Homeschoolers shine at national competitions
by Stephen McGarvey, Assistant Editor
|MARK THIESSEN © 2003 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY|
|Moderator Alex Trebeck congratulates homeschooler James Williams upon winning the 2003 National Geographic Bee. Williams was awarded a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine.|
Once again, homeschoolers have shown the world how dedicated parents can achieve academic success with their children.
On May 22, 8th 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's correct answer, "Portugal," netted him a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime subscription to National Geographic magazine.
On May 29, homeschooled 8th 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. Despite 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 just those students who win. Although homeschoolers make up approximately 2% of the United States school-age population, they made up 12% of the 251 spelling bee finalists and 5% 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.
And while wins at the national spelling and geography bees are perhaps the most visible homeschool accomplishments, they are by no means the only ones in recent months:
|>>||Three homeschooled students were among the 20 honored as members of the All-USA Community and Junior College Academic First Team. They received trophies and $2,500 cash awards from USA TODAY in Dallas at the national convention of the American Association of Community Colleges.|
|>>||Seven out of the 54 finalists were homeschoolers in the American Legion's National High School Oratorical Contest, an annual competition to test high school students' knowledge of the Constitution. A homeschooler came in second place.|
|>>||Eighteen young entrepreneurs, one of whom was homeschooled, were honored at National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship's (NFTE) Tenth Annual Salute to the Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards Dinner in New York City. All the students were graduates of NFTE, an international nonprofit organization that teaches entrepreneurship to young people so they can become economically productive members of society.|
|>>||Three U.S. teenagers won the gold medal in the National Geographic World Championship. One of them was homeschooled.|
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 competitions," 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 extra flexibility for children to pursue their interests.
"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.