On June 1, 2000, 12-year-old home schooler George Abraham Thampy won the 73rd annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. In 1998, George represented Missouri in the National Spelling Bee and tied for fourth place; he tied for third place in the 1999 bee. This year, his perseverance paid offliterallyas he received, among other honors, a $10,000 cash prize for accurately spelling through 15 rounds during the contest. A week before his spelling victory, George came in second at National Geographics 2000 National Geography Bee, winning a $15,000 scholarship.
Ever since Rebecca Sealfon, of Brooklyn, New York, became the first home schooled student to win the National Spelling Bee in 1997, home school spellers have swept a myriad of regional, state, and national spelling bees. This years national champion George Thampy was not the only home schooled speller in the spotlight: second and third place finishers Sean Conley of Newark, California, and Alison Miller of Albany, New York, are also educated at home. Interested in mathematics and computers, 12-year-old Sean belongs to local chapters of Math Olympiad and Mathcounts and has completed college-level computer programming classes. He also studies Spanish and plays the piano. Alison has many interests, too, including ancient Greek, poetry, ice skating, and drama. She recently ranked first in the New York State Mathcounts competition.
Home school students tend to be disproportionately represented in national contests where academic skills are being tested, said Home School Legal Defense Association president Mike Farris, [because] home school parents emphasize traditional learning rather than feel-good, self-esteem methods. Home schoolers participated in record numbers at this years National Spelling Bee, accounting for nearly 11 percent of the bees contestants.
Home school achievements, however, are not limited to spelling and geography bees. Marian Braaksma was recently elected governor at Arizonas Annual YMCA Youth Model Legislature, becoming the first home schooled student figurehead for Arizonas Youth and Government Program. Besides presiding over the YMCA Model Legislature, Marians duties as governor include attending the five-day National Youth Governors Conference in Washington, DC, and the Conference on National Affairs, an event attended by prominent Youth and Government delegates from across the country.
Also this year, five home schooled students from Richardson, Texas, were recognized as winners at both the state and national levels of the NASA Seeds II Science Fair. Under the supervision of home school mom and teacher, Stacy Smith, these students wrote, directed, and starred in a five-minute production designed to fit this years topic of space research in the classroom as an educational embarkment of the International Space Station. Each of the winners was congratulated with a $100 savings bond, and their teacher received an all-expense-paid trip to a science conference.
Seventeen-year-old Garrett Young won the Glenn T. Seaborg Nobel Prize Visit Award in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Detriot, May 12, 2000. Garrett, a home schooled student from Branchburg, New Jersey, won for his physics project titled Isolating Plasma Species Initiating Internal Electrostatic Fields for Plasma Heating. In his project, he found a way to more efficiently increase the temperature of plasma, a process which may make energy from fusion more accessible. Garretts award includes an expense-paid trip to the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Sweden in December 2000. (See http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archive/releases/ed051200.htm)
This spring, home schooler William Schleifer of Jackson County, Georgia, won the National Federation of Music Club Composers Contest for the third time in a row. William, 17, and his brother Robert Schleifer, 14, have studied piano under Keith Jefcoat, director of preparatory music at Brenau University and both boys have competed in the Georgia Music Teachers Associations Spring Auditions at the University of Georgia. In addition to his musical pursuits, Robert is a serious student of geography and has represented his state in the last two National Geography Bees.
Another home school student making her mark in the music world is 11-year-old Brighton Goode of Madison, Mississippi. Though she has not had her own school choir or orchestra to perform in, Brighton has excelled as a singer and pianist. In March, she represented the Childrens Choir of Mississippi as she performed songs in French, German, Japanese, and English with the American Choral Directors Associations Southern Division Childrens Honor Choir in Orlando, Florida. A recipient of many state and national awards for singing, dancing, and acting, Brighton hopes to pursue a career in the performing arts.
Home schoolers are doing well in more unusual competitions as well. Two years ago, Chris Mayernik, a 12-year-old home schooled student from Fairfax, Virginia, won the national 1998 Lego Deep Sea Challenge Build-a-thon. Home schooler Paul Griebenow from Tazewell, Virginia, is a national champion in flying battery-powered, 6-to-8-foot-wingspan aircraft. Later this year, he will represent the United States at an international competition in Greece.
Home educated junior Cole Truitt of Cleburne, Texas, was one of 40 selected from around the nation to participate in the National Rifle Associations Fifth Annual Youth Education Summit. Y.E.S. is a seven-day, expense-paid educational trip in Washington, DC, for outstanding high school sophomores and juniors. Key factors in selection are community involvement and a five-page essay on the Second Amendment.
Not only do home schoolers win state and national academic competitions, but they also score 67 points above average on SAT college entrance exams. (See Wall Street Journal, Class of Their Own, page A-1, February 11, 2000.)
Home schooling offers students and parents the flexibility to focus on the subjects of their choice and to incorporate students special interests and talents, such as music, computer programming, creative writing, geography, spelling, or even Legos into their school curriculum.
In spite ofor perhaps because oftheir specially tailored education, home schoolers have proven competitive right through higher education. For example, in the fall of 1999, Stanford University accepted 27 percent of home schooled applicants, nearly double the universitys overall acceptance rate. (WSJ, A-1, 2-11-00)
With an estimated 1.7 million children currently home schooled in the United States, and that number growing yearly, it seems that many parents are finding home schooling the best way for them to be involved in their childrens education. And judging from the headlines, theyre doing a great job.