In grade school, I lived just past the limit for the school bus, so legally, and probably ethically, it was too far for a grade-schooler to walk. But I always walked.
In middle school I missed the bus most mornings. My parents weren’t around to drive me. It was far. I was very late very often. And I remember spending my days planning how to get home without taking the bus.
My memories of day camp are the bus. I would prepare to cope with it for an hour to camp. Then spend all day in camp recuperating and getting ready to deal with the bus ride home.
I think there are some kids who like the bus. The popular ones maybe. The ones who run to the back of the bus. The ones who have regular seats. I didn’t even understand bus pecking order well enough to have a regular seat.
The social demands of the school bus are huge. The noise is incredible. The unpredictability is higher there than anywhere I can recall, even the school cafeteria. Because in the school cafeteria you can hide in a far away corner.
The Pioneer Woman wrote that the biggest reason she homeschools is that she couldn’t imagine sending her kids on the bus for so long. I don’t believe that’s the main reason. She’s loaded. She could hire someone to drive them. That’s what I did. My kids are the last stop on an hour-long rural bus route. So we paid someone to drive them to school.
But let’s say we didn’t. There are first graders riding with eighth graders. For an hour. It’s scary. But assuming that most kids are decent kids, which is a big assumption for a largely Lord of the Flies setting, the hour in the bus, hot and sweaty and tired kids, doing nothing, having just spent all day being told what to do, now sit for an hour. In noise. And confusion. It’s so awful that the bus is a much bigger deterrent for me than the classroom. And at least 20 percent of all kids feel the same way. I would never put my kids on the bus.
My brother just sent me a link to this video. It’s a bus monitor, being harassed by the kids to the point that she cries. The kids say incredibly disturbing things. Someone posted a video of the whole thing and said, “Let’s all donate $5,000 so the bus monitor can go on a vacation to get away from the kids.” And the site collected more than $300,000.
Which goes to show that no matter how bad a school story starts, there’s always room for a happy ending.