Like many American parents, when our boys were old enough for Kindergarten we excitedly waited with them at our neighborhood’s bus stop for the big, yellow school bus. We took plenty of pictures of them climbing into the bus, and pictures of them getting off the bus, and ones of smiling faces waiting at the corner bus stop. The big yellow school bus is such an ingrained image in the fabric of American culture, that it was very hard for me to imagine any other way to send my kids to school.
By the time our oldest was in 6th grade, excitement was no longer associated with that bus stop. The excitement was replaced by anxiety, and the photo-taking was replaced by questions like – why do I have to go there?
Clearly it was not the bus that was a problem… it was the school at the end of the bus ride.
When we discovered Sudbury Valley School and decided to enroll our kids, we knew that this was not only the end of public school for our boys, but also the end of the big yellow school bus rides.
We live about 45 minutes away from SVS. That is how long it takes to drive the distance on a good day with no traffic. At times it takes us 90 minutes each way. Yes, we have discussed the option of moving. We have tried carpooling. Neither has worked so far.
There are many complaints I can write about this daily commute. Dangerous and irresponsible behaviors by fellow commuters on the highway, snow, rain and/or ice, solar glare, the cost of gas, wear and tear on the car and the dreaded back ache. Yes, the list goes on. However, I was prepared for all these; I knew what I was getting into when we decided to send our kids to a school located 36 miles away.
However I was not prepared for something amazing to occur as well.
Our long commute has created an uninterrupted time. No WiFi means no digital electronics. No TV means the eyes look outside the window. No YouTube means the ears can be used to listen to fellow car riders and the radio.
The result is 45 minutes to an hour of conversation, listening and learning together five days a week, most weeks of the year.
We learn about each other, about our ideas and ideals. We learn about science, nature and music. We study politics and international relations. We discuss the differences between a Prime Minister and Parliament versus a President and Congress. We talk about dictatorships. We wonder why wars begin and how to end them. We even learn math and spelling! We converse about the banking system, how credit cards work and how much 8 x 3 is. We argue about how to spell certain words. We imagine what it might be like to be in the international space station (Did you know it is called the ISS?) We learn history, discuss the Holocaust and the Pilgrims. We talk about law and crime, about religions and whether God exists. We share our feelings and hopes; we sit in silence deep in our thoughts…together.
I caution you, the reader, to not confuse this time in the car with “Mom teaching the kids from her adult knowledge.” Rather, it is a conversation amongst equal minds learning together. No one is “the teacher” -- we are all the students.
So while there still is a small part of me that appreciates the simplicity and tradition of sending a child to school on a big yellow school bus… I am sure I am not willing to trade.
Can’t wait to see what we learn next!