School commute - how long is too long?

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-15-2007
School commute - how long is too long?
Mon, 07-30-2012 - 4:03pm


I am writing to ask for advice about how long you think is too long of a commute for elementary schoolers.  

Do you think that 45 minutes to 1 hour each way is OK, or too much?  The commute would be mostly by city bus and a little way on foot.  There is no school-bus service that we would qualify for - I've exhaustively investigated that.  My husband would go with the kids in the morning (departing at 7:30 or so), and I would pick them up in the evening (at 6:00).  We also looked into driving as an alternative.  It would make the commute quite a bit longer in the morning, and somewhat shorter in the evening, based on traffic.

I think it's too much time spent in transit and would prefer to send the kids to a parochial school (not my religion, but a fine school) near our home.  My husband is a member of that religion and is generally OK with the school but wants to apply to several magnet schools.  Some of these magnets have great programs, to be sure, but each of them is 45 minutes to an hour (or more) away, in terms of commute times.  I am picturing exhausted kids, arriving home at 7:00 each night after 9 1/2 hours at school, with no opportunity to play in the evenings, no opportunity to cook dinner together or eat peacefully together, just rush, rush, rush. 

What do you think?  Thanks!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2004
Wed, 08-01-2012 - 12:50am
I lived in a rural area, and the commute was about that, but not changing buses. And, we all just went home after school because my mother was home.

Any chance you can get a teen, a college student, a retired grandma or grandpa or someone to meet your child after school and then ride home on the bus or their car? It would give your child a chance to play after school, do some homework, and be home and relaxed when you get home, instead of tired, hungry and possibly cranky. Depending on who you get and what you want to pay, they may even be able to start dinner for you. Hiring a person to do this seems to me would be cheaper than tuition at a private school. It may even leave time and money for extra curricular activities if your child wanted.
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-12-2003
Tue, 07-31-2012 - 12:45pm

we Don't go to the school closest to us but because I don't drive and we need public transit and go figure its easier to get to the other schools. No bus goes by my house that goes to the school down the street and walking in the winter would have been impossible and then getting him after work I'd never make it by the pick up time. Now we also have school choice not community schools so it was just a matter of picking the school that works best as first choice and hoping.

Best advice find the school that best meets ALL your needs. Sounds like you have to apply so do you have to make your choice now??? Apply to the different schools see where you get in and way the pros and cons.

We both work so we need after school and its a LONG day. because I rely on public transit I build a HUGE buffer in our morning commute just in case and many morning I am SOOOO happy I do but that means he leaves the house at 7:30 and we get home at 6pm. We are all tired but homework still needs to get tackled and dinner and baths and he should still get to relax. But this is our best option. Even if he isn't in after school he'd be with a grandparent and ok the play is done but still rushing to get dinner and homework.

I'm Jewish, DH is a non practicing Catholic. I have looked at a Catholic school for preschool for my youngest and I'm still on the fence. I remember when I was kid my friends at catholic schools said non catholics got a pass when it came to religon class, now what I read thats not so much. that worries me, but in my case we don't give them much religous education at home so I worry it would confuse him but if you have a strong home base at what you are rasing him with I'd be less worried over the religous and just focus on what are their acemdemics in comparison

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-27-2006
Tue, 07-31-2012 - 11:52am
How old is your child? I, personally, would not feel comfortable putting my child on a city bus by himself at any elementary age. I know, in some rural areas, the bus ride can be that long, but that is on a school bus.

I would review more options closer to home and then sit down with DH and you guys talk about it more.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005
Tue, 07-31-2012 - 9:41am

Personally, I wouldn't do a 45-minute commute. I can understand wanting to send your kids to a school that has options. I have four gifted kids who all went to public schools and we have been able to make it work (granted, our local school has a decent gifted program, but it's certainly not a gifted school by a long stretch). My two older ones (21 and 19) actually attended a Catholic school until 5th and 2nd grade, respectively (when we moved) because we lived in a city where the public schools were not good. We aren't Catholic, but because of its location in Boston, it had students from many different faiths. Were there tradeoffs? Yes. Dd21 skipped first grade and dd19 started at age 4 in kindergarten, while ds12 and ds10 have been able to stay with their same-age peers and do advanced classes (ds10 will go to the middle school for one class, math, this coming school year). Honestly, though, they got other things. I loved the personal approach and the smaller classes and I didn't mind the religion (we're Christian, but a more liberal denomination). The other thing to consider is time for other pursuits. Our elementary school is less than a five-minute walk now, so ds10 has time for lots of sports, playing with friends, and having fun. Ds12 walks about ten minutes to the MS and can do tons of musical activities (walking home afterward), do the several hours of homework and still get a good night's sleep. We eat dinner together most every day and have time to unwind. That means a lot to me.  And kids can be very successful in a public/regular school setting (ds10 was one of 20 4th graders from 8 states honored at the NUMATS - Northwestern University Midwest Academic Talent Search-awards ceremony in June). We don't do lots of other stuff either - no outside science fairs or chess competitions or math classes. I honestly think that a lot of what they learn is us just sitting around at the dinner table talking, or maybe watching something on the history channel or reading a book together.

I realize that I've gone a little off topic from what you asked, but I think a lot of parents of precocious kids -academically, musically, artistically - get this feeling that they need to develop their kids talent starting at age 5 - or before! That's probably true in some cases (future Olympic gymnast?) but in most cases they'll do just fine waiting a bit. I think that a day that lasts from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm, with 1.5-2 hours in the car is a LOT for most elementary schoolers and I honestly wouldn't feel comfortable trading that for a magnet school unless circumstances were such that the local alternative was just awful and my kid needed stimulation far and above what any normal school could provide.

Just my two cents...

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Tue, 07-31-2012 - 7:56am

How old is dc, and what is his temperament for something like a long bus ride?  We passed on some magnet program opportunities that would have involved a long commute like that for our ds when he was going into first grade, in favor of a less selective G&T near home.  However, we had a 5-yo, high energy boy who tends to get carsick on long rides.  I think we'll revisit this issue for middle school, but stick closer to home for now.

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