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How long of a drive is too long?

(27 Posts)
CheerfulYank Tue 22-Sep-09 03:08:54

My DS is only 2, but I'm putting serious consideration into where I want him to go to school. We live in rural Minnesota, and our local public school (state I'd suppose you'd say ) is very...adequate, but that's all it is.

I very much want him to have a classical education. I also want uniforms, and if possible, the year-round school system.

Minnesota is the U.S. leader for charter schools, and there are several that have the things I'd like for him. However, they're all at least an hour away. We might consider moving at some point.

So basically...how long of a drive is TOO long?

nooka Tue 22-Sep-09 06:05:15

I think for young children having their friends nearby is very important, so I'd say about 5mins is ideal. I think half an hour is about doable, but an hour is too long. That's two hours for you (or another driver) and him in a car every day, and means that if he makes friends, then they could live a long way away too. Also if he was unwell or hurt himself at school, that's an hour before someone can pick him up. You also need to think about how often you might need to visit the school for parents events, open days, sports days etc etc

Having gone from uniform to no uniform I am all in favour of no uniform, especially for very young children. I don't know what a year-round school system is - does that mean no incredibly long summer holiday? I do prefer the UK approach on that, with the terms broken into smaller chunks, and just six weeks in the summer.

So I'd say you need to seriously consider moving if having the right school instead of an average school is very important to you (and nothing wrong with that).

seeker Tue 22-Sep-09 06:19:18

An hour is too long. That's 4 hours of driving a day for you. What if you're ill, the car breaks down, it snows, you have another baby? What about after school activities, parties, friends to play (that would be another 2 hours drive for you - you couldn't expect the oterh parents to pick up)

I don't know what a classical education or a year round school system are, but IMHO they would have to be a matter of life or death to make the journey acceptable. I have a 20 minute drive to school every day and that is far too long.

marialuisa Tue 22-Sep-09 11:07:11

I think the concept of an acceptable distance to travel in the US is slightly different to that in the UK? We have friends in different parts of the USA who drive 2 hours to the mall every weekend and commute a similar driving distance to work everyday. They think it's normal. One couple have kids getting the school bus to their allocated elementary school and their journey is over an hour (that's in Pennsylvania).

DD does a very long journey to school (mainly by bus), and it is hard. I'm working on DH about moving closer.

faraday Tue 22-Sep-09 11:22:06

My (state grammar) secondary school journey used to take a minimum of 50 mins, often an hour each way every day- and I lived in rural Wiltshire, England!

seeker Tue 22-Sep-09 12:28:18

I honestly don"t think it matters what sort of school it is - there just aren't enough children here for a viable, healthy community.

Imagine if you were one of three people your age and you didn't get on with either of them!

How many teachers are there?

Madsometimes Tue 22-Sep-09 13:44:26

Driving for an hour is too much for a little child, and it would be too much for me too! Either move house or send your child to the local school. If your child is only 2 then you have plenty of time to complete a move!

notgettinganyyounger Tue 22-Sep-09 13:45:35

20 mins max

AMumInScotland Tue 22-Sep-09 14:05:20

We had nearly an hour each way drive when DS was a bit older - 8 upwards, but I do think it would be a very long way at 5 or 6 and wouldn't have done it if we'd had any real choice.

I would say if you're thinking you might move anyway at some point, then move to nearer a school you like before he gets to school age.

thedolly Tue 22-Sep-09 14:10:50

30 mins is too long IME, especially if there are younger siblings in the car. Not to mention the expense on your wallet the environment

CheerfulYank Tue 22-Sep-09 15:59:44

That's what I was thinking too, 15 or 20 minutes max. There is a closer school, but it's VERY religious. I'm ok with some religion (we're practicing Catholic/Lutherans) but I do not want my child taught creationism for heaven's sake.

Yes, the year round school system means a short break every 8 weeks or so and then seven weeks in the summer instead of the dreaded three months.

A classical education usually has an emphasis on arts, drama,rhetoric etc. and they teach Latin as well. The school that I LOVE (and which is two hours away so obviously no going to that one without a move) also uses the Singapore system for math, which I think is fabulous.

I agree that I want to be close enough that he can have friends from school over and be on the school's sports teams if he's into that.

Why didn't anyone tell me there would be so many decisions to make when I became a mother?! I am not good with the decisions!

TubOfLardWithInferiorRange Tue 22-Sep-09 16:04:33

I did half an hour with three little ones for many years and then finally moved next door to the school. I felt 30 minutes was pushing it-an hour would be too much for me. It's not just school-but after school activities, visits/birthday parties with friends and parent meetings all at or near the school.

southernsoftie Wed 23-Sep-09 08:17:50

Ds has just moved to a school just under 30 minutes away, having been at local school which he walked to. There is a bus in the morning but I have to collect in the evening. So far the school seems great, and the drive is a really nice chance to talk to ds about his day, but I have been surprised at how much time the drive takes up - it isn't just the time in the car, it's the extra time I have to allow so as not to be late and then the hanging around because if I am early. Also weekends when there are extra activities, matches etc. I am dreading the bad weather.

Overall ds is happy and settling well so that justifies the extra hassle but I would not like ds to be travelling a lot further (and I am used to a 1 hour plus commute).

