Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - New Drivers

Every parent has to deal with new drivers, but for homeschool parents dealing with driver's tests, driver's education, and well all things terrifying teen driver related can be one of the first steps back into the mainstream world of parenting - sort of the first little speed bump on the road out of homeschooling and into adulthood.

Drawing by E (age 14)

We currently have four licensed drivers - two with full blown diver's licenses, two with learner's permits, and one more standing by hoping to take driver's ed. this summer.  The process is slightly different from state to state, and I'm sure even more so from country to country, but some of the headaches and hassles are the same.  So, this is another topic I thought I'd hit while it's still fresh in my mind.

Things have changed from when we learned to drive.

  • Kids start out earlier, but often don't drive on their own until later.

It used to be you dropped in at the DMV on your 15th birthday (or as soon after it as you could manage) to take the written test (on a computer with pictures if you were lucky) to get your learner's license.  Then you spent the next year driving with your parents, or any other licensed driver (or a driver's ed. instructor, if you wanted a discount on your insurance) until you turned 16, when you returned to the DMV to take your driving test and receive your license.
  • Now if you're enrolled in a state sanctioned driver's education program you can earn your permit at the age of 14 and half (in Montana, in other states it varies between 14 and 16), and graduated (meaning restricted) license by the time you're 15!
That being said, many new driver's aren't even trying for their licenses until they are older (a fact taken from personal observation, rather than hard data).

  • With a graduated license it is the number of practice hours that matter (50 in Montana) as well as the number of months (6 months) that you hold a permit.  Younger drivers have to keep a driving log to show the number of hours they've driven, as well as the time of day (some of the hours have to be at night), and various weather conditions encountered.  This doesn't matter so much for older driver's who simply take the driving test 6 months after their permit test, and move on.
It's convoluted

The graduated licenses have more restrictions and rules than the old permits and licenses.  Suffice it to say if you're unfamiliar with the "new" licensing process, you'll want to check into your state regulations sometime around the time your children turn 14, just to give yourself time to wrap your mind around all the rules and regulations.

Driver's Education

Not all homeschool students take driver's education classes, but keep in mind if you're planning on it, that they are often run through the local high schools.  Since we're out of the public school loop, homeschool have to be on the ball (and on the high school websites) to catch registration and class dates.

My kids were less than thrilled to head into a big high school on their own - cold turkey.  My oldest two opted to take driver's education together, so they could buddy-up.  They were the only homeschoolers in their class, but not the only siblings.  It ended up being a good thing, since the class started afterschool, meaning they had to head in against the flow of 1000 or more high schoolers leaving classes for the day.   It also allowed them to tag team the endless questions about homeschooling from their curious classmates.

The downside of their taking class together was that it meant practice driving with two at once for the Man of the House and me, instead of just one at a time.  That was a lot of "in the car" hours to add into our schedule.  

Few insurances offer discounts for driver's ed. anymore, and driver's ed. is expensive ($150/student in our area), so many homeschool families opt out of the program.  In that case, they wait until their children are old enough to earn a standard permit (16 years old in Montana), and then just teach their students themselves.  We've tried both ways, but prefer having the extra help even if it is a hassle.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Phyllis said...

In Maryland a driver's ed. class is mandatory, and the restricted licence lasts until 21.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - I can't believe how complicated it's gotten - but I guess that's a good thing.

Camie said...

My baby just got his driver's license. After both my homeschooled daughters dual-enrolled for one trimester in order to take driver's ed through the local high school, my son took the smarter route (in my opinion) and did the last summer course offered last year. The scheduled instructor drives were the biggest pain for me. That went on for months because the instructor was so busy and scheduling was a challenge. I'm so glad he's my last to go through driver's ed. I'm celebrating!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Camie - Did your daughters have to actually enroll in the high school in order to take driver's ed.? We just had to sign up through the school - and I thought that was hassle enough. It is nice when they start really driving though, and don't need rides everywhere.

Ticia said...

I need to look into this, my boys are getting closer to this time. Last I knew it was permit at 15, and license with restrictions at 16.