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Pre-2008 Posts

Homeschooled Girl, 14, Wins National Geography Bee

Caitlan Snaring

Caitlan Snaring,  above, a homeschooled girl from Redmond, Washington (near Seattle) is the first female champion of the National Geographic Bee in 16 years.  Her execution was flawless and she won a $25,000 scholarship.  It was her second National Geographic Bee.  The day after she lost last year, she started studying for this year, carrying around loads of books and notebooks marked with sticky notes and spending hours a day poring over them. 

She won when she answered this question correctly:

A city that is divided by a river of the same name was the imperial capital of Vietnam for more than a century. Name this city, which is still an important cultural center.  (The answer is Hue’).

Other questions from geography bee:

1. Silbo, a code language whistled across the hilly terrain of a North Atlantic island group, became required learning in schools in order to save it from extinction. Silbo can be heard on the island of Gomera, administered by what country?

2. Until the late 1800s, people on a present-day island country practiced cannibalism using forks like the one seen here. Name this country, whose largest island is Viti Levu.

3. Name the item that does not belong, and say why: Davis Strait, Strait of Gibraltar, Luzon Strait, Cook Strait, Bering Strait.

4. The second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa is also the richest Portuguese-speaking country in Africa. Name this country.

5. The major mountain ranges on Earth’s seven continents are dwarfed in length by an underwater range that runs from just north of the Antarctic Circle to north of the Arctic Circle. Name this submarine mountain range.

Answers: 1. Spain. 2. Fiji. 3. Cook Strait, the only one listed that is in the Southern Hemisphere. 4. Angola. 5. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Caitlan is the fifth Washington student to win the Geography Bee, more than any other state.  A hopeful clue to her interests lies in the information that one of her passions is the study of the history of pottery, and in particular Greek and Minoan pottery.  🙂

I have been homeschooling/unschooling my children since 1983.  It’s been a revelation, and the movement itself has been a mostly-quiet revolution in our time.  It’s a great alternative to public education, for parents who can manage it.

Go Caitlan!  You do us proud.





21 thoughts on “Homeschooled Girl, 14, Wins National Geography Bee

  1. Oh, Heart! Thank you so much. 🙂

    I homeschooled my daughter between the ages of 10 and 15. Caitlin even looks so much like my daughter at that age.

    Yes, homeschooling rocks. My daughter loved it. (that was 1978 to 1984 in Canada). She went back to school to qualify for university. As an adult, she has thanked me many times for her homeschooling. She says that I taught her to *think*. Is there any higher accolade? 🙂


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | May 25, 2007, 6:05 pm
  2. You are so welcome, Mary Sunshine! Brings tears to my eyes. 🙂

    Homeschooled kids do learn to think, and to think for themselves, when they are given plenty of room and space to do that and it’s not a school-at-home kind of a deal.


    Posted by womensspace | May 25, 2007, 6:15 pm
  3. I homeschooled mine from compulsory attendance age (or birth, depending on your perspective) to high school age. I was a single parent the entire time. I so appreciate what the two of you have done to pave the way for me and make this possible.

    My eighteen year old has been in community college since she was fifteen, and has only been held back by financial/socioeconomic class issues.

    Posted by anonymom | May 25, 2007, 7:49 pm
  4. Anonymom, I wish you’d write your heart out about those financial/socioeconomic class issues and homeschooling as a single mom in spite of them. You will have the floor. I will put it up as a blog post. You have SO much to say, and you’re a great writer.
    Think about it?

    Posted by womensspace | May 25, 2007, 7:59 pm
  5. I don’t get it. As a Brit my only knowledge of spelling bees is from that film. Why was she answering questions at all? Why wasn’t she just spelling!?

    Posted by inspiredbycoffee | May 25, 2007, 10:45 pm
  6. It was a geographic bee, not a spelling bee.

    Infinitely more daunting, to my mind.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | May 25, 2007, 11:07 pm
  7. What is unschooling? Is it another name for homeschooling or something different?

