Does a mom’s middleschooler have to be a latchkey kid?

A friend, who is a divorced mom, sent me a note that she is relocating from a small town to Cobb County. She was surprised at how different the school hours were for the elementary school, middle school and high school and can’t figure out how she can possibly get her children off to school and still be at work on time.

Here’s what she wrote:

“My elementary school child will have a school schedule from 8:00 to 2:15 and my middle schooler will have a schedule of 9:00 to 4:45pm.  I work from 7:30 to 4:30 M-F. The middle school does not have an after school program and they can’t be dropped off at school before 8:15 a.m.  Maybe some of the other posters would know of clubs or programs that the middle schooler can attend after school. There isn’t a Boys & Girls Club for his school. We will be moving to the Kemp/Lovinggood/Hillgrove school district in Powder Springs.”

“I guess the middle schooler could become a latchkey kid but that is something I ABSOLUTELY don’t want to do.  If I drop them off in the mornings, the middle schooler would have to be a latchkey kid in the afternoon.  Or, he could be a latchkey kid in the mornings and I would be there in the afternoons.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.”

OK folks we need all your fantastic collective knowledge to help this mom figure out what to do. She doesn’t have family near Cobb. (They live in the small town she is moving from due to her job.)

Are there any programs you can recommend in the Powder Springs area for middle schoolers? How have handled wacky drop off/pick up times? If they have to be latchkey kids, are they better being alone in the morning or the afternoon? Can middle schoolers handle being alone? Is it safe?

(I’m wondering if she’s got a new neighbor the middle schooler could just sit with before the bus comes.)

59 comments Add your comment


October 12th, 2009
7:39 am

Sigh….Make friends with your neighbors, odds are one of them is a stay-at-home mom who might not mind watching your kid until you get home.

That’s what neighbors are for.


October 12th, 2009
7:45 am

I’m an elementary school teacher, so I leave my house at 6:45 to get to work by 7:30. I have a middle schooler and a high schooler. They are able to get off to school by themselves. The bus picks them up in front of our house so they don’t have to walk any further than the mailbox. I’m home most days by 3:30 so I can greet the middle schooler. My middleschooler has no problems on the days that I don’t get home before him. He comes in, makes his snack and starts his homework. It’s tough, but you have to cut the apron strings sooner or later.

Most middle schools don’t have after school programs but you can contact local daycare centers to see if they pick up at the school. They usually keep kids until the age of 12.


October 12th, 2009
8:00 am

I live in Cobb County. It would allow the child to be a latchkey kid in the morning. This way, you can be home when they get home. In the winter it is dark earlier and this may be an easy transition.

When my oldest was in middle school, she had to wake up when I was leaving home. It was early but I wanted to make sure that she was up and didn’t oversleep. Also, she had to learn to ride the bus and get there on time. It didn’t bother me much. When I was young, my mother never took us to school or the bus…. we walked in the rain, shine, sleet or snow.

Talk to neighbors and everything should work out…..

Leaving the blog now to go to work……Access to any ajc blog at work is blocked.. I can’t read or comment.


October 12th, 2009
8:14 am

I have no problem allowing a middle school child to be a latchkey kid; what’s the problem?

TnT's Mom

October 12th, 2009
8:22 am

My middle schooler, 6th grader, is a latchkey kid and has been since 4th grade. It was just a necessity. He was generally home for about an hour before his older brother got home. And, there were 3 or 4 stay at home moms nearby that he could go to for help or he needed anything.

I would talk to your new neighbors to see if anyone else is home in the afternoon. Even if they can’t watch him, the might be available if he needs anything.

It will also depend on the maturity of your son. All kids are different and can handle this at different ages.


October 12th, 2009
8:41 am

There is nothing wrong with latchkey in middle school. You lay down rules. Come in, lock the door behind you. NO biggie.

We were latch key kids. My mother was a nurse, and my dad travelled a good bit. There was usually a list of chores we had to complete by the time both parents got home. Empty the dishwasher, pick up our rooms and bathroom, tend to the animals, etc.

Like I said, it taught us responsibility.

It taught us responsibility.

Robin Hair McEuen

October 12th, 2009
8:57 am

Have you considered private school? Mt. Bethel Christian Academy offers normal school hours for all grades KPREP – 8th. Additionally, they have after hours care.

