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THE A-to-Z of Homeschooling
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National Geographic Bee Contest Eligibility 05′

Homeschoolers may participate! Here’s how!

Minnesota Boy Wins 2005 National Geographic BeeNEW
The National Geographic Bee champion for 2005 is Nathan Cornelius of Minnesota. The homeschooled 13-year-old from Cottonwood, in the southwestern part of the state, edged out Rhode Island’s Karan Takhar, a 14-year-old eighth grader at the Gordon School in East Providence, in a tense competition today at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. by David Braun, National Geographic News, May 25, 2005.

by Ann Zeise

I spoke with a member of the National Geographic Geography Bee staff this morning. She explained that the rules were changed last fall for the fairness to all. It appears that the change was made to prevent “ringers,” much as athletic competitions are organized.

Here is how homeschoolers may form teams. Actually, it seems to be more in favor of homeschoolers than not!

By “homeschool association” the National Geographic Society means any association of homeschoolers, not necessarily a “state homeschool association.”

The coordinator, however, must be an adult without a child in the contest. The coordinator will receive and distribute the contest materials and be the one to ask the questions at the local Geography Bee, so they need to be impartial.

The winner of this local Bee will be given a chance to go to the state level. The local coordinator will proctor the state-level qualifying test. If the contestant is in the top 100 in their state, they get to go on to the state-level Bee.

This rule prevents public and private schools from recruiting “smart” homeschoolers to be on their teams and take all the credit for their “fine education” should the homeschooler win!

I realize that there are forwarded posts on many homeschool lists, including my own, advocating boycotting of National Geographic. This would be an over reaction, and would be cutting off our noses to spite our faces. The National Geographic Society has many resources we homeschoolers need, from free web geography lessons to tv shows, movies and books that teach so beautifully.

I hope this makes it clearer how homeschoolers can participate. I’ve arranged to have the Bee send me updates and clarifications about the contest, which I will post below my signature.

March 21, 2005

We have heard from a number of people concerned about National Geographic’s treatment of home-schooled children in our annual geography Bee competition because of an incident that recently occurred in New Hampshire. Some correspondents are under the misconception that the Society has “banned” home schoolers from the event. That is not the case. This year, as every year, the competition is open to children pursuing their educations at home as well as in public, private and parochial schools.

Unfortunately, a home-schooled young man in New Hampshire was disqualified because 2005 protocols were not followed in his case. His parents, as well as the teacher who administered the exam, acknowledge that the rules were not reviewed in advance. Much as we regret any situation that deprives a child of the opportunity to participate, National Geographic can’t be responsible for any failure to follow the contest’s rules and procedures. They exist to ensure that all children are treated equally and fairly. And to make an exception after the fact could be unfair to other students who abided by those rules.

13,000 tests have been submitted, and of those, only 32 have been disqualified for issues related to rules compliance. Thirty of the 32 tests were from public, private or parochial schools, leaving only two disqualified home students. That statistic suggests that the vast majority of students, parents and teachers understood the process.

We have worked hard over the course of our 17 years administering the competition to run it in a way that treats each and every child with fairness and respect. We continuously review our protocols for the competition, based on input from educators, parents and the children themselves. While those changes are described on our website and included in the entry materials, we will strive to make any subsequent modifications and improvements even clearer in years to come.

Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.

March 18, 2005

The Society regrets any situation that deprives a child of the opportunity to participate in the National Geographic Bee, but it cannot be responsible for failure to follow contest rules and procedures. The Society is consistent in its treatment of all participants around the country to ensure that every child is treated fairly and in the same way.

The rules for participation in the National Geographic Bee by students from public, private and parochial schools and home-schooling associations have been posted on the National Geographic Bee Web site since September 2004.

In 2004, procedures to register and participate in the Bee were modified to ensure greater fairness to all participants. Those rules state that for the 2005 contest, public, private and parochial school students can only participate in the Bee at their school if the school has registered with the Society. Home-schooled students can participate in a Bee through their registered Home Schooling Association.

In November 2004 all registered schools and home-schooling groups received contest materials, which included the rules and procedures for participating in the contest.

Of 13,000 tests submitted for the 2005 contest, 32 were disqualified for not following the rules. Of those disqualified, 30 were from public, private or parochial schools.

In the course of administering the Bee over the last 17 years, the Society has learned to do so in the fairest possible way, and all changes to the procedures are made with that view in mind. All participants must abide by the same rules for the contest. We regret that exceptions cannot be made because doing so creates an unfair playing field.

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