In April 2008, Lenore Skenazy wrote an article for The New York Sun entitled Why I Let My 9-Year Old Ride the Subway Alone. There was a lot of feedback from this article. Parents were outraged that she allowed her child alone on a subway. Parents were thrilled to see another parent allowing her child freedom. She was immediately called by television studios for interviews. Later she began her blog Free Range Kids and wrote a book entitled the same, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. There was a lot of publicity in the radical unschooling world prior to the book’s release. I have to admit I felt some excitement about it and considered pre-ordering it. The price at the time held me back. My ideals of simplicity gave me enough common sense to know that I should probably check the book out and read it before spending hard-earned cash for my personal library.
It took our public library a while to get the book in. In fact, I just recently was able to request it and read it. I sat down to read the book and was immediately drawn by the fact that it started out very conversationally – promising to be a quick read, something every time pressed parent of many young children appreciates. I found myself thinking that many parents would enjoy that aspect, however, I found that I did not. I would have enjoyed a book which read like a novel, with great insight and some research. Instead, the book is written in the manner that (admittedly, I presume here) Skenazy speaks. I have to say that it really grated on me and I contemplated not finishing the book many times. I have an affinity for complete sentences.
During the 200+ pages of the book, the author attempts to make her point against helicopter parenting by giving example after example of over the top control. One can only read so much of this before thinking that enough is enough. She states several times that parents also need to lighten up on each other and not judge, but she doesn’t give other parents that same respect she asks for, continually joking about other parents and being quite harsh at times. While some may find her style humorous, I don’t enjoy spending my time reading about one parent degrading others, whichever side I happen to agree with. It grows old quickly, and I found myself freqeuntly checking to see how much I had left to read. She stated that we shouldn’t pay attention to so called parenting experts, and then would repeat other parenting experts to support her side.
The crux of the matter is that in order to allow our children more freedom, we need to know our kids and trust them. A healthy dose of common sense goes a long way and will help your entire family to enjoy life more. With those two sentences, I’ve just saved you some valuable time reading the book and preserving your sanity while preventing eye strain from rolling your eyes and dental bills from grinding your teeth.
If you are really interested in what true dangers are out there and how to put your mind at ease, instead I recommend picking up a copy of Gavin de Becker’s Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe. It’s definitely worth the time to read and occassionally review.
I wrote a post about letting your child roam free a while ago, but I don’t quite see how you could write an entire book on the subject.
I just started reading Free-Range Kids and did find it a little snarky for my taste. I do still think it’s valuable, but thank you for recommending Protecting the Gift. I haven’t read that one yet.
Protecting the Gift talks about what the real risks are to both children and parents and emphasizes trusting your instincts.
Much appreciated. I don’t read a lot of parenting books, but with all the hype, I have been wanting to read that one. I like to get other’s opinions so I have a better idea of whether to spend my time on it. By the sound of her style, I don’t think I could get through it either. Thanks!
I was a fan of FRK – the site and the book. And the “gist” as you put it, well, I’m 100% behind it. Since I took my kids out of school, it’s taken me a while to get my ovaries up and let my kids out as much as they want and I’m comfortable with (here’s another hint – the more your kids get to have freedom and responsibility, the more of both they CAN handle! It’s amazing!). So I for one appreciate FRK because before I found the site and the “movement” I was parenting out of fear and paranoia more than I’d realized.
Skenazy is a comedy writer first and foremost – she writes for Cracked I believe, and does satire. So she has that tone. Ultimately, I am ready to move on for a few reasons, including the snarky tone. I got what I needed from FRK – the support to let my kids out and about! – and I’m ready to move on to additional venues with uplifting, intelligent, compassionate discussion.
There was an anecdote in the FRK books I just loved, about a young man who’d gone from living in an orphanage to forced slavery to escaping to leaving for America… all before he was 16. It was a wonderful anecdote that really stuck with me. I’m glad I read the book.