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Spelling Bees and Melting Pots

Yesterday I finally got around to renting the DVD of the documentary (“D – O – C – U – M – E – N – T” um er “A – R – Y”) movie Spellbound, which is about a bunch of American kids selected for their variety of ethnic backgound – as well as unity of linguistic (“L – I – N – G” er “U – I – S – TIC”) foreground or course – who took part in the 1999 National Spelling Bee Championships in Washington DC. Until now I had not really appreciated what an important piece of Americana the institution of the Spelling Bee is. (And by the way, what does the “Bee” bit mean? Is that bee as in the insect, and if so, how did that come about?)

The spelling of English is notoriously perverse and difficult. Spelling Bees turn what might have been a horrible barrier to becoming an American into a patriotically shared ordeal, and this movie shows this process still to be in rude health. Spelling Bees for other languages would not make nearly so much sense, because other languages are so much easier to spell. Spanish spelling, for instance, is a doddle (doddle? – could you give me the language of origin please? – language unknown) compared to English spelling.

My favourite bit of Spellbound was watching an Indian-American boy who had sailed through hundreds of other words being struck dumb by “Darjeeling” (“DAR” – “D – A – R” pause, etc.). You could really see the American Dream and the American Melting Pot working at full power, melting the various ethnically diverse peoples who still now flood into America into Americans, in the heat of competition, gripped by a shared desire to Get Educated and to Get Ahead, and join in being Americans by competing with other Americans for the Good Life and the Glory of winning the National Spelling Bee Championship. Since competition is such a huge part of American culture, the psychological art of handling it is also central to being a successful American, and you could see them all learning about that also. (“Our daughter was a winner just by getting this far”, etc.)

The key quote probably came from the mother of the Indian-American girl who actually won it, in the form of the claim that she now felt that she “belonged”. Quite so. Americans, bound together by their shared struggle to spell the American language. Bound by spelling, that being the point of this movie’s title.

I know, I know, champion spellers are only a geeky freaky minority. But think how much trouble such intellectuals can make when they have some ethnic differences and resentments to work with. Getting the clever ones stirred really thoroughly into the Melting Pot counts for a lot more than their mere numbers would suggest. All this was further brought home by my coincidental reading today of an article by Samuel P. Huntington about the retreat of English in the American South West in the face of the advancing Spanish. Huntington’s point is that the linguistic unity of the USA is now in the process of being destroyed. The USA is being turned into a bilingual nation. Whatever that “U” in USA used to mean, it is no longer, in the future, going to mean linguistically united. Third and fourth generation immigrants from Mexico and from other parts of Latin America are growing up with no more knowledge of English than their grandparents or great grandparents had when they first arrived in America.

Huntington even alludes to the spelling bee tradition in this article, quoting the late California Republican Senator S. I. Hayakawa:

“Why is it that no Filipinos, no Koreans object to making English the official language? No Japanese have done so. And certainly not the Vietnamese, who are so damn happy to be here. They’re learning English as fast as they can and winning spelling bees all across the country. But the Hispanics alone have maintained there is a problem. There [has been] considerable movement to make Spanish the second official language.”

One of the kids in Spellboungwas a Mexican American, whose dad came into America as an illegal immigrant. The dad’s elderly employers, a couple far too old and grizzled to be bothering with political correctness, were shown opining that this Mexican dad illustrated that not all Mexicans were layabout good-for-nothings, or words to that tactless effect. And you couldn’t help wondering if this opinion was all mixed up with the fact that this particular Mexican family was learning English, so much so that one of their sons was proud to be a champion English speller. For they are exceptions, according to Huntington. Most incoming Mexicans are now quite consciously resisting being swept up in American values of competitiveness and educational advancement, and speaking English.

Author Robert Kaplan quotes Alex Villa, a third-generation Mexican American in Tucson, Arizona, as saying that he knows almost no one in the Mexican community of South Tucson who believes in “education and hard work” as the way to material prosperity and is thus willing to “buy into America.” Profound cultural differences clearly separate Mexicans and Americans, and the high level of immigration from Mexico sustains and reinforces the prevalence of Mexican values among Mexican Americans.

