50 Shades of Grey or Goofy Grammar School Principal?

Hey Readers — Here’s a really wacky story from Iowa. An elementary school principal, Terry Eisenbarth, was investigated for “whapping”  kids as part of their birthday celebrations at school — that is, hitting the kids lightly with a super-padded paddle.
Sounds like one of those things that just becomes a goofy tradition, but in our abuse-crazed culture, I’m sure you can guess what happened next: Even though only the kids who WANTED a whapping got one, two families objected to the practice as if the principal was practicing bondage and discipline (in plain sight of the other kids, and teachers, and possibly a pinata).  An investigation began, the principal resigned, and a year later,  here’s what the judge decided:

In a ruling dated June 14, administrative law Judge Robert Wheeler dismissed the charges of physical abuse against a student, failure to protect students’ health and safety and exposing students to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.

Whether those “whaps” were harmless fun or psychologically damaging formed the bulk of the complaint, with several parents alleging the birthday ritual was an attempt by Eisenbarth to “establish his dominance and cause the children to act submissively.”

But more parents came out to support the former principal, testifying that the experience was harmless and optional, enjoyed by those who opted in and witnessed by other students and staff.

Principals Steve Brand of Mount Vernon High and Noreen Colbeck-Bush of Mount Vernon Middle School testified on Eisenbarth’s behalf, saying their own children had participated in the birthday ritual and neither of them considered the practice abusive.

Colbeck-Bush said parents who objected did so because the birthday “whaps” appeared to resemble disciplinary “spankings,” but that she easily distinguished between the two behaviors. Brand said he’d observed Eisenbarth at work as part of professional rounds of Washington Elementary and found him to be a good administrator.

… After conducting a criminal investigation, Sergeant Harvey Hall of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office determined no children were traumatized by the “whappings,” and no crime had taken place.

Hey, I’ll bet SOMEONE was traumatized — the principal! To have his public, offbeat ritual called a psychologically damaging form of child abuse is like  calling a high five “hand-to-hand combat,” or a backslap a “beating.” But during a year of investigation, that’s the soul-crushing cloud he was under. Kudos to a sergeant and judge who were able to distinguish between silliness and sadism.  You’d think that would be pretty easy, but in a culture beloved of Worst-First thinking (a man, a kid, a pat — SEX ABUSE!), it takes guts to stand up for what’s right.  Whap on! — L.
(Only picture of a principal I could find.)

A Lemonade Stand that Did NOT Cost $280? Imagine that!

Folks — I am loving your responses to the post below this one, which was about all the expensive things a parenting magazine says you need for a lemonade stand. (And the fact that the mag also calls it a “family lemonade stand,” as if kids can’t possibly be trusted to do anything on their own. ) So feel free to peruse them. Here’s one that made me cheer:

Dear Free-Range Kids: This post inspired the perfect kind of summer-fun afternoon for my girls, ages 8 and 7 and 4. And as a side-benefit, it also put an end to the fighting and whining that can drive a mom crazy during summer 🙂
The girls were over the moon excited when I asked them if they would like to make a lemonade stand!

After a quick trip to the store for lemons, cups and ice (we spent only about $7), they made some quick handmade signs on poster board that we had lying around the house. Taped one to the side of their wagon and had another one for waving in the air to attract customers. And yes, they hand-squeezed 8 lemons to make a gallon of homemade lemonade without my help.

Then they loaded it all up on their wagon and went off on their own around the corner and to the stop sign at the end of our cul de sac where they spent two hours manning their stand. They took turns waving the sign, taking the money, and pouring the lemonade. And from what they told me, they learned a lot about teamwork and good salesmanship (I wouldn’t know for sure, because I wasn’t there. I stayed home except for bringing them each a hot dog for dinner because they were too busy to come home.)

But the best part for me was the looks of excitement and pride on their faces as they gave me an account of each customer. After they counted up their money, they planned a shopping trip to buy what they need so they can do it again tomorrow. Ended up with $24 profit!

I think the spontaneity and independence they were able to show by planning and preparing and selling all on their own is what made this, “The most excellent day ever,” to quote my 7 year old.  – Erin

A Lemonade Stand Costs HOW Much, According to a Parenting Magazine?