Many families who have not considered private school in the past may want to look into this option due to the recent availability of financial aid made possible by Georgia GOAL. Students transitioning into a private school setting from a public school can qualify for Georgia GOAL based on financial qualifications and school admission standards.

I recommend this option.


October 12th, 2009
9:08 am

Why can’t the children be latch-key kids? What’s wrong with learning independence and responsibility? I see more and more of this “let’s shelter the kids from being independent” stuff. I do not understand. Your job as a parent is to raise a productive adult – get ‘em started now.


October 12th, 2009
9:22 am

If they are only going to be home for an hour or so, let them be latch key..As others said, it will be good for them..This wasn’t something that my Mother ever had to deal with..First off, with 19 kids and all of the friends that come with that, we were never home alone..Second, I don’t ever remember our doors being locked..

If your child is mature enough that you can trust them, then check with neighbors for other Moms that are able to be at home..Like JJ said, make them a list of chores to take care of before they know it, you’ll be home..

@really? Don’t you watch the news? It’s scary out there for young kids, so don’t be to hard on this Mom..


October 12th, 2009
9:52 am

Oh sure let your kids be latchkey kids….after all we need more pimps and strippers in this world and that is what leaving those kids to their own devices will do.

You made the choice to have a child and you have to be responsible for raising them right until they are old enough to move out.


October 12th, 2009
9:56 am

@Robin Hair McEuen the Georgia GOAL program won’t help the average middle class family much. For example, my income is never enough to be able to afford most private school tuition, but I make too much for any kind of assistance. I’m sure it’s the same for many.

Don't worry regular bloggers...

October 12th, 2009
10:05 am

That was not the “real” lakerat posting this morning.


October 12th, 2009
10:07 am

I live in your district and I can say that the neighborhoods are very friendly and open…if you can identify a parent or two to help out, or even just for your middle schooler to call in case of emergency, that would probably be okay and you should have no trouble finding someone. Many of our neighborhoods also have broadcast email systems and once you move you could shoot one out explaining what you need and I’m sure you would get a response.

In families I know with middle schoolers whose parents have to work, mom or dad usually makes sure the child is up by the time they leave, then the child sets a timer on his or her cell phone (or watch, or alarm clock, or whatever) to pay attention to when to leave to catch the bus. You could also call to touch base and make sure everything is okay. Unlike elementary school, it’s not dark when middle schoolers leave for the bus in the morning, and with condensing the bus stops, there are usually several kids there, so safety in numbers. I was surprised at how responsible and mature my children became when beginning middle school and you may be as well. In my opinion, I prefer the choice to be home in the afternoons, since having them come home so late makes getting homework and extracurricular things done before a reasonable bedtime a challenge! Good luck and welcome to West Cobb!


October 12th, 2009
10:10 am

I was scared of the whole latch-key thing….until i remembered my brother and I coming home afterschool and letting ourselves in. We only had a few rules..dont answer the door for ANYONE; dont answer the phone and dont turn on the stove. I just think it depends like another blogger said, on your kids. I feel like my son will be able to go home, call me and stay out of trouble for 2 hours. For the woman from Cobb county…its tough for moms. we have to do what we think is best and we are always second guessing ourselves..I mean we are talking about our precious cargo here! I wish I knew of a program to refer you to. Good luck!


October 12th, 2009
10:11 am

What are you drinking this morning? You were over the top with your comment. Perhaps something else is actually bothering you today. That was so unnecessary!


October 12th, 2009
10:13 am

Don’t worry regular bloggers…
I am not on here enough to know the “real” from the “fake” lakerat. But whomever he/she is that posted this morning is in dire need of some attention obviously!

Diehard ATL Fan

October 12th, 2009
10:14 am

It’s a FAR different world than the one we grew up in. How many times did our parents & grandparents have to deal with home invasions? Burglaries, yes. But people bold enough to come in while you’re at home, NO.

So it scares us parents with young middle schoolers to be at home alone. Yes, it teaches responsibility and it works if nothing happens. But if it fails and you’re child is irreparably harmed, how could you live with yourself if you didn’t seek other alternatives?