To put it unkindly: we are layabouts and we are proud of it.

Here in Britain, we have many problems associated with mass immigration, but a contiguous border with a Third World country, speaking one of the great non-English World Languages is not one of them. Our Muslim immigrants are a potential problem because we fear that they will not ever become culturally assimilated. But the biggest linguistic minority in Britain looks, for the foreseeable future, like being, and remaining – the Welsh! But imagine if the Welsh speakers of Britain were only the advance guard of another thirty million Welsh speakers in a separate and much poorer state right next to us, where Ireland actually is for instance, and of another two hundred million Welsh speakers elsewhere in the world. That would certainly change how we Anglos would feel about our Welsh minority, and how they would feel about themselves. It would also make the prospect of serious Anglo-Welsh conflict far more likely.

As it is, Britain looks, and no thanks to all the multi-culturalist in our midst, likely to continue with its ongoing project of linguistic assimilation. There are just no incoming linguistic groups big enough, relative to the rest of the population, to make not learning English a rational educational or economic choice. And indeed, there is something very turn of the century New York about London just now – which is all part of why I am so optimistic and excited about the immediate future of London.

Maybe language will prove more unifying in Britain than Muslim culture threatens to be divisive. And maybe the linguistic disunity of America could spell more trouble for them than we face from our Muslims-versus-the-Rest divide, because that linguistic divide threatens to bring with it cultural differences every bit as profound, but in addition to that, to freeze those cultural differences into a permanent pattern.

Talking of British linguistic unification, why don’t we in Britain have Spelling Bees? Because I say that we definitely should. Now would be an excellent time to make a big fuss of such clever kids, and about the art of spelling in general. Maybe we do, in which case, British commenters, please enlighten me about that. But although mention was made in Spellbound of how this Spelling Bee thing has gone global, I’m not aware of it having caught on here. If it hasn’t, yet, maybe Spellbound will change that – either by unleashing it from a standing start, or by fanning the flames of whatever Spelling Bee sparks are sputtering away here already, to mix the metaphors (“M E T A” – “PHOR”). I was quite surprised to see Spellbound in Blockbuster, which is not an enterprise given to sentimental, politically correct gestures. They only offer for rent what they reckon people will want to rent. And quite a lot of people besides me did seem to be renting it.

Before anybody else says it, let me say it. It doesn’t matter how many British schoolteachers would moan about excessive competition and try to stop the thing. It could all be run by a TV company. All that is needed is for some clever kids willing to participate to be rounded up and quizzed, and then for others to join in, and I reckon plenty would.

We in Britain could certainly use such a tradition. What’s the betting that in twenty years time, a British Muslim kid will be the Spelling Bee World Champion?

33 comments to Spelling Bees and Melting Pots

  • “Bee” is a very old word, coming from Latin “bene” (good), mispronounced “bean” and later shortened to bee. Its origins are in medieval English villages, among the peasants or villeins, who would gather to help a neighbor get a crop in or raise a barn or house after a fire. (You’d be surprised at how many very old customs remain embedded in our culture.) In my youth (1950s) in rural Illinois, there were still quilting bees and barn raising bees and canning bees. I don’t know how the term got extended to spelling

  • Susan

    Mexican-Americans assimilated just fine 30-40 years ago. Then came the tranzis who wanted an issue to exploit for political purposes, and that issue was langauge. Allied with them were the social engineers who wanted to “fix’ a system that worked just fine as it was, by introducing “bilingual” education and other “special programs” funded by the state. Bilingual education was a huge flop — it only made Mexican immigrants more marginalized by keeping them out of mainstream jobs and educational opportunities. That was fine with the tranzis and the social engineers however, because it assured them respectively of 1.) masses of poor, disaffected “victims” to exploit for political purposes and 2.)state funding for cushy jobs for bilingual teachers and special education consultants, etc. You know the drill.

