Getting Started
You are beginning an exciting adventure with your family!  Maybe you have been thinking of homeschooling since before your child was born.  Possibly your child is having trouble in the school he or she is attending and your family has decided that homeschooling may be a better option.  We are here to help as you begin and as you continue to homeschool.

As you consider the option of homeschooling, you will probably ask yourself many questions:  “Can we really do this?  Do we have the patience, discipline, and time to teach our children?” Our Way of Learning Homeschool Collective is here to help you find positive answers to these questions, give you guidance in the many choices you need to make, and encourage you along the way.  First, do a little research: Read this FAQ about South Dakota's alternative education laws. There are organizations like the National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) and Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) offering membership support and websites for you to check out.  More information on South Dakota's standards for alternative education can be found here, including links to file for exemption online or download an exemption form to send via mail.

OWL doesn’t offer legal protection.  You’ll ultimately be responsible to the state for evidence of your child’s education.  The secretary of the Department of Education may inspect your records with 14 days written notice if the secretary has probable cause to believe that your program is not in compliance with the law.  The records to be inspected are attendance (equal to that of public school) and evidence showing academic progress.  Failure to provide instruction is grounds for the school board, upon thirty days notice, to revoke your child’s exemption, in which case your child would be required to enroll in a school, rather than being homeschooled.

OWL is an excellent support group for your local needs.  We offer a variety of services.  The organization is member-run, and offers a great chance to get involved with other homeschoolers.  Click here for more information on how to join our group.

Curriculum is another big decision.  Our members have all made different choices and can offer their experience if asked.  Complete curriculum from a publisher is available through websites, catalogs, or you can use the textbook loan program from the public school where your child would have attended.  Eclectic homeschoolers will mix and match.  To keep costs down, in the spring, area homeschoolers congregate for a used curriculum sale event (sponsored by another area homeschool group).  It is also possible for you to supplement from or have your children work completely online.  Be creative with the internet and look for online field trips, mini unit studies, and general research opportunities.

Set up a record keeping system.  Base this on your style of homeschooling and tailor it to your family’s needs and personalities.  Some people use daily journals, while others use weekly or monthly journals.

Special education eligibility for homeschooled students is available as outlined in state regulations and federal law.  If parents identify learning challenges and suspect a disability, they may contact their home attendance center for a multidisciplinary evaluation.  For students who already have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and the parent is interested in special education services, the parent should go to the home attendance center and show the IEP to the principal or call a special education supervisor.

Online Help:  You will find a lot of curriculum lessons and unit downloads online.  Sign up for homeschool magazines (see the links page) and catalogs at many websites geared toward homeschooling.  

Local Resources:  Acquaint yourself with area museums, galleries, attractions, etc. Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls libraries have teacher resources, curriculum, and educational games for loan with a Sioux Falls library card.  You can find many homeschool books and magazines at the Siouxland Libraries.  The Outdoor Campus, Siouxland Heritage Museums, The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum, Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove, Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum and the Washington Pavilion are just a few of the many local businesses and organizations that offer classes that homeschooled kids can take.