This article from The Star, in Toronto, is a great read. It's titled Why free-range kids are on the rise:
Elizabeth Sloss and Kari Svenneby live at opposite ends of Toronto. They are mothers at different stages of childrearing. One has sons, the other a daughter.
What they have in common is attitude. Call them the anti-helicopter parents. They're less about hovering, more about laissez-faire. In their opinion, boredom is not bad for children. And they steadfastly refuse to join the legions of mothers and fathers chauffeuring kids from piano lessons to soccer to tutoring centres aimed at earning them a spot on the honour role.
As Sloss describes it, she is "among the avant-garde of benign neglect." Her sons, 19 and 14, walked to school without grownups from a young age, always played freely outside, and – horrors! – even on the road. But then again, isn't that why they call it road hockey?
Svenneby isn't averse to organized activity, "but it's a question of balance." Her four-year-old daughter plays outside everyday, rain or snow. She climbs trees and makes dandelion crowns.
Until recently, these two mothers might have been lonely voices in the playground, but their calls for slower, freer childhoods are catching on.
Links to books and articles referenced:
- Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone by Lenore Skenazy
- Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy
- Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive by Michael Ungar
- Scientific American's article The Serious Need for Play: Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed--By Melinda Wenner
From the article, I liked this part: How do these seemingly pointless activities benefit kids? Perhaps most crucially, play appears to help us develop strong social skills. “You don’t become socially competent via teachers telling you how to behave,” Pellegrini says. “You learn those skills by interacting with your peers, learning what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable.” Children learn to be fair and take turns—they cannot always demand to be the fairy queen, or soon they have no playmates. “They want this thing to keep going, so they’re willing to go the extra mile” to accommodate others’ desires, he explains. Because kids enjoy the activity, they do not give up as easily in the face of frustration as they might on, say, a math problem—which helps them develop persistence and negotiating abilities.
- The Hurried Child by David Elkind
- And then there is the website for The Active Kids Club, founded by Kari Svenneby
Seems to me that unschoolers have been doing this for a long time now!