FAQs ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING IN RHODE ISLAND
ENRICHri’s Advocacy Team has compiled helpful resources to assist you in understanding the legal requirements to homeschool in Rhode Island. While we are not lawyers, we help because anything we do to support local homeschoolers makes homeschooling more secure for all of us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. WHAT DOES THE LAW REQUIRE ME TO SUBMIT IN ORDER TO HOMESCHOOL?
16-19-2 speaks to compulsory attendance for both private and homeschooled children. In Rhode Island, homeschoolers file a Letter of Intent (LOI) with their local school district. We are required to verify 3 things according to the State Statutes:
- That attendance will be substantially equal to that of public school.
- That we will teach the required subjects.
- That our teaching will be “thorough and efficient.”
The school committee is explicitly charged with approving homeschool Letters of Intent. Others within the district may be designated to review your letter of intent for completeness but only the school committee is charged with approval. No other person or official has the authority to approve or deny your homeschool LOI. Sample letters for your use.
2. WHEN MUST I FILE MY FIRST LETTER OF INTENT (LOI)?
- State Statute 16-19-1 speaks to mandatory attendance by age. The law says that the child must be 6 years old by September 1st.
- State Statute 16-2-28 speaks to mandatory Kindergarten.
- If your child is not yet 5 years old by September 1st, you should wait to file until the next homeschool year. Children must attend school until they graduate or are age 18.
- Letters of intent can be submitted as soon as you decide to homeschool. We recommend that you submit your letter several months prior to beginning to homeschool if possible. Most homeschoolers file over the summer and begin the following September.
3. WHAT IF MY CHILD IS ALREADY ENROLLED IN SCHOOL?
If you are removing your child from school at any time of the year you should file a withdrawal letter (see sample letters) and send it to the school principal as well as the district superintendent. At the same time, you will file your Letter of Intent with the district superintendent (see #1 above).
4. AM I REQUIRED TO FILE OR FILL OUT ANY DISTRICT FORMS TO HOMESCHOOL?
Your letter of intent should fulfill all your legal obligations to homeschool in Rhode Island. Districts often put homeschool “application” forms online or will send packets to your home. These forms are not necessary and often ask for more information than is required by law and so we recommend they are not returned to the district.
5. WHAT ITEMS SHOULD I NOT SUBMIT TO MY DISTRICT?
Some districts ask for more than is required by law. Providing information beyond what is required by law is not recommended and can be detrimental to other homeschoolers who are following the law. Your approval process is not expedited or given preference based on providing additional information.
Items you should not submit include:
- Full child’s dates of birth (Month/Year only) or gender
- Parent teaching credentials (Commissioner of Education ruling- Kimberly J. vs Coventry School Committee, 2000)
- Detailed list of curriculum/resources *
- Proof of residency/Locator cards
- Your reason for homeschooling
- Quarterly attendance
- Hours of attendance or “time on task”
- Standardized testing or test scores
- Portfolios or work samples
- Per subject evaluation
- Do not agree to home visitation (Commissioner of Education Ruling-Kindstedt v. East Greenwich 1986)
*Some districts may ask for curriculum. We recommend using the basic letter of intent found on our website. It contains a simple line about resources and providing additional information is not recommended.
6. THE DISTRICT WANTS ME TO COME IN FOR A HOMESCHOOL “MEETING”. IS THIS REQUIRED?
No, it is not required. We do not recommend that you attend any meetings with school officials without legal counsel or a knowledgeable support person. These meetings are unnecessary and are not part of the process to homeschool. Further, we find most districts will request information that is not required by law at these meetings. Your letter of intent has all the information needed to legally homeschool in Rhode Island.
7. WHAT ARE THE REQUIRED SUBJECTS THAT I MUST TEACH?
State Statutes (16-19-2, 16-22-2, 16-22-4) require that: Reading, Writing, Geography, Arithmetic, History of the United States and Rhode Island, Civics, Health and Physical Education are taught each year.
8. AM I REQUIRED TO USE A SPECIFIC CURRICULUM?
No. The State Statutes do not require that we follow the Common Core state standards (CCSS), grade level expectations (GLE’s) or follow any particular curriculum. Parents are free to utilize resources that best fit the needs of their children.
