All Virginia teens under age 18 who wish to earn a driver’s license must take a driver education course which has been approved by the Virginia Department of Education and adheres to the Standards of Learning for driver education. This includes a 36 classroom period “classroom component” and a 14 hour “in-car” or “behind the wheel” component. The two components are often offered separately and may be taken from separate providers.
The purpose of the “classroom component” course is to teach the rules of the road, offer instruction on alcohol safety, drug abuse awareness, aggressive driving, distracted driving, motorcycle awareness, and organ and tissue donation awareness. It also prepares the student for taking and passing the learner’s permit exam. The classroom component must be completed before the student can take the in-car/behind the wheel component.
Possible Options for fulfilling this requirement include:
- A local public school (through part-time enrollment, after school programs, adult education programs, or summer school)
- A local private school (through part-time enrollment or after school programming)
- A driver training school
- A correspondence school/distance learning program which has been approved by the Virginia Board of Education IF you are currently homeschooling
Availability and prices may vary depending on your location. Contact different schools and programs for more information on costs, possible discounts, etc. Public schools and private schools are not required to make driver education courses available to homeschooled students.
Approved Correspondence Courses
Several different correspondence school driver education programs have been approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction for homeschoolers. Courses may vary in length, presentation, cost, and registration requirements. Veteran homeschooling families in your community may have recommendations about which program will best fit your needs.
At this time, most correspondence school programs are requesting some type of formal documentation of homeschool status, such as a copy of the letter acknowledging notice of intent or religious exemption. (You may request such a letter from your school division if you have not already received one.) This documentation is being requested because only homeschooled students are allowed to take the correspondence school courses in Virginia. If a correspondence course allows a non-homeschooled student from Virginia to take one of their courses, they could lose their approved status with the Virginia Department of Education.
None of the approved correspondence school courses include the Partners for Safe Teen Driving component which is required in Northern Virginia. If you live in Northern Virginia and are taking a correspondence school course, you will need to take this component elsewhere. However, the public school, private school, and driver training schools in Northern Virginia all offer Partners for Safe Teen Driving as part of their classroom package.
There is no official minimum age for taking the classroom component. Many students begin the course a few months before age 15 years and 6 months, in preparation for the learner’s permit exam.
If you are over age 18, you are not required by law to take a driver education classroom course. However, you may wish to take such a course to prepare for the learner’s permit exam.
Teens under age 18 who have already graduated from homeschool are still required to take the classroom component, but are not allowed to take the correspondence school/distance learning driver education courses. Homeschool graduates may still take the classroom course through a local public school, private school, or driver training school.
Best Time to Take Course
Virginia law says that teens must take the classroom component before receiving a driver’s license, but does not specify exactly when the component is to be taken. It is therefore legally possible to first get a learner’s permit before signing up for the classroom component. However, you must show proof of completion of the classroom component before registering for either a school-taught or parent-taught in-car/behind the wheel course. Also, according to DMV, hours spent driving prior to completing the classroom component do not count towards parent-taught in-car instruction.
Some parents are reporting that taking this component before obtaining a learner’s permit better prepared their teens for the learner’s permit exam and gave their teens more motivation to complete the course in a timely manner.