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Rhode Island

May 21, 2004

Narragansett Eases Burdens On Homeschool Families

For years, Narragansett required homeschool families to specify how much time per week they were going to spend on each subject. They demanded that families submit samples of work from each subject every month. They demanded that homeschool students be tested at the public school using the same tests public school students take. Some homeschoolers stayed "underground" to avoid these harsh restrictions. Narragansett was truly a "problem child." Rhode Island's homeschool law is a type of educational feudal system, where each school committee imposes its own unique demands on families.

When HSLDA challenged them on the need for monthly work samples, they responded, through their attorney, by saying that if they did not demand monthly work samples, they would be "sitting idly by and permitting a student to lose an entire year to inadequate instruction." This is foolishness, of course, considering the excellent academic achievement of homeschool students.

HSLDA began to work to change Narragansett's draconian policy. We asked Loren Robenhymer to lead the process locally, though she was sure someone else could do a better job.

Loren attended many school committee meetings and had numerous conversations with the superintendent. At one school committee meeting, committee members referred to the CBS "Dark Side of Homeschooling" program, and even briefly pursued the idea of mandatory home visits for homeschool families.

Although Narragansett homeschoolers were few in number (only about half a dozen families, not counting those "underground") they were great in spirit. HSLDA assisted Loren as she led the way locally. Homeschoolers engaged the school committee and persisted until the policy was improved.

On May 19, the school committee announced a new policy. Here are the chief differences:

  1. The former policy required the parent to "petition" for approval; the new policy requires only a letter of intent (see details below).
  2. The former policy required submission of monthly work samples; this is abolished in the new policy.
  3. The former policy required homeschool students to take the same standardized test that all public school students take, and required that they take them at the public school; the new policy abolishes this requirement and adopts a flexible approach where parents can submit, for example, a report card, a written evaluation, dated work samples, communication with the principle, standardized testing, or another means of evaluation.
  4. The former policy required that the entire cumbersome approval process be repeated every year; under the new policy, a previously-approved homeschool program may be renewed in an expedited process.
  5. The former policy required a monthly plan of instruction to be submitted by the first day of each month; this is abolished in the new policy.

The letter of intent must state that:

  1. The period of attendance is substantially equal to that required in public schools;
  2. An attendance register will be kept and turned in to the principal;
  3. The required subjects will be taught in English substantially to the same extent as in the public schools, and that the instruction will be thorough and efficient.

The new policy also creates guidelines for homeschool students to participate in public school classes, as well as extracurricular and interscholastic activities.

The school committee has prepared sample forms which comply with state law and put into effect the new policy. The new forms, which are refreshingly brief, are available on our website, as is the complete new policy itself.

When this campaign started, Loren Robenhymer had doubts about whether she was the right person to lead the charge for the homeschool community. All doubts should be dispelled. The new policy is a dramatic improvement. Loren's successful work with the superintendent and the committee avoided litigation and gave us an excellent platform from which to pursue addition improvements as the opportunity arises.

Loren's victory was also personal. After five months of her homeschool program being neither approved nor disapproved, the school committee formally approved Loren's homeschool program after announcing the new policy.

 Other Resources

New Narragansett Policy