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No. 6

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Compulsory Attendance for 5-Year-Olds

In 2006, the South Dakota Legislature lowered the compulsory attendance age, beginning with the 2010–11 school year. As of fall 2010, children who are age 5 by September 1 will be of compulsory age, and parents planning to teach their 5-year-olds at home will need to file the Application for Public School Exemption Certificate form with the local superintendent.* Compulsory age ends at a student’s 18th birthday or upon graduation.

The first time that parents file the exemption form for a specific child, they must include either a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, or an affidavit (witnessed or notarized by two or more witnesses) swearing or affirming that the child for whom the excuse is being requested is the same as the person on the birth certificate. Parents do not need to provide the birth certificate or affidavit with any subsequent exemption forms filed for that same child.

Parents must keep a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate on file in their home at all times while the child is being homeschooled. Under some circumstances, the South Dakota Department of Education can demand access to attendance and progress records, so it is wise to keep those records.

South Dakota requires homeschooling parents to provide instruction in language arts and math for a period of time equivalent to what a child of the same age in public school would receive. For additional details, see Home School Legal Defense Association’s online summary of the state’s homeschool law or call our office.

Research shows that starting schooling earlier in an institutional setting produces no long-term benefits. And parents of homeschooled children already know the best time to start instruction. So there are no winners with the expansion of compulsory age.

— by Scott A. Woodruff

* See “A plethora of forms.”