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Even though homeschooling accounts for just 3% of American schoolchildren (1.5 million of 50.4 million in 2016-17), 7.4% of the 285 contestants in the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee come from homeschools.  This means that twenty- one homeschool students will test their knowledge against 264 other hopeful spellers!  Homeschoolers have won the Bee four times in the past and the 2017 crew is hoping to win the Bee for the fifth time.

“Bee Week 2017” is happening May 28-June 3, 2017 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.   And the contestants are getting younger!  In 2016, the youngest contestant was a 6-year old boy from Texas and this year a 5-year old girl will be the youngest person ever to compete in the Bee.   The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the largest and longest-running educational program in the U.S. and started in 1925 when a group of nine newspapers formed the first Bee.  Now the “Bee” is just over ninety years old and reaches 11 million students every year through local and state competitions and the National Bee.

Homeschools, homeschool associations and homeschool co-ops are eligible to enroll in the national Bee just like any other school.  Homeschools pay the same enrollment fee as paid by public, private and charter schools.  If a homeschool student does not have access to a homeschool association or co-op, the student’s family can enroll in the 2018 Bee by visiting www.spellingbee.com .  Just select “Enroll Your School Today” and add your individual homeschool to the Scripps Bee database so that your student can enroll for next year’s contest.

Although many contestants come up through the ranks via competition in local spelling bees, participation in local bees is not required. But – to be eligible for the 2017 national Bee, spellers had to be declared a champion of a final local spelling bee that took place on or after February 1, 2017 or be a spelling champion from a school whose application for participation in the Scripps “self-sponsorship” program had already received final approval by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Homeschoolers wishing to participate in the Scripps spelling program must be younger than sixteen and in the 8th grade or lower and attend a homeschool that is officially enrolled with Scripps for the current school year.  The Bee’s website (www.spellingbee.com) includes a full list of eligibility requirements for public school, charter school, private school and homeschool participants.

Paige Kimble, the executive director of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee says that, in terms of the number of homeschooled students qualifying for the National Bee, “I think there’s a certain sense of astonishment.  And frankly I think there’s also a sense of respect and jealousy.”  Ms. Kimble went on to say that “The recent successes of home schoolers in these contests have been very beneficial for home education because it now becomes credible to many people who were thinking before that this is just done by a bunch of weirdos who want to go into the back woods and isolate their children.”

If you’re lucky enough to know one of the twenty-one homeschooled students who qualified to compete in this year’s National Spelling Bee and you want to attend the onstage rounds of the 2017 contest, it’s an affordable outing!  All you have to do is show up in National Harbor Maryland and get in line to receive a free, first-come-first-served ticket!  To track details about the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee, visit www.spellingbee.com beginning May 1, 2017 for details about the onstage competition rounds.  Good Luck!

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