Hi Folks — We all know that magazines exist to sell things, but this example seems particularly outrageous: A parenting magazine lists all the things your kids need to run a lemonade stand — from name brand ice cube trays to an actual, store-bought stand, to a juicer  to squeeze the lemons (has no one heard of hands? Or lemonade mix?)  — and the total is pushing $300. If you want the breakdown of all the costs, here it is! – L (and don’t diss me for vlogging! I am trying to embrace all sorts of new things!)

Science Teachers Weep! School Evacuated for “Chemical Spill”

Hi Folks! This note was posted by a high school student commenting on the story of the school that allowed two students to fry Ferrari red because they weren’t carrying a doctor’s prescription for non-prescription sunblock.   But maybe that school loses to this one, in the sticklers department. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This reminds me of a ‘chemical spill’ my school had a couple months back. Keep in mind this is a high school, with around 800 14-18 year olds walking the halls.


We were told to evacuate because of a ‘chemical spill’ in one of the science labs a bit before noon. Now, there were some actual dangerous chemicals in some of the rooms, so we evacuated without complaint. Soon, we found out what the ‘chemical spill’ was: mercury. Someone had dropped an old thermometer made of mercury, so the entire school had to be evacuated.


We had to sit out on the football field for four hours. There were no clouds to block the sun, it was actually fairly chilly out, and about half the school hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch. No one was allowed to leave to stadium, even to grab a sweatshirt that was sitting ten feet away in their car.

They had to test everyone who had been inside that room that day for traces of mercury. Two hours later, they all came up negative. I got a mild sunburn from that day, which I’m pretty sure was a bigger cancer risk than a bit of mercury.

Also, since I nearly failed chemistry, I asked my homeroom teacher (who happened to be a science teacher) if the mercury was really that bad for us. He said no, mercury is usually only harmful if ingested. So my entire school was kept out on a lawn freezing our hungry butts off and getting sunburned not only for two hours of our school day, but two hours AFTER school had ended, to ensure no one was licking the mercury off the floor.


In all, 100 kids got tested — really just their clothes and shoes — or about one eighth of the school. The school is Totino-Grace high school located in Fridley, Minnesota. Here’s a piece about it that ran on KARE 11.

On a side note, the school did away with the glass and mercury thermometers a couple years ago, but I guess they missed a few. – A Student

WWMCD? (What Would Madame Curie Do?)

Slightly Off Topic but Uber-Safety Gone Mad

Hi Readers! I just learned that the United States Post Office will not allow you to ship anything with a lithium battery — like, say, an iPad — overseas:

Lithium batteries are included in many popular electronic devices such as iPads, Kindles, smartphones, cameras and other electronic devices.  The batteries can explode or catch fire in certain conditions during overseas transport.

This change is required by the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), both of which currently prohibit lithium batteries in mail shipments that are carried on international commercial air transportation.

USPS management anticipates the regulation to be adjusted by January 1, 2013, with customers being able to mail specific quantities of lithium batteries internationally (including APO/FPO/DPO) if the batteries are properly installed in the electronic device.

Gee, have planes been exploding right and left because a passenger dared to bring a laptop on board a transcontinental flight? Talk about under-reported disasters! Or is this a new and shining case of Safety Madness, wherein the teensy chance of something going disastrously wrong creates an entire new and cumbersome way of doing things? Feel free to take a guess. – L.

14-y.o. Boy Babysitting Younger Siblings Shoots Armed Intruder

Hi Readers — This story is just so wild, I had to put it here and ask YOU to parse it. Long and short of it: Someone knocked on the door of a Phoenix, AZ home during the afternoon, when a 14-year-old boy was babysitting his three younger siblings. He didn’t recognize the woman so he didn’t answer the door.

Soon after, the teen heard a bang on the door, rushed his siblings upstairs and got a handgun from his parent’s bedroom. When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw a man breaking through the front door and point a gun at him.

The boy shot the 37-year-old man, who is in critical condition but expected to survive and be booked into jail.

