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."
On the Net:
Idiotic educrat policies, take 2: Governor O'Bannon (IN-D) wants to be the 'education governor' (dont they all?). He addresses Indiana's weak standardized testing scores (usually in the low 40's out of 50 states) as the main indicator. His lame solution, as with so many others, is to change the test (as if that changes the amount of learning, or the quality of students produced). The moronic part: he decides that we should have 'the highest state standards in the nation'... making the test more difficult... which will, of course, result in lower standardized test scores. The educational process for children remains unchanged, and the test scorres will go down as an inevitable result of his own plan. Yep, that's MY governor! *sigh*
Actually, I haven't done one whit of RESEARCH on this. Therefore, it all falls under the heading of my far-reaching, agile CREATIVITY of mind. (I speculated on this...LOL.)
Nonetheless, my frau is a high school teacher. I've watched the distance courses in higher subjects, and they simply don't work.
A co-op IS an institutional school. Why institutional schools were devised in the first place.
I've been a long-time fan of high school athletics. There is no community or pick-up league that even comes close to the competitive opportunities granted kids in the state high school athletic associations.
I'm not saying that local little league isn't a good thing, but baseball is far, far and away the best of the available athletic opportunities outside of highschool athletics. Nothing else compares to it. But it grows out of baseball having been our "national" sport for years with great interest at every level.
And if a homeschooler puts their kids in high school athletics, then they're turning again to institutional education. I don't mind that. I just think we should call it what it is.
The most common method was memorizing a chunk of 15+ numbers each day, and adding it to the prevoious day. My favorites were the "poems" (some are available online, going as far as 740 places, others were actually made by my students). The trick is that the first word has 3 letter, then next has 1 letters, then 4 letters, then 1, then 5... "Did I pass a truck Wednesday?" gives 3.14159. Memorizing the poem seemed much easier for those who tried it. (Most of the boys were turned off by the idea of reading poetry, of course, LOL). The most creative I had was a the girl who went to 245 decimal places (tops for that class). She wrote a song (the tune was akin to a military cadence), but it contained several groups of explicit numbers, references to addresses, zip codes, area codes, musical groups, etc. I'm still not sure how some of her associations worked, but they worked for her, and that's all that's important.
"...there has obviously been some wretched breakdown in communication between the 3rd-5th grade math teachers, because I would be willing to bet that 75% of my kids do not know the 12x12 multiplication tables by heart. I have been including it in as many lessons and quizzes as possible, but they simply use fast addition to fill in the chart (add 4 to every subsequent number in the 4x column, etc), rather than actually memorizing the products."
I've seen that myself! I tutor inner city kids (K-6) in an afterschool care program and you are right - about 75% of 4th and 5th graders do not know their multiplication facts. Actually many don't even know addition and subtraction facts and do a lot of counting on their fingers! I and the other volunteers are working on this problem, but it's slow going. Of course the kids always want to use a calculator (we don't let them).
My daughter, (homeschooled since the 4th grade and about to graduate HS)was visiting a youth church service with a friend, and after about an hour the youth pastor asked her if she was a "homeschooler". He said he could tell because of her politness, her speech and actions compared to the other teenagers, that are in public school. He said he can usually spot the homeschooled teenagers.
My family is fortunate because my husband is brilliant in math and science. He teaches my son in the evenings. He and my son enjoy this interaction. My son scored a near perfect on his SAT's regarding those subjects. (My son just turned 14.) We know homeschooling parents that aren't as proficient in math and/or science, but their kids do just fine by utilizing used textbooks, the internet, software programs, science museum seminars or hiring a tutor. (My husband tutors one of my son's friends in math.)
My husband was never that keen on biology so he has our son attend a Santa Rosa Junior College course. My son will probably take a chemistry course next year even though he and his Dad have set up a pretty good lab in the garage.
