The Cult of the Big Yellow Bus

This started as a facebook post, but got too involved, so…blog it is.


I want to know, from families that homeschool, how do you deal with the undeniable allure of the big yellow bus?

We’re not 100% sure that we will homeschool, but it’s feeling more and more likely. I think it fits with our family culture. JC and I have done everything we can to develop flexibility in our work schedules, and hope to have more as the years go by. We’re rather non-conformist in many ways, and we hate anyone telling us what to do. Our kids are…pretty much like that. There’s something to be said for learning to deal with bureaucracy, but I don’t think it needs to happen at such an early age. Also, most five-year-olds I know are easier to have around than most 3-year-olds I know. Why put up with them for the rough years and then send them to someone else as soon as they can wipe their own butt?



I’m not super impressed with the school we’re zoned for. I’m distressed by the intensity with which education policy and pedagogy research are moving in opposite directions. We’ve seen pretty good results with our curriculum-free, up-to-the-elbows home education so far. Both children can sing and rhyme. They play together pretty nicely, don’t hurt each other much, always apologize and make up quickly, share some of the time, create all the time. Silas can count to at least sixty-something, add, subtract, and do simple division. He can read a little, invents stories that make sense, distinguishes between reality and fiction, and knows a surprising amount about world geography and culture. He’ll be four in four days. Petra, not quite two, has an astounding vocabulary, knows colors, and can count to five ish (though I’m going to miss her very Monty Python initial attempts: “One! Two! Five!” “Three, Petra.” “Tree!”).  She’s starting to identify letters. And all I’ve ever done in terms of teaching is to be enthusiastic about my own learning. I’m not worried about them being “left behind,” educationally. We seek out lots of opportunities for them to be with other kids. I don’t think the kind of socialization that kids get at school is any help to anybody. I recently had the joy of working with a young homeschooled teen and realized that she has a level of self-possession that I envy, at 31. I think it comes from never having had someone make fun of her outfit.


So yeah, we probably will homeschool. At least for a few years. Or more. But school is a religion, and it’s deeply ingrained in our society. Silas is going to “play school” at Bridgewater College. It’s a wonderful program, nearly free, with a crazy adult-to-child ratio (it’s their lab for their child development class, so there are 10 toddlers, 8 college students, and a professor). It’s only a couple of hours a week, exactly the right level of not-family time for us. He’s thrilled. But the first day, they read a story about a mouse going to school. His craft involved gluing a yellow bus to a piece of construction paper and drawing characters riding to school. They’re talking a lot about “kindergarten preparedness.” Many of the college students are education majors. I’m not going to stop sending him, but I’m taken off guard by how intense the indoctrination to the cult of the big yellow bus is.


So… how do you deal with it? Have your kids ever begged to go to “real” school? I hated nearly every day of school when I was a kid (yet another reason I just don’t see myself making my kids do it), but I found the idea of school, as represented on television and in books, downright alluring. The kids do know lots of home schoolers, including their beloved cousin and some of their favorite babysitters. But Silas really wants to ride the bus.


Aili Written by:


  1. Sarah DB
    September 5, 2014

    My son, kindergarten age this year, hasn’t really shown much of a desire to go to school (and certainly not to ride a school bus). I’ve explained my reasons for homeschooling/unschooling to him about the same way I explain other choices that make us “different” from some others: We don’t buy that kind of food because it’s not good for our bodies. We keep our own chickens because I think it’s sad for factory chickens to live in cages all the time. I want you to learn to make your own choices and learn how to find things out yourself, and I think you can do that better at home than you would in a school. And wanting the bus ride? Lots of kids that age love all things big vehicle. Might an experience riding the city bus with you have the same appeal?

    When I was home schooled, my mother gave us the choice each year whether to continue homeschooling or go to public school. My sister attended part of 8th grade; the rest of us always chose homeschool. I remember thinking I might like to try school sometime, but I wouldn’t have time to do all the things I wanted to do if I went to school, so I never went. I don’t have any regrets.

  2. September 5, 2014

    Ev goes to school. It’s not about the school, it’s definitely about the bus. He gets super excited when they get to ride a big yellow bus for a field trip. There’s also this end-of-the-year thing the school does and kids that come get to ride the bus around the block. It’s because it is big and yellow and for some reason that seems super cool. He was disappointed in prek when he rode the minivan bus system to school for half a year, because it was not big and yellow. I wonder if there are any other programs that have big yellow buses for kids to check out. Or you could just say “eh, it’s a bus” and take him on some other mode of transport. For our kids the train is as alluring, if not more so, than the big yellow bus.

  3. September 5, 2014

    I’m not sure what you mean by, “… the undeniable allure of the big yellow bus”. Honestly, I have never felt the pull to put our kids in a formal ‘school’; so there has never been an allure for us. In fact, just the opposite. The idea of putting my kids on a bus fills me with dread and anxiety. No; no, buses for us.

    Do I like the idea of having free time to myself? Well… yeah. I suppose everyone does from time to time. This just means I need to find creative ways to make this happen.

    As for bureaucracy, they’ll be dealing with that the rest of their lives; why start now? Our kids will be homeschooled until they are out of high school. By then, they will have a better idea of their own skills and abilities; understanding how they can affect society, rather than just deal with it.

    Our kids love being homeschooled. They enjoy having a more lucrative routine, learning at their own pace, learning more of what they enjoy, being able to take a ton more field trips, having friends of all ages to interact with continually, and so much more!

    As for the bus… we’ll use public transit and go somewhere as a family. (Good post!)

    • September 5, 2014

      Thanks for your comment. It’s great that homeschooling is working well for your family.

      I don’t mean that the bus has any attraction for me, but for my almost-four-year-old, it is a HUGE DEAL. I think there are other things he likes about the idea of going to school, but he gets quite excited when he sees the school bus, and always wants to know when he’ll be big enough to ride it (which is when I turn the conversation to so-and-so who DOES NOT ride the big bus because s/he is homeschooled). I was mostly just trying to point out that there is so much aimed at kids that age to promote school as a great thing that it is hard to stand against that tide. This is true even though we don’t have TV or anything like that. I constantly encounter random acquaintances who say, because they have nothing better to say, “You’re getting so big. I bet you’re excited to start school next year!” Our society is a bit obsessed with selling school, and it seems to be working, a bit.

      • September 5, 2014

        Oh, I agree! Society certainly does sell school and they find it odd that we aren’t buying it.

        When my kids were very little, I think they liked the idea of going to school. It had nothing to with learning, however, and everything to do with visiting with friends. It only took a few months of them talking to friends who did go to school for them to realize they had the better end of the deal.

  4. September 5, 2014

    Kids are gonna “want” what others have just like adults. Clothes, toys, to go on the bus. Mommas give themselves a hard time thinking they’re withholding something. One day it’s the bus, the next it’s staying home to do school like other kids they met….. For mine, school was at home and co-op day during Bible study. We avoided many of the yellow bus books and I made a point to mention that while were at the park playing or on a field trip while the kids on the bus had to stay at their school. I wasn’t mean about it, I just wanted them to understand there are fun opportunities they get to take part in also. I also reminded them that Dad and I didn’t agree with the public school way of teaching and we felt called to homeschool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *