Driver’s Ed in Your Homeschooling

Leah in town practicing parking on a hill

One of the subjects we as homeschooling parents GET to teach :)  is Driver’s Ed. If you’re a math-phobe  like me or the Periodic Table Of Elements makes your eyes glaze over like mine, then teaching your child how to drive SHOULD be fun, right? Well, I wouldn’t exactly use that word, but let’s just say it’s interesting…and if I survive this, I’ll be ok.

Our youngest daughter Leah is 16 and has her learner’s permit. A cold Missouri winter that brought lots of snow and ice (February 2011 dumping 18 inches of snow) was a definite deterrent to Leah getting behind the wheel of a car enough so that she’d be ready for her driver’s license test. There was no way I was going to allow her to try to handle snow and ice when she was just learning to drive!

Now the snow has melted and our concern weather-wise is tornaodes. In between the days when it’s raining a lot, and I’m praying against tornadoes, Leah and I are conquering the road. Conquer is a good word for it. She gets her wallet with her learner’s permit and hands me her Safe Driving: A Guide to Teaching The New Driver, ARRIVE ALIVE booklet.

I have news for you. The teen driver or the parent does NOT have that happy, cheesey grin on their faces like they show in this handbook!  The booklet has little boxes for me to check off of Leah’s accomplishments. You know, things like:

Didn’t take corners today at 35 m.p.h.

Didn’t smash into the car on her  right as she was pulling into the parking space.

Didn’t run over the jogger in pink.

Didn’t wait until she was at the stop sign to stop.

Didn’t slow down and look guilty as she passed the cop sitting on the side of the road pointing the radar at us.

I am kidding, of course (sorta). Leah is actually doing very well driving…but it’s not her favorite thing.  Unlike our oldest daughter Heather who couldn’t wait to escape with her friends learn to drive,Leah is a reluctant driver. It’s not that she thinks she would crash into someone else; “it’s the other idiots driving,” she says.

Heather was quite different. I think she would have learned to drive at 3 years old. In fact, she did have a little toy Volkswagen that she scooted around on at that age. I think she was studying for her learner’s permit three years before her 15th birthday.

When she got her learner’s permit, Heather was constantly wanting to practice driving, so she could get her required driving  hours in and could take the driver’s test the minute the DMV’s office opened on her 16th birthday.

When she passed it and got her license, Heather suddenly became the greatest servant in the world: “Want me to go get you a coke at the store, mom?” “Dad, do you need anything at the grocery store?” Any excuse to drive would do. I had the feeling that as soon as she went around the corner of our street, she floored the gas pedal and was  shouting, “WHOO-HOO!” with the windows rolled down and her hair flying in the wind. (To this day, Heather still has a lead foot on the accelerator.)

But back to Leah. She’s making good progress. She now points very teacher-like to my seatbelt as soon as we get into the car. (I don’t put it on purposely to see what she’ll do.)  She holds the steering wheel fairly steady on the road, and when she’s accelerating, it no longer feels like a NASA rocket taking off.

Driver’s Ed is a little difficult to “grade.” You either get it or you don’t. If you hit something, you can’t take the test over! I do try to stay calm, but initially my nails left a permanent indention on the dashboard as I screeched, “DON’T HIT THE BRIDGE!”  We’ve now advanced to a place where her driving makes me only slightly nervous.

You can count Driver’s Ed in your child’s homeschool curriculum. This is one of the most important things your child will ever learn! Don’t let him or her be like my grandmother, who never learned to drive and had to depend on others her entire life to go where she needed. Yes, driving is a privilege, but it gives your teen the independence and the freedom he or she needs to make a smoother transition into responsible adulthood.

Here’s some tips to help with Driver’s Ed with your teen:

  • Pray before driving (sometimes you’re praying fervently AS they drive!). I pray for God’s protection over me and my loved ones every morning by habit, but I also pray out loud when Leah and I get into the car. This teaches your teen about the important habit of prayer when you’ll no longer be driving with them when they have their license – and they will need to pray for themselves.
  • Have a specific destination in mind.  This will avoid having to tell your teen driver to make a sudden right turn! You can turn driver’s ed into fun excursions as your teen gains experience driving – a picnic at the park, fun shopping at Kohl’s, a  petting zoo.
  • Be (stay) positive and encouraging. You don’t want your teen to dislike driving from constant criticism and become unmotivated to get his license, living with you until he or she is 40 or beyond. The Bible says for fathers not to exasperate their children, so they won’t lose heart. Tell them what they did well. Give a couple of pointers for the most important areas where they need to work on –  such as always looking over their shoulder before moving into another lane.
  • Don’t throw a sheep to the wolves. Make sure your teen driver gets lots of practice somewhere safe first before driving on real roads. You don’t want your child traumatized by road rage on the highway because they were driving too slow for the driver behind them. You’ve probably forgotten how scary it feels for other cars to come toward you or be behind you.  It’s not easy to learn to drive and it is frightening at first. Help your teen to relax by practicing first. We live in a small town, so Leah isn’t in heavy traffic at this point. When she gains more experience, we’ll tackle heavy traffic in other cities and higher speeds on the highway.
  • Remember this too shall pass.  The years go so fast.  He or she is growing up, and soon will leave the nest -and how empty it will feel then. Savor these precious days with your teen for you’ll never get them back. Enjoy this time with your teen, sudden stops and all!

PS:  My husband WILL teach Leah to parallel park, though! :)

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