TO ANSWER THE BLOG QUESTION: You may not have a choice but to be latchkey but I HIGHLY suggest enlisting neighbor help in keeping an eye on your child. Some childcare nurseries also offer pickup service for afterhours care.


October 12th, 2009
10:23 am

Middle schoolers DO NOT want to go to “day care”. They are too old, and need to learn some responsibility.

Too many parents worry about the “What if’s”….you cannot let fear control your life.

Let the kids stay home, find a neighbor. Talk to the other kids at the bus stop and see who else is alone in the afternoons…….

It’s really NOT that difficult.


October 12th, 2009
10:25 am

Just a thought…the Pil Sung Do martial arts program on 120 just over the Paulding County line has a big sign that advertises an afterschool program. I do not know the ages they accept but you may want to look into it. I think that the reason most day care centers and afterschool programs stop offering the programs at age 11 or 12 is because they feel that kids are old enough at that point to be by themselves for a couple hours. Georgia does not have a hard and fast rule about the age at which a child can stay home alone (at least not as far as I can find); it has to be your judgment and kids vary so much…


October 12th, 2009
10:28 am

I did not like middle school exactly for that reason. I trust my child completely but it was the walk from the bus stop to the house that was 5 minutes away that worried me. Someone just had to know her routine and she could have been another statistic. That being said, She is now in HS and doing fine.

One thing that help was the 45 minute bus ride. Not thatI am a fan of the bus but at least she had an adult that was supposed to be responsible for her safety at that time. I was home about 30 minutes after that.

Good neighbors and a phone call helped too! Good luck!


October 12th, 2009
10:41 am

“Georgia does not have a hard and fast rule about the age at which a child can stay home alone (at least not as far as I can find”

I thought it was age 11, but I could be wrong

Let them grow

October 12th, 2009
10:43 am

Its time to let them grow and muture. Responsibility speaks wonders in the real world where so many want to laze though their day. I suggest a key, and then rules. My kids called me the minute they walked in the door. That was a must, then they got their snack and did homework. They were allowed only on the back deck until I got home. Believe me when I say that neighbors do keep eyes on your kids. Mine did just fine. Trust and teach and that they do right and most times they will.


October 12th, 2009
10:45 am

You might also check with churches in your area. Some of them run an afterschool program one day a week. That, combined with a sports program or the public library might be options (I know, I know, the library is NOT a babysitting service! But a responsible 6th grader ought to be able to curl up in a chair and read for an hour a day. We are not talking about a 7 year old unsurpervised.) Or perhaps there is a volunteer position? Sounds far-fetched, but our local wildlife sanctuary takes student volunteers to feed the animals.

BTW, why does Cobb have such an odd schedule for its students? It it so they can keep them separate on the buses? Our county puts everyone on the same bus K-12 and alternative school kids too.

ms obvious

October 12th, 2009
10:46 am

I was a “latchkey” kid at that age, and I turned out fine. My parents would threaten me that the neighbors were always spying on us, and later that they had hidden security cameras watching me. I knew that they were lying about the cameras, but I didn’t want to take any risks with neighbors. It kept me in check from doing anything stupid, and I managed to graduate with honors. I was also involved with a lot of school sports and extra curricular stuff. Get your kid into band, chorus, or some sort of spot, and they won’t be home that much to worry about.


October 12th, 2009
10:50 am

Its funny, this blog was supposed to help the Cobb mother, but your comments are actually helping me! The dreaded middle school years start for me in only 2 short years. I am a ball of nerves but I think my son will be alright. The bus stops right in our sub-division..he would only have a 90 second walk. And i think i will provide him with a MetroPCS phone so he can talk to me during the walk. Thats what I used to do when walking home in the dark back in NYC..get a family member on the phone to talk me through the door. Thanks for the comments…keep ‘em coming! I just may be able to sleep tonight and for the next two years. I think I am more scared of g…g…girls!!!!


October 12th, 2009
10:55 am

in this day and age where jobs are hard to come by and so many household need a 2nd income there is nothing wrong w/letting a child in a house before the parents come home. ASP is not all that affordable if you need it 5 dys a week


October 12th, 2009
10:57 am

LOL, soulfinger…you hit the nail on the head! That’s my biggest fear also!

