WASHINGTON, DC—Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, NY, is the first homeschooler to win the National Spelling Bee, sponsored by Scripps Howard. The 70th annual event took place on May 29, 1997. Rebecca was one of 17 other homeschoolers in this year's competition, a record for the spelling bee in which 245 contenders competed for top spot.
After a marathon 23 rounds over three days, Rebecca won the competition by correctly spelling "euonym," which means an appropriate name for a person, place or thing.
"I was very determined I was going to win," said the eighth-grader, recalling how she studied up to three hours every day with books on language and word roots. Winning the title came after a year of intensive study. Spurred on by her eighth-place finish in the 1996 spelling bee, she decided to go for the win.
Knowing the roots to tough words is what helped her win—not rote memory, the 13-year-old said. "Don't study the dictionary" is her expert advice.
How did homeschooling help her win? She said that "homeschooling gave me more time and flexibility to study spelling."
Rebecca has two younger siblings who are also homeschooled. Dr. Stuart Sealfon, a neurologist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, and his wife Cynthia Gelertner Sealfon, who has a master's degree in social work, decided to home school in order to tailor their children's education to the specific needs of each one.
In conventional school, Rebecca said, "I was finding things moving too slowly. In most subjects in homeschooling, I'm well above grade level. Also, I like, if I want, to slightly digress from a subject and do something a little different but related, and I can at home."
"Champion" is a euonym for Rebecca Sealfon and homeschoolers everywhere. Congratulations Rebecca!