Interview with the De Jonge Family, History of Homeschooling in Michigan

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In Michigan, the most pivotal court case in opening up homeschooling to parents was De Jonge vs. Michigan. Mark and Christine De Jonge were called into court and accused of violating the state’s compulsory attendance laws. You can read more about their case here:

MiCHN: In what year did your family begin home educating, and what originally motivated you to choose that option?

Mark & Christine De Jonge: We enrolled our first child Tony in the public school for kindergarten and 1st grade.  We did not like what we saw in the class room (Chris being a room mother). Tony came home with papers on evolution with pictures along and literature of conjecture on how they believed species evolved.  And then there were the manners of the children, the disrespect for the teacher, and the fact our son didn’t seem to be learning much. In kindergarten he didn’t even finish going through the Alphabet.  The whole picture looked chaotic. Tony came home from school a different boy, being separated from the rest of the family. Not what we had envisioned for your Christian family.

Christian school was financially burdensome and many of the same issues we had were in the Christian school. The Christian schools used some of the same books as the state schools. The local Christian school did not even confirm a six day creation, and that was going back many years.

Chris, a graduate of a Christian school and going back to a 10 year class reunion saw a big difference in the now mothers of children.  The women talked of careers, what they did in the church in regards to voting and holding office.  We started to feel and know this was not how our children were going to be trained. We wanted to make a difference.

We saw an article in the GR Press about a family in Dorr, MI who were homeschooling. We went to hear them speak at a church. We saw the curriculum from Christian Liberty Academy there that night and were very excited to begin. From that time on, as a couple, we grew in the Lord and knew what God was leading us to homeschool.

MiCHN: Your court case was precedent setting in terms of removing the teacher certification requirement for homeschoolers in Michigan. Describe what went through your minds when you found out that you had been charged with truancy in 1985 because you were homeschooling.

Mark & Christine De Jonge: When we started homeschooling we were very secretive. We did not tell anyone but our parents and some in our small church. When the school bus would go by we would be sure our children were out of sight.  I’m not even sure where we had heard of HSLDA but we had applied for membership and Chris was confronted at the front door only two weeks into the start of the school year, two or three days after we had received notification that we had been accepted as members in HSLDA.  That was a time of anxiety.  The social workers were trying to be intimidating as possible and threatened to take away our children because we were not sending our children to school. Probably the most difficult part of all this was that it was someone quite close to us that reported us. So few people knew we were homeschooling, the confrontation from the social workers was so soon after we started schooling and they had the names and birthdates of the children all correct.

By the time the truancy charges actually came it seemed as just a matter of course as we had been in regular contact with HSLDA and they helped prepare us for what was coming.

MiCHN: Did you object to teacher certification on religious grounds? If so, what was your thought process on that issue?

Mark & Christine De Jonge: Yes we did. We were challenged on this by HSLDA.  We had been trained in the Word concerning the authority God has given to different institutions on earth, Civil, Church and the Family. Each having their own realm of authority. We thoroughly searched the Word of God and were convinced that nowhere is education given to the State but rather the State had usurped that authority.   We could not agree to teacher certification because that would be denying God’s authority that he has given to us as parents and allow the state control in our home in an area that God has not given them.

MiCHN: Who were the significant attorneys who helped you to represent your case?

Mark & Christine De Jonge: That is one of the parts that for us that was a great joy.  David Kallman handled the case early on at the local district court with consultation with HSLDA.  Chris Klicka with HLSDA through the Appeals Courts and Michael Farris, Pres of HLSDA, along with Chris Klicka at the Supreme Court of MI. God has enriched our lives having had the privileged in getting to know them.

MiCHN: Did you have any idea at the time that your case would be so important for the future of homeschooling in Michigan?

Mark & Christine De Jonge: Starting out we certainly did not.  We just wanted to train our children and be left alone. But, from the time the social workers showed up at our door, to when the State Supreme Court decision come down in our favor, it had been 9 years.  So at some point along the way it became obvious to us it was going to be very important.  Truthfully it is not why we fought but we were thrilled that God used men like our attorneys and an organization like HSLDA to establish His rightful authority in the home for those who seek to fulfill His will.

MiCHN: What might have been at stake for you personally if you had lost your state supreme court case, and what might have been the next step for you at that point?

Mark & Christine DeJonge: Those were some crazy times and a few crazies had made contact with us wanting to offer their counsel. It seems a little surreal now but we did meet with others in the homeschool community and made plans before we went to the circuit court judge on an appeal to get a stay of sentence.  This judge could have denied our appeal and ordered the children into a public school and if we refused he could have held us in contempt of court or even taken our children into custody.  We had our children stay at one of those parents homes and if things had gone badly they were to take them out of state to another homeschool family.  By the time it got to the State Supreme Court we did not have those kinds of fears.  If it had gone against us at the State Supreme Court we probably would have just moved out of state. On the other hand if we would have appealed that decision, our two oldest that were named in the suit would no longer have been of compulsorily age by the time we ran out of the appeals process.