    That said, Chinese are pouring into California at allmost the same rate as Mexicans, and the Chinese are not as susceptible to tranzi exploitation and social engineering programs. Moreover, I can only speak anecdotally, but the Mexican-Americans I know are all fully English-speaking and often married to whites or people of other races.

    The final story hasn’t been written on this, but I do believe that English should be declared to offiical language of the US, and useless bilingual programs should be jettisoned. There’s no need for them.

  • “Talking of British linguistic unification, why don’t we in Britain have Spelling Bees?”

    Well, Britain does have “University Challenge” (College Bowl, but on national television). What that says about British vs. American viewing habits I’ll leave for others to ponder.

  • Etymologically unrelated to the six-legged invertebrate, “bee” as in “spelling bee” or “quilting bee” means “voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task” and probably derives from OE ben meaning prayer. So says Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged. Since you asked.

    I myself won the high school spelling bee, only to be taken down by “C-O-L-O-S-S-A-L” at the state level in the late fifties.

  • Susan

    I should add that the tranzis are busy plotting the final destruction of the State of California by glomming on to a new “injustice” to inflame Mexican immigrants with — the fact that illegal immigrants can’t vote in CA elections!

    Yes, they are trying to pass legislation giving non-citizens of the United States the right to vote in California elections. They are trying to do it piecemeal by saying, “Oh, it’s just for schoolboard elections” because illegal immigrant children go to CA public schools. But of course their final goal is to give illegal immigrants the right to elect statewide and federal officials, including the President.

    The fact that such moves will lead to a civil war in a few generations doesn’t seem to have occurred to the tranzis. All they see is a “non-violent” way to destroy the Great Satan, the Holy Grail for tranzis everywhere.

    Or maybe it has — and they are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of massive bloodshed, at least the ones who are in the know.

  • toolkien

    another reference and from the Scripps folks themselves!

    Hopefully we don’t bypass the elegance of the word ‘bee’ in terms of ” it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.), usually to help one person or family”. It is the very essence of people associating voluntarily to assist others. It is a collective of people acting in concert based on free association and melding of value judgements of these people. No wonder it is uniquely American springing from the 18th century.

  • Bernie Greene

    Whilst I’m all for correct spelling and making the ability to spell something to aspire to and be proud of I think that a far better contest, with many orders of magnitude of greater value, would be a definitions contest. Maybe it could be added to the spelling contest. What is the point of being able to read, write or speak a word if that word is not correctly and fully understood?

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    There’s also a National Geography Bee, sponsored by National Geographic.

    One of the things Brian didn’t mention (and I don’t know if the documentary mentioned it) is that an increasing proportion of participants in the National Spelling Bee are home-schooled. This has led to the inevitable cries from the jealous success-haters of unfairness, becuase home-schooled kids allegedly have more time to prepare for such competitions as home-school curricula can be tailored specifically for such competitions. Perhaps if the government schools weren’t so busy DARE-ing to put kids on Ritalin, there would be more time for teaching the fundamentals.

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    The words used in the National Spelling Bee are words nobody uses in real life. Maybe if you play Scrabble you’ll get the opportunity to use some of the shorter words, but that’s about it. But at least now I know what a “hallux” is. 🙂

  • Kelli

    As the mother of a public school first grader, let me just say I fully understand why home schooled kids are faring better at spelling and any number of other fundamental skills. I spend evenings and weekends secretly “drilling” my son (such things are “severely discouraged” by school personnel) on spelling. My husband gives him more complicated sums than those on offer for the next year at least, judging by his math homework. My son can read just about anything and has a fantastic vocabulary, but his spelling and handwriting have actually gotten worse this year (his Kindergarted teacher was fabulous).

    Am seriously considering home schooling myself if this keeps up (and I live in a reputedly great school district with some of the highest scores in Virginia–go figure).

  • The French are also fond of such exercises although the format is different; it’s a dictation using both hairy words and odd grammatical tricks. You have to get both the words and the grammar right.

