A History of Homeschooling in Michigan
In 1984, Information Network of Christian Homes (INCH) was founded by Dennis and Roxanne Smith, as the first Christian state homeschooling organization in Michigan. They hosted their first homeschooling conference and began homeschooling advocacy work.
The DeJonge Case
On September 20, 1984, Ottawa County contacted homeschooling parents Mark & Christine DeJonge to inform them they were illegally homeschooling their two young children. The DeJonges were not certified teachers and therefore were deemed in violation of the state’s compulsory attendance law.
On March 28, 1985, truancy charges were filed against the DeJonges. They were convicted of violating Michigan's certification requirement for home schooling. On April 23, 1985, warrants were issued for their arrests, with charges of criminal truancy. The DeJonges contacted HSLDA who retained Michigan attorney David Kallman to defend them.
Kallman introduced test scores from the DeJonge’s children, demonstrating they both scored above the 90th percentile, but the evidence was not permitted. The DeJonges were convicted and sentenced to two years’ probation, fined $200, and ordered to find certified instruction or choose public schooling. Christopher Klicka of HSLDA got a stay of sentence and appealed the case to a higher court.
The Bennett Case
John and Sandra Bennett were homeschooling their four children, but in 1986 they were charged with four counts of truancy during the 1985-86 school year because they were not certified teachers. The Bennetts were found guilty by the 35th District Court and fined $50 for each count. Their children were enrolled in Clonlara School (a Catholic private school in Ann Arbor, founded by Pat Montgomery).
David Kallman’s Workload Increases
On June 7, 1986, David Kallman won the Haines, Smolls, and Gibson vs. Runkel case where parents were originally charged with truancy, but all charges were dropped!
School districts soon started sending letters to homeschoolers, asking if they were certified (to get them to admit their own guilt). HSLDA told people not to respond and used stalling tactics with school boards to avoid ending up in court.
The DeJonge Case Continues
Even as late as August 9, 1989, the DeJonge case was still winding its way through the courts. The Court of Appeals affirmed ruling against the DeJonges, but HSLDA appealed the case to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Persecution against Homeschoolers Escalates
Between 1985-1993, over 500 homeschooling families were threatened annually with prosecution. In those days, truancy officers often carried guns which made for scary home visit situations!
In December 1991, four HSLDA families were threatened with arrest. In January 1992, Farris and Klicka of HSLDA filed a civil rights case (Arnett vs. Middleton) and sued the prosecutor, the superintendent, and the school district for violating homeschoolers’ civil rights! They quickly backed off!
The DeJonge Case Decided
On November 10, 1992, Farris argued People vs. DeJonge before the Michigan Supreme Court. The same day, Farris, Klicka and Kallman argued People v. Bennett regarding religious exemption from Compulsory Attendance. Two days later, Clonlara v. State Board of Ed. was argued in Michigan Supreme Court.
On May 25, 1993, Clonlara was decided by a 4-3 vote in the Michigan Supreme Court removing the teacher certification requirement. Finally, after nearly a decade in court, the DeJonge’s previous legal convictions were reversed.
God Answers Prayer
The initial state Supreme Court decision was 4-3 against the DeJonges; however, the day before the decision was published, Justice Levin surprisingly told Chief Justice Cavanaugh he wanted to change his vote. He didn’t know why, but he wanted to change his vote. There had been prayer meetings all over the state for these court cases and it was clear that, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1, NKJV).
MiCHN’s New Legacy Begins
In 2010, Dennis and Roxanne Smith retired from their leadership role with INCH, and Michael and Kim Winter (homeschooling parents of ten and co-op leaders in Lansing) began leading the organization with their team of volunteers. In 2019, INCH was rebranded as Michigan Christian Homeschool Network (MiCHN) and became a 501-c-3 non-profit organization. You can learn more about MiCHN at www.HomeschoolMichigan.org.
Israel Wayne is a homeschooled graduate and homeschooling father of eleven. He and his wife are founders of Family Renewal, LLC and serve on the leadership team for Michigan Christian Homeschool Network.