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Education Week is a family affair for many

Families go on holiday for annual week of classes at BYU

Tanmy Smith has been bringing her family of 10 from Overton, Nev., to Provo for BYU's Campus Education Week for more than 20 years.

On Saturday, the Smiths arrived with their family camper and set up house in the parking lot just north of the Indoor Practice Facility, along with several other families who will call the parking lot home for the next five days.

On Monday, Smith was headed to her first classes. Her 12-year-old daughter was planning a visit to BYU's Museum of Art later in the day, and her 11-year-old son was riding around the parking lot on his bike, but he would be bowling in the Wilkinson Center before the day was over.

"This is the family vacation. We wouldn't miss it," Smith said. "If we are going to spend our money, we are going to spend it here."

About 20,000 people are expected to spend at least part of the week here, attending classes on everything from religion to law. Registration had lagged for this year's conference, and as of Thursday, was about 5 percent behind the previous year's numbers. That changed Friday when delayed registrations closed that gap to 2 percent.

"That's been a trend for many BYU continuing ed programs this year," said R. Neil Carlile, the director of Campus Education Week. "Registration has been slower, but people have decided to participate ultimately."

Religious education has been a part of the Education Week program since it started in 1922 as "Leadership Week." The name was changed to "Education Week" in 1963. This is only the fourth year, however, that the local chapter of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law Society has offered a series of classes designed for attorneys. Other classes focus on education, family and home, self-improvement and youths.

But religion is the big draw, making up 43 percent of the course offerings.

That's what brings Jim Caffrey and his wife, Nita, of Bozeman, Mont., to Campus Education Week.

"It fills me in on what I don't get at church," Jim Caffery said. He's been coming for the last 12 years. "It gives me a better understanding of other people."

Nita Caffrey, who has been an education week regular for 30 years, jokes about having changed her focus.

"In the early years, I came so I could learn to correct my kids and my husband," she said from inside the couple's large RV. "Now it's to correct myself."

Family history classes are a main draw for Gary Schekel of Newport, Ore. Schekel and his wife, Jeanie, traded in their house for a motor home when he retired a few years ago, and they try to make Education Week an annual stop on their ongoing road trip.

"We missed last year," Schekel said while his wife searched the cupboards for a snack for their grandchildren, who were visiting from Salt Lake City. "We just like a lot of the classes. There's always a good spirit with them."

Smith, the Caffreys and the Schekels said the economic downturn didn't factor into their decision to attend this year's classes

"For $60 a week to go to all these classes … you can't do that anywhere else," Smith said.

Events will continue throughout the week. The only general session will be Aug. 18 at 11:10 p.m. in BYU's Marriott Center, when President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will speak. The devotional will be broadcast live on the BYU Broadcasting channels

Those interested in participating in BYU's Campus Education Week activities may register for the week, a day, half-day or just a few hours. A variety of registration options is available at educationweek.byu.edu or by calling 801-422-2087. At-the-door registration can be done throughout the conference.

e-mail: marchaddock@desnews.com