Legislation, coronavirus likely behind recent uptick in homeschooling numbers

RAPID CITY, S.D. — South Dakota’s homeschooling community has been growing at an unprecedented rate in the last few years, increasing 25% from 2019 to 2020 and 22% from 2020 to 2021.

Those numbers equating to roughly 5% of South Dakota’s school-age population, following closely behind the national average of 6-7%.

Us Homeschooling Chart

Growth of homeschooling in the United States, courtesy of the National Home Education Research Institute

Surprisingly, that increase does not correlate to a decrease in public school enrollment; in fact, enrollment increased roughly 1% from 2020 to 2021 in South Dakota’s public schools.

State legislative watchdog group Families for Alternative Instruction Rights in South Dakota (FAIRSD) says it’s hard to know for sure what the reasoning is behind every decision to homeschool, but they attribute the growth to three things – coronavirus being one.

“A lot of those families…they probably dropped into homeschooling and they may not stay with it,” says Jennifer Beving, a member of FAIRSD’s committee and a homeschool mother. “I could see a lot of them going back into public school once that has settled down.”

In addition to homeschooling for COVID-related reasons, Beving says parents whose children had to learn at home during the pandemic may have felt empowered, including those that moved to South Dakota because of the state’s pandemic response.

“A lot of people who are willing to pack up their family and move due to COVID restrictions are probably likely the type of families that would homeschool or maybe were already homeschooling,” Beving says.

Homeschool Enrollment Fall Count Courtesy Sd Doe

Data courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Education

Aside from the pandemic, recent legislation not only brought homeschooling into people’s minds, but Beving says it also streamlined the notification process to the State.

“I think that probably reached people that didn’t know necessarily how to notify before, and so I think that probably boosted our numbers,” Beving adds.

That legislation, 2021 Senate Bill 177, also gave homeschool students the opportunity to participate in public school sports and activities.

Beving believes the impressive increases seen over the past couple years won’t last but will instead level-off.

Regardless, she says that the numbers show FAIRSD’s mission to make homeschooling a viable educational option is a success.

CLICK HERE for a breakdown of enrollment in schools across South Dakota compiled by the state Department of Education.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Family, Local News, South Dakota News