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Rhode Island

December 13, 2007

‘Civics’ in, Government and History out

The required subjects for Rhode Island homeschoolers have recently changed because of an amendment to R.I.G.L. 16-22-2.

The new subject is “civics.” This is a welcome simplification and takes the place of several related subjects that were required previously: U.S. history, Rhode Island history, principles of American government, government of Rhode Island, U.S. Constitution, and Rhode Island Constitution.

Formerly, these related subjects were not required to be taught before the beginning of the fourth grade. With the change, however, civics is now required every year. Since this is a transitional year, many school districts may be unaware of the change.

Some additional language the legislature adopted may cause confusion locally. The legislature ordered the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education to develop content standards for public schools for civics. The legislature said the standards must include the history of the State of Rhode Island, representative government, the rights and duties of actively engaged citizenship, and the principles of democracy. Some school districts may erroneously believe that homeschool families must follow these public school content standards because they were mentioned by the legislature. This is not correct.

The Rhode Island Department of Education has previously determined that content standards designed for public schools do not apply to homeschool families. The content standards for civics, likewise, do not apply to homeschool families. Families are required to cover civics each year, but are not required to cover the same content as a public school civics course.

Another possible source of confusion lies in the fact that the list of required subjects within the home instruction statute itself was not amended. It still refers to “the history of the United States, the history of Rhode Island, and the principles of American government.” However, the home instruction statute only requires that the subjects listed to be taught “... to the same extent as these subjects are required to be taught in the public schools.” Since state law no longer requires that these topics be taught as independent subjects, this effectively negates them as required topics for homeschool families, as well.

If you file a letter of intent annually and list the subjects you will be teaching, next time include civics. Feel free to eliminate any reference to government, history, constitution, et cetera. And remember that civics is required every school year.