S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Homeschooler Wins Lego Contest
With the clock ticking down in the national championships, 12-year-old Chris Mayernik of Fairfax County [Virginia] sat looking forlorn, surrounded by a pile of plastic rubble.
So many Legos. So little time.
With less than 45 minutes left in the two-hour Lego Deep Sea Challenge build-a-thon, he was still fidgeting with some of the 4,000 Lego pieces each of the six finalists had been given.
An hour later, his multi-tiered creation, a high-tech research facility that he named the Titanic Search Station, was given top honors by the panel of four judges. They included the former commander of the battleship USS Baltimore and an official at Nauticus, the National Maritime Center in Norfolk, which co-sponsored the event with Lego Systems Inc., the U.S. arm of the Danish toy maker.
Joe Mayernik, a former Trident submarine researcher, said he knew his son had won when he described his model to the judges as an underwater scanning station, threw a switch and a little sonar satellite dish he built started to turn. The commanders face just lit up, and all the TV cameras zoomed in.
For his efforts, Chris won a half-day submarine dive in the Pacific Ocean off California, $1,000 in spending money and a 12-day trip for four to Antarctica next January. Not a bad payoff.
Stephanie Mayernik, who is home schooling her seven children, said Chris has always been artistic and creative, so Legos have been a great outlet for him.
National Spelling Bee: Two Home Schoolers Finish in Top Nine
It may have been against the odds for home schoolers to perform at the top levels again this year in the national spelling bee, but they did it anyway. Home schoolers finished in the top nine spellers, out of a field that started with more than nine million contestants across the nation.
Spelling their way to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, May 2728, in Washington, DC, was no small achievement for contestants who are required to be younger than 16 at the date of the national finals. The final rounds were broadcast live by ESPN.
George Thampy, a 10-year-old home schooler from Maryland Heights, Missouri, spelled his way to the eighth round and was one of the top five contestants. Tasha Bartch, a 12-year-old home schooler with a home address in Stuttgart, Germany, made it into the seventh round and was one of the top nine spellers in the national contest. ESPN commentators reported that her father is a major in the United States Marine Corps stationed in Europe.
Of the 247 spellers who started the bee, 19 were home school students. At the beginning of the second day, there were 38 spellers, four of whom were home schoolers. Last year, the 70th anniversary of the national spelling bee, was a record-setter for home schoolers, too. Seventeen of the 245 national contestants were home schoolers.
One of the home schoolers who made it to this years top 38, Jeremy Young, of Flagstaff, Arizona, also participated in the Arizona State Geography Bee. The other, J.B. Kizer, of Ohio, won second place in the National Geography Bee last week. The day after the Geography Bee he appeared on NBCs Today show.
This years Scripps Howard champion is Jody-Anne Maxwell, of Jamaica. The word she spelled correctly was chiaroscurist, an artist who emphasizes light and darkness. Last years winner, Rebecca Sealfon, is a home schooler. Rebecca won her grueling 23-round contest by spelling euonym, which means an appropriate name for a person, place or thing.
This year it only took 11 rounds of spelling for a winner to emerge.
Congratulations, Jody-Anne, George, and Tasha!
Home Schooler Lands 2nd Place in National Geography Bee Championship
Hebrew and Aramaic are the official languages of what country?
The Sava and Danube rivers are generally recognized as marking the northern boundary of what peninsula?
France, Ukraine, and Russia are among the leading producers of a root crop that is used to produce sugar. Name this root crop.
Questions like these were posed to students ages 1115 at the National Geography Bee May 1920 in Washington, DC. Second place winner, John Kizer, a 13-year-old home school student from Portsmouth, Ohio, has sustained for years his determination to win. In state competition during the past four years he has placed in the top 10, and this year he became Ohios representative to the national competition.
John likes to tackle challenging questionsat age five he scored at the college level on a math test, and next week he competes in the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. And he plans to become a scientific researcher.
Johns father, John Kizer, Sr., explained that the family home schools their children because its the most efficient way to teach bright children. We have always home schooled and always will, said John Kizer, Sr.
Another home schooler achieved the top 10 at nationals: Gulliver Hughes, a 14 year old from New Mexico, made his second consecutive trip to the National Geography Bee. Besides his interest in geography, Gulliver is the youngest tour guide at Albuquerques aquarium.
Reflecting on the importance of academic competitions, Johns father, John Kizer, Sr., said academic achievement is underappreciated. If he had the same level of ability in football, they would be beating down the doors to get him in.
Michael Farris, president of Home School Legal Defense Association, noted that home school students tend to be disproportionately represented in national contests where academic skills are being tested. The reason is simple: home school parents emphasize traditional learning rather than feel-good self-esteem methods that leave children puffed up but devoid of the knowledge that they need to sustain themselves in real life.
The National Geography Bee is organized by the National Geographic Society. At the beginning of this years contest, there were about five million competitors in the states and U. S. territories. In May, 57 finalistsfour of whom were home school studentsgathered for the national runoff in Washington. Thats a seven percent representation from a group that only comprises three percent of the school age students in America.
Can you name that sugar-producing crop?
Ill never forget that one, said David Beihl, home schooler and this years representative from South Carolina. The answer is sugar beets. He remembers for good reason. Last year, because he didnt know the answer was sugar beets, he was eliminated from the South Carolina Geography Bee.
I said sugar cane, but it hit me later that sugar cane only grows in tropical climates, David said.
In Virginia, three of the top contestants were home schoolers, including 13-year-old state champ, Timothy Carr. Timothy said his home schooling program has helped him succeed in geography. I really enjoy home schooling, Timothy said. I wouldnt have it any other way.
In case youre still wondering, Hebrew and Aramaic are the official languages of Israel. The Sava and Danube rivers mark the northern borders of the Balkan Peninsula.