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How far is too far?

When it comes to distance from your house, how far is too far?  Where is your school in relation to your home?  How big of a factor is it in deciding the best school for your child(ren)?  How far is too far?

I have a question for you and your readers.  We just moved here (a week ago!) and we're in the midst of a search for a Montessori preschool for my three year old son to start in the fall. We're also house hunting for a place close-in. So in other words, we have no idea where we'll be living in the fall, but we need to pick a preschool now since it seems most schools' deadlines are this or next week.  My question is, how far have other parents travelled to make the daily preschool trek?  Is it insane to choose a preschool in SE and end up living in NW? Or vice versa? I'm kind of anxious about all this (hence this 3am email), so any advice would be much appreciated!


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We're in SE and our elementary school and preschool are within a 5 block radius of our house. I walk my second grader to school, then walk another two blocks to my 5yo's (Montessori) preschool.

This was more the result of luck (weren't thinking of schools when we bought the house 10 years ago, childless) but I wouldn't have it any other way. And frankly, I didn't look at any other preschool. Yes, I'd heard good things about it, but even more, I didn't want to shlep.

Some people don't mind commuting to schools (we have a lot of transfers at Sunnyside Environmental, our neighborhood school, but for me, not getting in the car is really crucial to my morning/afternoon sanity.

Welcome to Portland! Such a great city for families. We have always had at least a 15-25 min. commute.

My daughter went to 2 preschools and now is in an elementary school in NW and we live in NE. For our family I have always been willing to drive to the schools that were the best fit for us. Most of our neighbors' kids drive 15-20 minutes also.

Good luck!

It's probably up to the individual family. In our family, we take the word "Community" literally, so we have a 6-block walk to day care and, when the time comes, we will travel less than a mile to our elementary school.

As one who already feels that she spends too much time on the road commuting to work, I appreciate the opportunity to walk or ride w/ my child.

My two cents.

I also am not into car commuting for school, but then, my son is only 4 and kindergarten is a year off. we have 3 great schools to choose from that we will bike/walk.
I'm kindof looking forward to my daughter ( 8 mo) being able to ride the train to HS, if she/we choose one that isn't close enoiugh to walk/bike.
Good Luck with your serch!

Your idea of a reasonable commute may also be informed by where you came from before. Everyone gasped in horror at my commute to Wilsonville for work, but having moved from Chicago, it was a vast improvement for me. We live way up in NE near the airport and people often comment on how we're so far out, but we still feel like a lot of the city is very accessible for us, and I doubt that we'll restrict ourselves to our neighborhood when we start looking for schools. That's my two cents. Good luck and Welcome!

I drive my daughter to preschool twice a week (two 10-15 minute trips each day) and it, frankly, makes me an angry, surly mother -- not what I want to be. I really can't stand getting her and the baby ready and loaded in the car then driving and parking (miserable with all the other parents there at the same time) and walking up to a couple of blocks from the car to the school in all kinds of weather -- I hate, hate, hate it even though I love the school! I'm counting the weeks til summer and am so looking forward to the 1.5 block walk to the neighborhood school next year.

I can't imagine driving to school twice a day, five days a week for the rest of my life (well, at least ~12 years since the baby will go to school, too). Add to that the PTA meetings, programs, conferences, etc, etc, etc. I want to be involved in my children's classrooms and school so being able to walk just up the street will be wonderful. Luckily, I also strongly believe in the concept of the "neighborhood school."

We make the 15-20 minute drive 1-way for our son's preschool, from the SE to the NE. We moved to Portland last summer, and luckily found a favorite preschool to have a sudden opening - therefore the drive. But we can't stand the commute, and when we move (within the SE) again this year, we'll make sure our house will be within walking to a great in-boundaries elementary.
If you like the neighborhood within walking to specific Montessori, move there (once you get accepted to the preschool!) - and if you love a certain neighborhood, maybe open your search to other preschools - we originally were set on a Montessori and I'm very glad we didn't stick to that. In hindsight, the format would have been too rigid for our son, who is really interactive/enthusiastic. Good luck - I don't envy you your sitation! It's hectic enough moving while also dealing with which neighborhood and school. Try to keep things simple and all in a similar place. Or at least all in the same quadrant of Portland.

Welcome to PDX... We were lucky enough to find a great Montessori school within walking distance to our home and most families that attend live wihin a 10 minute drive, but I know that a few are coming from a little further than that. I personally would not want to drive more than 10 minutes for preschool, for a variety of reasons... This is Portland, where there is much focus on driving less, biking/walking more, and I like that. And many preschools are only 3-4 hour sessions...so by the time you saddle up, drive there, drop off and get on your way, you want to have some time in between before you have to head back for pick up, right? Most of my friends with kids in preschool have found nice options fairly close to their homes and you probably will be able to as well. If you have some idea for the part of town you'd like to end up in, start there and see if there are some good prgrams nearby. My take on the preschool thing is that everyone scrambles to get their name on several lists, and that by the time school starts in the fall, everyone seems to end up in a program that they are happy with, somehow!

