Homeschooling laws can change, so be sure to check the South Dakota Department of Education website for updates.
Are you ready to start homeschooling in South Dakota? You may have many questions about topics like what you need to do to begin, what recordkeeping and testing is required, and how you need to interact with your local school district. You will want to start by understanding South Dakota homeschool law. You may feel overwhelmed as you start this process, but there are resources available and other homeschoolers who have already succeeded on this adventure!
Here is some information on South Dakota homeschool requirements to get you started:
South Dakota Homeschool Law
According to South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL § 13-27-1, “Any person having control of a child, who is not younger than five or older than six years old by the first day of September, or any child who, by the first day of September, is at least six years old, but who has not exceeded the age of eighteen, shall cause the child to regularly attend school, either public, nonpublic, or alternative instruction as set forth in SDCL § 13-27-3, until the child reaches the age of eighteen years, unless the child has graduated or is excused as provided in this chapter. However, the requirements of this section are met if a child who is at least sixteen years of age enrolls in a high school equivalency test preparation program and the child successfully completes the test or reaches the age of eighteen years.”
SDCL § 13-27-3 clarifies the meaning of “alternative instruction”: “Upon a filing of a notification with either the Department of Education or the local district from the parent, or guardian, or other person having control of a child, the Department of Education or the local district has been notified that the child is being provided with alternative instruction in the basic skills of language arts and mathematics. The person providing instruction is not required to be certified. No person may instruct more than twenty-two children. All instructions shall be given so as to lead to a mastery of the English language.”
Note that “during the 2021 legislative session, South Dakota’s statutes related to alternative instruction (home school and nonaccredited school enrollment) were updated through Senate Bill 177. The legislation:
- made changes to families’ notifications for their plans to provide alternative instruction,
- removed the requirement for alternative instruction families to report assessment results,
- clarified truancy statutes, and
- allowed for consistent participation in school activities, including those sponsored by the local school district and those sanctioned by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
The legislation became law on July 1, 2021” (South Dakota Department of Education).
What do I need to be eligible to be a homeschool parent?
According to SDCL § 13-27-3, “The person providing instruction is not required to be certified.” However, the parent/guardian/alternative instructor may not instruct more than twenty-two students per that same statute.
Do I need to notify the school district of my intent to homeschool my child?
“Parents/guardians who choose to provide alternative instruction pursuant to SDCL § 13-27-3 are required to file an Alternative Instruction Notification. The notification must be submitted on a form provided by the Department of Education. For individuals who choose, a paper copy (pdf) (word doc) of the notification may be downloaded and submitted per the instructions on the form.” A parent tutorial is available to help you navigate the online reporting system for alternative instruction notification.
Notification is only required at the onset of homeschooling (not annually); however, according to the South Dakota Department of Education, “an updated notification indicating a change in status for a child must be submitted within 30 days of any of the following:
- The child is moving to or open enrolling in another district but will still be homeschooling.
- The child has decided to participate in dual credit, and it was not previously indicated in the DOE Alternative Instruction Notification system.
- The child will no longer be homeschooling.”
Notification is also necessary within 30 days of enrolling the child in public or nonpublic school (South Dakota Department of Education). “To ensure clarity for the family and school, families are encouraged to communicate with the district about other relevant transitions such as participation in activities, an open enrollment change, or special education evaluations” (South Dakota Department of Education).
What educational options are available to my homeschooler?
As a homeschooler, you do have some options. For example, according to the South Dakota Department of Education, school districts are required to “loan textbooks without charge to all persons ages five to nineteen (SDCL § 13-34-23) […] who are enrolled in school (including alternative instruction), so long as the students reside in the district but are not enrolled in the public school. The textbooks must be nonsectarian and be those normally used in the public school. Textbooks include any instructional materials that are the principle source of teaching and learning for a given course of study and approved by the school board, including print and digital materials, but not including computer hardware.” Also, “alternative instruction students can enroll for one or more classes on a part-time basis while receiving alternative instruction for the balance of their education” (South Dakota Department of Education).
“Alternative instruction students may participate in Career and Technical Student Organizations so long as they meet the eligibility requirements established by the organization. Each organization has co-curricular (classroom) requirements set at the national and/or state level. Alternative instruction students must meet those requirements for eligibility and follow deadlines set by the student organizations. Like in athletics or fine arts, students are not guaranteed a seat on competitive teams. All competitive roster seats must be earned through local qualifications” (South Dakota Department of Education).
Your homeschooler may also participate in the state’s reduced tuition dual credit program, “an opportunity for 11th and 12th graders who meet admissions standards to enroll in public technical colleges and universities in South Dakota and simultaneously earn credits for both their high school diploma and postsecondary degree or certificate.” To enroll, you “must have a notification on file with the SD Department of Education and work directly with the department to start the enrollment process for the reduced-cost courses.”
Finally, home instruction families have options related to open enrollment: “The parent or guardian should complete the open enrollment process with the nonresident district prior to indicating an ‘Open Enrolled District’ on the alternative instruction notification. This field can be updated on the notification form following initial submission” (South Dakota Department of Education). See the South Dakota Alternative Instruction FAQs on the Alternative Instruction page for more information on open enrollment.
South Dakota Homeschool Requirements
Even though South Dakota does not highly regulate homeschooling, there are some South Dakota homeschool requirements you must satisfy when you homeschool:
- Begin homeschooling by age 6.
- File the required alternative instruction notification 30 days prior to beginning homeschooling (SDCL § 13-27-3).
- Teach at least the “basic skills of language arts and mathematics,” leading “to a mastery of the English language” (SDCL § 13-27-3).
