I read a post by a teen blogger yesterday who mentioned that his writings had seriously fallen off because of SCHOOL. Hmmm. So I’m not the only one. Fall already, and and the restart of the world’s revolution solely around children. School buses are blocking nearly every road going anywhere with a handful of kids in each of the 75 seat beasts. It’s good and right, but I was amazed to see a four lane state highway come to a standstill one day because a couple kids were let off on the shoulder.
I live fairly near a bus hatchery. That’s a scary sight at 2 pm weekdays, watching nearly 100 of them fledge the nest to fan out over the area like bats at sunset. I never saw a child in the whole county all summer long, but the other day one of the big yellow things spit out a kid at every driveway along the entire length of roadway between home and where I was going. Took me 45 minutes to go 7 miles; felt like I was back in Los Angeles. And I realized no child is allowed to cross the street in front of the bus anymore. Is that because they can’t trust the kids with the bus if the driver leaves her post? I feel for the kids who live on the wrong side of the street. They have to wait all 45 minutes down the street until the return trip to exit safely.
Maybe there’s a reason for this. Last year, a neighbor asked me if I could watch her little sweetie during the day “since I was home anyway.” She would pay me, and I thought that might be a good way to make a little extra play money. I watched Damien for an afternoon before giving her an answer. If I was his mom, I’d ask to leave him on the bus for as long as possible.
The world has changed a bit since I walked 2 miles to school without escort or traffic officers. I’m still reeling from a visit I received a couple years ago. A neighbor girl came over to ask if I could watch her little brother while she went off to college. Huh? Well, her parents worked and she needed to find childcare before and after school for him before she could move out. I was thankful she continued, because I was speechless. She assured me it really wasn’t that hard; Mom leaves at 6, and his bus arrives at 6:15. AM??? Yeah, you just have to make sure he doesn’t get distracted with his cartoons and miss it. And then be here for him when he gets back home at 4:30 so he does his homework before getting lost in computer games. Wait a minute. Isn’t this kid in about 2nd grade? Third this year. Oh, that makes a big difference.
I’m going to ignore for a moment that he hasn’t enough character to be trusted to get his own butt to the mailbox in the 15 minutes between Mom leaving and Busdriver arriving. It is still dark outside at 6:15, and I won’t be up for another two hours. What is a 3rd grader doing pulling down longer hours than my husband at his full-time career, along with homework afterward??? If my husband kept these hours, they’d call it four-tens and he’d get a 3-day weekend. And any work after hours would earn extra money.
Part of this is country living, to be sure. This kid’s elementary school was ten miles away, and for the bus to stop at every house between here and there, it took hours to pick up and drop off everybody. If I didn’t already homeschool, that schedule alone would’ve forced my hand. But I still can’t wrap my head around requiring children to pull down hours that most child labor laws have forbidden as cruel. The fact that kids aren’t trusted to take responsibility for themselves is a slightly different issue, but may be related. I know I would rebel if forced to be up at predawn hours day after day, not to be returned home until dinner, with miles of brain-deadening bus travel in between.
My school day looks so different. I’m enforcing more regular hours this year in response to older kids with busier schedules. I thrive on routines, but what hour that routine starts or ends isn’t as important as that it all gets done. I worked for a consulting company for years, and it impacted my outlook. So yesterday I got up at 8:00, and was showered, shampooed and shined by 9:00. Then I turned on the stereo to some instrumental gospel-bluegrassy music with mandolins as my 8th grade daughter came into the kitchen and began cooking bacon. 6th grade brother was laid on his bed, enjoying the music, as I walked by. In another 15 minutes, 10th grade brother fell out and stumbled to the bathroom, half-asleep. He’d wake up sometime before breakfast was over. Oldest bro woke up and came directly to me. “What’s with the goofy music? And does it have to be at 80 decibels? Couldn’t we at least have something with voices?”
I giggled and got back to my preparations for the day. Another 15 minutes went by. Then I heard my 8 year old sleepily complain. “What is up with all the noise? I was TRYING to sleep in!” I informed him that it’s school time and I didn’t want to rush into things, but we were beginning to push the 10 o’clock hour as it was. It was 10:05 when my 4 year old came out with a bedhead and a big grin, fancy dress in hand. “It’s a good day for dancing, Mom! Can you help me with these buttons?”
No. I do not do 6:15 bus appointments. It is way more fun to wisecrack about the goofy music and dance with the resident princess between Algebra and American Literature lessons. Don’t even get us started on the definition of “homework”…..