by Melissa Robb
It’s that time of year once again.
The time of year you will have mailed your End of Year letter and Letter of Intent. You wait for your “approval” letter, hoping that your school district isn’t going to be a problem.
There’s the envelope from the school department in your mailbox. You hope it’s a simple “thank you, your child has been approved for 2018-19”. And, for most of us, it will be! But, your district may send a packet of forms and other “useful information.” Your district may send an approval letter that contains language that leans to overreaching and may even have a threatening tone.
School districts think they are being helpful. I believe they are trying to do the “right” thing. They think they are providing valuable information to uninformed homeschoolers. They may think their desired level of oversight is what the state (RIDE) expects of them. At best these packets are just a waste of time, trees and money. More and more often these cover letters and packets have become more than harmless and useless information. Overreaching, threatening and outright untrue. They may include due dates for paperwork (no, we don’t have deadlines). They may “require” information above and beyond what is actually required by law so that your LOI can be “approved”. They may request a meeting with the superintendent. They may hint at (or outright threaten) truancy and forcing your child into public school if you don’t comply.
These letters, often mailed with copies of forms that do not align to RI law, come with added requirements. They are no longer simply trash-worthy papers, but overstepping the mandate of the school department, and we should not comply. Every time one family overcomplies in order to “play nice” it hurts another family that is following the law by making it look like they are not doing their job (seriously, we have heard school departments compare LOIs and EOYs this way).
Today we have so many freedoms (rightly so) and homeschooling is more accepted and understood than in the past. We don’t hide our children inside during the day (as homeschoolers used to). We don’t fear that we will be hauled off to jail for not sending our children to be educated by the state. We can be grateful for those who fought for decades for the homeschool laws (and policies) to be as free as possible. We can take for granted our chosen lifestyle because of those homeschoolers who came before us. If we overcomply, if we give in to the requests for more and more information because it’s “easier,” then we are not showing the respect and gratitude to those homeschoolers who paved the way for us.
We, the homeschoolers, know the law better than many of those working in the school departments. They have thousands of students to worry about, and so many laws and policies to keep track of. We have a handful of students and few statues to be adhere to. There are times when we, as a community, need to speak up, educate the school departments. Politely, respectfully, firmly.
Most times you can simply ignore these letters. Follow RI law. Follow the letters that have been acceptable in the past. Follow the sample letters and FAQs outlined in the resources section of the ENRICHri website.
Remember that if you ever get pressured to provide information beyond what is required by law (such as a threat that your LOI will not be “approved”), we are here to help. ENRICHri has members in every district. We stand together so no one family needs to stand alone.