Homeschooling provides flexibility, gaining popularity in South Dakota

On this balmy, mid-November day the Nankivels are enjoying nature. It’s a school day, and while they’re learning Bellana and Eland aren’t doing so in a traditional classroom.

“The beautiful thing about homeschooling is we can mix it up if we want to,” said dad and teacher Thor Nankivel.

Nine-year-old Bellana and six-year-old Eland are being homeschooled by their parents who like the idea of being able to tailor curriculum to their individual child.

“We do all sort of things. Like science is one of my favorites,” said Bellana. “We also do geology. I really like that one too.”

Bellana is a geology whiz. Her interest likely comes from her dad. But, isn’t trying to know everything about every subject matter daunting to a homeshooling parent/teacher.

“A lot of parents that I speak to initially when they’re starting out doing the homeschooling they’re worried about that – whether or not they’ll be qualified to teach their kids,” said Thor. “But, it’s really not as difficult as you might think. There are plenty of resources. There’s curriculum available.”

And, then there’s the question about socialization. Are Bellana and Eland refining their social skills despite not being in a classroom of 20 every day?

“I would actually argue that my kids are more socialized than most school-aged children that just go to public school, because we are part of a group, the SDHSA, and they have a variety of ages that they socialize with,” said Thor.

The South Dakota Home School Association has roughly 50 families in it. It’s nonreligious, and it’s been growing in popularity in the past few years.

The Nankivels see a distinct difference between homeschooling and a traditional education. For instance, they focus on a curriculum seven days a week.

“It only takes about an hour, an hour and a half each day on each subject,” said Thor.

On Saturdays the kids are quizzed, and Bellana has already taken some state standardized tests. In multiple subjects she scored far higher than kids her same age.

“It’s because in homeschooling we learn things like geology sooner than people in public school would,” she said.

With time to explore as individuals and time to bond as a family, the Nankivels know homeschooling is the best education fit for them.

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