Homeschooling is the form of education in the nation, a trend particularly evident in Rhode Island.
Between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years, the Ocean State witnessed a jump from approximately 1,900 home-schooled students to nearly 3,200 ÔÇö more than a 60% increase.
While R.I.ÔÇÖs increase has been especially pronounced, the rise in homeschooling reflects a larger, national uptick in homeschooling over the past 30 years, according to Melissa Robb, the member advocate of ENRICHri, the largest secular homeschooling organization in R.I., which works to create community among homeschooled students.
Experts have cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the biggest reason for this uptick.
But this COVID-era mindset is antithetical to ENRICHriÔÇÖs approach to homeschooling, Robb said. For families who typically choose to homeschool their children, ÔÇťitÔÇÖs usually because of positive reasonsÔÇŁ including opportunities for experiential learning, tailoring instruction to the studentÔÇÖs learning style and ÔÇťlearning until mastery.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťIf you donÔÇÖt understand how to multiply two digits by two digits, the class isnÔÇÖt moving on the next day,ÔÇŁ Robb said. ÔÇťYou are staying with that (concept) until you get it.ÔÇŁ
While in the past year Robb has seen a decrease in the number of homeschooled students both in ENRICHri and statewide, she claims that ENRICHri has still maintained a 40% increase in membership compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Prior to the pandemic, the most common reasons parents chose at-home instruction nationwide were ÔÇťa concern about school environmentÔÇŁ followed by ÔÇťa desire to provide moral instructionÔÇŁ and ÔÇťemphasis on family life together,ÔÇŁ according to a conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.
According to Robb, Rhode IslandÔÇÖs education system has several problems ÔÇö such as studentsÔÇÖ ÔÇťneeds not being metÔÇŁ in public schools ÔÇö that may play a role in parentsÔÇÖ decisions to educate their children at home.
Still, Robb said that the Rhode Island State of the Providence Public School District did not play a significant role in the increase in homeschooling.
Rhode Island is considered a ÔÇťhigh regulatory stateÔÇŁ for homeschool education, which means that parents must submit an annual notification to the state indicating their intention to homeschool along with an attestation that their students have progressed in their education from previous years, according to Robb.
Most of the families Robb works with are ÔÇťvery happyÔÇŁ with this process, she noted.
As students progress toward their senior year, post-secondary plans come into question as many apply for colleges and universities.
Madeline Wachsmuth ÔÇÖ25 decided to transition from a homeschooled curriculum in middle school to a traditional high school due in part to the ÔÇťresources that come with being able to attend a ÔÇśreal schoolÔÇÖÔÇŁ during the college application process.
At Brown, homeschooled students make up less than 1% of the applicant pool, according to Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Logan Powell.
ÔÇťOur homeschooled applicant population has remained relatively flat over the past three years,ÔÇŁ Powell wrote in an email to The Herald.
When reviewing these applicantsÔÇÖ submissions, admission officers look for similar qualities as traditionally schooled applicants: ÔÇťacademic excellence, potential for further growth and the ability to contribute to the Brown community,ÔÇŁ Powell wrote.
They also require ÔÇťobjective third party support for their academic achievement,ÔÇŁ including evaluation from a ÔÇťneutral instructor ÔÇŽ who is not a member of the applicantÔÇÖs family,ÔÇŁ whether that be professors or testing agencies.
ENRICHri advises applicants to ÔÇťtell the whole story about who the student is and what they did with their extra time,ÔÇŁ Robb said. ÔÇťYou have a lot more time on your hands than the people who are going to a brick building every year for high school. So what did you do with that time?ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťThereÔÇÖs this sense of deficit attributed to homeschooling,ÔÇŁ Wachsmuth said, reflecting on her personal experience. But that time ÔÇťtaught me how to have ÔÇŽ initiative with my schoolworkÔÇŁ ÔÇö a skill that she said has transferred to her collegiate career.
Owen Dahlkamp is a Senior Staff Writer covering admissions, financial Aid and science & research. Hailing from San Diego, CA he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at DaveÔÇÖs Coffee.