Homeschooler’s Guide to Driver’s Education

I remember the day clearly.  The boy and I were sitting at our local DMV waiting to get his state identification card.  He looks at me, smiles, and says, “Mom, you know, I can get a permit in 9 months.”  My brain screamed “NO!”  I looked back and said, “I enjoyed the 9 months waiting for you to be born more!”  As we walked out the door, my son grabbed a copy of the Oregon Driving Manual.  Our driver’s education journey began.

Homeschooler's Guide to Driver's Education

Preparing for the Permit

First-time teen drivers are required to obtain a state-issued permit before they begin any formal driver’s education.  To begin this process, visit the DMV.  Obtain a copy of the state driving manual.   The questions on the permit test will be from this book.  If the test is passed, you will leave with a permit.  If not, you can come back again to take the test.  Time period between testing varies by state.

Things to know…

  • You will need to provide legal identification.  Our DMV required an official copy of a birth certificate, social security card and copy of a current utility bill showing our residence.
  • Typically DMV does not schedule permit tests.  Prepare to wait up to 3 hours.
  • Bring cash or check.  Most DMVs do not accept debit or credit cards
Parent-Supervised Driving

A permitted driver is able to drive with a licensed driver in the passenger seat.  State requirements for this licensed driver vary by state. Every state will require a certain number of driving hours.  Parents should plan on spending a minimum of 50 hours driving with their teens.

This portion of the driving process can be as formal as you like.  We never really had a ‘planned’ driving session.  We simply had our son drive every where we went.  This fit well into our family’s learning style and philosophy.

Things to know…

  • Some states require parents to provide a log of driving hours, including the conditions of the road.  Keep this up-to-date.
  • Large industrial business parking lots make great beginning driving locations.  Best times were Sunday afternoons
  • It’s a good idea to limit extra passengers for the first few drives in actual traffic.
  • KNOW how to use the emergency brake if available.
  • Be patient.  Be calm.  Remember, you were a beginner too.
  • If it becomes too stressful, recruit another adult to help with practice driving.  This process is not worth damaging your relationship.
disclaimer Formal Driver’s Education

There is debate as to whether a parent should spend money on formal driver’s education or not.  We turned to our insurance agent to help make this decision.  When we realized that it would mean a lower insurance premium for our son AND reduced, required driving hours, we chose a formal course from a local driving school,

The cost was $299.  This covered 30 hours of in-classroom safety and driving education as well as 20-hours of on-the-road training (10 hours driving, 10 hours observing).  Oregon initiated a law this year that allows the qualified school to facilitate the driving test.  Upon completion the permitted driver has to take another written test to obtain their license.  This made the process less stressful and easier to accomplish.

Things you should know…

  • Some states will allow use of online or parent-facilitated education courses.  Further information can be obtained at Driver’s Ed Requirements by State.
  • Some school districts may provide driver’s education as a class.  This is an option for the budget-strapped parent.
  • If you are unable to drive with your teen, another licensed adult is able to facilitate the driving practice.
  • This is a good time to introduce your teen to the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

My research yielded three recommended online classes available for use by homeschool families who do not wish to utilize a traditional formal driving program.  I do not have personal knowledge or use of these programs.  I recommend reading reviews before choosing any program.

  • I Drive Safely – Rated 4.4 out of 5 by reviewers.  Completely online classes provide students with engaging content and interactive lessons.
  • Driver Ed to Go – Offers Prep Wizard, software to prepare the student for the DMV written test.  Behind-the-wheel lessons available in limited places.
  • Drivers Ed.com – Classes available for every state, including In-Car Driving Lessons.
Navigating Insurance

Insurance is expensive.  Having an insured, male, teen driver…REALLY expensive.  I was surprised to find that our policy covered our son while permitted without an increase in our premium.  We discussed the things we could do to reduce the amount of increase that would occur the day he became a licensed driver.

The most common discount available for teen drivers is the good grades discount.  This discount is given to students with a 3.0 GPA or above (this varies by company).  As homeschoolers, it is ABSOLUTELY essential that you know EXACTLY what documentation the insurance company requires to meet this requirement.

The second most common discount available is for taking a formal education class.  Again, it is important to confirm with your insurance agent AND the state that the program you are choosing will satisfy all requirements.

Our insurance company also offered a discount for completing their own safety-education program.  This consisted of 20 drives focused on 11 factors of safety. Focus areas included the use of cell phones, aggressive drivers, road conditions, school zones, construction zones, motorcycles, distractions in and outside the vehicle and other safety issues.   This was a free program, easy-to-implement and only required a few extra minutes to record the drive.

These combined things provided us with a 40% discount!  After 4 months of driving, the $299 spent on the formal education paid for itself!

Things you should know…

  • The male, teen driver between the ages of 16 and 17 will pay the highest premium.
  • Typically premium costs will be reduced at age 17, 19, 21and 25.
  • You will pay more for a vehicle owned by your teen AND they are the only driver.  ($55 a month vs. $131 a month and that’s with a 40% discount!)
  • Our agent has seen premiums as low as $45 a month up to $350 a month for a teen driver!
Benefits of a Licensed Teen Driver

So, I’ve survived.  I’m now the mom of a licensed, male teen driver.  I’m learning to not let my anxiety rage out of control the minute he leaves the driveway.  It reminds me of those first few days he went to school away from home.  But I’m letting go.  Besides, I’m learning it has benefits.

  • He wants Sushi.  He can drive himself.
  • He needs to go to class, I’m tired.  He can drive himself.
  • I am making dinner and need something.  He can go get it.
  • I am at an appointment, his sister needs picked up.  He’s got it covered.

Like everything in parenting, letting go is hard at first.  It is always worth letting go.

What about you?  Are you starting the driver’s education journey?  What is your biggest fear?

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