and do what makes sense.

It’s enough to make you climb a tree. — Lenore

The root of the problem.

Hats Off (Per Usual) To The Onion!

Thank you, Onion, for your invaluable perspective: Increasing Number of Parents Opting to Have Children School-Homed.

Start Your Week Off Right!

Hi Readers — This just in. Read it and grin. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: My 9-year-old son and I went to a little strip mall yesterday. It has five stores. Joey needed a haircut and I needed thank you cards and wine. I sent him with money to get his hair cut while I hit the other two stores. This is where he always gets his hair cut and he knows what clipper setting he needs them to use and such.

He came running into the store saying that they would not cut his hair without a parent present to let them how we wanted it cut. He was confused because he had told them exactly how he wanted it done. I sent him back to tell them that if they can’t take instructions from a customer who happened to be 9 years old then he would take his money elsewhere.

They cut his hair.

I guess the way to get Free-Range concepts accepted is to hit ’em where it hurts…the wallet!

Excuse Me? You Need a “Family Locator” To Track Your Tween at the Mall?

Hi Readers — Well, here it is. The ad that a bunch of you alerted me to this week. It shows a mom and daughter in a mall, near an escalator. The mom is letting her daughter shop “on her own” for the first time.  (“On her own” turns out to mean with two friends, who are waiting right at the bottom of the escalator.)  The girl is 3.

No, I jest. The girl looks to be 11 or 12. That’s what makes this ad so ridiculous. Because by the time the girl is at the bottom of the escalator, greeting her friends, her mother has already activated her phone’s “Family Locator” to make sure she can track her baby’s every move.

Why? Does she really need to know when her daughter dips into The Gap, or moseys over to The Body Shop? Or is she worried that her daughter and friends are going to be kidnapped in plain sight, in one of those rare triple snatchings? Or maybe mom fears they’re just pretending to shop, but really auditioning for a strip club? Or taking drugs? Or selling drugs? (And if so: How would that look any different from going to the bathroom on the Family Locator?)

The ad gushes that mom is lucky to have such reliable Verizon service, because this is “when it matters the most.”

Really? If this is when it matters most — when your kid is in plain sight, with friends, in a public place — then the service must not matter at all, because in this situation it is completely unnecessary.  The girl is safe. The only thing in danger is mom’s monthly paycheck, being deftly plucked from her pocket by Verizon.  — Lenore

Lessons from The Baby-sitters Club

Hi Folks! Here’s a lovely essay by The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Vanderkam about, well, the cultural significance of The Baby-sitters Club.

Yes, I know how ridiculous (or at least American Studies for Dummies) that sounds. And yet — you don’t sell 176 million copies of any series without making some kind of impression on society. And the impression young readers got from the girls in the Club was that kids their age could actually be responsible and make money. Like adults! As Ms. Vanderkam puts it:

Hidden in the plots that show that friendship is good and that teasing, racism and bossy boyfriends are bad, [author Ann M.] Martin imparts two more important messages that modern readers need to hear: Teen girls are capable of handling far more responsibility than we give them credit for, and they, like the rest of us, can choose to make their own way in the world.

Right on! One of the Free-Range notions is that kids long to be adults, and that’s a good thing. The human desire to grow up motivates kids to learn and strive and get a paper route. (Remember paper routes? Remember papers?) It is our job to help them along that path, rather than putting up a big, “CAUTION!” sign and marching them back to the ExerSaucer.

About a year ago I posted a query asking, “What age did you babysit? And what age babysitter would you hire now?” The discrepancies amazed me. Grown women who had cared for kids, even infants, at age 10 or 11 now wouldn’t let their 13-year-old stay home for an hour alone at night. And they sure wouldn’t trust their toddlers to a 12-year-old.

Scholastic’s Baby-sitters Club, about to be re-issued (with a new prequel, too!), reminds us that not very long ago at all, we trusted “tweens” to do more than just text. God, maybe we didn’t even call them tweens. — Lenore

Why Is This Radical? A Town Debates LETTING Kids Ride Their Bikes to School

Hi Readers! This is an encouraging story (from boston.com), in that Arlington, MA., a town outside of Boston, is pushing to get more kids biking to school.  But the fact that this initiative is CONTROVERSIAL is enough to make you bang your head against a bike horn. (Or vice versa.) Here’s a bit of the story, which begins by describing how bike-friendly the town seems to be:

No corner of the town is more than a few miles from the Minuteman Bikeway, the most popular bike path in the country. The town is home to two bicycle stores and a bike club whose members set off on long rides every Saturday and Sunday morning. A bicycling committee advises town leaders on bike issues.

And yet, until recently, school officials informally banned children from biking to school.

So far, none of the schools have bike racks. Last year, a pilot project to encourage children to ride their bikes to the Hardy School, the elementary school in East Arlington, was controversial.

“My view was, if you can’t ride to school in Arlington, then there’s no place you can ride to school in Massachusetts,’’ said David Watson, an Arlington resident and executive director of MassBike, a Boston-based bike advocacy group. “It’s already a bike-friendly community.’’

To those who want to encourage children to ride their bikes to school, the advantages seem clear: It’s better for the environment. And in an age of increasing fears about childhood obesity, they argue, it’s better for kids.

But not everyone agrees. Some parents and school officials are fearful about children sharing busy roads with minivans and SUVs ferrying children to school. (Most Arlington children live within a mile of an elementary school, so there are no school buses.)

And so it goes: Common sense — and the fact that this is one of the bikingest places in America — would seem to suggest that biking is not a terrible, crazy, death-defying idea. And yet the “What if???” brigade will always have its say. I agree: WE DO NOT WANT KIDS BEING MOWED DOWN BY MINIVANS! But here’s a great stat that I state in my book, too: HALF of all the kids injured by cars near schools are injured by cars dropping off OTHER kids at the school. So if we just scaled back on the chauffeuring, we’d already have a much safer route to school. Go Arlington! Get those kids pedaling! (And the next idea being contemplated there: Getting kids to ride to their ball game practices. Imagine!) — Lenore

Some day, Arlington. Some day!

New Technology May Allow Future Kids to PLAY OUTSIDE

Hi Readers! Afternoon fun (yes, ’tis a joke), thanks to brilliant Brian Briggs at bbspot.com:

Motion Control Advances Mean Future Generations Could Play Outside

by Brian Briggs

Recent advances in motion controller technology as exhibited by Sony’s PlayStation Move and Microsoft’s Project Natal reveal a future where newer generations of gamers could play things like sports or in places like “outside.”

Football?“These technologies show that we’re not far off from more active children,” said futurologist Ben Carlson. “The evolution has been rapid. First controllers vibrated, then the Wiimote simulated bowling, and now Project Natal has us jumping around the living room. At this pace kids could be playing outside by 2015.”

Game companies have remained quiet about any future technologies that might have kids playing outside, but one Sony engineer did hint that “things were happening.” And from Microsoft, the company behind motion capture controller Project Natal, images have been circulating the Internet showing a teenager throwing a football though its authenticity has not been verified…

Click here, for the rest of the piece.