Walking to the bus with a friend is also a good idea.

Here’s a reference about age to stay home alone:


October 12th, 2009
11:03 am

So you people who are worried about your kid getting snatched, do you see alot of preditors in your neighborhood? Or suspicious looking men? The same car driving up and down your street all day long. I mean come on.

Soulfinger, really worried about a 90 SECOND walk from the bus stop? Do you really need your son to call you?

You people are paranoid. Cut the apron strings, and allow your child the chance to prove you wrong. Let them grow up.


October 12th, 2009
11:04 am

My friend has a 7 year old, who gets himself to the bus stop every morning. His parents have to leave by 7:00, but they set a timer, and he has to get to the bus stop ALONE. He’s 7, and in second grade.

Guess what, there are other kids at the bus stop too, and a few parents.

Diehard ATL Fan

October 12th, 2009
11:04 am

For all the parents who brush off the dangers and think any mature 6th-8th grader is ok, check out,2096,67862954_87983024,00.html to see your child’s enemies.

This is not a game and it’s not 1979. It’s 2009. We have new terms like “Amber alert” and “sex offender registries” that we’re trying to bring these “maturing” kids up in. It’s not about living in fear. It’s accepting reality and adjusting to it.

MOM: Do your homework girl. Take the good off this blog and ignore the posts that don’t help. What works for X doesn’t always work for Y. It’s your child’s welfare that’s at stake. I’m sure you’ll make a good choice in the end. The fact that you asked shows how much you care.


October 12th, 2009
11:10 am

A neighbor of mine from years ago was super-protective of her kids when they were in elementary and middle school. Quit her job and stayed home for them the entire time they were in grades K-8. Very strict about everything, lots of lectures about “you can’t be too careful,” etc. Once in awhile she had to go somewhere and I agreed to watch them, and she’d give me a whole list of things to worry about.

Then they started high school, and she went back to work, figuring they were old enough to use good common sense and not be watched around the clock. And of course that’s when they started running wild. It taught me a lot about that aspect of parenting when it got to be my turn.


October 12th, 2009
11:21 am

Maybe you could try checking Cobb County Parks and Rec schedule to see if there is anything available after school if you choose that option. You have Boots Ward gym and the Lost Mountain Tennis Center near you, as well as the West Cobb Aquatic Center. You can pick up a directory of programs at any of the park facilities or just do an internet search for Cobb County Parks and Recreation.

Good point, Magenta. I had thought about going back to a full time job once mine got into high school but a large number of people advised against it so I put that on the shelf for now. I do recognize that a lot of people don’t have a choice these days, though, and it does leave you in a bind.


October 12th, 2009
11:41 am

I would think morning would be better for being latchkey than afternoon. In the afternoon, they could be tempted to go off with a friend straight from school figuring they would be back home in time. In the morning, they are more likely to be dragging around getting ready and not really think about getting into trouble.

I think the idea of making friends of other parents in the neighborhood to serve as a backup to make sure your child actually gets on the bus.


October 12th, 2009
11:42 am

My daughter came home by herself in seventh and eighth grades. The families in our subdivisions were aware of our situation, and they watched her get into the house for me until I got home. Usually not quite an hour before I’d arrive home. My biggest worry was her getting on the bus by herself. I was worried that she’d let some of friends come into the house or she’d miss the bus. She missed the bus only two times in those two years. I left work and took her to school on one occasion. A mom in the neighborhood took her the other time. I was so afraid letting her be alone mornings and evenings, but there just wasn’t any way around it. I would consistently pray for God to watch over her, and He did. It also helped that she had a cell phone on 24/7. Her bus would come late some days. She’d call me. I’d call the transportation department and call her right back with a status update. So, sometimes we have to take measures that we don’t really like, but they are necessary. Good luck to you. I feel your pain! Oh, now she’s a freshman and rides to school with her dad because her dad works at the school.

