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Marshall Pierce
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Kitty Dunn

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Lamenting the loss of the free-range childhood

Summer was a different when I was a kid. I wasn't shuttled from one organized activity to the next. I wasn't imprisoned in some kind of certified summer program that promised me enrichment in any way. I did take a few classes..the random art program, guitar lesson, or swimming lesson.  But for the most part the kids in my neighborhood were allowed to go where we pleased, just as long as we checked in for meals and came home when the street lights came on. We were allowed to walk to the pool (called the Munici-pool) in Stevens Point, with no adults present. Sometimes there would be a group of 6 or 7 of us, with the oldest kid probably no older than 11 or 12. A couple of times a week we'd wander over to a nearby grade school for what we called "Playground School" run by the local recreation department, where college age kids taught us crafts or organized a game of Duck Duck Goose or Monkey in the Middle. There was no signing up for playground school. No fees, no permission slips, no forms indicating emergency contact numbers.  That' s where I learned to play Nok-Hockey and Caroms. It was a blast! Sometimes my friends and I would just ride our bikes somewhere far away (okay a mile or two) like the "underpass," and we'd eat a lunch we packed on Reserve Street, under Highway 51. I understand that it's a different world these days and that kids can't just roam free. But that makes me sad.

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06/22/2011 9:29AM
Lamenting the loss of the free-range childhood
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06/22/2011 12:05PM
Momma D
My husband lost his job about 2 mths ago, and after reviewing the cost of summer daycare/camp I realized him staying home for the summer was cheaper! I am actually a little excited that my kids will get a real summer vacation, the one that means they ride their bikes till dusk, swim till they are water logged and run after the ice cream truck. I too miss a real summer vacation!
06/22/2011 12:25PM
Donna
Boy, I remember those good old days too. We weren't required to wear bike helmets, wear knee pads and elbow pads, we roller skated and rode our bikes without any of that stuff and I have the scars to prove it. We used to hang out at the playground in Milwaukee which was only two blocks from my house and the playground was four city blocks wide. There was basketball, baseball, tether ball and the playground provided all the equipment. They did teach chess but I was too young for that but played other games. It was a different time back then and I miss those days. I find myself strolling down memory lane all to often. I like your blog and fun to remember being nothing but a kid. DBD
06/22/2011 7:20PM
dragonlady
I remember getting up in the morning and not coming home until mom yelled for us or called all the neighbors to find us. We lived in the country (but not on a farm) so we had the pastures and thickets to explore, play in the creek, ride our bikes for miles, play baseball at the old schoolhouse yard, climb trees, play in the corn fields, lots of fun times as a kid. Sometimes I wish I could go back. I am sad that my daughter does not have that much freedom in today's world. We do not have her over scheduled so she can be a kid for as long as she wants to be.
06/22/2011 9:51PM
hemp
However as a school psychologist I have learned that because of such beliefs and lifestyles in our society children are coming to school with more and more problems and needs. They come to school with emotional behavioral learning and social problems from as young as three years old. The school for many children has become their surrogate parent. Parents have handed over their responsibilities to the schools and experts. Teachers are experts in teaching academics and the schools should be expected to support this. However teachers and the schools are doing more and more of the parenting and becoming the experts in far more things than just academics..I went to a behavior training workshop for educators and the presenter who worked with many districts throughout the state proudly presented the fact that in another school district in a high school that was predominately Hispanic students were allowed to take a nap because they were tired from staying up late the night before watching their siblings. I once received an e-mail celebrating the fact that the school district I worked for served breakfast to over 2 500 students in 28 school days. The sender went on to point out research that demonstrated the positive impact on academics attendance and tardiness that school breakfast provides. Well duh but I missed the explanation about why it was the school s responsibility to feed so many kids breakfast. I began to wonder what is next. Where do we stop? Maybe we should buy kids nicer clothes to improve their self-esteem or so they don t get picked on because kids do get picked on about their clothes. I m sure many of us know this from our childhood. Maybe I should do a research study to prove that this is serious problem. Certainly if they felt better about themselves they would do better in school. Right! A common practice in some schools is to have a check-in person to prepare certain at-risk students for their school day. These are the students who come to school tired hungry missing school utensils angry and don t want to be in school. A staff member gives them a friendly greeting at the door and prepares them for their day. I wonder where was their parent every morning? And when did it become the responsibility of the school to send children to school prepared to learn?.Education has become plagued with behavior and discipline problems because it is considered to be a right and not a privilege. We are born in this country with the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However I thought the right to the pursuit of happiness does not allow us to violate the rights of others and interfere with their pursuit of happiness. This is what has happened in American education. Schools across the country have increasing numbers of students who do not want to behave appropriately and learn. They are wasting the time of teachers and students who behave appropriately and want to learn. Understand this. If you are a parent trying to do the right things in raising your child and your child s education is important to you these troublemakers are stealing irreplaceable critical time of the teacher with your child. These students are lowering the expectations and standards of public education in every possible way. At a meeting I was in discussing a behavior problem fourth grader her regular education teacher said This school isn t the real world because out there they wouldn t put up with this. How true!..
06/23/2011 3:45AM
Steve
I caught frogs at a pond in the middle of nowhere every day each summer. I'd eat packed sandwiches without washing my hands. My parents would yell my name from the front yard to get me to come home. I robbed convenience stores. Just kidding. I recommend PENN AND TELLER'S BULL@$!T television program. They did an episode on the real safety of kids today vs. yesterday. You can stream it on Netflix. Entertaining and smart.
06/23/2011 11:50AM
Tracy
I recently was at a presentation where the speaker asked us, "As kids, how many of you would scamper out of the house just after breakfast, not to be seen again until the street lights came on -- with perhaps the exception of dinner?" Pretty much all of us raised our hands. Then he asked, "How many of you let your 8 year old wander the neighborhood for 10 hours a day, spending most of the time out of your sight?" Of course, we all giggled, and no one raised their hands. As a child of the 70's and 80's who is now a mom of 2 small kids, I struggle with letting my kids do exactly what I used to do. It is a much scarier world -- I think. I wouldn't really know, because I was oblivious to it when I was a kid. Perhaps we should all take a vow to take back our kids' summers?? Teach them how to "roam" responsibly??
06/28/2011 4:56AM
Ann
Hey Kitty - I grew up in Stevens Point also - I lived on Division Street. My friends and I used to ride out bikes to Lake Pacawa (spelling???) - which I think is about 5 miles south of Point. I would never let my daughter do that now! I remember getting stuck at the lake in a thunderstorm. We took shelter in the building at the top of the hill at the lake. When lightening struck near by, one of the girls in our group who was standing on the wet cement floor felt the tingling of electricity go thru her legs. We just waited for the storm to pass and rode our bikes home!
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