Education seems to be at the top of the issue heap these days, and almost every public or private conversation about it touches on the matter of "parental involvement."
Beginning Friday, a conference in Thousand Oaks will explore one form of parental involvement--home schooling.
"You can't get any more involved than to home school your kid," says Michael Leppert, co-publisher of The Link, a Newbury Park-based newspaper for home schooling. He and his wife, Mary Leppert, who is co-publisher as well as editor of the paper, are organizers of the conference, which is intended for children as well as parents.
This "2nd Annual Kid-Comfortable Homeschool Conference," held at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza, will provide information to people who are curious about home schooling. Plus, hundreds of home-schooled kids and parents from around the state will have a chance to compare notes while attending seminars.
The Lepperts have scheduled a dozen special activities for kids, including making stained glass and Latin American musical instruments.
The musical session, "Instrument Making With Georgette," which takes place Friday and Saturday afternoons, is a hands-on activity that Georgette Baker, a multicultural performer and credentialed teacher, regularly conducts for home school, public school and library groups. She developed it, with help from her own kids, as a lesson in recycling and in multiculturalism.
Participants will learn to use everyday household objects--often considered disposable--to make wind, percussion and rhythm instruments modeled after originals that Baker, a native of Aruba, brought to the U.S. from South America, where she lived and worked for many years.
The instruments, which Baker demonstrates, bear colorful names such as "straw zampona," "goat hooves" and "rain stick."
Such craft-and-learning projects demonstrate how home-school students combine disparate things in pursuit of the knowledge they'll need to pass the standardized tests required for college or the work world.
"The current estimate of home-schooled kids is 1 million to 2 million nationally, and a federal study indicates this may be increasing 25% to 30% a year," says Cafi Cohen, author of "What About College? How Homeschooling Leads to Admission to the Best Colleges and Universities."
"The fastest-growing group has been public-school parents with middle and high school-age kids who have decided to home school them," Cohen says.
The process begins, says Cohen, who is slated to speak at the conference, by filing an affidavit with a local school district and creating an independent study program with a public or private school.
Some parents may wonder if home schooling is primarily for families with a rural, sometimes religiously conservative lifestyle. Cohen, who spoke at last year's conference in Thousand Oaks, recalls that it attracted representatives of the diverse home-school parent groups--Muslim, Native American, African American, disabled, Adventist, Catholic, Mormon and Jewish.
A nonsectarian Ventura County home school group may be reached at (805) 649-5063.
"2nd Annual Kid-Comfortable Homeschool Conference," parent how-to seminars and children's crafts, games and science activities, Friday, 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Hyatt Westlake Plaza, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Conference fee: $45 per parent, $5 per child, under 4 free. Information: (805) 492-1373.