In 1979, kids could roam, but not read

Is Your Child Ready for First Grade On Chicago Now, Christine Whitley reprints a 1979 first-grade readiness check list for parents. In addition to age (six years, six months), the child should be able to give his address to crossing guard, color between the lines, tell the left hand from the right, stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds, repeat a short sentence and count eight to 10 pennies correctly. Also:

6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?

8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?

“What a reality check!”, writes Lenore Skenazy on Free Range Kids.

 Can we all pause to remember that the very thing that terrifies so many parents today — a simple walk around the neighborhood — was not something reserved for kids age 10 or 12 or 15 just a generation ago? It was something that first graders did. And presumably those first graders got some practice as kindergarteners!

The academic expectations are much higher today, notes Slate’s XX Factor blog. In academic terms, the 1979 first grader would be on target for preschool today. “In terms of life skills, she’s heading for middle school, riding her two-wheeled bike and finding her own way home.”

Mom walked me to school the day before kindergarten started in 1957, so I’d know the route.  After that, I walked with my sister, a first grader, and all the other baby-boom kids in the neighborhood. We all walked or bicycled without parental supervision.

Parents were told not to teach their children to read because they might do it incorrectly.  So I had to learn from my sister, when she learned in first grade.