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Homeschoolers Shine at National Competitions

  • 2003 12 Jun
Homeschoolers Shine at National Competitions

Once again, homeschoolers have shown the world how dedicated parents can achieve academic success with their children.

On May 22, eighth-grader James Williams of Vancouver, Washington, became the second homeschooler in a row to place first in the National Geography Bee. James answered the question, "Goa, a state in southwestern India, was a possession of what country until 1961?" James' correct answer, "Portugal," netted him a $25,000 scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine.

On May 29, homeschooled eighth-grader Evelyn Blacklock from Tuxedo Park, New York, placed second in the National Spelling Bee. The word that finally tripped her up? "Gnathonic," which means sycophantic or fawning. In spite of missing out on first place, Evelyn still took home a $6,000 cash prize.

"Success in these kinds of competitions is a logical extension of good academics," says Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association. "The achievement of these homeschoolers shows that their parents have provided excellent academic instruction."

The impact of homeschooling in these academic competitions goes beyond students who win. Although homeschoolers make up approximately 2 percent of the U.S. school-age population, they made up 12 percent of the 251 spelling bee finalists and 5 percent of the 55 geography bee finalists. Three of the past seven spelling bee winners have been homeschooled. Last year's homeschooled winner of the geography bee was 10 years old, the youngest in that event's history.

The high percentage of homeschoolers in national competitions has garnered complaints from homeschool critics. Some feel homeschoolers have an unfair advantage over traditionally schooled students since they do not have to follow a public school schedule. One recent article even suggested that these winners come from families who homeschool for the sole purpose of winning contests.

"No parent I'm aware of homeschools just to win academic competions," says Mr. Smith.

Parnell McCarter, father of last year's geography bee winner Calvin McCarter, agrees. "I think people feel that homeschoolers can sit at home 10 hours a day studying one subject to prepare for these kinds of competitions," Mr. McCarter told WORLD magazine. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Homeschooling is not a magic ticket to academic contest victory according to Mike Smith. Yet homeschooling does allow for extra flexibility for children to pursue what interests them.

"Parents create their homeschool program to adapt to their child's strengths, weaknesses and interests. To compete on the national level, the child must have an intense amount of personal motivation, whatever kind of school that child attends," says Mr. Smith.


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