Simplified: The number of home-schooled students in Sioux Falls and statewide saw significant increases this school year after a 2021 South Dakota law made it easier for families to opt for alternatives to public schools.
Why it matters
- Home schooling in Sioux Falls went up 20 percent this year – and statewide the increase was 23 percent. The increase is outpacing population growth and growth within area school districts.
- While some of that may be due to the change in state law, home schooling was becoming more popular long before that. The number of home-schooled kids in Sioux Falls nearly tripled in the last decade. Statewide, the number of home-schooled kids increased two and a half times in that same time frame.
- Parents have a wide variety of reasons for choosing home schooling, but several told Sioux Falls Simplified they're seeing an increasing number of local home-schooling resources as well as a growing community of home-schoolers.
"I think there are people who are always going to think it's weird because it's different from the way they were raised," said Pattie Kutch, a Sioux Falls parent who home-schools her two sons. "But I think, from a personal standpoint ... seeing the success of home-schoolers has changed a lot of that perspective."
Show me the numbers
Let's talk statewide first, just to give you a sense of the scope.
- In 2013, there were just shy of 3,700 home-schooled kids in South Dakota.
- Today, there are more than 9,100.
In Sioux Falls, the number of home-schooled kids went up by more than 800 students since 2013. Today there are about 1,270 home-schooled kids in the city.
- For context, the Sioux Falls School District – with a total population of more than 24,000 – has gained just over 1,600 students since 2013.
*While this chart looks only at growth within the Sioux Falls School District boundaries, it's worth noting the increase in home-schooling is also seen in other metro-area districts including Tea, Harrisburg, Brandon Valley, Lennox, Tri-Valley and Canton (to name a few).
How did the rules for home schooling change?
In 2021, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 177, which loosened requirements for home-schooolers.
- Now, the process to let the state know you're home-schooling your kids is much simpler. Parents don't have to provide any documentation
- Home-schoolers also no longer have any standardized test requirements.
"That has resulted in more parents choosing this option," Ruth Raveling, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said in an emailed statement.
What do actual home-school parents have to say?
They're seeing the increase both in the number of home-schooled kids and in the number of local groups and resources for families who choose that path.
Diandra Hofer, a long-time Sioux Falls resident who's now home-schooling her 6-year-old daughter, said she was home-schooled on and off as a kid.
"My experience with it wasn't super great because there was not the community that there is now," Hofer said.
Now, Hofer added, there are several different co-ops, curriculums, and styles of home schooling in the Sioux Falls.
"It’s nice to know that you can really make it however you want it to be," said Carly Kewley, who home-schools her two girls.
What happens next?
If history is any indicator, the number of home-schoolers in the state will only continue to grow.
"There’s tons of people who are home-schooling because their kid is not learning, or their kid is being bullied in school," Kutch said. "Or they’re just having a hard time with the environment – the parents don't like what the system is presenting. There's all kinds of reasons."
The state Department of Education tracks the number of home-schooled kids each year (though, the state labels home schooling as "alternative instruction.") If you want to dig into that data, you can find it all here.