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Driver Education Options-- now there's an online driver training course...
Susan Richman, 2/24/2010

Susan Richman helped all four of her kids learn to drive. She is the editor of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, and serves as a Home Education Program Evaluator for many families in PA. She also leads AP US History online for homeschool students all across the nation.

Many of us have taught our kids how to drive-- and many might agree it's among the scarier things a parent does! I remember wondering why I was suddenly getting 'tension headaches' that first week I was helping our older son Jesse learn to drive-- and then began noticing that involuntary gripping of the dashboard, and my foot ramming the imaginary brake on the passenger's side of the car. Helping our kids learn to drive can be a wonderful bonding time, too-- time to talk, do something real together, and really show your teen you believe they are ready for this adult skill. Along with the challenge of helping our kids with this major life task, most of us are also looking for ways to help trim the upcoming car insurance bill with a new teen driver in the house. We want our kids to become safe drivers-- and we also want to save some money if possible.

There are many ways to get helpful insurance discounts-- some companies offer 'good student' discounts. Just get your evaluator (in PA) to write a letter substantiating that your homeschool student has at least a 'B' average, and that generally takes care of things-- a transcript might also be required for verification. I've written a number of these letters for students I evaluate-- I usually add something about the student's good character and safety consciousness and overall personal maturity.

Or a student can take a recognized driver education course. Most families look to the public schools for this option, and some have decent enough experiences. But some have trouble getting their homeschool teen into a school class-- these driver ed programs are often being 'trimmed' at schools, and the waiting lists can be long. Some homeschoolers have complained that the classes are very repetitive, the kids are inattentive and bored, and physically heading up to the school each day for one class really breaks up their learning time at home. Some families have gone the route of private classes, sometimes held at YMCA's, or distance courses through programs like Keystone National High School www.keystonehighschool.com (cost about $209).

Some families opt to have their kids wait on learning to drive until they're past the 'dangerous ages' for car insurance-- and probably more mature also. The very helpful book we offer in our online store Safe Young Drivers encourages parents to think very carefully about when a particular teen is ready for this responsibility-- he reminds parents that just because a kid turns 16 in no way means he must be allowed to drive. One caution if you go that route-- if your child heads off to college, you may just find that there is no time to help your son or daughter learn to drive. Our son Jacob had little interest in driving when in high school-- which was fine by me. I think he was worried I'd just make him take his little sisters to their piano lessons, or do the grocery shopping. He eventually got his permit his junior year, but never took his driving test (I was busy, he was busy... we just didn't get enough driving time in... the permit lapsed...). Off he went to college without a license-- which seemed like no problem, as he was in the city at Carnegie Mellon University, he had a bike, and there were great buses. He was very busy working in the summers-- and more years went by without a license. He finally realized that he would be moving immediately to Seattle WA the day after college graduation to start his first job at Microsoft-- and if he didn't have a driver's license, he'd be sunk. Who would take him out 'practice driving' in Washington state? So, with some help from his grandpa, and some last minute parking instruction help, he managed to pass his test (after one failure!), earning his license 2 days before his CMU graduation ceremony. He flew out to WA, bought a car within a week or so, and has been driving fine ever since. It worked-- but I don't recommend this approach!  

Now there's another option for helping your teen do the required 30-hours of classroom instruction-- a totally online driver education program. I wish I'd had this when our four were learning to drive-- I think they would have found it a lot more engaging than the old textbook my son Jesse used from a Penn State University correspondence course, which seemed to mostly test kids on remembering various acronyms that were supposed to help you think through safe driving protocols. I, for one, could never remember the acronyms. 

Here's the info on this new online course, sent to my by Luann Dunkerley, who works in partnership with Duncan School of Driving in Pennsylvania:

As Spring approaches, more and more students begin the journey of learning how to drive.  No doubt, you have seen the tragic stories of our nations’ teenagers and the high incidence of injuries and fatalities with inexperienced drivers.  It is our sincere hope  that in some way we can help to reverse the trend through our emphasis on safe driving skills in our interactive training.   

Online Driver Education for Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

Duncan School of Driving is proud to offer an exciting alternative to traditional 30 hour classroom training for Driver Education.  Approved by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, our interactive online Driver Ed program provides a dynamic learning environment with high quality 3D graphics and audio.  Each module covers critical safety topics and includes knowledge checks in order to assure full comprehension.  The 50 question final exam and printable certificate of completion are included in the program.   Most insurance companies offer a safe driver discount on premiums upon successful completion of a Driver Ed program.

The Online Module Topics include:

  •  Avoiding Aggressive Driving
  • Avoiding Collisions While Changing Lanes
  • Avoiding Collisions While at Intersections
  • Avoiding Collisions While Backing and Parking
  • Avoiding Distracted Driving
  • Driving Impaired
  • Managing Your Time and Speed
  • Preventing Rear-End Collisions
  • Protecting Yourself and Your Vehicle
  • Ready to Drive
  • The One Second Advantage
  • Understanding Traffic Signals and Signs
  • Breakdown Safety
  • Driving in the Rain
  • Driving Safely Next to Large Trucks
  • Properly Maintaining Your Vehicle
  • Proper Use of Seatbelts and Airbags
  • Tire Pressure: Mileage and Traction
  • Using your Ant-Lock Braking System
  • Winter at the Wheel

If you would like to see a demo of the Online Driver Education, please visit us at www.duncanschoolofdriving.com.  You may also enroll online at the site with a major credit card.

The introductory cost of the program  is $149.95

PA Homeschoolers Duncan.jpg

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I'd love to hear from other homeschooling families about their own experiences in helping their teens learn to become safe and responsible drivers. We all know, too, how important it is for a young driver to develop fast reflexes and learn to scan continually for trouble ahead and behind-- and we probably all know at least one family that has had the heartbreak of fatal car accident. Here's wishing all of you are safe as learning-to-drive season starts up again. Do share your experiences in the 'comment box' below.


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