This article appeared in slightly different form in the online magazine Mindful Homeschooler:
Kids who attend school have many opportunities to take part in academic competitions, but what about homeschoolers? Do they have anything? As a matter of fact, yes. Plenty. Here are four academic competitions I’ve participated in.
- Scripps Spelling Bee (K-8). Starting in about fourth grade, I took part in spelling bees put on by a local homeschooling group. Eventually, they registered to take part in Scripps. I won their local round in eighth grade and proceeded to the two regional rounds. I placed third in my final round (and continue to mentally kick myself for misspelling egalitarian, ha ha!). Anyway, if you win the regional round, you go to the televised nationwide competition in Washington, D.C.! (This gives the impression that Scripps is only for American students, but actually you can be from any country.) On the website, you can find things like study guides and instructions for registering a homeschooled group. I loved participating even though I didn’t win because I adore spelling. It comes very easily to me; I just sort of see the words in my head.
- Academic Bowls (usually middle school and high divisions). These are a bit harder to write about because they’re probably different from place to place. I’ve participated in one for high schools these past two years. Every year there’s a theme, like “The Glory That Was Greece” and then we study the topic for our chosen subjects. This year I chose to compete in English and Social Studies, so I read The Odyssey and books about battles in Ancient Greece.
- National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (17 & under for YWP, 13+ for main program). Every November, adults and kids alike are challenged to write a novel. In the main program, the wordcount needed to win is 50,000. In the Young Writer’s Program (YWP), you can set your own goal. It’s free; all you need to do is make an account and then you have access to all sorts of writerly things like noveling workbooks and pep talks from real live authors. For the past few years, winners have received codes that let them self-publish their books for free. A ton of homeschoolers take part in this. It’s quite different from any of the other competitions mentioned on this list because there aren’t really many rules and you don’t have to it with other people. So it is up to you whether or not your novel will be any good, or if you’ll write 50,000 words of nonsense. I’ve taken part in every NaNo since November 2011, including their Camp NaNoWriMo programs and the now-defunct Script Frenzy.
- World Maths Day / World Spelling Day (4-18). In this programs, kids all over the world compete in real time against each other to spell and answer math problems. There are several levels of difficulty. Here are the websites for World Maths Day and World Spelling Day.
As I said before, there are plenty of other options. A lot of clubs (such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H) offer opportunities for academic-ish competition, so I thought I should quickly mention that here. I’m in 4-H and while some of the projects, like Sewing, are more about crafts, I definitely think that projects like Creative Writing, Geology, and Public Speaking should “count” as school.