Mother, wife, teacher, principal, photographer, and business-owner. Tarin Hartman of Custer wears many hats.
“It’s 24/7,” she said. “We appreciate the freedom home-schooling offers.”
Tarin and her husband Tod balance raising and home-schooling six children with owning and managing three businesses. He stays busy with Tod and Son’s Construction while she runs Tayhart Photography. The two also recently opened Southern Sonder, an event venue just outside of Custer, specializing in weddings, elopements, and small gatherings.
The decision to home-school came naturally for Tarin, who received most of her education that way. She was born in Arizona, but her father, a pastor and contractor, moved the family to the southern Black Hills when Tarin was a young child. She spent most of her childhood in Hot Springs and attended public school for a while, though most of her education was through home-schooling. She has 19 siblings and her mother home-schooled all of them at one point or another.
Her parents involved her in her educational decisions, and by high school, Tarin had desired to be schooled at home. Now Tarin and Tod, who was born and raised in Custer and attended public school, have involved their older children in education decisions, as well.
Tarin has been homeschooling for 11 years, since the oldest Hartman child, Damon (age 16) started school. She also home-schools Toriana (age 14), Truen (age 12), Graysen (age 10), Brecken (age 6), and plans to home-school Tinleigh (age 3).
A typical school day for the Hartman kids involves being part of the family businesses. This approach to learning is important to Tarin, who grew up helping her father with the family construction business and also worked at Evans Plunge in Hot Springs.
“I consider that a huge part of their schooling,” she said.
For instance, Truen and Graysen spend a lot of time helping Tod with the construction business. Through that, they hone their math and communication skills.
The South Dakota Department of Education requires standardized testing for grades 4, 8, and 11. Each year in January, the public school district is required to notify all home-school settings within their district boundaries about those testing requirements.
Parents wishing to provide alternative schooling for their children must also complete a public school exemption certificate annually and submit it to the local public school administration office. They also must submit transcripts as graduation approaches to prove requirements have been met.
The Hartmans balance meeting those requirements with introducing their children to unique experiences. Recently, the family took a month to travel to Arizona and conducted school along the way, while visiting historical sites.
“Each homeschooling family has a unique way of doing things, and that’s one of the things that drew me to homeschooling,” she said. “I’m able to customize teaching methods to each child and I love that.”
Although Tarin loves home-schooling, it is not without a few challenges. She is teaching several different grades at the same time.
“It was especially difficult when the four oldest were younger,” she said. “But as the kids have gotten older, they have really helped teach one another, which is helpful and a good learning experience for them.”
Another challenge has been realizing there’s no “one size fits all” method of teaching.
“They all learn and accept teaching in different ways,” she said.
Home-schooling offers Tarin the ability to approach education in a flexible way unique to each child. She embraces the challenges and rewards that come along with wearing so many hats.
words Katie Wiederholt photos Tayhart Photography
How do you do it with six kids?
How do any of us do what we do? That’s what God has given us, and it’s great. It’s really no different than parenting any other number of kids. There are just a few more of them to keep each other occupied.
How do you ensure good socialization takes place?
It’s huge to be part of outside activities. We figured that out when our oldest started playing soccer at a young age. Besides being with siblings and close friends, he hadn’t really been in structured settings with other kids. It was so good for him to learn to listen to other adults, line up with a group, and respect others. Since then all six kids have been involved in at least one activity outside the home. If they sign up for something, we ensure they commit to it and at least complete that season.
How is your curriculum derived?
Each one of the kids learns so differently, so I don’t use the exact same curriculum for all of them. Some of our curriculum pieces are hand-me-downs from my mother. Others I purchase through online resources like Rainbow Resource Center and Khan Academy.
Who do you turn to for support?
My mom is my biggest support. She’s my first go-to when I need help. I am one of 20 children, all of whom were home-schooled at one point or another. I have also been part of a home-schooling cooperative in Rapid City in past years, and I have a supportive group of fellow home-schooling parents in the Custer area. I couldn’t do it without being able to communicate with other moms and get out of the house once in a while.