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 Memberadvocate@enrichri.org
- 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.
- WHEN MUST I FILE MY FIRST LETTER OF INTENT?
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. It does not state that a child must file at the Kindergarten level only that the child be 6 years old by September 1st when you FIRST file. If your child is not yet 6 years old by September 1st, you should wait to file until the next homeschool year. Children must attend school until age 18 unless they have an approved alternate plan with the district. Letters of intent for all grades can be submitted as soon as you decide to homeschool since homeschoolers are not required to follow the public school calendar. We recommend that you submit your letter several months prior to your beginning to homeschool if possible. Most homeschoolers file over the summer and begin the following September but many homeschool year round. If you are removing your child from public school you should file a withdrawal letter and send it to the school principal as well as the superintendent. We recommend all correspondences be in writing and sent by certified mail with a return receipt. This is important proof that you sent your paperwork and it was signed as received. ENRICHri does not recommending speaking to school officials by phone.
- WHAT CURRICULUM DO I HAVE TO USE?
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. 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. Some districts have timeframes to request your textbooks. 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.
- 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 is 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 intent letter.
- AM I REQUIRED TO FILE OR FILL OUT ANY DISTRICT FORMS TO HOMESCHOOL?
Your letter of intent should fulfill all your legal obligation to homeschool in Rhode Island. Districts often put homeschool “application” forms online or will send packets to your home. We recommend that you not sign them without first checking with your homeschool group or legal counsel.
- MY CHILD IS IN TRUANCY COURT OR NOT DOING WELL IN SCHOOL. CAN I JUST FILE TO HOMESCHOOL AND JOIN ENRICHri?We recommend that you obtain legal counsel to help you through any truancy or court proceedings. As an organization ENRICHri cannot provide legal advice or assistance. Our homeschooling parents work hard every day to bring the best educational resources to their children and homeschooling community. They take their commitment to homeschooling very seriously and are dedicated to the process. Stating you are homeschooling when in fact you are not, or don’t plan to, jeopardizes the rights and freedoms of those parents who are indeed homeschooling and negatively impacts state law, district policy and relations with school officials. ENRICHri is dedicated to helping parents who are committed to the process of homeschooling their children by connecting them with community and recommending resources. If you are choosing homeschooling to remove your child from truancy issues or because of nonperformance in another school setting, we ask that you find another path and organization to assist you. If you are unsure, please schedule a consult with the ENRICHri Member Advocate for further assistance.
- 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.
- WHAT IF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT ASKS FOR MORE INFORMATION THAN WHAT IS REQUIRED BY LAW?
We recommend that you contact legal counsel if a school committee has denied your right to homeschool has asked for more information than is required by law or has threatened truancy. ENRICHri has an extensive file on district requirements and is happy to assist our members at the district level. 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.State Statute 16-19-2 specifically gives the school committee authority to “approve” a homeschool plan when homeschoolers meet the three requirements outlined above. Most districts will place your name on the agenda for approval at the next available school committee meeting and then send you a written confirmation of homeschool approval. If you do not receive a letter of approval, you should write to the district and ask them for one to keep for your records.
- SOME DISTRICTS ASK FOR CURRICULUM. WHAT ARE THE THOUGHTS ON THAT?
Most districts do not ask for curriculum. We recommend using the basic letter of intent found on our website. It contains a clause about what resources will be used and is accepted in most districts. Several districts have a few more requirements. Do contact us to be sure you have the latest information on what to submit to your district.It is important to note that no school committee member or designated person is authorized to use homeschool curriculum or grade level expectations as a measure of homeschool approval or denial. Listing a curriculum does not prove that teaching will be “thorough or efficient” and this is best accomplished in a statement by the parents. While school districts sometimes insist that providing curriculum proves that our homeschool plan is “thorough and efficient”, there is no way for an administrator to assess this mechanism in the homeschool setting. When districts require the submission of curriculum they are creating standards that cannot be objectively or consistently measured by any school official or committee.A simple Google search reveals 4.8 million choices of curriculum for homeschoolers. No committee member would ever be versed on the vast choices of curriculum available to homeschoolers today.
- MY DISTRICT SAID MY CHILD MUST COMPLETE STANDARDIZED TESTING EVEN IF I HOMESCHOOL. IS THAT TRUE?
No. Almost all districts will 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.The Commissioner of Education ruled that local school districts MAY require some type of evaluation under their “approval” process as long as they “accommodate the preference of a parent for certain mechanisms for measurement.” (Thifault v. North Smithfield 1990).Some districts do not require end of year reporting at all, others do. Whatever method of evaluation you choose for your child should suffice. Some districts may ask for a narrative, report card, standardized testing, portfolio or work samples, but the method of the evaluation must be left up to the parent. Some districts simply accept a statement that says, “My child met or exceeded all course requirements as required by Rhode Island State law.”