MiCHN: What advice would you give to new families who are just beginning their homeschooling journey?

Mark & Christine De Jonge: Don’t set up your HS like the State Schools. All of our everyday life is schooling. Have your sit-down school books, but incorporate everything you do with your children. Other than teaching that all of this world, and one’s life, are to be under the Kingship of Christ, nothing is more important than reading.  If your child can read and comprehend they have access to every opportunity. Teach manners and respect for adults. You know what’s best for your children. Everything you need is available to you and your children. Do your research and join your church homeschooling or area group. As a note of caution, do not become so busy with every support group and activity that is available out there that you are not spending the time that you should be one on one at home with your child. You can become so busy that you miss out on the true joy of training your children.

MiCHN: Please give us an update on your children (and grandchildren?) and what life has been like for you in the post-homeschooling years.

Mark & Christine De Jonge: We have seven married children, one more daughter getting married on Oct 2nd and we have 26 grandchildren.  That leaves us with two daughters at home. It is wonderful to witness God’s covenant faithfulness to us as we have sought to be faithful to our promise to Him to train our children up in the “fear and admonition of the Lord”.

Our youngest daughter has graduated only a year and four month ago so we do not know so much about the post-homeschool years but I don’t think it really it is so much different.  It is just life. We do have some different activities but the same walking before our Lord.  It is wonderful to be a witness of all our children being faithful in training their children in the way of our God.

MiCHN: Finally, please share anything else that you think might be helpful for homeschoolers today to know about your court case and/or homeschooling experience.

Mark & Christine De Jonge: All of those to whom God has given children can and must train their children.  We know that because it is God who has given us children and He has commanded that we train our children.  It does not mean that you cannot receive assistance but the responsibility and authority is yours.

Be in the Lord!  Let your children see and hear you pray.  Pray for them, pray with them. Read the Word. Be faithful in your attendance in church. Keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

Train your children to properly respect authority and train them what proper biblical authority is. Show your children how to love the Lord of all creation by being obedient to His Word.  Have fun with your children. Do what you love and they will love what you love.

We are all a bit dysfunctional, very imperfect, and all sinners. Be forgiving toward one another.

Teach them to love our Country and why our country is so great, or at least its heritage.  Why it’s ideals are better than many other countries.

Stand up for what you know is truth. God’s Word is for our training and our children, for today and till Christ returns.

