Online Drivers Ed: How to Maneuver the Schedule

online drivers ed

My teenage son finally looked at his sophomore year schedule the other day. Finally. And he discovered that he had 10th Grade PE/Drivers Ed scheduled for the spring. Not this fall. And he then began wailing. Why you ask?

My son is one of the “older” kids in his grade. He was almost 6 when he started Kindergarten. And that means he’s almost 16 now, and he wants that drivers license. I can’t say I don’t want him to get it either. The COVID-19 planned in-person school schedule is a rotation of half-days, meaning lots of varied drop-offs and pick-ups. He’s also an athlete, and that means more trips. I can’t say I’m excited by that myself, especially since I work full-time.

The in-class portion of drivers ed is a requirement before you can do the behind-the-wheel section. One book section, one practical section. With this schedule, he wouldn’t be able to get his license until, like, April or May. At the earliest. Hence, the wailing… from both of us.

So like many parents right now, I went online to look up classes he could take from home. I discovered there are quite a few online drivers ed programs marketed out there. Many of them say you can use their services no matter what. But, really, can you?

Back to Square One

We started as I’ll tell anyone you should: Call your student’s guidance counselor. He didn’t really want to mess with his schedule because he liked it, as it was, so moving the drivers ed section forward was a last choice. We asked about using an online course, and were told to go for it. In fact, he could “sit out” the drivers section of his 10th Grade PE/Drivers Ed class in the spring, and get a study hall in. With the possibility of playing two sports in the spring, he’s going to need that study hall!

I then found an article on CarTalk.com about online drivers ed companies (and if you’re an NPR fan, you know that name). It lists the programs they recommend online, ranked by popularity and customer reviews, state availability, and licensing. We happily signed up for one.

RELATED: In Defense of the ‘Mediocre’ High School Schedule

Then, a few days later, we found out that their “our program is great for homeschoolers” meant, actually, that they are licensed only for homeschoolers in our state. That is, you have to submit documentation that you’re a not attending private or public school. And we were back to the beginning. Wailing from both of us ensued.

Read Your State’s DMV Website Thoroughly

After getting a refund on that online course, and grumbling loudly, I circled back to our state’s DMV site. Where did I go wrong? Basically, I should’ve started there. I read everything I could about authorized driving schools. I found a local one nearby, and called them directly. Not only could my son do their online classroom portion through their licensed and state-approved portal, but he could also do the behind-the-wheel section concurrently through the same company. The ability to do both sections at the same time is actually in response to the current pandemic, in our state, but we aren’t complaining!

My misstep at the beginning was a happy accident! It actually worked out better in the long run!

So, gentle readers, if you have an “old” student in need of their license, go straight to the (1) guidance office and (2) your state’s DMV website. Do not pass go on the online recommendations (but I still love CarTalk!). Read everything thoroughly. There is an added expense involved, but for us, it’s worth it.


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