So — on the one hand, this shows just how competent a young person can be, even under unbelievable pressure. On the other hand, I worry that this will make even more parents AFRAID to let even their teenage children babysit because “look what can happen when they’re home without an adult!” I also wonder, somewhat perversely, what would have happened if the kids HAD answered the door when the strangers knocked. Maybe if the intruders knew there was someone at home, they would have skipped that house and looked for an empty one. Certainly most burglars prefer an unoccupied house.

And then I also wonder what this says about guns in the home.  BUT I don’t want this to become a forum for or against gun control. I’m really just interested in what went down.

So I am putting this out for you to chew on. And, on a completely different topic, I hope some of you attended a Free-Range picnic this weekend and had a great time! — L.

UPDATED! Can You Set The New York Times and Psychology Today Straight about Free-Range Parenting?

Readers — In today’s New York Times there’s an article about a new type of food product: a pouch parents can give their kids to suck, rather than making them go through all the rigamarole of, you know, eating food from a plate. Or even a bun. Or even chewing.

Putting aside my feelings about the product, I was shocked to read the inventor’s explanation for why a feeding tube…er, sorry, pouch…is suddenly necessary for kids:

Mr. Grimmer believes the pouch’s popularity can be attributed to the emergence of a new way of relating to our children. He calls it “free-range parenting.”

Parents, he explained, want to be as flexible as modern life demands. And when it comes to eating, that means doing away with structured mealtimes in favor of a less structured alternative that happens not at set times, but whenever a child is hungry.

What Mr. Grimmer is selling, he said, is a way to facilitate that: mobile food technology for the modern family. “It’s on-the-go snacking, on-the-go nourishment,” he said. “It moves with kids and puts the control in their hands.

The article goes on to talk about how kids are so structured that they have no TIME to eat a real meal, so this is a lovely “free-range” alternative. For his part, the reporter adds that he gave his daughter, under age 4, a pouch to suck after her gymnastics class, and another on the way to a party because somehow lunch got skipped.

I feel for the guy. His toddler is already so over-booked there’s no time to stop and eat  the carrots. But to think that is “Free-Range” is so, so, sooooo wrong my brain is turning into a  pouch of plum-spinach mush.

In fact, Free-Range Kids believes just the opposite: We are all for giving kids a chance to do things on their own — play, walk to school, spend an afternoon just drawing on the sidewalk — which in turn gives us parents a chance to do things on our own, too, including get out of the car. Maybe even make a meal. Or have the kids make a meal.

We have to stop this misconception of Free-Range as harried chauffeurs before it grows. Already a  Psychology Today blogger has written a piece about “The Perils of Free-Range Parenting,” which goes on and on about how SHE doesn’t believe kids should make their parents give them snacks instead of  meals. Moreover, SHE doesn’t think kids should be the ones to decide whether or not they’re going to sit in the car seat, or what time they go to bed.

Lady — neither do we!

“Free-Range” is not a (depleting, exhausting) lifestyle.  It’s just the conviction that kids today are safer and more competent than our culture tells us they are. That’s why we can give them  responsibility AND freedom — and not schlep and schedule up the wazoo, to the point where they have to suck their meals in between appointments. Can someone please drop these folks a line and tell them that? – L

For kids too busy to digest a Cheerio.

UPDATE!! Look at this lovely piece by the Pscyhology Today blogger, Dina Rose, realizing that Free-Range does NOT mean “Let kids do whatever they want while we cater to their every whine” parenting. Kudos for the correction, Dina, and welcome!! – L

Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have “Prescription” for Sunscreen

Readers — As much as anything, this blog is dedicated to the idea that we MUST use our brains and compassion and not blindly follow orders that exist only to avoid liability or blame. So take a look at what happened to these girls at their school’s field day. (Warning: The pictures are painful!)

The girls were kept out in the sun and severely burned, to the point where the adults at the school were noticing and commenting. Later, the principal explained her…what’s it called in a war when you don’t stand up and fight for justice? …her that. Her blithe justification for why she didn’t do the right thing:

 Her response centered around the the school inability to administer what they considered a prescription/medication (sunscreen) for liability reasons. And while I can sort of wrap my brain around this in theory, the practice of a blanket policy which clearly allows for students to be put in harm’s way is deeply flawed. Not only does a parent have to take an unrealistic (an un-intuitive) step by visiting a doctor for a “prescription” for an over-the-counter product, children are not allowed to carry it on their person and apply as needed.


