My son, Anders, and I have been walking the half mile to his elementary school together since September and are relishing the warming weather with no loss of love for the freezing days of deep winter. We walk in all kinds of conditions-- light rain, wind, cold and snow-- leading one of my son's friends to ask whether we even have a car! We do, but my son and I really enjoy those 20 minutes together in the morning and here is why:
1. It's great exercise! If I estimate that we have walked 150 of the 180 days of school at 1 mile round trip (for me), that totals 150 miles throughout the school year! And, that doesn't even factor in the times I walk to pick him up at the end of the day, which is often.
2. Not only does the exercise contribute to our overall health and fitness, it offers a chance for Anders, a very active 10-year old, to burn off some energy before having to sit all day and focus on his school work. There are countless studies supporting the connection between an increase in physical activity and an increase in cognitive performance. Some schools have even instituted mini exercise breaks throughout the day to capitalize on these benefits.
3. Similarly, walking home from school gives Anders a chance to decompress and burn off some pent up energy before having to dive into his homework once he gets home in the afternoon.
4. The dog gets exercise too!
5. We save on gas, which is both good for my wallet and the environment. If we use the estimate of 150 miles (see number 1) for just morning drop offs, and estimate an average car gets 20 miles/gallon, that's about half a tank of gas per school year. If you factor in afternoon pick-ups, the total jumps to about one full tank of gas per school year, or roughly $50.00!
6. But, perhaps the greatest, most rewarding part of walking with Anders is the time we get to spend together. In a house with 5 people and 4 animals, quality one-on-one time is regrettably scarce. The 15 minutes it takes to get to (and from) school gives us a chance to talk about all kinds of things, from the profound to the mundane. We talk about what's happening at school, concerns over family dynamics, when the next Wimpy Kid is coming out, crazy dreams and even how to tackle world peace! As Anders approaches adolescence, I am acutely aware of the big changes ahead. I know there may be a time in the not-so-distant future where I won't be the person he turns to first about the issues concerning him. It is my hope that the foundation of communication we are establishing now will see us through the middle and high school years.
Admittedly, walking to school does add a bit of extra time to our already hectic morning routine, but it has been incorporated into the timing of the daily schedule and therefore, just that, part of the daily schedule. I would strongly encourage anyone living in close proximity to their child's school to make the effort at least once a week to walk or bike the distance. The benefits are priceless!