- WHAT ITEMS SHOULD I NOT SUBMIT TO MY DISTRICT?
Some districts ask for more than is required by law. Please check with your homeschool group as some districts have special requirements outside of these parameters.
- Child’s dates of birth or gender. (You may need to put a grade and/or age).
- Parent teaching credentials. (Commissioner of Education ruling- Kimberly J. vs Coventry School Committee, 2000).
- Per Subject evaluation.
- Your reason for homeschooling.
- Quarterly attendance.
- Hours of attendance or “time on task”.
- Your homeschool schedule.
- Locator cards.
- Standardized testing or test scores.
- Portfolios or work samples.
- Proof of residency.
- Email addresses or phone number (request all information in writing and to establish a paper trail).
- Do not agree to home visitation. (Commissioner of Education Ruling-Kindstedt v. East Greenwich 1986).
- THE DISTRICT WANTS ME TO COME IN FOR A HOMESCHOOL “MEETING”. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
We do not recommend that you attend any meetings with school officials without legal counsel or a knowledgeable support person. These meetings are unnecessary since most districts do not provide services for homeschoolers beyond textbooks. Further, we find most districts will request information that is not required by law at these meetings. Districts may not demand a meeting with you or withhold or deny your letter of intent or approval letter if you decline a meeting. Your letter of intent has all the information needed to legally homeschool in Rhode Island.
- MY DISTRICT DID NOT SEND AN APPROVAL LETTER. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
We recommend that you contact your district in writing to request your approval letter if you have not received one. Your approval letter is verification that you are legally homeschooling and may be needed for college enrollment, job applications and for educator’s discounts.
- WHAT AM I REQUIRED TO FILE AT THE END OF THE YEAR?
Some districts may ask for an end of year report and either a statement of attendance or actual listing of days in attendance. Some districts do not ask for an end of year report. Check with ENRICHri for what your district requires.Your end of year report can be a brief summary, or other evaluation method of your choosing. The Commissioner of Education has ruled that the method of evaluation must be left up to the parent. Most homeschoolers will send in their end of year report and the letter of intent for next year at the same time. We recommend all correspondences be in writing and sent by certified mail with a return receipt. This is important proof that you sent your paperwork and it was signed as received. ENRICHri does not recommend speaking to school officials by phone.
- If we decide to enroll back in school, or into public school for the first time, 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).
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. Don’t forget that you will also need to fill out all the district’s registration forms including vaccination information.
So, 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. We’d like to guarantee it’ll be easy or smooth. But the experience will vary from district-to-district, school-to-school and even differs between staff in the same school office.
If we decide to enroll our child in a private school after homeschooling, how do we do that?
Send your district superintendent a certified letter stating that your child will no longer be homeschooling as of X date. That they will be attending private school and you will no longer be reporting to the district.
- HOW DOES MY CHILD GET A DIPLOMA?
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states across the nation. Each state may have different requirements for issuing diplomas. In Rhode Island, parents issue the diploma as proof of completion of a child’s educational years. A GED is not necessary and we do not recommend homeschoolers acquire one. A GED implies that a person has not completed his/her highschool education when indeed, homeschools have done so.
- 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. Colleges do not actually require that students complete four years of high school and while that is the customary path, they instead look for college readiness regardless of age or number of years in school. Many homeschooled students choose dual enrollment at local colleges which allows them to both finish their high school classes and take 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 (Bristol Community College, CCRI, RIC, URI). Most colleges require transcripts and placements exams from anyone entering college regardless of being homeschooled or attending public school. Homeschooled students will also qualify for grants and state and financial aid as all other high school students do. Thoroughly researching your college choices will give you more information but know that many homeschoolers go on to higher education much sooner than their public school counterparts.Colleges may or may not require SAT or ACT scores. Research your college choices early to see what the individual requirements are. This is a full listing of colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores.These next few links connect you to some homeschool transcript examples:http://www.donnayoung.org/forms/planners/hs-transcript.htmhttp://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/templates-downloads/ACCUPLACER is a suite of tests that quickly, accurately, and efficiently assesses reading, writing, math, and computer skills that community colleges often request new students take. There are several testing websites that offer free ACCUPLACER tests to prepare – just do a quick internet search.
The Common Application (Common App) allows students to apply to close to 700 colleges through one application. Read through their website for more information and to start your application process.
- WHERE CAN I FIND STATISTICS ON HOMESCHOOLING?
The National Home Education Resource Institute has statistics on homeschooling. http://www.nheri.org/research.html
- I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING. WHOM SHOULD I CONTACT?
You can contact ENRICHri at firstname.lastname@example.org if you still have questions. 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 questions you might have.
*The above document and information does not constitute legal advice. We recommend all correspondences be in writing and sent by certified mail with a return receipt. This is important proof that you sent your paperwork and it was signed as received.