Today is the end of the second week of the school term where I live. My secondborn started school this year, while my eldest is in her third year (Grade 2, here in Victoria). We've had a really positive start to the year, with only a few minor bumps, and part of what has helped it to be so successful, in my opinion, is our decision to walk to school three days a week.
If the kids ride their scooters and I push the toddler in her pusher, the walk to school takes us 17-20 minutes. (It's no more than 3 minutes in the car, but usually takes an additional 5 minutes to find a park and walk into the school from the car). Being out in the morning air seems to perk us all up and for me, certainly, helps work out any kinks from the night and wake me up. Coming back, the toddler likes to walk rather than be pushed, and we meander home slowly, often taking as long as 45 minutes, stopping to look at things and chat to other school parents as they wend their way home.
After school, both the big kids seem to really value the walking time, talking about their day in a relaxed way. We often stop off at the park on the way back and they work off some energy there, and on Fridays (a tradition carried forward from last year), we stop at the milk bar for an ice-cream to celebrate the end of the week.
It seems like a lot of time out of the day when you add it up - at least an hour in the morning, often an hour and a half in the afternoon - but it sets a tone for the whole day that is really upbeat. Our two car days, where I need to go directly on to activities with the toddler after school drop-off, are noticeably less serene in their beginnings.
I'm not sure if it's the exercise, the fresh air, the chance to talk, the independent motion, or the fact that we are together when we walk in a way that you're just not when you're hustling people in and out of cars. Or maybe it's just that walking to school gives me, in particular, the occasion and the cause to literally stop and smell the roses.
Whatever the reason, I'm really enjoying the school walk.