Jesse's Girl

October 12th, 2009
11:46 am

I think all too often…middle schoolers are seen as incapable of being self-sufficient. A latchkey kid at 10 is not the same as one at 12 or 13. When will our kids learn to trust their own instincts? My oldest will be 13 in January and she stays alone a lot. She is also the babysitter when we have date nights. She is learning to be self-relient. Too many kids these days are coddled and made to feel the world is out to get them. True…this isn’t the same world we grew up in…but our kids still have to live and THRIVE in it. Teach them while they are at home how to rely on themsleves…trusting their own intutition and perhaps when they venture out on their own…they will make you exceedingly proud with their abilities to make good, solid and moral choices.


October 12th, 2009
12:06 pm

This is a pricey solution but this is what a friend of mine does. When her step-daughter is with them (1/2 the week every week), they pay someone to come to the house in the morning to make sure she’s getting on the bus with no problems and in the afternoon when she gets off the bus. I don’t think my friend and her husband think she’s mature enough to be at home alone. Or maybe it’s the length of time she’d be home alone that is the problem. When she is with her mother, her mom takes her to school and she goes home after school with a buddy. It works for them, but like I said, it will add a line to your monthly budget.


October 12th, 2009
12:23 pm

Hmmm…in the ’70’s we had Atlanta’s missing and murdered children. I don’t know about you, but we were really scared! Is crime worse, yes, but we’ve always had crime.


October 12th, 2009
12:33 pm

The parents who really think the Boogy man is going to snatch their kid as a latchkey kid are not looking at crime statistics over the last 30 years – they are in fact slightly down. It’s called living life, having trust, raising your kid to be independent and not being a helicopter parent. Be careful of what you are raising as a parent… there are consequences for the future being over-protective.

World is not a safe place anymore.....

October 12th, 2009
1:14 pm

I strogly agree with lakerat
We need to be responsible parents.
Read news.
Time has changed, it was ok when we stayed home alone, played in the woods or out on the street by ourselves, you could leave home without
locking the house, not anymore………


October 12th, 2009
1:19 pm

maybe something to help the mom with confidence.

unless your middle school kid is just uber immature, latchkey shouldn’t even be a concern.


October 12th, 2009
1:30 pm

good gravy people, it’s not that it’s a more dangerous time, it’s that you’re more AWARE of how dangerous it is. kids have been snatched off of the streets, homes broken into, for as long as man has been around. it’s only because now we get news coverage of all of the abductions going on everywhere that you feel less safe. the only way kids are going to grow up knowing how to face these dangers is if you teach them well and then let them live.


October 12th, 2009
1:32 pm

This may never be a concern for me since I work from home, but I think the most important factor is to HONESTLY evaluate your child’s maturity and behavior. My husband is great now, but he was a BAD latchkey kid! He was/is very intelligent and actually pretty mature (he cooked all of his own food by that point, did laundry, etc. and acted very maturely in most situations), BUT he took the missing parent time to really act out, try drugs, and get into all sorts of trouble. Make sure your kid doesn’t have “issues”from your divorce or something else going on. I’m not excusing the behavior, but some things do lead to bad behavior, so it’s good to see them coming.


October 12th, 2009
1:49 pm

The mother’s fears are very VALID. I have had two go through middle school- and I’d have to say- that’s when the TROUBLE starts with a lot of them. Give these kids an extra hour or two and they can always find trouble. Also, at my son’s middle school, a girl was walking home from school -she lived just down the street- and a guy tried to abduct her. She fought him off and was able to run away and get help. Sorry, I’m not trying to scare anyone here, but things can and do happen to any age child. The mom has a right to be worried. I really like the idea of getting to know the neighbors…it’s possible someone nearby has a kid at that school and could drive the child to or from school, or at least have someone available that you can trust who can keep an eye out on the child at the bus stop and in the morning or afternoon. Middle school is a very delicate age. They are too big for daycare and babysitters, but they certainly don’t have the judgement of adults yet. This age STILL needs a LOT of supervision. Leaving them with a list of rules and chores to do after school as some have mentioned is a very good idea- just make sure they do it. Getting them involved in after school curriculars and sports is a GREAT idea…that will keep them busy for a couple of hours after school.


October 12th, 2009
1:54 pm

What about the local YMCA? They have fantastic programs for middle schoolers. I am not familiar with the one in Cobb, but the YMCA in Peachtree Corners helps out a lot of families in this situation.

