In a column on the cops busting the parents for letting their 10 and 6 year olds walk home from the park by themselves, columnist Petula Dvorak has a felicitous sentence: “Our rapid march toward police-state parenting has got to end.” But then she compares the checklists to see if your child is ready for 1st grade from today as compared to 1979.
Today, when you look at the readiness checklists for first grade, you’ll find that we are concerned only with their academic performance, being able to “expand sight words” or “read a graph” or “locate the seven continents and four oceans.” Really.
But take a look at the first-grade readiness checklist from a 1979 book, “Your Six-Year-Old — Loving and Defiant.”
Back then, your child was ready for first grade if he or she had two to five permanent teeth, were at least 6 years and 6 months old and these:
●Can your child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or police where he lives?●Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?
●Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
Yeah. Life skills, social development. Becoming actual people, not just little graph readers. We’ve kind of forgotten about that, haven’t we?
This brings back fond memories of my first day of school. My mother took me for the big event and explained how I was to walk home. In my excited state, I wasn’t paying too much attention to that part. So after school, I started walking but had no idea which way to go. I found myself in a big park. I didn’t consider myself lost. Just bewildered. After awhile, I was glad to see my mother’s car pull up.
The next morning, she pointed me in the right direction–“just walk straight down this street for seven blocks and you’ll come to the school”–and it worked fine. All I had to do was to retrace my steps to get home. So I was walking both ways. I was still 5.
Back then, being able to find your way and walk for 8 blocks by yourself was a requirement for being ready for school! Now letting your child do that is being defined as child neglect. I was not neglected. I was being taught.