  • Ron

    We’ve had Countdown for over 21 years…

  • Nancy

    Interesting view, Brian. I have always enjoyed spelling bees, but I never thought about them as a force for social cohesion until you astutely pointed it out – another example of the value of a foreign perspective on domestic events.

  • Ann

    Spelling bees, like a lot of exercises we used to do in school, seem to simply enforce the idea that it’s good to get things right. Spelling out loud doesn’t really make that much sense. You spell when you write, not when you talk. But spelling bees, math races on the blackboard, geography puzzles, etc., assigned some value to simply knowing things. I’m glad to see the bees are still going strong, in an era when schools operate on the lowest-common-denominator theory, for fear of injured feelings and low self-esteem.

  • Brian Micklethwait


    Thanks for the kind words but I was only reporting what was the unmistakeable point of the movie itself. Until I saw this, I knew nothing of the world of Spelling Bees. As I hope I made clear, the very title of the film. Spell BOUND, as in bound together, refers to the way that Spelling Bees give new Americans a quick way to get involved and to feel that they belong.

    I can understand criticisms to the effect that mere spelling is a rather superficial skill, but what appeals to me about this kind of competition is that it is wholly objective. You either spelt it right or you didn’t. (According, I assume, to some particular pre-announced dictionary.) And, as I have already speculated at my Education Blog (www.brianmicklethwait.com/education) I should imagine that immigrants would relish that. Nothing like a clear, simple, prejudice-proof rule to enable new Americans and old Americans to compete on a level playing field. Not unlike a stopwatch or a scoreboard.

  • M. Simon

    Bilingual education is unpopular with 60% of Mexican Americans (roughly).

    It will die out in time since it is unpopular with the client population.

  • Ack! You gave away the ending! With no SPOILER warning!

  • Doug Collins

    A comments section on spelling bees should include a reminder of Dan Quayle’s downfall several years ago.


  • “they are trying to pass legislation giving non-citizens of the United States the right to vote in California elections.”

    AFAIK, there is no proposed legislation to this effect. Here’s more on the UCLA “study” (a.k.a. editorial) from the former president of MALDEF.

    See also the Open Border Conspiracy.

    CA State Senator Gil Cedillo keeps trying to pass bills letting illegal aliens have driver’s licenses. Cedillo is a former member of the racial separatist student organization MEChA, as are many other CA Democrats. Even a U.S. Rep (Raul Grijalva) is a former MEChA member.

    Cedillo keeps saying his bills are just for “public safety,” and the complicit press never calls him on it. Consider that when one goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a driver’s license one can also register to vote. And, DL’s are “breeder documents” which let you get other documents. In an obscure TV interview, he said one of the reasons we should give DLs to IAs is because “they were here first,” which is a pretty MEChA thing to say. Needless to say, no member of the press has ever called him on that statement.

    Bush’s amnesty plan is bad enough, but Kerry would be even worse. He’s proud of having received the endorsement of Antonio Villaraigosa, who is also a former MEChA member. Kerry’s site has a page dedicated to ‘Activist Communities’, and he would give citizenship to the millions of illegal aliens in the U.S.

  • Tim Worstall

    British Muslim kid World Spelling Bee Champion ?
    Will we be using British or American spellings ?

  • Moira

    We’ve just recently moved to south Texas which has a large (very large) Hispanic population. I’m not sure why there is such a big difference between California (or the Southwest) and here, but I’ve noticed (in the comments of many different blogs) what seems to be a totally different outlook about language/national culture, etc. Just about everyone here strives to be bilingual. Of course many people are English only speakers or, if newly arrived, Spanish only. Everyone seems to agree that English is the ‘official’ language, but everyone tries to speak both, it seems just out of politeness. I find it quite charming. There doesn’t seem to be any difference in the work ethic. New immigrants work just as hard as 3rd or 4th generation (many came here after the Mexican revolution) or even new Anglo arrivals (like us). Perhaps the differences might have something to do with the education system. The state stresses language ability and reading. It’s quite tough, compared with the other school systems we’ve encountered. My kindergartener had to be a beginning reader before they would let him go to the first grade. Anyway, sorry for the long comment, just think it’s interesting!

