As home educators, we want our teens to develop godly character and practical living skills. One of the best training grounds for doing this is getting a driver's license. Here are five key lessons we can help our teens learn during that process:
Driving is not an entitlement.
Contrary to our culture, getting a license is not an experience that automatically happens at age sixteen. It takes time and thoughtful preparation. I started talking with my oldest about the privilege of driving when he was twelve. I explained our specific family requirements for getting a driver's permit: memorize and save.
Memorize James 1 and live it, before taking the driver education class. The idea of linking Bible memory and driving came from author and speaker Joe White. I adapted it for our family. James 1 is filled with many practical applications for living our faith such as perseverance, dealing with temptation, handling anger, obeying God's Word, controlling one's mouth, and caring for those in need. As my teens memorized, we discussed the meaning of the verses and connected them to many areas of life, including driving. God's Word planted inside them gave the Holy Spirit fertile soil to work in. Because my children knew of this requirement in advance, they could memorize James 1 at any time.
Save up your money for driver education, behind-the-wheel training, and your permit. Why do they have to pay? It helps them determine how important driving is for them. It develops skills in working, earning, and saving money for a specific goal. This puts the burden for this expensive privilege of driving in their court. As a single homeschooling mom, I didn't have the resources to pay for driver education and insurance for three teens. They each had a once-a-week neighborhood paper route during their preteen and early teen years. They saved some of that money for driver education. Even if parents can afford to pay these costs for their children, they need to think this through. Car insurance and later owning a car are major expenses. We do our teens a big favor by helping them face this reality from the start.
Driving is a privilege that comes with maturity.
When they get their permits, the privilege of driving is tied to other behavior. Are they completing their homeschool assignments on time, working up to their abilities or just getting by? Are they finishing their chores each day? Are they keeping their word? Some teens do this easily. Others need to grow in maturity.
Throughout the time they have a their permit, I help them recognize how their behavior now, both positive and negative, affects future driving privileges.
Driving is a privilege that comes with great responsibility.
To get their license, again my children had to memorize and save. This time they memorized James 2-5 or selected Psalms and other Bible passages, and lived them. We spent lots of time discussing the meaning of the verses and applying them to daily life.
They also had to save up six months of car insurance in advance, and be able to continue paying their own insurance costs. Translation: have steady income, i.e. a job. Why is this important? Once you have a license, you have to keep paying for insurance whether you drive or not. So carefully consider your options. Soon after getting his permit, my oldest bought a good quality bike. That decision didn't make sense to me. He explained, "I'm not willing to pay all that money for car insurance right now, when I don't really need to drive that much." He chose to ride his bike to work, save his money, and postpone getting a license.
Driving is a privilege that costs money.
Besides driver training costs and outrageous insurance costs for teen drivers, there are other ongoing costs. In other words, driving equals spending money. So our post-license requirements include: pay $10 a month toward gas and maintenance (will be adjusted based on actual use of car), continue paying your own insurance portion of my auto insurance policy, and pay for any accidents or damage to the car while you are driving. Does this seem harsh? These are the rules in the adult world, so let's introduce our teens to these realities now.
My daughter recently borrowed her brother's car for the evening. While driving on the highway under a bridge, a large rock hit the front windshield and cracked it. A freak accident? Yes. Life happens. But someone has to pay to fix it. I believe our 'family reality training' helped them solve the problem amiably, without blame or guilt.
Driving is a privilege that impacts the whole family.
The car is not up for grabs. It doesn't go to whoever is most vocal about wanting it. To paraphrase Philippians 2:4, "A driver does not consider only his own needs, but also the needs of other family members." Having a driver's license is about contributing to the family. It's about being helpful and serving others. Each driver needs to communicate and schedule with family members about using the car (or cars). Each driver is expected to help with errands and drive others to appointments or practices. Each driver is trusted to be home on time, for others need the car too.
Perseverance, dependability, patience, commitment, honesty. These character qualities can blossom in our teens as they gradually acquire the privilege of driving. The life lessons it provides in setting priorities, money management, responsibility, service, and character development are woven into our ongoing homeschool curriculum. Consider this perspective in your homeschool: driving is a privilege!
*This article first published February 10, 2008.
Linda Joyce Heaner has two young adults with licenses and another one finished 'the process.' "I'm amazed by how much God teaches each of us through this one area of life!" she says. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.