Sunday, January 11, 2009

National Geographic Geography Bee: Homeschool Style!

On Friday we went to Midlothian to compete in a geography bee sponsored by the Richmond Regional Home Educators. This is part of the national bee run by National Geographic. I saw a post about it on a list I'm on, a month or two ago, and asked Benny if he was interested. Benny, not one to be deeply interested in much of anything academically, unless you include Inventing Things class, Chess Strategy class, and Runescape Statistics class, immediately wanted to try it. I keep tossing things at Benny, waiting for something to stick. So far, he tolerates a lot of stuff, enjoys some of it, takes a workmanlike approach toward other things, and some things he firmly rejects. So far, academically speaking, there hasn't been anything that he really yearns to do. Geography was an instant hit. He actually asks to study it. The last month has been all about geography around here.

I should tell you: I am not a geography type. Geography to me, a month ago, meant knowing vague facts about imports and exports (coffee! coal! tobacco!) and knowing where the Ural Mountains are. I am still not sure about those particular mountains, but I do know that geography is full of hidden depths. State capitals for example. I did not know the capital of Kentucky. Nor did I know the capital of Oregon. It is not Eugene. We have been contemplating, Benny and I, how best to go about this, because there are really so many hidden depths: the rivers, the mountains, the cultural stuff, the native animals and plants, the capital cities, the landmarks, the historical events -- I mean, it is endless.

For this round, we decided to do a wide overview, and then spend the last couple weeks focusing on US geography. My goal was just to do the best we could, keep it super fun, and try and get one question right in the bee. To be honest, I didn't think he'd even manage to get through the state capitals. After seeing how enthusiastic he was, I felt like just going to scope it out would be worthwhile. This would be his first year to be eligible, and he'd have much more time to "get serious" if he figured out that's what he wanted to do.

Here's Benny on his way to the bee:

Here's Grace Gospel Chapel in Midlothian where the bee was held:

The stage, all set up for the bee, with Benny in happy anticipation:

And here's how many questions Benny got right:

That's right, he got FOUR RIGHT, and in the preliminary round he tied for 6th place out of 18 kids in the bee. I was absolutely thrilled with his performance. He answered questions that I never thought he would get right. Without giving away the questions, in case that's illegal, he answered a question comparing two cities and asking which had the higher immigrant population. He answered a question asking which of two states would be more likely to have a broadleaf, deciduous forest. He answered a question asking which of three states did not have a city with a population over 15 million. It was impressive! He answered loud and clear. He did incorrectly answer Kazhakstan twice, in fact he answered that Berlin was the capital of Kazhakstan. We'll have to work on that.

Here's the astonishing thing, for those of you who know our Benny: He sat still. He did not fall out of his chair, did not tap his shoes relentlessly, did not chat with the kid next to him, did not wander off. He did space out a couple times -- at one point his question was read and the time was ticking away, and he had no idea it was his turn. One of the judges said, "Benny?" and he almost jumped out of his skin -- it was pretty funny, like Kramer from Seinfeld had wandered into a geography bee.

What was the first thing he did when he got in the car and got his seatbelt on? He pulled out the atlas and started quizzing me on state capitals again. Which is how he spent the car ride getting there. It's going to be a long year, and I am guessing I'll know where the Ural Mountains are by the time we get to the end of it!

A few words about the bee itself. It was run splendidly and efficiently by Pam Foster and graciously sponsored by the Richmond homeschoolers. I really appreciated how she clarified everything for the kids in advance so they knew what to expect in a new and complex situation. We will be back next year for sure.


  1. What a great episode in his life! And, he got four questions right. That's really cool. I love to read about good stuff happening with other homeschool families.

  2. Anonymous5:09 PM

    I think that next summer we should do a world tour. I mean you should. I'll bravely stay home and babysit everyone's dogs.

  3. This sounds like it was a lot of fun and educational for the both of you! I may have to give this a shot with Evan :)