The end of this week means our family has survived the first month of kindergarten…which, if you’ve been there, done that, you already know is no small feat! To be honest, I had completely underestimated how much of an adjustment it would require for the WHOLE family, not just Big C. But after a rocky start and a few bumps in the road along the way, we’ve settled into a new routine that makes everyone happy (most of the time.)
And ironically enough, what’s helped our morning routine out the most has been a bike commute! Over the summer I’d had high hopes of perhaps doing a once-a-week bike to school day once fall arrived. After all, back in the pre-Baby Zu preschool days, I would regularly take Big C to school in the bike trailer. But after the chaos of the first couple of Kindergarten days, I was hesitant to add yet another complication to an already hectic morning. But I’m so glad we decided to try it anyway – turns out a morning ride is just what we need to start our day out on a stress-free note?!?
By car, the elementary school is 4 miles away, along busy streets with lots of stoplights. Combined with a carpool line that stretches for what feels like a mile, our door to door time via car is around 30 minutes. And in that 30 minutes there is a lot of stopping, going, nervous clock watching, navigating traffic, whining children, etc…culminating with a haphazard dropoff that always feels hurried, no matter how early we arrive.
Contrast that scenario with our experience on the bike. By bike, the elementary school is a mere 1.5 miles away. (There’s a permanent wooden barricade at the back of our neighborhood that prevents thru traffic between us and the neighborhood across from the school. Cars can’t go through, but bikes can easily fit.) The busy streets are replaced by a mile of quiet neighborhood roads, and the frequent stoplights are replaced by a handful of cheery children at a bus stop and the occasional dog walker. Aside from one short hill, it’s a pretty easy ride, even for 5 year old legs. We spend the whole time talking and laughing, and can gradually transition from being at home to being at school. There is one fairly busy road crossing at the 1 mile mark, but it’s close enough to the school that cars are slowing down, and will often stop and let us cross. Even if no one stops, we’ve never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for the traffic to clear. The last half mile is sidewalked, and spits us out at the back entrance of the school, which means we can bike right up to the door. No worries about holding up a line behind us, Big C can gather his things at his own pace, say good bye, and leisurely head to class. If Baby Zu was taking a long time at breakfast (usually the case), I can toss her blueberries in a bowl and she can eat along the way.
Depending on the day, there are three different combinations we use, all of which are far preferable than getting out into the main road fray.
Option 1: Big C on a bike, Baby Zu in a trailer, Mommy on a bike. This is great if I have other workout plans later in the day (or just don’t feel like running). Door to door, it takes exactly ONE minute longer than traveling by car.
Option 2: Big C on a bike, Baby Zu in a stroller, Mommy jogging. The above mentioned benefits of the commute, PLUS I get in a 3 mile run! Depending on which route I take back, it takes 5-10 minutes longer than the car way.
Option 3: Big C on a bike, Daddy on a bike. On Thursdays Steve works from home and his schedule is pretty flexible, so this has been a great opportunity for some father/son time mid-week.
We only commute one way, since Baby Zu usually doesn’t wake up from her nap until just after 3, and school gets out at 315. Amazingly enough, the bus will have him home by 330, so that’s a no brainer for the afternoon. However, that means I’ve got to somehow get his bike back home in the mornings. Thanks to my engineering husband, we’ve figured out a way to strap Big C’s bike onto the handle of the trailer/stroller (we use the Chariot Chinook, which converts between the two ridiculously easily, reviewed here.) There’s no problem too big for bungee cords, right?!? Although it’s not a big deal if I’m on the bike, it felt pretty beast mode the first few times I was jogging with the stroller. But every day it got a little easier, and by now I’m pretty used to the extra weight.
With all the nice weather we’ve been having, our typical week has involved driving to school on Mondays (when everyone is feeling tired and lazy after the weekend’s adventures), and biking to school the rest of the week. We may change our tune (or at least our clothing options!) once the weather turns cold, but I’m hoping to be able to keep our routine going through the majority of the fall.
Aside from the positive emotional impact our commuting has had on our mornings as a family, the benefits may very well be extending into the classroom. Recent studies have shown that children who walk or bike to school have improved concentration/focus than their driven/bussed counterparts. Regardless, I feel good about being able to give Big C some time to be active before he has to sit down in a classroom all day.
Does anyone else bike/walk to school with their kiddos? I would love to hear how other families work through the logistics!