At 10 years old, Michigan home schooled student Calvin McCarter became the youngest competitor ever to win the National Geographic Bee. The annual competition, sponsored by National Geographic magazine, awarded Calvin a $25,000 college scholarship for placing first.
Photo by Mark Thiessen © National Geographic Society
|Calvin McCarter, 10, of Jenison, Michigan, is interviewed by the media immediately after his victory at the 2002 National Geographic Bee, May 22, in Washington, DC. The contest winning answer? McCarter answered "China" to the question, "Lop Nur, a marshy depression at the east end of the Tarim Basin, is a nuclear test site for which country?"
The McCarters, who live near Grand Rapids, are HSLDA members. Calvin's father Joseph McCarter says the competition fits in well with the family's overall approach to home schooling.
"We emphasize a broad base of learning and we found the competition was an excellent avenue for implementing this," Mr. McCarter said. "Geography touches on a number of different subjects and preparing for this competition has been part of a whole array of subjects our children have studied."
All in all, 12 of the 55 national finalists in the bee were home school students. Of these 12, four, including third place winner Erik Miller from Kent, Washington, were among the 10 who qualified for the final round.
Ellen Siskind, spokesperson for National Geographic, says that the home schoolers typically do well in the geography bee.
"The fact that [home schoolers'] parents tailor the curriculum to their needs would give them an advantage," Mrs. Siskind told The Washington Times.
Calvin's father takes issue with statements like this, at least where it concerns his family. In an interview with WORLD magazine, Mr. McCarter said, "I think people feel that home schoolers can sit at home 10 hours a day studying one subject to prepare for these kinds of competitions. Nothing could be further from the truth."
In fact, Calvin's parents almost did not let him enter the competition. They initially wanted him to spend more time this year on English and spelling, subjects that Calvin is weaker in. Calvin agreed to work harder at his language arts for the opportunity to compete in geography contests. The McCarters told WORLD that Calvin continued to work diligently on his English skills even up to the week before the May 22 national competition.
Ironically, the McCarters live in Jenison, Michigan, the same town that gave rise to the 1993 watershed home school decision People v. DeJonge. In DeJonge, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that requiring home schooling parents to obtain state certification is unconstitutional. The case led to the passage of Michigan's current home school law, one of the nation's most lenient.