Good luck and try to get some sleep! We just explored a relocation and one of my biggest concerns was preschool as well...I had to remind myself that it's "just" preschool not Harvard! But I know many a mom who worry so much about making this big decision for their children, so you are not alone, but it will likely work out fine for you and your family.

Welcome to Portland! Luckily, there are a number of Montessori schools around, so you will hopefully find one that works for you.

I think a lot of it depends on the school. My older son attends a magnet school that is about a 15 minute drive and I do it happily. His (Montessori) preschool was in the other direction, 15 minutes 4 days a week, and again, I was happy to do it. Both times, it was because I was committed to the schools.

Now, we have chosen another (Montessori) preschool for our second child, one that is closer to our house because I would be spending up to 2 hours a day in the car, driving in two different directions, to drop them off every day. Not going to do it (also, we had some bad experiences near the end of our time with the first school, which made the decision a lot easier.)

Over-all, though, if you find a school you're committed to, the drive won't be that big of a deal. Besides, preschool is over before you know it -- the big commute commitment is toward the next school.

For my oldest I drove her to SW for preschool and we live in NE. Now she is in school in N which is around 2 miles from our home. Unfortunately I am unable to commute by bike with the two kids so it does mean driving. When they are older, we will be biking since it takes about the same amount of time as driving.

The hard thing about driving to SW (even more than the traffic) was the difficulty forming community. We never would run into people when we were out. It also took a lot of effort to get together on non-school days. Being closer to school means that we run into people at the park, store, etc. It also means that in a pinch I can call people to pick up my daughter since our home is not too far out of their way. Playdates are easier as are parties, etc. I know a parent who drives quite a distance to have her daughter attend my daughter's school. She says the biggest issue is that she and her husband have a great community in their neighborhood while their daughter is building one in another part of town.

Good luck with your decisions. Keep in mind that it is pre-school which means it is in many ways short term.

I wish you luck on your decision. The last comment was right. School is the big decision. I drove my oldest to preschool about 10 minutes for 2 1/2 years, when she moved to a school with in walking distance it was a huge relief. I really enjoy the time I spend with her when we are walking. We have a chance to talk about her day. I can't focus on her as much when we are in the car. There is something so special about walking and talking with your child. A chance to discuss the day and enjoy each other.

Welcome to Portland! I have a teen and a toddler. My advice to you is that they grow up fast! Your commitment to preschool is probably no more than 2 years. Your school choice commitment is 13 years.

As they get older and visit friends from school or do school activities such as sports it’s really hard to make that trip across town late at night after a football game, etc. At the moment it may seem like just a twice a day trip, but over time it can become so much more than that. Plus, if their school is far from home they tend to hang out at other friends homes, making it harder to get to know the other kids and parents.

I did a 4 mile NE to SE commute for 2 school years and at evening rush hour the commute can easily be 30 plus minutes! It stunk. We recently moved to end the madness.

I agree with the above poster. We don't like our neighborhood school and will likely be transferring to another. I am not looking forward to the commute, nor do I like the idea that my daughter won't get to know the kids in our area, but I really don't like the school where we live and we simply cannot afford to move in the near future. I would choose a preschool you like that is reasonably centrally located and concentrate on finding a house in a good public school district.

We live in NE and my daughter attends school in SE. If she went to our n'hood school, my morning and afternoon commutes would be about 10 minutes each. With the school drop off, I drive about 30 minutes each way. We don't have a consistent or reliable carpool situation (well, we have 1/2 of one--I'm the consistent and reliable 1/2) that really gives me much relief. And no coparent in our house, or grandparent available, that can ease the commuting burden.

Now that we are looking at another school transition (elementary to middle school), I'm taking into consideration the "sanity factor", which includes the logistics of the school-work commute. I've already had to remove one middle school from our list that I'm hopelessly, breathlessly in love with, because the commute and the logistics of it all would make our lives crazy and chaotic for the next 3 years. My ten year old is having a harder time with grasping how insane her attendance at the school would make our lives (but mom, I can ride 2 buses and walk the 1/2 mile by myself everyday--we can make that work! Ummmm....NO!)

Maura makes some great points about activities and friends I won't repeat, but I'll agree with wholeheartedly.

No matter how good a school or program is--if it wreaks havoc within your household--is it really worth it?

I think it depends on what the rest of your day consists of. I have to get to work right after any kind of daycare transition, so it was AWFUL when I had to pack up my daughter and drive 20 minutes, bring her in, get her settled, and then go back the other way for work. I was always late, and stressed, and it made her transition harder. Same for pick-up, in the reverse, arriving at home frazzled and grumpy. Depending on your route, traffic in the morning can cause delays - so you might want to drive the route during the day and time that you'd actually be driving it (rather than on a quiet weekend), just to see.

Welcome to Portland!

we also moved up here and live the ne...and tried to put our son in school in the se....we liked the school, it seemed short enough etc. but you know what? it wasn't right....the drive took 15-30 minutes in the am b/c of am traffic, the kids were all from that particular area, not where we lived, and it just seemed like it was further from helping us create a new community in our new home city. for us, and clearly not for everyone, a school/community for our kids closer (not necessarily walking distance but closer than a 15-30 minute drive...)really helped us find our place here in this great new city.
good luck!

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