Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Amid homeschool boom, Michigan registry fight looms

Danielle Bellgowan sitting at a table. The table has name tags and a sign up sheet
Danielle Bellgowan, a homeschool mother in Michigan, organizes the used curriculum sale at the annual homeschool conference hosted by the Michigan Christian Homeschool Network. Bellgowan told Bridge Michigan that it’s important for parents to be able to find good educational materials at an affordable price. (Bridge photo: Isabel Lohman)
  • Advocates called for educational freedom at the Michigan Christian Homeschool Network’s annual conference
  • With homeschooling growing, some Michigan Democrats say they want a state registry to ensure kids are educated
  • Homeschool parents cited faith, independence as motivation for their decision to educate kids at home

LANSING — Hundreds of Michigan homeschool parents gathered in a church last week to mix faith, freedom and fellowship while browsing curriculum materials, lip balms, customized bird seed and more. 

For many, the Inspirational Networking Conference for Homeschoolers in Lansing was a chance to shop for the latest school materials, learn tips and talk to fellow parents who share the common experience of educating kids at home. 


But between the uplifting exhibits, a political battle loomed: Michigan Democrats who control the Legislature are exploring a potential registry that could require parents to tell the state if they are keeping school-age kids at home. 

That amounts to a threat, according to state Rep. Jaime Greene, a Richmond Republican and homeschool mom, and Dave Kallman, a prominent Michigan lawyer who fought a landmark homeschool case in Michigan.


Greene and Kallman spoke during a "Homeschool Freedom Summit" at the conference on Thursday morning, where parents sat at tables topped with red, white and blue flowers and some children played on the ground. 

“I do believe that homeschoolers are seeing that their way of life is being threatened,” Greene told Bridge Michigan following the event. 

Proponents of a homeschool registry say it would help ensure all kids are educated and shine a light on potential neglect. But critics contend it would amount to unnecessary government interference

At the conference, the morning session featured prayer and politics.

A bunch of people in a room
The Michigan homeschoolers conference began with a presentation about homeschool freedom. Homeschool proponents have given similar presentations across the state over the last few months aiming to encourage homeschool parents to speak to their lawmakers about their feelings on a potential homeschool registry. (Bridge photo: Isabel Lohman)

Homeschool parents Andrea Larsen and Kendra Everett, organizers of a new group called MI Homeschoolers for Freedom, also spoke. 

Their group has over 2,000 members online, according to the women, who said they aim to train homeschool parents on how to talk to lawmakers in order to influence the policy debate in Lansing. 

While some parents said they are uncomfortable with the idea of a homeschool registry, Tiffany Legato said it would not deter her. 

“For me, it wouldn't be a hindrance for me to continue to homeschool," said Legato, who used the conference to gather new geography materials, a teacher’s guide for math, grammar materials and a vintage collection of Winnie the Pooh books.

"It would just be an extra step that I would have to do at the beginning of the year, because I think all it is probably is, like, filling out what ages my kids are. I'm not really sure what it all entails.”

For Legato, homeschooling her kids means wearing different hats: a mom hat, teacher hat and theology hat. 

In reality, she said, “I'm all of those things all of the time. And that's just who I am and so my kids don't see me as like, ‘Oh, mom's being teacher now.’ I'm just mom.”

A homeschool boom

More than 1,000 people registered to attend the conference, hosted by the Michigan Christian Homeschool Network (MiCHN) and now in its 40th year. This year’s event was held amid a homeschool boom that has both grown and diversified the movement. 

a bunch of games and puzzles
Homeschool shoppers at the used curriculum sale could buy books, puzzles and toys. (Bridge photo: Isabel Lohman)

Patti Sailor, legislative liaison for MiCHN, told Bridge homeschooling has traditionally been a “very conservative, value-oriented movement” where parents who couldn’t afford Christian private schools chose to homeschool their children. 