    Posted by Gayle | May 26, 2007, 2:31 am
  8. Gayle, that’s the question that is always hard to answer. There are as many definitions of unschooling and practices of unschooing as there are families. In general, unschoolers work to create a learning environment in the home which allows and encourages children to unfold and to pursue their own interests and gifts. Learning is understood to be an organic process, something all human beings are equipped to do and will do on their own, and most importantly, something that all people *want* to do and enjoy doing– unless learning becomes a bitter pill they are forced to swallow, with various punishments if they don’t. Babies and toddlers are always learning and growing, for example, without anybody “teaching” them in the traditional sense. Unschoolers believe that given responsive caregivers and a warm and nurturing home environment, children will learn everything they need to learn. They view as wrongheaded this idea that there is some quantifiable body of knowledge which children must attain in order to be “educated” — because (1) this is always arbitrary; it has to be. Somebody made it up, so there is nothing sacred or “objective” about it; (2) it doesn’t recognize the infinite variety of gifts and kinds of intelligence in human beings. We all recognize that people can be high school valedictorians or graduate college summa cum laude and yet be incapable of actually functioning in the world– of relating well to people, holding a job, living responsibly– and that having achieved academically doesn’t mean the achiever will be happy or enjoy his or her life. What does graduating summa cum laude in some field mean if, left to herself, a girl would have been a dancer? A potter? A gardener? Who cares about achieving the Ph.D., the J.D., or the M.D., if what someone really itches to do is play the piano or write poetry?

    And so there are all these many other secondary and tertiary issues: what does it mean to be “educated”? What is education for? Most importantly, who gets to decide these things? Unschooling parents believe that caregivers and children can, should, and will learn together, and that as they learn, they’ll discover what moves them and what it means, to each of them, to be “educated.” They believe that unschooling is a lifelong process, that we are all learning all the time. The world is our classroom, is a common thing homeschoolers say.

    Of course, being a feminist adds a whole ‘nother dimension to all of these issues. We know that by and large, what passes for “knowledge” and being “educated” in the world has been decided by white heterosexual men, and that it is only education as white het men have envisioned it that “prepares” students for “the real world,” the “real world” meaning the world — as white, het men have envisioned it! Why should mothers bring babies into the world and then send them off to be schooled by, and by the lights of, the patriarchy? Why should mothers be working really hard to make sure that their children “fit in” to the patriarchy by making sure they “succeed” in schools.

    It’s a whole different paradigm, a completely different way of understanding learning, education, knowledge, and so on.

    In practice, it means letting children unfold, mentoring them, caring about them, helping them, in all the ways possible, to follow their hearts, gifts, passions, whatever they may be.
    I mean honestly. Where but in school is life chopped into discrete lumps of time devoted to all of these disparate “subjects,” half the time, none of them having to do with any of the others of them? But that’s what is called “education” in most countries, including the U.S. So kids learn this, that and the other, cobble it all together, burn the midnight oil, cram, pray to the goddess on high that they pass the No Children Left Behind tests (in my state, the “WASL”), pray that they score well on the college boards, pray that they make it through their classes in college, and for what? How much of what any of us learned in all of our classes coming up has actually been beneficial to us? How much has anything really to do with the jobs we eventually held? How much do we remember from all those classes? Not much, most of us.

    Unschoolers recognize this and reject make-work, busywork, disconnected “subjects” for “subjects'” sake, forced learning, rote learning, using fear and coercion to get children to learn, and often grading, traditional testing, systems of rewards and punishments, and so on.

    Well, I could (and have!) written many articles, even books, about all this stuff.

    And of course, gotta say it, I have nothing but respect for the amazing feminist teachers who work to make revolution from inside the system. Thank the goddess for them. Without them, there are so many kids who would never get a vision for a new world.


