Homeschooling Driver’s Ed

Should parents teach their children to drive?  Let’s face it, if my kids don’t drive well, it could cost them their lives.  That motivates me to find the best possible method for them to learn.

If the data shows that kids are safest by learning in an approved classroom, then I want my child in the best driver’s education class around.  That isn’t what the data shows.  When people look at the studies, it’s no wonder that homeschoolers get upset about being forced to pay for expensive traffic safety classes.  Paying extra money for an inferior method doesn’t sound like a good idea.

National Driver Training Institute and Driver Ed In A Box are two programs (there are others) that lead to good results.  A year ago I was ready to place my order.  Unfortunately, my state requires students to pass a course taught by a certified traffic-safety instructor if they want to earn a driver’s license before age 18.

When I discovered that the class that cost us nearly $500 had no direct instruction, I fumed.  Kids watched movies, then read instructional text on a computer screen.  When they felt that they’d mastered a section of material, they were given a written test.  The only thing the instructor did was unlock the classroom and grade tests.

I’m no computer expert, but I know that it’s possible to show movies on a computer screen.  I know that it’s possible to have interactive instructional materials online.  Kids could read the material, then take a test and receive immediate feedback instead of having to wait 2-3 days for someone to grade their papers.  So far, it’s sounding like computerized instruction would be superior to the state-certified-instructor.

Behind-the-wheel time is required, too, though (at least in my state).  After passing a test, the student needs to sign up to go out in a car with the instructor.  The law is pretty clear about what constitutes driving time for a traffic safety class – at least I thought so.  But the instructor felt that fifteen minutes behind the wheel and half an hour as a passenger was enough to qualify as a one-hour drive.  Time and again that’s what happened.  Except for the time that the teacher was 25 minutes late – drives were much shorter that time.

The driver’s ed teacher praised my son’s driving skill.  Friends and relatives let my son drive their cars.  All reported back that he was an excellent driver.  I joked to my friends that I had a chauffeur – my son drove everywhere

***

Articles such as Parent-Taught Driver Education Saves Lives and others led me to believe that as parents, my husband and I would be able to provide a better driver-safety course for our children than any generic classroom full of teens.  A year ago I was pretty miffed that the only way to qualify for a driver’s license was to pay a lot of money to a driving school.

Now I’m glad that my son attended “approved” traffic safety classes.  Because my son, the one who everyone says is an excellent driver, who is very cautious and careful, totalled our car.  At highway speeds.  The passengers in our car were okay, but the people in the other vehicle needed emergency surgery and were hospitalized for a week.  That is a very difficult thing to handle.  If I had been the one solely responsible for teaching him to drive, the guilt would be overwhelming.

Even if the law changes in the future and parents who homeschool are allowed to teach their kids’ driver’s ed, my children will all go through a formal class.  We found a different driving school for child number two.  It costs more (nearly $700), but is taught by off-duty police officers.  There is direct classroom instruction.  The policemen add to the class by telling the kids about some of the wrecks they’ve investigated – what went wrong and how the accidents might have been prevented.

In theory, I believe that parents should be permitted to teach their kids how to drive.  This is one subject, however, where the consequences of a single oversight can be deadly.  Give it a lot of careful thought before skipping the formal traffic safety classes.

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