Skip to comments.Homeschoolers dominate spelling bees (Some see unfair advantage)
Posted on 03/30/2002 3:56:22 AM PST by Caipirabob
- When Rebecca Sealfon won the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in 1997, she launched a trend.
Since Sealfon glued thousands to their television sets to watch her nervously spell her way to triumph, two other students who have been home-schooled for all or part of their academic careers have followed her to victory.
In 2000, the final three finishers - winner George Thampy of Maryland Heights, Mo., runner-up Sean Conley of Shakopee, Minn., and third-place finisher Alison Miller of Niskayuna, N.Y., were home-schooled. Conley - who attended a Minnesota school the next year - won the bee in 2001.
This year's National Spelling Bee is set for May 29-30 in Washington, D.C. Some areas have yet to determine who they will send to the bee.
But with the trend of home-schooled champs - Thampy was a runner-up in the National Geographic Bee, sponsored by the National Geographic Society- has come muted criticisms from those who say home-schooled students have the advantage because they can spend more time studying spelling during their school days.
Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said that in some instances, home-schooling parents emphasize memorization more than schools do - another reason home-schoolers have found success in the bee.
Houston said that having a few home-schooled bee champs does not necessarily show the superiority of home-schooling. Saying one child's triumph is evidence of the success of home-schooling, he said, is like saying all North Carolina colleges are good because basketball champion Michael Jordan attended one.
"I think home-schoolers have a lot of things they can point to as successes that are far more important than whether they do well in the spelling bee," he said.
According to Scripps Howard bee rules, students must not eschew normal school activity in favor of preparation for spelling bees. Bee director Paige Kimble admits it's a hard rule to enforce, but "we have never had any single thought or occasion to believe home-schoolers or their parents were being irresponsible about their education."
"You're just talking about the nature of the beast," she said. "Of course that rankles those parents who send their kids off to public and private school. But what's the answer - it's gross, blatant discrimination to say no home-schooled kids at all."
Kimble said that home-schooled kids do have an advantage "in that their time and how it is structured is entirely up to them."
Mona Goldstein knows both sides of the debate. She has four children and three have participated in the National Spelling Bee. The youngest, Amanda, is not old enough to compete.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the kid," she said.
Her oldest child, Amy, who attended a private school, used to refer to studying her spelling as "playing." Her third child, JJ, who will compete at the national bee this year, is more interested in practicing diving. She is home-schooled.
"I don't think she has necessarily studied any more because she's home-schooled," Goldstein said, adding that most parents of bee participants are very involved in their children's education, whether the child attends home school, private school or public school.
About 2 million students across the nation are home-schooled today, and the rate is growing by 15 percent to 20 percent a year, according to Rob Ziegler, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Va. Home-schoolers have been involved in spelling bees for 20 years.
"Home-schooling works because of the great teacher-student ratio, the personal attention, the flexible schedule - those things can help in any academic area, including spelling," he said, citing triumphs in the geography bee as another example of academic strengths. "It's pretty clear across the board that academically, it works."
Vonnie Crumpton, of the Big Country Home Educators of Abilene, Texas, said the schedule flexibility is one reason home-schooled kids succeed academically. Her son was interested in classical music, and his home-school education allotted him plenty of time to practice.
"Yes, we get math and English and grammar and everything, every day," she said, "but we had more time to dedicate to the talents that God has given him...that's the beauty of home-schooling. You can spend more time where they have interests."
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What do you mean by distance learning? I think you may have misunderstood too what I meant by homeschoolers going to community college for advanced subjects. They would actually attend a class like any other college student and with college students, not learn the subject online if that is what you are getting at?
Do you know what type of co-op I mentioned? Sure some parents band together in a MUCH MORE traditional school situation to HIRE a teacher to teach a subject, but many more actually utilize another homoschooling parent to teach a subject they are strong in, still both options give the parents complete control since they do the hiring(and firing if need be), unlike a public school situation.
They have similarities, but surely you can not begin to say that a setting made by parents in the best interest of thier kids is somehow similar to the institutional setting made by a bunch of beauracrats in thier own best interests.
thank you for conceeding though that not only have you not researched this, but that you also are biased;-) I think you would be surprised at how resourceful homeschoolers are. Some parents even learn subjects themselves to teach and a growing number of schools are opening up things like varsity sports programs and are willing to make exceptions when faced with turning away a talented player that could benefit thier team. BTW, if you think private sports are not as good as public. I'd challenge you to look at cheerleading competitions and gymnastics competitions. Many times these are dominated by local gyms and private facilities. Again, if my child shows a talent, we will deal with thatwhen the time comes. No need to put them in ps in K just in case they are a star athlete or might need to use the math lab. I have faith that our schools will change for the better by then and thier facilities will be more accessible by the time my two are in high school anyway.
Yes, this is my philosophy as well. And if this is what xzins was talking about, than I agree with him. I just think that the institutions are more effective when you can pick and choose your courses than adhering to the one size fits all. I don't think many homeschoolers, save for some very hermit types, think it's wise to shelter thier children completely from community interaction and the benefits of some of the services offered by that community and it's "instituations". Heck, marriage is an institution and I would like my children to participate in that;-) I think xzins and I both may have misunderstood each other since I acknowledge I did not put together the textbook on my desk, but I am able to utilize it, imo, in a more useful way than the ps parent who can not control what is taught from it and when or even if it is used.
A very profoundly true statement. Well said!
At a 20% per annum growth rate, that number doubles every four years and hits the magic 5 million mark in five years. That is over 10% of the school-age population in the US. That growth rate has held steady for over a decade.
They'd probably have to start dumbing down the words for the government-schoolers.
I never thought that my act of so-called 'defiance' would actually have a positive effect on anyone but my own kids. Thanks.
Most homeschooled kids have parents just like me. I know where I am weak and I get extra help for those subjects. For science, I have found an retired NASA scientist who loves teaching homeschooled kids. For upper level math, I am using a video program and my son is regularly scoring between 89 and 95 on his algebra tests. I can't teach violin, so I get a private teacher, who's own daughter is now studying at Julliard. For art, I have found an artist who teaches out of her home who on the side sells her artwork for upwards of $25,000 per piece.
As a homeschooler, I have many more options for my children. I can zero in on my children's interests without any interference. I don't have to wait for some school official to take note of my child. I don't have to work with ANY middlemen.
You got that right, sister. It cost me over $50,000 to repair the profoundly inadequate job they did with my oldest son on reading. My only other option was to put my son on the waiting list for the local elementary school remedial reading program which should really be called, 'the-we-really-mucked-up-so-we-have-this-free-patch-job-which-will-not-make-your-child-the-true-reader-he-could've-been', just so he could be another year behind in reading.
What surprised me was the easy words that knocked out
most of the contestants or how puzzled they sounded
on some of the words they got - like they had never
read the words before. If these are the best of the
local schools, then the level of spelling has dropped
from when I was the same age in the late '60s.
I don't expect my son will ever be a great speller
based on his nature but it is nice to take him to
things that show what is potential. The best thing
about home schooling my son is that it may have
something to do with him still giggling in his sleep.
And just think of the FTE (full-time-equivalent), a part of the ratio that is used to determine the amount of federal $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ that those local schools are entitled to!!
Lower FTE = Lower $$$$$$$$ amount!
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, they often get to inspect the home, control of the curriculum, make sure the PC requirements are met... publicly subsidized home education is a MAJOR camel's nose. HSLDA is warning parents not to fall for this trap, but the alarm is falling on deaf ears as parents fall for the siren song of public money and use of public facilities.
It was the same bait when the public schools started.
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