    Posted by womensspace | May 26, 2007, 5:11 am
  9. My six children were all unschooled. My two oldest daughters are both science majors even though we never had a science text book in our house. One is a working on her PhD in evolutionary biology, the other is an undergrad in Zoology and currently working in Kenya as a hyena researcher.
    Our unschool science curriculum consisted of experiencing the natural world on our farm, having good field guides, curiosity about the world about them and the essential ingredient of Time.
    One of the things that happens to kids is they are robbed of their time by the busywork schedule of school and the mindnumbing drug of TV. Subtract that out of a kid’s life and replace it with other resources and you have a much better educated child.
    We were always poor and had a busy dairyfarm. My kids had lots of work to do on the farm, in the garden, and in the home. I was very busy as well: canning food, gardening, milking cows, caring for calves and sheep, raising babies, etc. but I was present at home. The last 10 years or so I have done this as a single parent.
    I mention this not to blow my own horn but to emphasize that unschooling is not “school-at-home”. You do not stand in front of your children like a teacher all day. You are present doing your thing, home business, farm, whatever. Your children have normal family responsibilities and as many resources as you can buy, beg, or borrow. They also have their time to explore interests and a minimal amount of passive inducing drugs around i.e, television, computer games, Xbox etc.
    You answer questions when you can and when you can’t you find some source that can. The children learn the same way they learned to walk, talk, ride a bike etc.
    An added advantage is they are not propagandized either with patriachical nonsense or historical patriotic lies. They come out inquisitive, powerful women and men who question authority.
    Unfortunately the last 15 yrs or so the homeschool movement in our area has been taken over by the religious nuts, many of whom do ‘school-at-home”, and try and push “statements-of-faith”at people. I try and steer clear of these people as they generally have a very anti-feminist stance are are very into their own propaganda.

    Posted by peonista | May 26, 2007, 3:18 pm
  10. I find the subject of unschooling fascinating. Researched it a lot and finally put my two children in school. They crave company of other children and kept asking for others. They were home until they were nearly five. In the Netherlands homeschooling is allowed and it depends on the judgment of government officials if you can do it or not.

    Anyway they are in school and now the juggle begins between the school system and the life that we provide the children with at home. I am all for unschooling, the kids ask something else. I have come to respect that, maybe later. Will do some more surfing on your blog.

    Posted by radiantwoman | May 26, 2007, 4:53 pm
  11. Hey, peonista, thanks for that great comment!

    Tiffany, my 22 year-old daughter, “walks” tomorrow. She is getting her degree in psychology and will go on to grad school. She went to a private college on academic scholarships and is graduating as a psych major and the *first actual “math” class she ever took was THIS SEMESTER.* HA! That was just to get the one math credit she still needed, and I’m talking about strictly “math” classes, now– she had to take statistics, of course, and did really well, and she has taken chemistry, physics, biology, etc., etc. Hee hee. Such a hoot to me.

    Anyway, she’s going on to grad school and wants to be a child psychologist. Coolest of all, she is an AMAZING feminist and she hopes to go to grad school here.

    And yes, re the way the RR has worked so hard to destroy a thriving, nourshing, truly revolutionary movement and turn it into some sort of fifth column for the Reconstruction movement.

    Now, peonista, do I know you from somewhere?! 🙂 You should e-mail me!

    Say Radiant Woman, love your avatar! And especially since I was out there in my yard yesterday, hugging the amazing old growth maple tree outside my bedroom window and wondering at why people would ever make fun of tree-huggers. If more people hugged trees and felt themselves connected to the earth the way trees are, and to the trees, as well, the world would be a different place, one in which, for example, the goal would not be to simply chop all the trees down.