Folks, I am thinking of writing a book — a mini-one — on this whole issue. The issue of our safety fears becoming so ornate and far-fetched (“What if a child uses sunscreen inappropriately?”) that we not only lose all common sense, we lose our ability to think or even feel. We become stunted.

The principal didn’t frame it this way, but it was her decision to LET those girls burn. Sure, she was “just following orders” — the insurance company’s, perhaps, or the school district’s. But we’ve seen where just following orders can lead. – L.

Oh…does that thing burn?

Update! Free-Range Picnics this Saturday! You’re Invited!

Hi Folks! Here’s the lastest listing of Free-Range potluck picnics coming up this Saturday, June 23, with the newest ones on top. If you’d like to host one, just put the who/what/when/where/RSVP info in the comments and I’ll post one last blast before Saturday. – L.


WHERE:  Oriole Park, Yonge & Davisville in Toronto

DATE: Saturday June 23

TIME: Noonish until mid afternoon

BRING: Kids ready to meet new friends, a picnic lunch for your family, bathing suits for anyone who wants to use the wading pool/splash pad.

INFO/RSVP: Folks can email ebardon@gmail.com for questions and more details.

*  *


DATE: Sat., June 23

TIME: 10am-1pm.

PLACE: Melas Park, 1326 W. Central Road, Mt. Prospect

EVITE:  http://new.evite.com/l/K4R26D2XHZ).

*  *


DATE: Sunday, June 24

TIME: 1:00 PM until the kids wear out

HOST:  Christina Matthews

WHERE: Palmer Square Park – Logan Square (corner of Palmer Blvd. & Kedzie Blvd.),   Chicago, IL 60647

BRING: Your family, a picnic lunch and any balls/games of interest to your kids.  We’ll be on the west side of the park near the “bunny hill.”  We are a family of four with identical twin (almost 5 years old) boys, so we’re usually pretty easy to spot.  I’ll try to be organized enough to string a sign or some balloons to mark our spot 🙂
RSVP: christinamatthews42@gmail.com

*  *


No specific time or place set, but this Free-Ranger writes:

Free Range parents in Nashville TN (I’m in south Nashville/North Franklin area) email me suznericward@gmail.comWould love to meet like-minded parents in my area!

*  *


*  *



Date: Sat., June 23 (rain date: Sunday, June 24)

Time: 2- 10 p.m.

Place: Rosmarins Cottages, 12 School Road, Monroe, NY 10950

Directions by car (and pix of the place!): Bungalowsummer.com.

By bus: Take the Short Line bus from Port Authority to Monroe, NY at 1:15 or 3:10 (an hour and 20 min ride). We’ll pick you up from the bus (a 5 min ride).

Bring: Something yummy and bathingsuits!

RSVP and questions: heylenore3@gmail.com

*    *


Date: Sat, June 23 (rain date: Sun. June 24)

Time: 2 – 5 p.m.

Place: Titlow Beach

Bring: A dish to share, shoes and towels for the kids who go crabbing on the rocky beach.

RSVP: soulemarilyn@yahoo.com

*  *


Date: Sat., June 23 (rain date: Sun, June 24)

Time: 11 a.m . – 1 p.m.

Place: Ebright Creek Park (1317 212th Ave SE, Sammamish, WA 98074)

Bring: Kids ready to play and have fun with new friends AND a picnic lunch for your family.

Hosts: Adam and Melanie

RSVP and questions: adamel@comcast.net

Official online invite, click here.