Can you move closer to the school?

mustrunmore Wed 23-Sep-09 08:29:28

I'm reall suprised by he number of people on this thread saying 5 mins, 10 mins. Our school journey is half an hour each way on foot&bus, even though it only takes me 20 mins to walk if I'm without kids. I've never thought this was a problem in terms of playing with friends etc, although I do hate doing it in the cold&rain. I'm very envy of all you people that cvould get into schools close by!

LIZS Wed 23-Sep-09 08:49:39

I used to drive about 25 mins each way and it was a hassle so we moved less than 5 mins away. Not to mention wear and tear on the carand petrol. Part of the issue was that extra curricular activities and friends were so far from home it elongated the school day.It woud also have been very difficult for me to work when faced with almost 2 hours in the car each day.

CheerfulYank Wed 23-Sep-09 16:00:27

I'm thinking a move is in our future...the school that seems wonderful is 2 hours away. I've only heard things about it and looked over their website actually, so of course we would go check it out before committing to a move or anything. I really, really love the community we live in now, but the school's just not excellent. Adequate, good, perfectly fine, but not...excellent. Sigh.

Am I being too precious about all of this? I just really want DS to reach his full potential.

TubOfLardWithInferiorRange Wed 23-Sep-09 17:22:08

Mustrunmore-if you can walk to school in 20 minutes it must be only a mile or so away. The school my children attended was over ten miles away.

vinblanc Wed 23-Sep-09 19:17:39

If you are in a rural area, you will be used to driving for a while to get to every day places. We were on holiday in the US and there was literally nothing within 30 minutes of our cottage, and anything of interest was more than an hour away. If we ran out of milk, it was an hour each way to get more!

Only you know what your tolerance is to driving long distances. Personally, I couldn't cope with them (my kids are 20 minutes by public transport and 10 minutes by car, and even that I think is a long way).

I don't think it is that big a deal for the kid. They will adapt to whatever is normal for them. I think you need to think of yourself. Can they get a school bus? Is there another family you can rideshare with? It is a lot to think of leaving the house at 7am and returning at 8am, only to set off again at 1.30pm - every day.

What happens in winter, when driving is much longer? If you are a long way away, perhaps your snow days won't correspond to the school's. Would you need to find a local family for your DS to board with during weather emergencies?

Lots to think about.

nooka Thu 24-Sep-09 01:48:50

Does it really need to be excellent? My children's first school was fairly average, but the children were very happy there, made good friends and felt like part of the community. Then when we moved to New York, where schools are very variable we chose to live close to a very good school. However although the teachers were lovely it also brought with it 1-2hrs homework every evening, and we think that ds was bullied (or certainly excluded) and he lost a huge amount of confidence, which he still hasn't regained. I guess average isn't always bad? Go and visit if you can I think before making life changing decisions, and in any case lots can change in the next couple of years (two of the schools the children went to have changed head teachers/principles and that can make a huge difference).

AllThreeWays Thu 24-Sep-09 02:15:58

FWIW unless DS is going to be in a negative situation in an 'average' school. It is my experience (as a mother and a teacher in Australia) that it is the child and the parents who make a child's educational experience exceptional, an exceptional school sometimes only suits certain personalities too.

seeker Thu 24-Sep-09 07:59:07

You can't tell until you're actually there whether a school is "excellent" for your particular child, anyway. And there is so much more to school than academics - and being part of a lovely community is FAR more important, in my opinion.

mustrunmore Thu 24-Sep-09 09:14:05

Tuboflard, yes its prob just over a mile away. What I was meant, not very clearly (!), is that its not the actual distance to school that matters, its how long it takes you to get there. And also if you live in the same direction as classmates. I do hate half an hour each way three times a day in the cold, but thats just just life. The only thing that is a hassle is if, for example, ds2 wants a friend over before nursery, they will invariably come by car, so it takes them 5 mins to drive to nursery, but we need to set out half an hour early! So if they dont have a spare car seat, we have to kick them out too early, and they're left waiting for the nursery to open for ages iyswim. Luckily after school not such a problem, as ds1 is old enough to have friends over withour parents, so we just bring the friend home on the bus with us!

AMumInScotland Thu 24-Sep-09 09:35:15

I don't know about school standards in the US, but here I would think that a local school that I could describe as "perfectly fine just not excellent" would actually be, well, fine! Excellence is nice, but if the local school gets decent results, and is a happy and encouraging place to learn, and doesn't limit your childs progress or possibilities, then I wouldn't look further tbh.

CheerfulYank Thu 24-Sep-09 18:25:21

I do know quite a bit about the local school seeker as I work there. So even though DS is not in school yet I know the teachers, curriculum, etc. very well.

I see your point muminscotland. It is a "just fine" school and as I said I do love our community. So on the one hand I don't want to put too much pressure on the situation, as my DS' education is only one part of life and I don't want him to be one of those kids who is driven to succeed at all costs. Then on the other hand I might feel guilty for not giving him the best quality education available.

Again, decisions, decisions. I suppose my best option at this point is to check out all the options carefully, because it is three years away and I'll have to evaluate then.

seeker Fri 25-Sep-09 08:02:31

Ah, but you don't -(I assume)- know as much about the school the hours drive away.
Local friends and easy journeys trump academic excellence any day in my book. You can always 'top up' school work at home if necessary - you can't do that with social life. And it only takes a heavy snow fall or a broken down car or the driver being ill or breaking their arm for the whole system to collapse. There is nothing so reassuring as knowing that you can ring a neighbour at 2.30 and say "Please can you pick the dcs up for me", knowing that it won't be any inconvenience to her at all.

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