- File an additional notification if your child is moving or open enrolling in another district but still homeschooling, if your child is transferring to a public or nonpublic school, or if your child will no longer be homeschooling.
- Stay current with homeschooling laws and requirements.
Do I need to administer testing to my homeschooler?
No. “Alternative instruction students are no longer required to take and submit the results of nationally standardized achievement tests in fourth, eighth, or eleventh grades. Students receiving alternative instruction may take nationally standardized tests as the person providing alternative instruction deems appropriate for the child’s educational progress. These assessments are at the expense of the child’s parent, guardian, or other person having control of the child” (South Dakota Department of Education).
What records do I need to keep when I homeschool my child?
The South Dakota Department of Education recommends “that the parent, guardian, or other person having control of a child keep a detailed academic record of student learning, including attendance and grades earned. Transcripts issued by the parents/guardians are required for participation in activities, acceptance into public education at a later date, enrollment in the state’s dual credit program, acceptance into postsecondary education, and for scholarship applications.”
In addition to the recommended recordkeeping, we also suggest you do some personal recordkeeping to provide verification of education in the event you would need to show some form of educational proof to the state or other legal entities or to prepare for re-entry into public school or postsecondary pathways. This includes the following:
- Immunization records
- Lists of texts and workbooks used
- Student schoolwork samples and/or portfolios
- Test and evaluation results
- Correspondence with school officials
You may also be able to find more information on South Dakota homeschool requirements through your local school district.
Other South Dakota Homeschool Policies
Once you make sure that you are following South Dakota homeschool law and meeting South Dakota homeschool requirements, here are some other things you need to know:
Can my homeschooled child participate in extracurricular activities and services offered by the public school?
“Alternative instruction students of all ages may participate in all activities offered by their resident district, including school-sponsored activities and those sanctioned by the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Examples include clubs like robotics or chess, spelling bee, prom, athletics, and fine arts. For club activities run by community organizations or parents (i.e., not sponsored by the school or sanctioned by the High School Activities Association), families must work with the club to participate in those activities. No student is conferred any vested right to be selected for competition in any activity” (South Dakota Department of Education).
“Participation in activities, school-sponsored or High School Activities Association-sanctioned, is a privilege, not a right for all eligible students. Alternative instruction students must meet the same requirements as publicly enrolled students to participate in these activities. Examples of requirements include submission of grade and/or attendance reports on set schedule, age/grade parameters, enrollment in certain courses, fees, training rules, codes of conduct, behavior policies, volunteer hours or fundraising, and tryouts for teams. Discipline protocols for breaking district or state requirements applies to alternative instruction students as well.
Alternative instruction students participating in some activities must submit proof of age to the school for many activities (i.e., birth certificate or affidavit in lieu of a birth certificate). Students participating in High School Activities Association-sanctioned activities are held to the organization’s transfer and non-academic eligibility rules.” (South Dakota Department of Education).
“The statutory changes in 2021 opened participation in activities to alternative instruction students without any requirements for enrolling in a certain number of classes in the resident public district. Some activities, like orchestra or FFA, might include a requirement for enrollment and full participation in a course to participate in the out-of-school activity” (South Dakota Department of Education).
Is transportation provided for these activities? “The parent, guardian, or person in control of the alternative instruction student is responsible for providing transportation to the school or location where the school activity is hosted. If the school district provides transportation to an off-site activity from school property, alternative instruction students must be provided the same transportation option(s) as public school students” (South Dakota Department of Education).
Note that “any agreements for participation in nonpublic school activities must be made between the administration of the nonpublic school and the parent or guardian of alternative instruction students. State statutes do not cover these agreements” (South Dakota Department of Education).
See the South Dakota Alternative Instruction FAQs on the Alternative Instruction page for more information about extracurricular activity participation and for information on the provision of Special Education services to alternative instruction students.
What if I want to re-enroll my child in public school after homeschooling?
There are also procedures, outlined by the South Dakota Department of Education, if you would like to re-enroll your child in public school after homeschooling:
“The child will be placed at his/her demonstrated level of proficiency as established by one or more standardized tests. The child’s placement may be in one grade level higher than warranted by the child’s chronological age, assuming entry into the first grade at age six and annual grade advancement each year thereafter. After initial placement, the child may be advanced according to his/her demonstrated performance.
For students in middle or high school, they must be placed in English and math courses at the level of achievement demonstrated by one or two standardized tests, and in all other subjects on a review of transcripts according to the policy formally adopted by the school board. The student’s placement may be in one grade level higher than warranted by the child’s age. After initial placement, the child may be advanced according to demonstrated performance.
If a parent or guardian is dissatisfied with the placement of their child, they can appeal it to the secretary of the Department of Education.”
What are my child’s postsecondary options after homeschooling?
Life after homeschooling may take some planning. “A child who is at least sixteen years of age may enroll in a high school equivalency test preparation program in South Dakota.” As you help your child explore options, you may want to contact universities and colleges, organizations, and/or branches of the military to find out about admissions requirements.
See the Alternative Instruction page on the South Dakota Department of Education’s website for even more information on homeschooling in South Dakota.
Connect With Local Homeschoolers
Remember, too, that you are not alone. You should connect with local homeschoolers from your state, who can help you with South Dakota homeschool law and South Dakota homeschool requirements and offer you all kinds of practical advice and suggestions. They can give you guidance on everything from curriculum to daily schedules to recordkeeping, and they may be able to share information about local resources, support groups, and field trips. Click the image below to find South Dakota Homeschool Groups by county.