The lost joy of walking to school.

For a couple of weeks now, I have noticed advertising on the radio about Walk to School day tomorrow.  We are all being encouraged to walk even some of the distance to School, Kindy, Day Care with our children to encourage healthy life style and road sense.  I don’t know if this is nation wide or just in Queensland, however it made me think about how different the lives of children now from their parents.

When I was a child in the seventies, everyone walked to school or caught the bus.  There was no such area as a “stop and drop” to cope with traffic flow, there just wasn’t that much traffic!  And I went to a very large school.   Of course, I could be exaggerating just a little ( This was Primary School), but the walk to school was a right of passage.  You were trusted and grown up when you could walk to school (even when your Mum could watch you from the corner of the street until you were safely in the school grounds.) 

These days very few children walk to our local school.  To be fair, it is in an acerage area so the distances are a little far for some.  However, I started to wonder if it could be due to the large number of children who now are in care before and after school, or their parents are driving to work after drop off and coming home at pick up.  Children seem to be driven to every event in their lives now, usually due to how much we have scheduled for them.  Walking is out of the question, we all have to get to the next activity or they need to go to care, as parents work longer and longer hours.  When I was a child, we walked home and spent our time playing out the back and generally “contemplating our navel” most afternoons.  We were involved in sport (swimming,  up there with ballet for time consumption!)

 I know, there seems to be no cure for long working hours (well there is, but for most families, it means down-sizing a lot!), but I do encourage you to go walking with children to experience how they see the world.

The most wonderful part of my day is walking my eldest daughter to Prep.  We chat about everything, what’s happening at school, what we see around us – flowers, plants, animals, you name it, we chat about it. Every day she pretends to be a bee and cross pollinates the passion fruit vines on our way home, because she knows this is the way they will fruit. I am one of the lucky ones that get to walk my daughter to school (actually, one of the main reasons for buying our house was it’s proximity to the local school).  I know you can chat in the car, but you don’t.  It is just not the same for me.  There is something “got to get somewhere fast” about driving and it takes us longer to drive than to walk with the congestion and parking issues.

In this modern time of schedules, busy, fast, immediate society, I think this “slow time” with children is lost.  We as adults are in such a hurry, we drag our children into our frantic pace.  We were a little late for Prep the other day (actually we are a little late more often than I would like to admit!) and I was rushing Olivia to take her things into the room, as I’m sure she was going to miss something VITAL to the rest of her life in those 3 minutes!!!  All of a sudden she just stopped moving, (which, of course, was about to drive me insane, I get a little manic in the mornings!) and said “Look Mum, a bubble…”  and we watched it float to the ground, cling for a second and burst.

I believe, she learned more outside the classroom in those few moments.  Now, I can talk about “rainbows” and water refracting light, perfect spherical shapes or the floating of the bubble and gravity involved.  All of these things were being noticed by my five year old, minus the big words.  Or, it could have been just the general MAGIC that is a bubble.

Remember, take some slow time with children.   Walk and play with them somewhere that has no fences, primary colours painted everywhere and astro turf (I hate astro turf !).  Often they will learn more during play or travel times from place to place, than they will learn during the activity planned for them.  Embrace the lost art and joy of walking to school, if you can, you’ll be amazed at the results, for you and your children.

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