ANAHEIM — Sue Cross arrived at the Christian Home Educators Convention on Saturday morning with the idea that self-teaching her two daughters meant buying some used textbooks, brushing up on algebra and pulling a few classics off the bookshelf in her den.
But the Long Beach woman left the Disneyland Hotel overwhelmed by the hundreds of home teaching products and seminars offered at the convention.
"Teaching your own kids is a huge commitment, and I'm still not sure I can make it," Cross said. "I like the idea of a Christian education, and I prefer the girls being home than in public school. Everyone here seems to be so enthusiastic about it. But it's going to be a lot of work."
More than 3,000 parents gathered Saturday for the 14th annual convention, which organizers said is shaping up to be the biggest yet and another sign that home teaching is gaining a wide following.
They waited 45 minutes in long registration lines and packed into crowded conference rooms to hear talks on "Teaching Christ-Centered American History," "Bible Memory Made Easy" and "Teaching Children Art at Home--How Great Thou Art."
But the most popular part of the convention seemed to be at the vast hotel exhibition hall, where vendors offered thousands of education-related products to parents--everything from standardized-test preparation courses for Christian students to globes and maps.
Jenny Starner of Anaheim liked the booth selling tote bags and T-shirts with such slogans as "My Favorite Teacher is Mom and Dad" and "No Metal Detectors, No Drugs, No Health Education, No Foul Language. Wise up, Teach at Home."
"Amen! I agree," said Starner, who began teaching her son Drew three years ago. "Pulling him out of school was the best thing I did. I teach him at his own pace, and he's not close to the bad influences you see at schools today."
"Some parents have a child who is sensitive or has a learning disability and think the school environment isn't right," said organizer Janet McTaggart of Santa Ana, who has been home-teaching since 1982. "There are so many ways to do it. Some parents team teach--one mother does science, another math, another history."
In California, parents need only file an affidavit to become an independent school and agree that instruction will be provided by someone capable of teaching in English.
Cross said her daughters have mixed feelings about leaving their friends at school. But she said they would probably like some of the products at the exhibit hall, including a series of books on backyard science projects and experiments.
"This looks like fun--at least to me," she said.