    I know what you mean about what kids want. Three of my 11 kids have never attended any school, ever, and one of them is 24 now and is a great person. He contemplated going to high school, briefly, we went down there and talked to the football coach and various staff people, but he decided against it and has never regretted it. My oldest three went to elementary school through fifth, third and first grades respectively, and then homeschooled from that time forward. They are all adults, and one of them, my 33 year old, is homeschooling my grandkids. They’re all doing great! They are poets and musicians– very fine ones. And hardworking, responsible citizens. 🙂 My number four child went to Kindergarten, was homeschooled through 10th grade, then went to public high school and is also doing great and is a great person. He is a bartender and a union construction worker. Tiff, who gets her degree tomorrow, was homeschooled through 9th grade. She then wanted to go to high school, so she started out taking one class, Choir, (which you can do in Washington state), then the next year took two classes, choir and biology, and then went full time in her junior and senior years. I met with her principal and showed the principal the work Tiff had done at home, and Tiff got her diploma though she didn’t attend all the classes required to graduate.

    My number 7 and 8 daughters were homeschooled until high school, attended high school less than two years each, and had HIDEOUS experiences because of sexism and racism which they found intolerable. They had perfect grades and one was a cheerleader, they were active in all sorts of stuff, but they were tormented by asshole boys and a few asshole girls, and it was too much for them. They went on to attend a program at the local community college where you get your high school diploma and your two-year associate’s degree simultaneously, and for FREE! My number 7 daughter, Hosanna, will get her two-year degree in the fall together with her high school diploma and will then go on to a four-year school. My number 8 daughter, Emily, has about a year to go.

    My number nine daughter just wanted to go to school like crazy. She started in seventh grade in the local middle school then went on to high school where she’ll be a junior next year. She has many friends and is really involved with the school paper as an editor and also plays water polo. This has sustained her through experiences of sexism and racism which have been horrible for her to deal with also, to othe point that she wrote and will be filing a complaint against the school with the Office of Civil Rights (at the urging of the school administration, which actually wants some assistance with the problems with racism/homophobia/sexism at the school.)

    My youngest two, 9 and 12, have always been unschooled and love it. Once in a while my youngest says she might like to try school, but my 12-year-old has no interest whatsoever. But if that changes, I will let them try school and see what they think. I see myself as their mentor and a resource to them, as wanting to support them as they learn, however it is that they are learning.


    Posted by womensspace | May 26, 2007, 5:22 pm
  12. Thank you Heart for that big resume of you and your family! Of course I love trees and can suggest anyone to hug one and not mind about anyone looking when you do it. Close your eyes and go ahead. Today I saw what I think is the biggest tree in town (Utrecht in the middle of the Netherlands, Europe), will have to adjust my avatar maybe after hugging that one…

    Anyway I have in fact made the choice to have the children find out and live their own experience. We will see what happens. The thing is that my husband and I both work from home, we are at home and they are away. Totally topsy turvy here.

    They are doing really well, and we have long conversations already with things being different at school from how they are at home. It is sometimes quite intensive for them (4 and 7-year old) to digest the dayly experiences. Anyway, will see how we go. Thanks for the quick answer.

    Posted by radiantwoman | May 26, 2007, 5:39 pm
  13. Thank you Heart and peonista, I understand the concept better now, if not the practical application. I’m particularly intrigued to read peonista’s children became science majors.

    peonista–How did they prepare for their entrance exams?

    With all the standardized testing nowadays, I guess I just assumed homeschoolers were obliged by the state to “teach to the test” in the same way public school teachers are. Perhaps that’s not true in every state?

    Posted by Gayle | May 26, 2007, 11:52 pm
  14. Gayle, only a very few states — if any; I haven’t checked in a while now — require homeschoolers to “teach to” standardized testing. In my state, the only requirement for homeschooling families is that the teaching parent have at least one year of post-high-school education or that the parents complete a home school qualifying course, which is basically a one-weekend class with homework. Parents can also elect to work with a certified teacher, but it isn’t required.

    Homeschooled kids take college boards right along with their age-mates (if they choose to take them). Sometimes they prepare for the tests and sometimes they don’t. My own kids did great on the college boards with no special preparation.


