Real life talk. I have a LOT of "mommy guilt" over the school bus. My hope was to always be able to take my kids to school and pick them up. But then reality hit and school gets out smack dab in the middle of afternoon nap time. And we live in an area where a TON of kids get picked up so the car pool line is crazy.
Zach and I talked a lot about it and prayed on it and decided to have our first school-goer (Kye) ride the bus home in the afternoons. We take the kids every morning but they ride it home after school. We now have two kids in elementary school along with a preschooler and infant at home. When we added the new baby to the bunch I quickly realized it wasn't possible to take the older kids to school in the mornings when my husband has to be at work earlier or is traveling for business. We have to leave the house at the same time that the baby has to eat! So now, not only do they ride every afternoon but they also have to ride in the mornings on occasion from time to time.
I love driving my kids to school. I love the quality time to talk. I love the time to pray together. I love beginning our day in a positive way! But I also know that I'm in a season where that isn't always possible, and that's okay. In my struggling to find my inner peace about the bus I have been pondering over reasons why the bus is a GOOD decision for our kids.
Here are some of the benefits I've come up with in favor of riding the school bus:
Ability to Keep Schedules in Tact
Obviously the reason my kids ride the bus at all is because it's important to keep the younger children on their schedules and set routines. Not only that, but with kids at multiple schools I also think it's unfair for the younger ones to have to spend all their awake time in the car going from school to school and from drop off line to pick up line. The bus allows for younger children to enjoy that quality time at home with Mommy the way the older kids were able to have when they were young.
Keeping the younger kids on their set schedules doesn't just benefit the younger kids, it also benefits the older ones. When they get off the bus in the afternoons the younger kids are still sleeping and that gives them uninterrupted time with Mommy to share their days and catch up!
I have lots of thoughts about putting the baby's schedule as a top priority...you can read my post here!
The bus most likely picks up your child and drops them off very close to your home. Our bus stop is literally across the street from our house. I don't even have to walk to the stop, I just go on our front porch to meet our kids as they run through our yard to greet me each afternoon. No loading kids up, no rush-rush-rush, no whining or complaining, no having to get myself ready. It's 10,000 times easier on me for my kids to ride the bus than it is to take them or pick them up.
How does this benefit my kids? It's also easier for them. Just like I don't have to hear their siblings whine and complain about having to be loaded up in the car, they don't either. Just like I don't have to deal with who gets to pick the song this time, they don't either. And let's keep it real: when Mama is happy everyone is happy and saving me time and energy? Makes me happier :)
I am all about teaching my kids independence and responsibly and both are valuable lessons that can be taught by riding the bus. The kids have to know their bus number and pay attention to which bus they are loading. They have to make sure they get off at our home and their correct stop. On the mornings they ride they have to make sure they are out the door in time. They like that feeling of ownership and when my daughter started kindergarten this last year the bus was the thing she was MOST looking forward to. It was a right of passage into "big kid status."
Opportunity to be an Example
Yes, I know. Bad stuff can happen on the bus. It does happen. It will happen. While I am a firm believer in keeping my kids in a bubble for as long as I can, I also know they are called to be IN the world and not OF it and riding the bus is an opportunity for them to set a Godly example for others. They are able to be leaders in positive behavior and help others to make those good choices too.
They often come home sharing with me about how they reminded other kids on the bus to sit down or obey the rules of the bus driver. They are able to witness poor choices and understand for themselves the importance and value in choosing to follow rules and instructions. These opportunities reinforce the lessons we are teaching them in our home.
How do we learn how to handle conflict unless we are confronted with it? The bus has not been smooth sailing for our family. We have only had two instances at school at all and both have happened on the bus. And both situations allowed our children to stand up for themselves and each other and to show grace, compassion and forgiveness for the other children involved.
When our daughter had an issue with a little boy on the bus last year our son stood up for his sister. He let her know she never had to worry about someone messing with her and that he'd always protect her. This moment was a big one in their relationship and bond and she knows her brother always has her back.
You can read the post I wrote about how my son handled a physical situation on the bus here.
We no longer live in the type of world where our kids run outside to play with their neighborhood friends. We don't go about our days and then yell out the front door when it's time to come in for dinner. Our society is much different from when we were growing up as kids and the bus provides a little bit of our childhood experience for our children.
Since the bus is where other neighborhood kids who go to the same school all gather it's a great opportunity for our children to get to know the other kids in the neighborhood. Those moments at the bus stop have provided me the opportunity to get to know my neighbors. It's a chance to create bonds and have back a piece of that sense of community that we're so lacking in our culture today.
I am pretty much as hardcore as they come when it comes to car seat safety. My 4 year old is still rear facing. My 9 year old is still in a high back booster. My 6 year old is still in a 5 point harness. I'm hardcore. And when it came to riding the bus I was nervous. There aren't even seatbelts on the bus, let alone car seats!
I did some research and and found this awesome article from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding school bus safety.
Did you know that the school bus is actually THE safest vehicle on the road? Our kids are safer on the bus than they are in our cars. It's physically safer for them to ride the bus to and from school rather than us take them! In fact kids are 70 TIMES more likely to get to school safely on a bus rather than in a car.
Have a child over the age of two? Here are some things to keep in mind regarding keeping them safe in the car!
You can also read additional car seat safety tips here!
Freedom and FUN!
Yes, freedom is a benefit to riding the bus. Our kids are growing up in an extremely structured time during school. With all the state testing and cutting back of the "fluff stuff" throughout their days there really is less and less FUN when it comes to school. My kids only get 20 minutes of lunch and about that same amount of time for recess. When are they supposed to make friends? Laugh? Tell jokes? Play? Be KIDS?
Riding the bus is a chance for making connections and letting loose a little. Of course there are bus rules and safety regulations and it's not some free-for-all but it's an unstructured time which is so rare in their overly-structured days.
My kids are also second load riders which means they stay at school for a longer time period to wait until the buses drop off a first load of students and then come back to pick up the second load and take them home. Not only do my kids enjoy riding the bus, but they LOVE the time for second load. This is when they are typically able to play on the computers or visit with friends and they enjoy this time and it's really a great transition for them to have after their long school day.
It can be hard on our mama hearts when we feel conflicted regarding parenting choices. Is my ideal situation for my kids to ride the bus? No. Ideally I hope to be at the point someday where I'm able to take them and pick them up each day. But sometimes we all have to make sacrifices and compromises to be able to benefit the good of the entire family unit.
And riding the bus? Well it's one compromise that also has many benefits.
Most of all though? My kids LOVE it. Even when we've had a few issues with a few of the kids on their bus, they still ask to ride it and WANT to be on it!
Do your kids ride the bus? What are some reasons why they do or don't?
Today is Babywise Friendly Blog Network Tips and Tricks Pinterest Day! We're all posting on the topic of Back to School. Be sure to visit each of these posts today and be sure to follow me, here, on Pinterest for more helpful parenting posts :) :
Mama's Organized Chaos: 7 Practical Benefits of Preschool for the Stay at Home Mom
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: How To Maintain a Sleep Schedule Amid School Disruptions
Christine Keys: 5 Thought Provoking Reasons To Boycott Preschool
Team Cartwright: 3 Little After School Questions That Have a Big Impact
Twin Mom and More: 5 Reasons to Choose a Play Based Preschool
Emily is the mother of 4 who is obsessed with bargain hunting and all things Disney! She blogs over at: www.journeyofparenthood.com