9. CAN I USE THE SAME BOOKS THAT MY DISTRICT USES?
Most homeschoolers find it unnecessary to use texts from public schools and choose to purchase their own curriculum or find other free sources to use. However, State Statute 16-23-2 says that public schools must provide textbooks and ebooks that are used in public schools upon request from homeschool parents.
10. HOW DO I RECORD ATTENDANCE?
Homeschoolers are not required to follow the public school calendar. State Statute 16-19-2 only requires that the number of days we homeschool “be substantially equal to that required by law in public schools.” You may choose whatever method you like to record attendance. The law only speaks to the number of days in attendance for all children (regardless if public school, private or homeschool). It does not matter for the purposes of RI State Law whether the “school year” begins in the summer or continues year round. Stating you will submit your attendance at the end of the year in your letter of intent should fulfill your legal obligations to homeschool in Rhode Island.
11. IS ANNUAL STANDARDIZED TESTING REQUIRED?
No. Districts may offer standardized testing to homeschoolers. If you are interested in standardized testing you will need to contact your district. Most homeschoolers find standardized testing aligned with public school curriculum and therefore not a valid indicator of learning in the homeschool setting. Homeschoolers usually find that working with their children each day provides enough information about their learning. There are standardized tests available for parents to administer at home if they choose. (see resources.)
12. MY DISTRICT DID NOT SEND AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT LETTER. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Most districts will place your name on the agenda for acknowledgment at the next available school committee meeting and then send an annual acknowledgment letter, but not all do. If you need a letter we recommend that you contact your district in writing to request one. An approval letter can serve as verification if needed for college enrollment, job applications and for educator’s discounts.
13. WHAT AM I REQUIRED TO FILE AT THE END OF THE YEAR?
Use certified mail or email to send your annual End of Year (EOY) report and either a statement of attendance or a calendar if you prefer. Please see our sample EOY. Most homeschoolers will send in their EOY report and the Letter of Intent for next year at the same time.
14. DISTRICT COMMUNICATION METHODS
We recommend all correspondences maintain a paper trail and thus should be in writing. Communication can be by certified mail OR by email. When using certified mail you will get a return receipt, this receipt is important proof that you sent your paperwork and it was signed as received by the district. While email can lead to unnecessary communication from the district it is quick, easy and free while still maintaining a paper trail.
ENRICHri does not suggest speaking to school officials by phone because this does not leave a paper trail.
ENRICHri does not suggest bringing your paperwork into the school department in person, but if you choose to, bring 2 copies, get both stamped/signed as received, keep 1 copy for your records.
15. IF I’M MOVING TO A NEW DISTRICT OR OUT OF STATE WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
When moving out of a district you should inform the district by mail or email once you have left. Simply state that you have left the district, they do not need to be told where you are moving to. If this move occurs at the end of your school year be sure to include your annual EOY letter. At the same time you should send a new LOI to your new district if you are in state, or learn the homeschool laws in your new state.
16. IF WE DECIDE TO ENROLL BACK IN SCHOOL, INTO PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR THE FIRST TIME OR IN PRIVATE SCHOOL HOW DO WE DO THAT?
Contact your school district of residence (superintendent’s office) as soon as you know that you want to have your child return (a planned return could be a week from now or looking ahead to the next school year).
You will need to fill out all the district’s registration forms including vaccination information.
Districts usually will place the child into the age-appropriate grade but placement following long- or short-term homeschooling are ultimately up to the school superintendent.
Factors that the superintendent may consider:
- Your most recent End of Year report
- Any standardized tests the child has taken
- Requiring the child to take any standardized achievement tests that are regularly scheduled for district pupils of similar age
- Other evaluation information that may include interviews with the child and/or parent(s)
- You may be asked to provide a report card or transcript, usually for middle or high school
- Be honest (even if they are “behind”)
- Be accurate
- Be sure to include all the subjects required by RI law
Public schools have to take your student, but they don’t have to take your grades. This becomes especially true for high school credits. High school courses completed as a homeschooler may be closely scrutinized and ultimately not accepted towards a district diploma.
It’s not always a matter of showing up at school and signing some papers. You may need to explain your child’s abilities and accomplishments to help the district determine placement, especially if you would like your child in a higher grade than the district suggests. The experience will vary from district-to-district, school-to-school and even differs between staff in the same school office. If you decide to enroll our child in a private school after homeschooling you should send your district superintendent a certified letter or email stating that your child will no longer be homeschooling as of X date and that they will be attending private school and you will no longer be reporting to the district.
