I used to think our little house in the country was ideal for raising children, but eventually our children got old enough to leave the comfort of that little country house and go to school. Then I realized that the fifty minutes we spent commuting back and forth to school each day added up to 8,500 minutes (almost 142 hours!) of time spent in an enclosed space with children in the course of just one school year. That realization along with the other stresses of commuting caused me despair…until I learned how to use all that time for the benefit of both children and parents! What follows are three blessings we’ve received from using our school commute wisely.

Less school-related stress

It’s no secret that kids crave consistency. They need to know what to expect as well as what is expected of them. The hour spent getting ready for school in the morning is already challenging enough without adding uncertainty, confusion, and frustration to the mix. Having consistent morning routines that are carried over into the car ride to school helps children be ready to face the challenges of their day ahead. For our family, this means the kids know that we’ll be studying their spelling before the car leaves the driveway every morning. From there, we’ll move on to vocabulary, chronological orders, and even Bible memory passages.

Having a definite and limited amount of time available for our mobile study session seems to add a helpful element of urgency to the activity. In fact, the children have even selected certain stop lights and specific turns in the road as goals by which to mark their progress.

Academic success

Children need to learn early that one of the keys to successful studying is frequency. By making studying part of our daily commute, our children are learning the habits needed to avoid the cram/pass/forget cycle that not only undermines academic success but, more importantly, prevents true learning. Five minutes of studying every morning of the week will better prepare a student than an hour of cramming the night before a test.

A huge part of our morning routine that I believe contributes to mastery of the subject matter at hand is what I call the “waterfall effect.” For example, I quiz my eldest student on his assigned spelling words, but then he quizzes his younger sister who then extends the same favor to her younger sister, and so on. Not only are the children practicing their grade-level work, but they are also reviewing material from previous years. Such cyclical review helps to refresh and solidify knowledge in their mind that otherwise might be left behind.

More playtime

Just like us, children need balance in their lives. Though important, school and homework should not occupy an inordinate percentage of our children’s waking hours. By using our morning commute for studying and our afternoon commute for homework, we’ve been able to avoid (with occasional exceptions) doing school work at home in the evenings. After the rigor and structure of the school day, our children love being able to play outside as soon as they get home in the afternoon. This also leaves the evenings open for family activities such as reading, singing, and playing with siblings.

It would be foolish to assume that our children will continue to be able to complete all of their studying and homework in the car on the way to school and back—especially as they grow older and take on more challenging academic disciplines. But we plan to continue to leverage the time it takes to get from our home to school and back home again each day to reduce school-related stress, build habits needful for academic success, and create time in their busy days for healthy play and family activities.

Mr. James Cowart