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Parents who teach meet, learn share at home-schooling convention

On snowy days, school at the Thacker household moves from a room set aside for instruction to the living room. Sitting around a lit fireplace, Antje Thacker teaches her eight children their lessons for the day.

The Thacker home-schooled children have more flexibility built into their day, which their mom said lets them do other things.

"It's more time to do something besides sharpen your pencils, do your math problems and stuff like that," she said.

For 14-year-old Christopher Thacker, who just finished eighth grade, this freedom means he has time to learn about taxidermy, manage the family's garden, volunteer at the hospital and play in the Youth Symphony. He also applies himself to school, advancing in math so he will start calculus in ninth grade.

Friday at the annual Teaching Parents Association Convention, the Thackers joined other families for home-schooling resources and workshops. Officials expect about 2,500 to 3,000 people to attend the convention, which ends tonight.

Jeff Gorman, the association's board president, described the Kansas-based organization as conservative and Christian, but said it serves anyone who is looking for resources about home schooling.

Despite the fact that home schooling means sacrificing one spouse's income, Gorman said he has seen growth in the number of people educating their children.

"In the economy like we have today, that can be a hard decision to make, but we're seeing parents want to take that responsibility, want to have that relationship and be more of a part of their child's life," Gorman said.

According to a 2007 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, an estimated 1.5 million students were home-schooled. The survey showed a 74 percent relative increase in the home schooling rate from 1999.

One reason for the increase, Gorman said, was that technology has provided more resources for people. CD-based or video-based lessons and online classes have become options for parents.

However, he also said home schooling is not for everyone and requires both talent and commitment from parents, along with effort from children.

Eve Garrison chose to home-school her three children so she could control the curriculum and be responsible for training them. In recent years, when she had seizures and brain surgery, she said the close ties developed from home schooling helped her family.

"I believe that kept us going through the tough times," she said.

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Teaching Parents Association convention

Where: Century II Expo Hall

When: 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. today

How much: $50 per couple; $25 for children ages 6-12 to attend Adventures in Character, $20 for each additional child

For full workshop schedule, go to www.teachingparents.org.

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