17. CAN I HAVE AN IEP AND RECEIVE SERVICES AS A HOMESCHOOLER?
Yes. Many homeschoolers choose to receive services privately so they do not need to work with the public school system but homeschoolers can receive services through their district if they choose to. Many private insurances will cover out-patient Speech therapy, Physical Therapy, etc.. Most pediatrician offices can recommend places to call to setup appointments as can the experienced homeschool community.
If your child is currently in public school and has an IEP you can choose to continue or discontinue those services as a homeschooler. If you discontinue services then you may be asked to sign a form saying such. This releases the district from their IEP responsibilities. The school would send you a form to sign, you are not required to attend a meeting to end services.
If your child has never been in the school system and you want to request services you can call or email the Special Education department in your district to begin their IEP/services process.
18. EXTRACURRICULAR OR ACADEMIC ACCESS FOR HOMESCHOOLED STUDENTS
Each school district can decide if they will allow homeschoolers to participate in sports, band, academic classes or activities.
Contact your superintendent’s office for information.
19. HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HOMESCHOOL?
You can homeschool on any budget. As there are no requirements for which curriculum, materials, activities, etc. that you need to use or participate in, you get to decide what you spend. There are many homeschoolers who utilize free curriculum, online materials, and/or borrow from friends and their library to homeschool for free. Others save money by shopping used curriculum sales, library book sales, and buy/sell/trade sites online. You can also take advantage of lower costs and/or discounts on homeschool specific activities, group classes, and field trips through local businesses and homeschooling groups. You can truly spend as much or as little as you wish and still have a fulfilling homeschool experience.
20. MY SCHOOL DISTRICT SAID IF I WITHDRAW MY CHILD I NEED TO PAY FOR ALL OF MY CHILD’S EDUCATION – IS THIS TRUE?
Yes, you are now responsible for your child’s education. BUT you are the one who decides how much you spend to accomplish that and it can be done on any budget, even for nothing. There are lots of free and low-cost options for curriculum, the library system is a tremendous resource, and homeschooling organizations and local businesses offer discounts and lower cost classes and activities for homeschoolers. Depending on your district your child(ren) may still be able to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports and band through your local school.
21. HOW DOES MY CHILD GRADUATE AND GET A DIPLOMA?
In Rhode Island parents determine the requirements for homeschool graduation and they issue the diploma/transcript as proof of completion of a child’s educational years. Homeschoolers do not need to adhere to any state or district requirements for graduation. While it is always an option, a GED is not necessary and we do not recommend homeschoolers acquire one. A transcript is a better indicator of the work your child completed in their high school years.
22. CAN MY CHILD GO TO COLLEGE AFTER BEING HOMESCHOOLED?
Absolutely. Many colleges across the country actively seek homeschoolers because of their independence and love of learning. Your child’s homeschool transcript will demonstrate academic rigor and college readiness.
Many homeschooled students choose dual enrollment at local colleges which allows them to combine their high school classes with college level credit classes at the same time. In Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts, there are several colleges that offer dual enrollment and enrichment programs for high schoolers (BCC, CCRI, RIC, URI, RWU). Most colleges require transcripts and placement exams from anyone taking a college course regardless of being homeschooled or attending public school.
23. I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING. WHOM SHOULD I CONTACT?
Our volunteer advocacy team works hard to monitor state and district laws and policies. If you have questions pertaining to your district that were not addressed in the above FAQs you can contact our ENRICHri advocacy team at email@example.com.
Should you choose to join our homeschool group you can then post your questions on our active Facebook page. Our wonderful community will be sure to welcome you and help answer any general questions you might have about homeschooling.
ENRICHri works to promote and protect homeschool interests in Rhode Island. Part of this is to maintain a uniform paperwork process throughout all 36 districts in the state of Rhode Island. Following the above guidelines will help ensure a smooth process for current and future homeschoolers in our state.
Note: The ENRICHri Advocacy Team does not currently include a lawyer. Our advice is based on historical evidence and our long-term experience working with homeschoolers, school committees and law makers. Nothing on this website is intended as legal advice. For legal matters, contact a competent attorney.