I grew up in a small town in the 70's. My experience was very similar. In the spring of my preschool year, it was decided that we were old enough to walk home alone. Th e teacher watched as we crossed the street in front of the school. We then walked down a couple of blocks, cut across the park, and crossed another street to ours. I was four. Three of us walked home together; the oldest was already five. In the fall we started kindergarten. It was about a mile to school. For the first week, my friend's mother walked us most of the way to school (up until a major intersection with an elderly crossing guard). After that, we walked to and from school by yourself until it was too cold. By the spring of second grad, the school allowed us to ride bikes to and from school.. There were no cell phones. If something happened, which it rarely did, it was assumed someone could run and tell the crossing guard or we could make it home.
So much has changed, my son's kindergarten, a couple of years ago, wouldn't let anyone under the age of 18 pick them up and sign them out. Even my daughter who had been away at college for a year and had her own car wasn't allowed to get him and bring him home. Besides the assuming people are bad (and aren't going to help a small child).I think we've become afraid to kids getting hurt. I remember two kids in fifth grade getting hurt bad enough they needed stitches while they were out on their own. No one decided it was too dangerous or worried about what could have happened.; rather the general attitude was "well, at least they knew what to do when it happened." (They both had sent a sibling home to get their parents)
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