What would Pa Ingalls think of the Free Range children controversy? For those of you out of the loop there is a controversy about letting kids learn outside of school (not sure that can be done since school is the only place kids can go where social engineering and boring textbooks are found–haha–I know not all teachers are bad–it’s the system, I say!).
In the old days kids went to school when they could and the parents in the community decided who would teach and what they’d teach. Parents had final say–they weren’t dragged from school board meetings for asking questions. Sometimes, just like today there were parents who beat their kids or neglected them. That’s not what this is about.
In Kentucky a couple had their ten kids taken away from them because they lived in a makeshift tent. One of the big things mentioned by the child services organization was that the family’s goats and chickens got to live in the more substantial shed on the property.
This made me think of pioneers and homesteaders of the 19th century. Basically all of them would have had their children taken from them. Laura Ingalls Wilder had harrowing and fond memories of brushing up against wild Indians, fording rivers, almost starving in the long winter and living in a dirt shack (dugout home). One time a cow strolled across the roof and almost fell through! Laura rode a horse without a helmet and without shoes!
Here’s the thing about animals when you live free range: they are extremely important to your survival. Back in the 1870’s Pa Ingalls couldn’t take Ma to Walmart. Often times people set about building animal shelter first. Not because they hated their kids, but because they realized the connection between live, healthy animals and food.
And what would Pa Ingalls say about tools and dirt? Hand sanitizer and child safety locks didn’t exist. Kids ate dirt. Some learned the hard way not to hit themselves with hammers. Once I went down by a river alone and almost drowned. I came home dirty, but smarter (and happier for the adventure).
We live in a time of zero risk, but this is an illusion. Kids die of cancer and grow fat on video games. But we worry about the dirty free range kids who look healthy, happy and yeah, a little dirty. This is not the same as neglect. The story in Kentucky seems suspect. I worry that the reporters aren’t just looking through the lens of class. What do you think?