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Fostering Independence - Outside of Academics

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I'm posting this here even though it's not directly related to academics - I do think this issue stems from my kids being with me all day every day.


My oldest will be 10 in the fall.  Very long story short - he seems to be craving some separation from me and his siblings, and I think we're also needing to cut way back on screen time.  The easy answer would be to sign him up for some classes or camps, but money is fairly tight.  We are doing a drop-off art class once a week, but his brother does go with him to that.  I'd love it if I had some creative projects or activities for him to do on his own, preferably outside.


We do have a large backyard, and our street is quiet so he can ride his bike around the block on his own.  There are other kids in the neighborhood but they don't spend a whole lot of time just hanging outside, so he doesn't have a group of kids to join.  I'd love it if we lived closer to a store that he could walk to, but the nearest is about a half mile walk.  I'm not sure if I'm comfortable letting him do that on his own yet.  We do live in a very safe town, but he would have to cross a busy street.


I do let him run into stores or into the post office in certain situations, but I don't get to do that as often as I'd like because I either don't have cash and need to use my debit card, or I need more than just one or two things.


So, like I said.. I'm looking for ways to encourage independence and give him some room to be on his own.  But if I just send him outside to play, he's going to get bored quickly.  That's why I was thinking a project or activity might be good.


Any thoughts?



post #2 of 4

I have a 10-year-old (named Fiona, coincidentally enough!) who has a bunch of older siblings and a ton of confidence, and we live in a safe rural village where the prevailing attitude to children engenders a lot more independence than is the norm, but for what it's worth here are some things she has been doing for the past couple of years:


Staying home alone. Initially for very brief stints, working up gradually to a half-day. 

Laying and lighting the wood stove. 

Mother's helper type babysitting -- mostly for free, but occasionally someone pays her.

Using my debit card (at first with me present, then without me there), and now she has her own.

Cooking meals for the family. Soup, home-baked biscuits, a tossed salad. Tuna melts on toasted bagels, plus veggie plate. That sort of thing.

Biking to the beach ... initially shadowed by me, now entirely on her own. 

Mowing the lawn (which is paid work around here).

A part-time job doing some housekeeping. This is in an apartment that's across the parking lot from where dh works. She works there on her own, but he is nearby if she needs help.

Walking the dog -- along the highway or the trail.

Local festivals / markets / faires ... I'll let her have the run of the place without me for 2-3 hours, arrange a meeting time.

Grocery shopping (not the whole huge weekly deal, but a 5-10-item list of extra stuff). I'll drop her off, run another errand and come back for her in ten minutes. 

Similarly, I'll often drop her off at a familiar local cafe and let her order and pay for a hot drink on her own, run some errands and then meet her there to pick her up or join her for lunch.


This week she's volunteering at a community music program for young children. She's doing some musical stuff for them (she plays violin) but also she's just there as an extra pair of hands through the morning, helping with snacks, holding kids' hands when they go on bird-song hikes and such. She loves the whole business of being "dropped off for work" like her older siblings. 


I realize a lot of this is peculiar to our community and its culture, but perhaps it will give you an idea or two?



post #3 of 4
Is there a library nearby that he could walk/bike to or that you could drop him off at for a couple of hours? Is he interested in being a mother's helper?
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Wow, great ideas, guys!  I can definitely implement some of these ideas.  Others, like the library, would be good but I'd want him to have his own phone,which he doesn't at the moment.  I'm going to have to look into cheap, bare bones phones.. he's dying for one that he can play games on, but we do NOT need another screen right now.


Sometimes I'll ask him (and his 7 year old brother) to get breakfast for all the kids if I'm running late or something, but I always feel bad about it.. so when he says he wants to make lunch, I usually tell him no because I don't want to give him too many chores (I feel like I already rely on him too much) - but maybe he'd actually like the opportunity.  I'll have to talk to him about it.



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