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Some 2,300 Utah parents who teach their children at home heard speakers decry public schools for ignoring God, harboring drug users and teaching sex education.

The school system "makes it easier to smuggle a gun into a classroom than to allow a teacher to teach moral values," said radio personality Bob Lee, keynote speaker at the Utah Home Education Association's 14th annual convention on Saturday.Lee, a talk-show host at KSL, has taught his children at home for five years. He criticized declining academic performance, teachers' unions and "educrats," violence, fraud and waste in public education, and classes that teach about homosexuality.

"I want my children to be more familiar with men and women who believe in Jesus Christ . . . than with HIV-positive athletes and godless musicians," Lee said to an audience that included dozens of wailing babies.

"Our curriculum is chastity, not safe sex," he said at another point.

About 4,400 Utah families teach their children at home, and because most are large families, that means about 16,000 Utah children are educated by their parents, said Karl Pearson, a Dynix Inc. computer programmer and president of the Utah Home Education Asso-ci-a-tion.

The convention featured about 80 workshops aimed at helping parents educate children. Many focused on teaching basic subjects. Other workshops were oriented toward religion, including "Jesus, the Master Teacher," "Teaching Creation Science," "God Centered Science" and "Teaching by the Spirit to Avoid Secular Humanism."

Pearson said home-taught children perform better than youths who attend school, and "they get one-on-one teacher-student attention that kids in public school can't get, especially with larger class sizes."

He acknowledged some students may lack exposure to a wide range of ideas and beliefs.

"A lot of parents do choose to keep their children's education very narrow," Pearson said. "I'm not saying it's good. I'm not saying it's bad either. That's their choice."

But he said most home-schooled children read extensively and get their curriculum from many sources. "With drugs and sex and guns in the schools, parents feel they should keep the kids away from that as long as they can," he added.

Pearson said his seven children are getting their education at home, although the three oldest ones go to school part time for orchestra and choir.

Jacob Fugal, 17, of Pleasant Grove, said he plans to enroll in a church college in Idaho. He said he received most of his grade and high school education from his parents, attending public school for less than two years.

"I taught myself the most," Fugal said. "My mom helped me the first three or four years, and my dad helped me with math and science."

Fugal said he disagreed with critics who fear that poorly educated parents might teach their children to be narrow-minded.