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Teens Driving and the Scary World Out There | Homeschool High School Made Easy 21

Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!

We are wrapping up our week of homeschool teen socialization, our look at the social and emotional issues that arise during these high school years. While our teens are busy completing courses and filling up transcripts, they are fast becoming young adults, taking giant strides out the door of our home into the exciting adult world beckoning them.

This hits home dramatically when our teen gets his first driver’s license. Yes, we take them out practicing and celebrate their first vehicle and take pictures of them holding their new license, but meanwhile, our hearts are screaming, “NO! Don’t go! Don’t drive away just yet!” But drive away they must, out into the wild blue yonder (or maybe into the mailbox).

I did pretty well with my oldest son’s driving. I wisely bowed out of teaching him behind the wheel; his grandmother and father did that. I’m great for book learning and museum wandering; I’m not the one you want yelling and clawing at the dashboard. So our son took his course online and practiced on the road with patient, calm family members who had good life insurance policies.

It is not hard for a homeschool student to get a driver’s license. With a few phone calls to the department of motor vehicles and some online research, we found that taking the course online and learning to drive with a parent was the least expensive and simplest way to go. When he went for his learner’s permit, his father accompanied him to provide insurance and driving instruction information, and I brought along my teacher lesson plan book to prove his homeschool status. I signed a form saying our son was, indeed, a full-time student; his father signed a few more about liability and insurance and other legalities. The teen took a test on a computer, then he was awarded his permit.

After that, it was just a matter of tracking his driving time. As we felt our way through the driving experience with our oldest, we stumbled upon a few guidelines that have been since codified as the law for driving in our house:

Teens may not drive the family minivan. This was my first decree, and I was so adamant about it that I was able to push it into ratification. That one vehicle represents the only transportation that will fit the entire family; if anything happened to it, we could not so much as get to church. So don’t even ask, you aren’t getting the keys if you’re under 21.

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Teens have to acquire their own vehicle to learn on. With my minivan out of the picture, that leaves only Dad’s car for the new driver, and my husband is usually driving it to work every day. So our oldest was forced to look elsewhere. Fortunately for him, his grandparents were in the process of purchasing a new vehicle, so he bought a used truck with high mileage but a great track record for only $1. His siblings are so jealous.

Our daughter, on the other hand, has been looking for her car ever since her brother’s great deal. She’s also been saving her money in a large jar labeled CAR FUND. I’ve caught her eyeing used cars on our street and asking adults if they are thinking about getting a new vehicle. It’s quite amusing. Lately, she’s even been talking with her dad about leasing his sedan from him.

Teens must pay for their own vehicle costs, including insurance. The car insurance was a huge concern for my husband and me until we had the great epiphany that it wasn’t our responsibility. That took a big load off our minds and wallets. My husband, out of the goodness of his heart, did a lot of research for our son, however. He found a few cut-rate companies, but teen boys are still pretty expensive to insure. THEN he learned that some insurance companies allow policyholders to insure the vehicle, not the driver. Until the first ticket or accident, there’s no additional charge for the additional driver, just for his car. But once the teen has an accident, his rates go way up. Our compromise was to carry the truck on our insurance and allow the teen to pay us the difference. But once he has an accident or ticket, he must get his own car insurance. That has been a powerful motivator to keep him driving carefully.

He pays for all his gas, tires, oil changes, and maintenance. Driving and owning a vehicle is a tremendous responsibility, and providing for those costs himself are difficult for a teen. This keeps him working hard, budgeting his finances, and maintaining his vehicle. It may have a lot of McDonald’s wrappers, Sonic cups, and stinky ball caps littered inside it, but that truck is well-loved and cared for.

It is scary when teens drive off. Will they come home? When? Will they get into trouble? How much? Finding a balance between protecting and empowering, teaching and training, discipline and grace is never so difficult as when letting the teen drive. A few reminders helped me stay (relatively) calm:

It is time to let them practice adulting. Teens can’t grow up unless we allow them to practice being responsible. They must drive off, stand on their own, and choose what kind of person they will be.

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Character is what they are when we aren’t looking. I always knew that in my head, but when my teen son drove away from the house all day, that was when I learned who he really was. The scary thing is that everyone else gets to see who he is first: his employer, his friends (and friends’ parents), local business owners. Regardless, we must allow our teens to demonstrate their character; they need to see it, just as much as anyone else.

We are still the parents. Yes, the ability to drive changes so much; overnight, the teen takes exponentially larger steps out the door. However, they are still teens — living under our house with dependent status. We are still the older, wiser providers in the relationship. It’s important for everyone in the family to remember that.

We can — and should — enforce curfew by taking away keys. We can — and should — enforce financial responsibilities by repossessing unpaid items. We can — and should — make sure household chores are completed, family relationships are respected, and school work is completed. Now is not the time for anyone to slack off.

Teen driving represents a huge milestone in your young person’s life — and in yours. With grace, guidelines, and some good tissues, you’ll survive this stage and maybe even look back at it fondly.

Do you have a teen driver at home? What are your guidelines?

This article contains affiliate links to help support this site, but all recommendations are products I actually use and love. I am not a legal expert on graduation requirements in any state; please do your own research and plan accordingly.

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