    Posted by Heart | May 27, 2007, 12:05 am
  15. Oh, the way the school system’s changed in my state in the last few years is truly tragic. Teachers spend the majority of their time preparing their students for tests– there’s no time or energy left for much else. If the kids don’t pass the senior year test, they don’t graduate, period. And individual schools and teachers are punished if they don’t graduate their students. The end result of all this is that students are all but actively discouraged from showing interest in any subject or pursuit outside the test.

    I’m somewhat shocked that states don’t make parents who homeschool jump through all kinds of hoops.

    Anyway, like radiantwoman, I’m fascinated by the subject. Thanks again !

    Posted by Gayle | May 27, 2007, 12:36 am
  16. What is an Geography Bee? That is so cool. Until now I have only heard of a spelling be…

    Posted by Kaida Rose | May 27, 2007, 1:33 am
  17. Heart, the timing of this post is truly uncanny. Just last night I followed a link in a comment thread at Twisty’s and ended up reading The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher, and then reading it again, out loud, to my partner. It was truly a revelation.

    When our daughter was born, we talked a lot about homeschooling her, but I went back to school and she went to preschool/childcare and now she wants to go to kindergarden. She really seems to benefit from being at preschool, (and I do appreciate the time to myself) but every bit of my intuition is against sending her into the public school system in the fall. It’s strange, I didn’t think I would run up against so much internal resistance trying to figure this out; I guess I’ve got a lot of programming to overcome.

    Anyway, thanks for the links, we are talking about trying to get an unschooling co-op together and I was googling “unschooling” and “Seattle” today but all I was getting was the Clearwater School. So I’ll get right to reading your links. And also, thank you for sharing the inspiring stories of your children’s success.

    Posted by beansa | May 27, 2007, 9:19 am
  18. Hey, nuttin uncanny about this post, beansa, the Goddess is watching out for you. 🙂

    You might want to try and also WHO, the Washington Homeschool Organization. Steer clear of WATCH in Washington because that’s the so-called “exclusive” conservative Christian homeschooling organization in our state. Home Education Magazine run by my good friends, Mark and Helen Hegener, has tons of information and they are in Washington, up in Tonasket. They’be been around for at least 25 years now, probably longer. Barbooch of Pagan Homeschoolers (link in the post) is in Washington, and while you may not be specifically interested in pagan homeschooling, she can definitely help you steer clear of the fundie groups. :/ Of the which, in the homeschooling world, the woods are full.

    Mothering Magazine has good stuff on homeschooling from time to time as well.



    Posted by womensspace | May 27, 2007, 3:20 pm
  19. As an introvert parent of an extrovert, I thought a lot about homeschooling, or unschooling, but in the end I felt that she really needed the social buzz of school; I don’t think there is a lot she is really learning in school, especially since she is such an avid reader, but the social stuff really energises her, and she just wouldn’t get it without school. Academically, she would be better at home, maybe. I taught her to use google today (she just turned 7); she was delighted.

    Posted by whatladder | May 28, 2007, 6:17 am
  20. Hey Heart and everyone, great post and thread. I have to admit, I had a kneejerk anti-homeschooling attitude before reading this and other posts about it here. I’m still against the family-values religious-based crap, but “unschooling co-ops”? How cool! Now we’re talking!

    I don’t like the idea of nuclear-family based anything since that to me (and Engels) is the source of women’s oppression. Co-ops would be ideal, though. Imagine: authentic learning taking place in a caring community!

    Actually, that happens (on a good day) in my classroom and the classroom of many dedicated teachers out here (thanks for the props, Heart!) but we’re swimming against a tide of patriarchal indoctrination.

    Are there any unschooling co-ops that pay teachers a living wage with benefits? (A whole ‘nother can of worms.) If so, sign me up. Otherwise sign me waiting for the revolution.

    Posted by roamaround | May 28, 2007, 5:47 pm

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