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The Research for Homeschooling
Homeschooling Facts General Facts and Trends Homeschooling – that is, parent-led home-based education – is an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. It may be the fastest-growing form of education in the United States. Home-based education has also growing around the world in many other nations (e.g., Australia, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom). There are about 2.04 million home-educated students in the United States. There were an estimated 1.73 to 2.35 million children (in grades K to 12) home educated during the spring of 2010 in the United States. It appears the homeschool population is continuing to grow (at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past few years). Families engaged in home-based education are not dependent on public, tax-funded resources for their children’s education. The finances associated with their homeschooling likely represent over $16 billion that American taxpayers do not have to spend since these children are not in public schools Homeschooling is quickly growing in popularity among minorities. About 15% of homeschool families are non-white/nonHispanic (i.e., not white/Anglo). A demographically wide variety of people homeschool – these are atheists, Christians, and Mormons; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with Ph.D.s, GEDs, and no high-school diplomas. Most parents and youth decide to homeschool for more than one reason. The most common reasons given for homeschooling are the following: customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child, accomplish more academically than in schools, use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools, enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings, provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults, provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth. Reasons for Home Educating Academic Performance The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income. Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement. Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement. Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions. Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges. Social, Emotional, and Psychological Development The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem. Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work One researcher finds that homeschooling gives young people an unusual chance to ask questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What do I really want?,” and through the process of such asking and gradually answering the questions home-educated girls develop the strengths and the resistance abilities that give them an unusually strong sense of self. Some think that boys’ energetic natures and tendency to physical expression can more easily be accommodated in home-based education. Many are concerned that a highly disproportionate number of public school special-education students are boys and that boys are 2.5 times as likely as girls in public schools to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Gender Differences in Children and Youth Respected? Success in the “Real World” of Adulthood The research base on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they: participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population, vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, and go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population. Internalize the values and beliefs of their parents at a very high rate. General Interpretation of Research on Homeschool Success or Failure It is possible that homeschooling causes the positive traits reported above. However, the research designs to date do not conclusively “prove” that homeschooling causes these things. At the same time, there is no empirical evidence that homeschooling causes negative things compared to institutional schooling. Future research may better answer the question of causation. Sources The above findings are extensively documented in one or more of the following sources, all (except one) of which are available from A Homeschool Research Story, Brian. D. Ray, 2005, in Homeschooling in Full View: A Reader. Academic achievement and demographic traits of homeschool students: A nationwide study, Brian D. Ray, 2010, Academic Leadership Journal, A Sense of Self: Listening to Homeschooled Adolescent Girls. Susannah Sheffer, 1995. Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits, Brian D. Ray, 2004. Home schooling: The Ameliorator of Negative Influences on Learning, Brian D. Ray, Peabody Journal of Education, 2000, v. 75 no. 1 & 2, pp. 71-106. Homeschoolers on to College: What Research Shows Us, by Brian D. Ray, Journal of College Admission, 2004, No. 185, 5-11. National Education Association. (2005). Rankings and estimates: A Report of School Statistics Update. Retrieved 7/10/06 online The Truth About Boys and Girls. Sara Mead, 2006. Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, Brian D. Ray, 2005. About the Author Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. is an internationally known researcher, educator, speaker, and expert witness, and serves as president of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. He has taught as a certified teacher in public and private schools and served as a professor in the fields of science, research methods, and education at the graduate and undergraduate levels. His Ph.D. is in science education from Oregon State University and his M.S. is in zoology from Ohio University. Dr. Ray has been studying the homeschool movement for about 24 years. For more homeschool research and more in-depth interpretation of research, please contact: National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) PO Box 13939 Salem OR 97309 USA tel. (503) 364‑1490 [email protected] Copyright © 2011 by Brian D. Ray
The Five W's of Michigan Homeschooling
1. WHO can homeschool in Michigan? Any parent willing to “own” their child’s education and provide what our state law requires: an “organized educational program” in these areas: language arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar, & literature), in math, science, history, and civics… Follow the legal requirement in Michigan. No requirement for teacher certification No minimum requirement for parents’ educational level (In fact research shows there is absolutely NO correlation between student success and the parents’ level of education. The ONLY correlation is this: Student success levels go up based on the level of parental involvement… and how can parents be more involved than by actually taking on the task of home educating and becoming the ones ultimately responsible for their child’s education?!?) No registration, reporting, or mandatory testing in Michigan, either! So who can homeschool? YOU can! As the parent, there is NO ONE who knows your child better or who cares more than YOU do!   2. WHAT does homeschooling look like? It’s different in every household, but will have these things in common: Parent-directed – That means parents are deciding what’s being taught- and how and when and by whom… not necessarily that the parent is doing all the instruction themselves… simply that they are orchestrating the plan and making sure all the bases are getting covered. There are so many amazing resources available in the homeschool community and on the internet! There are homeschool co-ops, tutoring services, online classes, etc.  Parents simply come up with the organized educational program and decide what curriculum will be used…   Home-based – This just means that a large percentage of the learning is probably taking place within the home. But that certainly doesn’t mean ALL the learning happens there, by any means! The home is just the base of operations… All of life becomes a learning opportunity and MUCH learning takes place outdoors, on field trips, at co-operatives, classes, and other learning activities and events outside the home. Home-based education means having the freedom to go outside the home to actually see and do and experience things first hand.   