Bright Spots in Home Schooling

May 22, 2002  

Home Schooler Wins National Geography Bee

The scene in the Washington Plaza Hotel for the 2002 National Geographic Bee might be familiar to some home schoolers. In the lobby a mom with four kids surrounding her, pushes a baby stroller. On a bench outside one of the competition rooms, a pair of youngsters were each reading one of the Little House books. Another boy was going through multiplication problems with his younger brother.

And these were just the family members of the contestants.

Twelve of the 55 national finalists in the bee, sponsored by National Geographic Magazine were home school students. Of these, four, Isaiah Hess of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Calvin McCarter of Jenison, Michigan, John Rice of Maddock, North Dakota, and Erik Miller of Kent, Washington, were among the 10 who qualified for the final round.

McCarter, at 10 one of the youngest competitors in the competition's history, walked away from the event as the contest champion, earning a $25,000 college scholarship. Miller took third, and with it a $10,000 scholarship.

The McCarter's, who live near Grand Rapids, are HSLDA members. Joseph McCarter, Calvin's father, said 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."

Home School Legal Defense Association President Mike Smith noted that the ratio of home schooled students in the national finals is very telling.

"Only 2 out of 100 students in America are home schooled, about 2%" Smith said. "Yet in the geography bee 22% of the national finalists and 40% of the final 10 students were home schoolers. If this doesn't show the benefits of home education, what does?"

Evelyn Hess, mother of Isaiah Hess, also noted that study of geography can be tied into a number of other subjects, which helped her son, who is acutely interested in Christian missions, prepare for the bee.

"We must have checked out 1,000 books from the library," Evelyn recalled. "As we study political science, science, weather, we are able to integrate geography into all of that. He has literally studied every country in the world and drawn a detailed map of each one. He's learned about languages and cultures as well. We weave it all together."

Evelyn mentioned that through the family listening to Mission Network News, Isaiah has been able to deepen his knowledge of current events and people groups, also a part of the competition.

Penny Beihl, whose daughter Debbie is the South Carolina state champion (and whose brothers Thomas and David were previous national finalists - with David the only home schooled champion of the event before this year), said the advantages of home schooling translate well to preparing for the bee.

"It's an advantage that you have a lot of one-on-one time with the student," she said. "You can build on strengths and zero in on weaknesses. There's no substitute for a good teacher-to-student ratio."

Other home schooled participants in the national finals include:

Carter Pelham, Huntsville, Alabama; Erik Bolt, South Bend, Indiana; Justin LeDuc, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Timothy Mackie, College Park, Maryland; Mallika Thampy, St. Louis, Missouri; Brock Haroldson, Aztec, New Mexico; Joshua Baumgartner, San Antonio, Texas


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