On Latchkey Kids

To latchkey, or not to latchkey?
When I was a kid, my mom was basically a stay-at-home mom. I know that around the time I was in the 4th grade she got a part-time job at a yarn store in town and during that time I suppose I was considered a latchkey kid, despite the fact that she’d get home about 30 minutes after I did.

CootieGirl will be in 4th grade next year, while CootieBoy will be in third. Our state (South Carolina in case you are new to Cootiehog) doesn’t have a law regarding latchkey kids, but recommends kids be at least 8 years old before they are left in the house for long periods of time (read: two hours of more).

Very recently, Denis and I have been discussing our plan for the kids in a post-afterschool-care world. After fifth grade, CG will no longer be eligible for afterschool or summer programming. However, I told Denis that if we continue the work of training the kids regarding every scenario they could possibly come across (intruder in the house, fire in the house, angry wasp in the house, strangers on the phone, strangers at the door, friends asking for a playdate, stacks of homework to be done, the desire for hot corn on the cob for a snack (hey, it could happen), sibling choking on something, pet getting out of the house accidentally, etc.) that the potential is there to take CG out of afterschool care once she finishes fourth grade. And at that point, theoretically CB would also know all the various situation resolutions and could also stay at home once he’s done with third grade. (Note: in that scenario we’d keep them in summer care next summer and have them start 4th and 5th grade with no afterschool programming).

We had already told CG that if she can show us how responsible she is over the next year that we’d consider it, but in many ways CB is a bit more levelheaded than CG, so having them both home may diffuse any wild hair she gets.

There’s no telling what we’ll end up doing – it all depends on the kids, in many ways. If they can’t show us that they can be responsible, then it’s not happening. Alternatively, if by some miracle we reach a point where I don’t need to work full-time anymore, then the point is moot as I would get a part-time job working only during school hours and not during the summer (school secretary, anyone?).

For us, it’s a lot to think about and we’ll continue debating whether taking out the kids from an afterschool program is truly viable or only a pipedream. But we’ll also continue to drill the kids with security pop quizzes and random scenarios until we’re confident they could handle being at home. And who knows, maybe we’ll even do a couple practice runs in the next 6-8 months.

The one thing I DO look forward to in all this? The financial savings for our family. Seriously, y’all. Once the kids are out of the afterschool/summer care programs we are going to feel like Richie Rich up in here. How much so? Well, let’s just put it this way. Instead of taking over a year to save up for a week-long family vacation to Disney, we’d have all the money we need in three months.

Were you a latchkey kid? Are your kids latchkey kids? Do you think the ability to leave kids at home should be based solely on age, or should maturity levels be taken into consideration?

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  1. I don’t remember Mom working retail until we were in Oak Harbor the second time. She worked at interior design part time when we were in Sterling, but was always home when we got home from school. I think she started working when I was in 7th grade, which would have been 5th grade for you – at the Christian bookstore.

  2. I believe the age in our area is 12 for children being home alone. We started letting our boys stay home the summer our oldest was 12, and his brother was 10. They were okay, but not happy with being there all day alone. They were extremely bored. Perhaps you can find some enrichment activities that are a couple of days a week, rather than full time. If you can figure out a way to deal with that, and the inevitable phone calls to you at work, you’ll be in good shape. All kids are different, of course, and we’re talking 20 years ago so technology wasn’t what it is now. After school was fine, just a couple of hours until one of us was home, and the worst issue would be Dad getting home first and fussing about dishes in the den, etc. 🙂
    Good luck, this is one of the most difficult issues to solve for working parents. Been there.

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