Are you considering homeschooling your child? You can do it! As you get started, it’s important to make sure you comply with the education laws where you live. This page helps you understand how to homeschool legally—step by step.


Compulsory school attendance age

Beginning with the school year during which your child is or will be 5 by September 1, you must begin following South Dakota compulsory school law for that child.

Your child no longer has to obey the compulsory school law once he or she turns 18 or graduates.


Withdrawing your child from his or her current school

If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.

We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members are also eligible to use the sample letter of withdrawal for their state, available in Member Resources, to correspond with school officials.

We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.

Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.


Complying with your state’s homeschool law

To homeschool legally in South Dakota, you’ll need to follow these regulations:

Each year, you need to sign and file with local school officials an Application for Public School Exemption Certificate. It’s available on the HSLDA website here and on the South Dakota Department of Education website. In the blank that asks for the “Alternative instruction program to be attended,” write homeschool. Two people must sign as witnesses, or the form must be notarized.

The first time you file the form for your child, you need to include either (1) a copy of your child’s birth certificate or (2) an affidavit swearing or affirming that the child for whom the excuse is being requested is the same as the person “appearing on the child’s birth certificate,” and the affidavit must be notarized or witnessed by two witnesses. Violation of this requirement is a misdemeanor. If you submit a birth certificate, you must maintain your child’s birth certificate as part of his or her permanent cumulative school record.

Although the form is called an “application,” it’s effective immediately. You do not need to wait for the school system to respond in any way.

Plan to file your form not later than the day you take your child out of public school. Or, if you homeschooled the year before, file the form by September 1. If you take your child out of public school and don’t file the form immediately, your child could be considered truant during the days in between.

Give your child instruction in language arts and math. It’s mandatory to provide instruction in those subjects.

Teach for “an equivalent period of time” as local public schools. This may vary slightly, but all school districts in South Dakota are required to teach for at least a nine-month regular term. Keep records showing how many days each child receives instruction each school year.

Test your child in grades 2, 4, 8, and 11 with either the standardized test used by the school district or (if you prefer) any nationally standardized test. These test results will need to be turned in to your local school district, but you should also keep copies of the results on file. If a subsequent test shows “less than satisfactory” academic progress, the school board may refuse to renew the child’s public school exemption certificate.

Keep good records so you can defend yourself in case the state demands to see your records. The records should show how many days the child attended and evidence of progress.

If the state secretary of education has probable cause to believe that your homeschool program is not in compliance with the law, then he or she may inspect your records. The secretary must give you 14 days’ written notice.

If the school district revokes your certificate of excuse, you may appeal to the state board of education.


Records

If your state has any specific recordkeeping requirements, they are listed above. Regardless of your state’s recordkeeping requirements, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.

These records should include attendance records, information on the textbooks and workbooks your student used, samples of your student’s schoolwork, correspondence with school officials, portfolios and test results, and any other documents showing that your child is receiving an appropriate education in compliance with the law. You should maintain these records for at least two years. You should keep your student’s high school records and proof of compliance with the home education laws during the high school years (including any type of home education notice that you file with state or local officials) on file forever. HSLDA’s high school webpage has additional information about homeschool recordkeeping.



Home School Legal Defense Association is a national advocacy organization that supports the right of parents to educate their children at home. We are dedicated to protecting the legality of your homeschool while equipping you to successfully teach your children.

HSLDA members have 24/7 phone and email access to our staff of attorneys and legal assistants, who can help you understand the homeschool law in your state and will go to bat for you if a school official or other authority challenges your homeschool. Our 80,000 members—families like you!— also receive personalized advice on everything form homeschooling a high schooler to teaching a child with speical needs from our team of education consultants.


Please note: The information on this page has been reviewed by an attorney, but it should not be taken as legal advice specific to your individual situation.


Last updated July 15, 2015