Many families make Education Week an annual tradition

Five sisters gathered around a table, telling stories and laughing, obviously having a good time. They discussed rearing children, the Church and myriad other topics they learned about while attending BYU Campus Education Week Aug. 18 through 21.

Jenni Howell, Laurie Parker, Shelli Thomas, Vivian Grothe and Karen Smart have all been participating the annual conference since they were teenagers.This year their parents, Glen and Thelma Thomas, along with several of their children, also participated in Education Week - an event the three generations of this family don't want to do without.

Like these sisters, many families have made Campus Education Week at BYU a tradition. The seminar becomes not only a chance to attend classes on more than 1,000 topics, but also a chance to spend time together.

This year more than 30,000 Church members participated in Education Week, attending classes on self-improvement, family relations, religious education, history, science, youth interests, health and literature. Several of the presentations were also telecast to thousands of people over the Church's satellite System in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico, and in Utah on BYU-TV.

Now in its 76th year, the special week - sponsored by the Church Educational System and BYU's Division of Continuing Education - has become what is believed to be the largest single-event adult continuing education program in the United States.

During Education Week, Sister Howell, from Orem, Utah, and her four sisters met with other members of their family attending Education Week each evening. Together they ate dinner, shared dessert and talked about what they had learned that day.

"It has become a legacy that we pass down from year to year," she said.

Like Sister Howell, Shauna Martinez, from Jacksonville, Fla., attended Education Week with extended family.

While waiting to meet her mother, sister, daughter and niece, Sister Martinez talked about her week. The family tried, she explained, to attend as many classes as possible, spending their time walking from class to class, then listening and learning.

In the evening, they rested and then got together again. "Last night we went to the creamery and had ice cream," she said.

Eric and June Parnes, from Santa Fe, N.M., attended the conference with their son, Sean, 18.

Sean had participated in the Education Week five years in a row when he decided it was time "to bring his parents along."

This year he attended sessions that will help him prepare for a mission. More important, he said, he spent time with his parents. "And it has been wonderful," said Sister Parnes.

Debbie Wagstaff, from Kamas, Utah, also shared her Education Week experience with her teenage daughters. "We love to feel the spirit and learn," she said, explaining she will bring the rest of her children when they are old enough to attend.

This year Education Week also helped her feel a little closer to her parents - who are serving a mission in Africa - by attending classes on the Church in Africa.

Robin and Shary Linfor said they immersed themselves in Education Week. The couple from California began attending the conference annually in 1985; they participated in every class together this year. After each session, they discussed what they learned and how they can use the information to improve themselves, their family and their home.

Their children are not yet old enough to attend, but like so many other parents, the Lenfors plan to include them in this educational opportunity when they are old enough.

Education Week, Sister Linfor said, is a vacation from the outside world that can be a great family experience.

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