Privately-funded – Yep! That means the individual family is going to foot the bill for this instead of the government. But homeschooling certainly doesn’t need to cost a lot! There is a plethora of free and inexpensive resources readily available! This is what allows your individual family the freedom to choose the materials YOU want to use to teach your children, rather than having to teach politically-correct, state-mandated material which aligns to the “Common Core” or to certain standardized tests. And we at MICHN, the Michigan CHRISTIAN Homeschool Network, would also encourage you to make your homeschool Christ-centered and Biblically-based … Because education is about a lot more than just academics, we actually prefer to call it home discipleship- training children from a Christian worldview, modeling for them the way they should go- how to know, serve, obey, and follow Jesus. It’s primarily about learning how to love God and to love others. It’s about teaching them, as it tells us in Deuteronomy, “when they wake up, when they lay down, and when we walk along the way,” all throughout our days… 24/7/365.   3. WHEN should you consider homeschooling? NOW! Today… at whatever age your children are … As much of the country is currently talking about when they’ll be able to send kids ‘back to school’ – we’ve got to ask ourselves: WHY do that?!?   When kids are little- toddlers, preschoolers & Kindergartners – You taught them to walk, talk, eat with a spoon, their alphabet, and colors, etc. You’ve been homeschooling since the day they were born. Why is there suddenly some magical age when you are no longer qualified?  Just keep doing what you’ve always done. They are sponges and will soak it all in!   When kids are in their impressionable elementary years – Huge time of learning how to read, to add and multiply, all about the world around them! Don’t you want to be able to witness when those light bulbs suddenly turn on and things begin to ‘click’ and they finally ‘get it’?   When kids are entering tween years/ middle school – When suddenly they can become so peer-dependent and so worried about what everyone else thinks. Wouldn’t you rather they cared more what YOU think than what their friends or the culture thinks?   When they are teens and in high school – This can truly be the BEST time, as they are discovering who they are and what they want to do with their lives… You can begin to have deep, meaningful conversations about what really matters and you can learn TOGETHER! Honestly for our family, the teen years have been the MOST enjoyable, as we’ve gotten to really know these people that have been living in our house for over a decade… and we’ve been able to discover that they’re truly amazing humans—and we really do LIKE them!  So that’s WHEN – from birth through high school graduation, would be our recommendation! Every day, all day! But you can’t let the immensity of that scare you—just one day at a time. One year at a time.  Don’t feel like you have to sign your life away. Just jump in and give it a try, whatever age your kids might be. Learn together, as God leads you to do what is best for your family and your individual children.   4. WHERE should you homeschool in Michigan? In community – NOT alone! Find a local community of other homeschoolers near you. You can’t do it all by yourself! MICHN has a listing of support groups throughout the state on our website… we want to help you get connected to a group of like-minded homeschoolers in your area, who can offer you encouragement, resources, opportunities, and support.   Plug in statewide – You need to know what’s going on in regards to homeschool legislation and threats to our homeschool freedoms here in Michigan… so we encourage you to join MICHN, get on our email list, follow us on social media, and come to our annual ‘Day Under the Dome’ and INCH Conference… usually the 3rd week of May in Lansing. Supporting and connecting to our statewide organization helps to protect our homeschool freedom!   Also plug in nationally – HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association, fights for our homeschool freedoms on a national level (and even internationally), and we highly recommend that you also become a member of their organization, and be protected and informed about the bigger picture of what’s happening in homeschooling. So WHERE? Locally, statewide, and nationally… that’s where you need to connect.  Now the last of our 5 W’s… and the biggie: WHY?  You’ve got to ‘know your why!’   5. WHY homeschool in Michigan?  First of all, because Michigan is a GREAT place to homeschool! We have wonderful homeschooling freedom here currently—but we must remain ever vigilant to keep it that way.  There are SOOO many great reasons to homeschool, though!! We would argue that it’s the best and most natural way for children to learn… The way God intended when he created families, and the way children have been educated throughout most of history: parents teaching and training their children. Let’s quickly boil it down to five key reasons; Five “whys” of homeschooling… or Five key ingredients which you might say make up the “Secret Sauce” of Homeschooling: DISCIPLESHIP – To pass on your faith, morals, and beliefs Parents passing on their own faith, beliefs, and morals as opposed to society’s or the ‘cultural norms’ or the ‘common core;’ Teaching character development, critical thinking skills, love of God, others, and learning – these are the greatest privileges and priorities of homeschooling! Discipleship= training followers who will embrace, apply, and spread the teachings of another RELATIONSHIP – To strengthen family bonds and teach true ‘socialization’ instead of age segregation Building strong family bonds between parents and siblings, and with people of ALL ages; Relationships, influence, and trust are all built over time- and homeschooling allows you to spend both quantity and quality time together! Relationship = the way in which two or more people are connected, regard one another, and behave toward each other SCHOLARSHIP – To provide an excellent, individualized education We’re not talking about getting money for college (though that could easily be the result!) We’re talking about excellent academics. Students, or scholars, who learn at their own pace, being taught one-on-one, according to their own unique strengths, abilities, interests, and learning styles, moving at their own speed in each subject area- whether gifted, average, or with special needs. Scholarship = excellence in academic study or achievement; learning of a high level GUARDIANSHIP – To protect your children Protecting your kids is a giant consideration in today’s world. There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, and as parents, it’s our primary responsibility to guard and protect these children that have been entrusted to our care! Guardianship = the position of safeguarding or defending something of value APPRENTICESHIP – To teach and model practical life skills through hands-on learning Training kids in real life skills through hands-on learning and daily living, catering to their individual interests, gifts, and talents. This includes all those ‘soft skills’ that matter most in life- like work ethic, teamwork, communication, leadership, problem solving, etc. Homeschooling allows us to pass on to our children all these skills they need to succeed in life, to walk with them as they pursue their dreams and discover their passions and the purpose for which they were created Apprenticeship  = an arrangement by which someone learns an art, trade, or skill under the training of one more experienced and knowledgeable   So that’s the 5 W’s of Homeschooling, specifically in Michigan… The Who, What, When, Where, and Why? Hopefully we’ve encouraged and inspired you at least a little bit—to seriously consider homeschooling if you’re just looking into the idea. Or to “keep on keeping on,” if you’re already homeschooling! And we pray that we’ve also given you some clear answers and practical information about homeschooling, especially if you live in the mitten state.