*  *


Time: 1 p.m.
Place: Montrose Park (Corner of Rollins Ave and Congressional Ln)
Host: Anna
RSVP: asjuha@hotmail.com (and if you are a Free-Range family who wants to meet up but can’t make it that day, please email anyway and we’ll meet!)
Note: Party is on as soon as at least one other family RSVPs!
*  *
A Free-Range, old-fashioned, play outside block party!
DATE: Sat., June 23
PLACE:  Laurel Street between Clinton and Powell
TIME: Anytime after 3 p.m. and stay for the potluck.
BRING: Food and other balls and game equipment. Also, your own eating-ware (plates, utensils), as this will be a no-waste event, too. Here’s the Facebook page. (5 families already coming!)
*  *
Maggie in Eastern Lucas County would like to co-host a picnic.  If you’re interested, here is her email: spitlermaggie@yahoo.com
* *
Date: Sat., June 23 (rain date? This is Phoenix! If it rains, we’ll dance in it and enjoy every moment!)
Time: 4:30 – dark
Place: Country Gables Park, 85053
Bring: A dish to share. I’ll bring paper plates, utensils, drinks and also some food to share, of course!
RSVP: Jenna  jboettgerboring@gmail.com . (Please do RSVP so we know someone’s coming and won’t be sitting out there, all by our lonesome!)
Please join us for the first annual Free Range Kids picnic!
Where: Cedar-Rose park (between the playgrounds) in Berkeley
When: Saturday June 23 between 11 am and 2 pm
Who: I’m Andi Jones, mother of Kyle who just finished 2nd grade at Washington. I also have a three year old daughter and would love to meet other Free-Range (or similarly-minded) parents/families in the community. Learn more about Free-Range Kids here: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/
What to bring: a picnic lunch for your family and any park games or balls, etc. that you may want to bring
DATE: June 23
DETAILS: We belong to an nonprofit athletic/social club that offers kids, adults and families a variety of classes and activities at a ridiculously low cost.   It is a very Free-Range organization and the members all keep an eye out for each other and the kids too!  Thanks for posting the details for our Campout!Come one come all!

Concordia Turners is hosting a Campout on Saturday, June 23 as part of the Great American Backyard Campout. $10 per tent. Each family receives a plot of land and a table. Activities include swimming, campfire and stargazing. Families must supply their own food.  Quiet hours from 11pm to 7am so we don’t make our neighbors angry.  Please bring some donuts to share for breakfast.  You do not need to be a member to attend but you might like it so much that you join before you leave!

We will host two more campouts in the city this summer:
July 21st
August TBA

You can use the map below to help locate our building near the intersection of Gravois & Holly Hills in South Saint Louis, MO.  If you need detailed driving directions, click the link below and you will be taken to a Google page where you can get driving directions.

Concordia Turners
6432 Gravois
Saint Louis, MO  63116

Get Directions

Find Concordia Turners on Facebook:

The purpose of our organization is to promote the health and well-being of our members and our society.  While we have a strong emphasis on gymnastics, we also support a wide variety of athletic and social activities to meet the changing needs of our members.Concordia is a member of a national organization called the American Turners.  It is composed of similar organizations located throughout the United States.  The first Turner societies in the United States were organized toward the close of the year 1848.  Trace the history of physical education in the United States and you trace the history of the American Turners.  The American Turners spent much of the first half of the 20th Century promoting the addition of physical education to U.S. schools.  They also created the first College of Physical Education.  The school still operates today as a division of the Indiana University in Indianapolis.  The American Turners is among the oldest continuously operating athletic organizations in the world.

Best Regards,
Deborah Rose

Free-Range Kids and Attachment Parenting

Hi Folks! Just found this post buried in my “to put on blog” cue. Sorry it’s so long after the Time Mag cover (which cover? You KNOW which cover) and the “Take Our Kids to the Park…and Leave Them There Day” piece.

Anyway — after the umpteenth question and comment about Free-Range “versus” Attachment Parenting, I wrote one commenter this note. He had asked, “Have you seen any correlation, either positive or negative, between Attachment Parenting and Free-Range?  Or do the bubblewrap/helicopter parents you see tend to be the Attachment Parenting parents?” My answer


I have, thank goodness, no idea. What I always try to explain is that Free-Range is not a “type of parenting.” It’s an outlook that tries to resist the rampant fear being foisted upon us by marketers, politicians, “experts” and the media, all of whom have a vested interest in making us worried that our kids will be killed.

Or not get into Harvard.
I don’t endorse bashing any parenting decision. I DO endorse bashing all the forces that are trying to make us unnecessarily suspicious, worried and afraid to connect. – L