Now, she said, families are choosing to homeschool for a variety of reasons, including concerns over school safety, student bullying or concerns about the “wokeness and culture” at schools.

“There's lots of different freedom reasons people homeschool besides just academia,” she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also appeared to drive more parents to homeschooling.

National figures indicate more families have chosen to homeschool in recent years. A Washington Post analysis of thousands of school districts’ data found that in schools with comparable enrollment figures, homeschool student counts increased 51 percent between the 2017-2018 and 2022-2023 school years. 

Michigan is home to roughly 1.7 million school-age children, and 1.36 million are in public schools, while 182,000 are in private schools, according to 2022 Census data. That would leave about 150,000 students who are either homeschooled or have dropped out.

Michigan law provides few specifics on homeschooling. Parents have large leeway in what subjects they choose to emphasize and how they teach topics but must offer lessons in “reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar.” 

Some Michigan Democrats, including Attorney General Dana Nessel, have voiced support for a potential homeschool registry as a way to find out which students are not receiving an education at all. 

State Superintendent Michael Rice has urged lawmakers to act, arguing that “knowing where all children are enrolled in an educational setting is an issue of student safety, neither more nor less.”


That push spurred a heated backlash, however, and it’s not clear whether there will be any action in the Legislature, where no bills have been introduced. 

State Sen. Dayna Polehanki and Rep. Matt Koleszar, Democrats who chair legislative education committees, told Bridge they have not seen movement on the idea of a homeschool registry. 

Greene, the Republican lawmaker and homeschool mom, said she hopes Democrats declare the idea dead because “there’s so many other things we need to take care of.”

Buying in

For Mike Willems and his wife, deciding to homeschool their son starting in 2020 was an effort to “simplify things.”

Since then, the family has gone on educational road trips and been able to lean into the interests of their son — 10-year-old Alex — who knows all the countries, capitals and flags in the world, according to his dad. 

a young boy standing behind a table
Alex Willems, a homeschool student, sells bird food, seeds and campfire sticks at the Inspirational Networking Conference for Homeschoolers. Willems’ parents chose to homeschool him in 2020. (Bridge photo: Isabel Lohman)

Alex Willems was among a group of homeschool students who set up booths to display some of their work at the conference. His was a table with lavender sachets, bags of customized bird feed and mixed marigold seeds to plant. 

Homeschool parents told Bridge they like the ability to customize lesson plans to their children’s needs and abilities. 

“To be able to watch your kids’ eyes light up and realize that they can actually read is like none other and so I love that,” Legato said.

Elsewhere at Mount Hope Church, volunteers sorted through books, teacher manuals, games and puzzles for a used curriculum sale. Homeschool parents set the price for items that were grouped by subject. 

Danielle Bellgowan, a coordinator for the sale, told Bridge that the sellers can pick their stuff up at the end of the day or have it donated to a bookstore in New Baltimore. Last year, total sales were nearly $28,000. 

Bellgowan told Bridge that when she was homeschooling all four of her children at once, it would have cost $800 alone for curriculum but she was able to get it all for under $400 by buying used.

She said most of the time, homeschool families are living on one parent’s income so that the other parent can homeschool, underscoring the importance of parents being able to “find things that they need at a price they can afford.” 

two women with suitcases
Trisha Feldpausch, left, and Stacy Boyd, right, wait in line for the used curriculum sale with suitcases at the Inspirational Networking Conference for Homeschoolers. (Bridge photo: Isabel Lohman)

Stacy Boyd waited outside the curriculum sale with a small suitcase. She said she first chose to homeschool her son because he was “extra clingy” and didn’t want to go to preschool or kindergarten.

More recently, she's become concerned with what she called an "anti-Christian" worldview that she thinks is being taught in public schools, which she does not want her son exposed to.

“As time has gone on, I have been very appreciative of the freedom, the flexibility … anything that crops up we can adapt our schedule around that," she said.

How impactful was this article for you?

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now