Late one summer, as the school year approached, my husband and I discussed after-school care for our son, who was beginning the fifth grade. His elementary school was within walking distance, and he had asked to stay home on his own after school until we got home from work.

I wasn't convinced we were ready for this step. Would I be at work worrying about him all afternoon? Would he watch too much television? Yet his words about being "responsible enough" stood out. The idea came to me that if

August 23, 1999

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