Mom of 4 boys

October 12th, 2009
2:01 pm

In some school districts the middle schoolers can ride a bus to the elementary school for the YMCA program there. But, I see no problem with having a middle school kid come home by themselves. Make some rules and stick by them. Do not answer the door, no friends over, do not answer the phone. And stick to them. I work ing a day care center and we do not usually pick up at the middle schools; because we have a 12 year old cut-off.


October 12th, 2009
2:10 pm

Once you move into your neighborhood..ask around. A couple years ago I was approached by new neighbors (I stay at home) as they were concerned about their middle schooler coming home to an empty house. We easily settled on..”if you need anything, have a problem.. call/go see Mrs. XYZ”. Never did I hear from the child, I did try to see him walk by after school. I didnt do it for money.. it is the right thing to do. I think you will easily find neighbors who would feel the same.


October 12th, 2009
2:20 pm

I also moved to Cobb a few years ago knowing no one other than my fiance (now husband) so I empathize with what you’re going through and feeling. At the time, my children were in 4th, 6th and 8th grades. The elementary school had a great ASP and youngest was okay staying there in the 4th grade, however, was “too old” to stay there in the 5th and wanted to come home after school. Fortunately, I made friends with my neighbors and found two stay at home moms and and another neighbor who works from home, all of whom gladly said they would pitch in to check on things for me. Just this morning, one of them called while I was on my way to work to tell me she was going to my house to pick up my two middle schoolers to take them to school so they wouldn’t get drenched going to and at the bus stop. The bus comes an hour after my husband and I have to leave for work. I am able to drop off my high schooler when the weather is bad because the administration realizes the situation for most parents. The neighbor who called this morning only has children in elementary school so it was not a case of her already planning to drive to the school. She went out of her way when she easily could have been sitting in her dry, warm kitchen enjoying her cup of coffee and quiet time since her children were already at school. Divorced Mom, please know there are still good, trustworthy people willing to help out when they’re made aware help is needed. Those of us who are on the independent side just have to be willing to (at least in my case) swallow our pride of thinking we can do everything and simply ask then actually accept the help. I’m certain one day those neighbors are going to need your help and it will become a two-way street. :-)


October 12th, 2009
2:59 pm

Someone may have already suggested this, but what about the Boys and Girls Club. In many communities they have very strong programs to address just this sort of situation with kids too old for day care but perhaps not quite ready to be on their own.

Good Luck!


October 12th, 2009
4:22 pm

I have the same issue with my 6th grader. the bus gets her home about 30 minutes before I arrive. It’s not the being in the house alone before I get there that worries me, like the poster before…it’s the 5 minute walk through the subdivision that worries me. She calls me as soon as she steps off of the bus and again after she is in the house and the alarm is reset. As the previous poster stated, all it takes is one person to notice her routine. Unfortunately our house is downhill in a cul de sac and no other middle schooler lives on our street. She parts ways with walking children at the top of the hill. Waiting for that 2nd call is torturous. I really wish after school care was available for middle school. From all accounts, this seems to be the age group that gets into the most trouble. Anyone remember those bored Rockdale County middle schoolers that made National news a few years back?


October 12th, 2009
4:27 pm

I think the problem with any afterschool activities for middle school will be transportation. If you can’t leave work to be home, obviously you can’t leave work to take your child somewhere. I can’t think of anything (library, community center) within walking distance of Lovinggood. There don’t seem to be any formal programs that transport directly from the schools and I have yet to see a daycare van pull up in front of Lovinggood MS, let alone a child willing to get on one!

As the original post says, we don’t have a B&G club and the Y is not close, nor does it seem to have a formal afterschool program in Cobb. I still agree with many posters here in that your best bet will be your neighbors and that if you have a responsible child, you would be better off having him/her on his/her own in the AM rather than the PM. As someone alluded to earlier, you may be able to trade off with another parent who can’t be home in the afternoon. Check with the welcoming committee for your new neighborhood if it has one (or their website; most have them these days), and post what you need if you find it hard to meet your neighbors. Also, I assume you will meet your child’s friends’ parents and they will be good resources as well.

However, with the holidays coming up, you may want to plan ahead for days off (and early dismissals). I believe that the West Cobb branch of the YMCA has programs available for that and I’m sure other places do, too. Good luck!