Of course, not all homeschooling families can afford tutors, expensive software or internet courses, but somehow they manage. If their child is motivated and talented in certain subjects, all sorts of options (and blessings in regards to funding) open up! I've seen this happen time and time again.
You disagree with what? That there will be separate spelling bees for "school" students and homeschoolers?
It wont do any good, but you can point out that teachers salaries have steadily increased
and that class sizes have steadily decreased for thirty years
and her profession is more of a failure than ever.
I am home-schooling two kids while I write and market a book. One is old enough to have taken standardized tests, FReeper NattieShea, age 8. Her Stanford Achievement test scores last year indicated that she is a perfectly normal 10th grader. She scored Post High School in mathematics and algebra :-). She is completing a self-taught course in high school geometry now and will begin trigonometry, analytic geometry, and calculus this summer! THIS is an example of her literary work at that time. Her current term paper analyzes five works by Dickens for how his perspective of the Industrial Revolution was biased by his childhood experience.
Her sister is now barely 8. She is completing her work in fractions and can multiply binomials in her head. I am now introducing matrix algebra as a means to do subtraction. Her term paper is on five books by Jules Verne. She is the athlete, NattieShea is the dancer.
Thats right, we taught times tables and fractions before doing large subtraction problems. That is because we are free to integrate the curriculum into new and exciting forms that save huge amounts of time. It has its downside in that all experiments dont work, but the benefit is that we can change it if its a flop. Our process of rapid iteration creates a customized curriculum and pedagogical style for each child.
Here is the really damning piece of information insofar as public schools are concerned:
I spend less time teaching these kids than it would take me to drive them to school and back plus help them with their homework. I have no doubt that, if they were in pubelick schools I would spend MORE time dealing with the behavioral problems arising therefrom than I do now while achieving excellent results and producing kids that are a pleasure to have. Parents beg us to loan them out hoping that they might be a positive influence on their kids. Home schooling is the best thing ever to happen in our family. It has brought us together like nothing else ever could have done.
When a market of home schools reaches, say five million kids, there will be dedicated broadband services and cable channels, private laboratory facilities in mini-malls... In short, the MARKET will provide the ancillary capabilities that one would rationally assume constitutes a limiting factor for the continued developmental acceleration of home-schooled teenagers. As parents find ways to integrate their professional development with their educational responsibilities, using the power to bring their professions into the home (as I do), the children will also see and experience that professional life all during their educational development. What do I mean?
I write and consult for a living. Everywhere I go, so do my kids. They see the world of work while they study. They walk the halls of the State Legislature, they visit the farms, factories, and small businesses, they meet forest landowners, they witness discussions with academics and agency administrators. They can sit quietly and study anywhere. Why? They get to see the interactions of adults on issues that matter. So far, wherever we go, I have yet to meet a person who is not delighted to have the kids around. They see me get frustrated with my own inabilities. They see me study and learn the skills I need to overcome the difficulty. They witness the need for quick thinking in debate. They therefore understand the importance of what they are doing. They understand that as soon as they are able, that they can help. Tell me that this is not an incredible learning environment.
For those who have doubts about home-schooling perhaps you might read Charlotte Iserbyt's book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America or John Taylor Gatto's book, An Underground History of American Education to understand where the public system is really going. It is so bad that any idiotic argument about socialization should be shown for what it is: the covetous desire to control how MY KIDS think. Socialization is socialism. Nothing more.
One final benefit. Every time a parents confront what they don't know, that they need to teach their kids, they get to go fix the damage done by THEIR public education. Home-schooling re-educates TWO generations of voters simultaneously and pulls families together that will resist the indoctrinal system (including the media). They will break down the entire educational hierarchy, including the university credentialing factories controlled by the PC professorate. That is why the fascist system so greatly fears it.
I have just one word for parents who have kids in public schools now: flee.
Let me state up front that I think alternative schooling is a great thing.
However, I just like to call things what they are. EVERY time someone sends a kid to a college course, a public school athletic team, and co-op of kids taught by one knowledgeable parent, etc., they are simply recognizing why institutional schools developed in the first place.
What homeschoolers and private/parochial schoolers want is legitimate input into the content and methods of THEIR children's education. I fully support that...especially in terms of moral education.
But we shouldn't pretend that the bugaboo is the "institutional" school. The devil in the details is threefold: (1) Schools off on their own "immoral" education crusade, and (2) Schools that have lost control of discipline, and (3) Schools with low academic expertise.
The NEA *is* awake...and foaming at the mouth over this wonderful Homeschool success!
Wake up the NEA??! As far as I can tell, the NEA is awakened-- and with a personal vendetta... We're talkin' about a $$$-dollar industry here, man... These folks are going to discredit and tear down homeschooling as much as it takes to fight for their jobs and credibility...
So, everybody wins and they have a group hug. Maybe sing Kumbaya.
And growing due to the new NEA and GLSEN agenda.
I agree with your post for the most part. Teachers these days have challenges never fully anticipated when they made the decision to teach. They spend most of their time attempting to discipline of have some semblence of order in the classroom. Because of this, and the incredibly short attention spans of TV-infused, ill-mannered, disrespectful children, little actual teaching takes place.
There are wonderful teachers in our public school system. There are also the teachers who follow the NEA to the letter and are horrid instructors for our kiddos.
The fault lies with a number of people, imho:
1)parents for allowing the kiddos to live life like wolves
I have met a few homeschooling parents who failed to recognize that much of their child's educational material came from an institution of learning. They would go on and on about the evils of institutionalism, (and they have much to gripe about) without realizing the value (used wisely, of course) that some "institutions" may offer. Many homeschoolers will be going to institutions of higher learning such as colleges and universities. Hopefully, those children will be able to deal with the good from the bad and take advantage of the possibilities. I hope that my son will. :)
In athletics, my son enjoys fencing, snowboarding and tennis. He hated mandatory P.E. when he went to public school. He played goalie for a youth soccer and hockey team for a few years, but now he is on a fencing squad and devotes most of his time to it. (One older kid on his squad just received a fencing scholarship from Stanford University.)
My son has homeschooling and public school friends who play more traditional sports on Little League, Pop Warner, and Boys and Girls Club basketball teams. We have yet to meet any homeschooler who plays on a public or private school team. I know that they are out there.
There are also loads of kids with ambivalent parents who wouldn't get any educational motivation at all if it were not for public and private school sports that include academic criteria. That fact alone is a good thing to come out of an educational institution--especially when the parents are uninterested in their child's education.
"Success isn't politically correct", she added.
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.
Well Duh...and memorization worked great for 200 years until the hippies and commies took control and forced alternative learning on the kids. This guy is an "educator" and he sees something working so he derides it...sheesh!
Fine post, Teacher. I come from generations of public school teachers, and without fail, they approve of our choice to homeschool. (At least those who are still alive.)
I've thought about starting a school, and was even asking some questions pointed on FR at one time. I envisioned 10-50 students; 1-4 teachers; using existing facilities like a church, local VFW post, or donated office space; not providing lunch, despite the income it generates for public schools; possibly writing and marketing our own textbooks; try to keep tuition low enough for middle-class wage earners; utilizing volunteers effectively; offering math, English, science, social studies, German (the only language I've ever taken) and health through GED levels; working with a nearby public school to let our students join their athletic teams (already done in many parts of Indiana). The overall structure would be very similar to the old community contract-hired schoolhouse master.
The financial numbers seemed to work out, but the one piece of FReeper advice I got that threw me was, "you'll always overestimate the assets, and always underestimate the liabilities." That scared me off. I've kept my eyes open for anyone else who is similarly-minded, but I don't think I could summon the willpower to make a small 'neighborhood' school work by myself.
I have never considered working with a private school to mentor a home-school program, though. How would I go about finding those private schools that participate?
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.