  • “Bilingual education is unpopular with 60% of Mexican Americans (roughly).

    It will die out in time since it is unpopular with the client population.”

    I admire your optimism, but government programs aren’t like private goods; they have a tendency to develop powerful new constituencies very different from those they were originally intended to cater to – in this case, left-wing activists and spanish-language teachers.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Brian, don’t take Mr. Huntington too seriously. Like most of the Left he has a serious problem perceiving the world. There are no 3rd- and 4th-generation Spanish-only speakers anywhere in California that I’ve ever heard of. Mr. Huntington may well be acquainted with 3rd- or 4th-generation descendants of Mexican immigrants who are now, like himself, in the grip of academic neo-Marxist delusions. These people may claim not to speak English and Mr. Huntington may even believe them. That doesn’t mean it’s true.

    Bilingual education in California, by the way, is dead. It got killed by a state initiative that was passed overwhelmingly a few years back. It got pretty much the same percentage of ‘Yea’ votes from the Spanish-surnamed as it did from the rest of we the people.

    By no particular coincidence, the English fluency of California students who arrive in school knowing only Spanish has markedly improved since.

    It used to be said that going through bilingual education made you illiterate in two languages. Too true.

  • toolkien

    I can understand criticisms to the effect that mere spelling is a rather superficial skill

    I’m not sure how superficial it is and I’d deflect criticisms by pointing out that the children don’t memorize all the words themselves, they memorize origins, parts of speech, tense etc etc to build how the word is spelt (of course is they didn’t already know from familiarity). It is essentially a reasoning competition and takes capacity and dedication. One could ask just how useful a refined ability to spell based on this is, but it certainly is exercise for the mind. Similarly, while I was in college studying accounting, I also took quite a bit of math (almost enough for a minor if I had chosen to) and the task of performing math problems left me with a greater capacity to think and reason in all aspects of life. Since then, as I have not had near the ‘heavy lifting’ mentally my mind has grown a bit flabby. So an over devoloped ability to spell is merely a byproduct of shapening the mind and reasoning skills for these kids. Of course one could criticize the process if the children never apply their newly honed reasoning skills on anything other than spelling, becoming mere spelling drones at these spelling bees and in all walks of life.

  • John G. Fought

    I’m a linguist; I live in Southern California. There is no evidence that the classic three generation sequence of language assimilation is different for Spanish speakers in the borderlands. People are sometimes confused about this because of the Chicano English accent. This accent is not evidence that the user can speak Spanish, any more than a South Philadelphia accent implies proficiency in Italian. Huntington does not claim that Spanish is retained in the third and fourth generation. Instead, he writes that this might happen. His main argument is based on the sophomoric proposition that ‘we’ are an Anglo-Protestant culture in some essential way, but that Hispanics are (or may be)even more tenacious in keeping their culture. It’s just a new bottling of the old ‘Nativism’ that values earlier immigrants more than later ones. I would add that such is the work ethic of Mexican immigrants and California-born Hispanics that if they were all to leave California, the state would be paralyzed. And culturally poorer. Instead, they are accomplishing miracles, such as turning Orange County into a civilized society.

  • Raj

    I really must see this movie. Sounds fascinating.

    Regarding the integration of immigrants I tend to think that the reason why more recent immigrants are less likely to integrate is more to do with the fact that it is now easier not to integrate.

    Imagine you are a recent immigrant from India to the UK and are not staying in an area like leicester with a large Indian population.

    20 years ago you would have had no choice but to integrate.
    Nowadays, what do you you integrate to?

    The culture has become fractured with hundreads of satellite channels.

    If you look at Sky TV around the 800 mark you will see around 20 different indian & pakistani tv channels.

    All supermarkets carry indian food stuffs etc,etc, etc.

    Therefore you can easily not integrate wheras in the 60’s & 70’s you could not have survived without integrating.

    Personally, I am glad that the UK has more flavours of different communities in it these days but that does not mean that there are no negative consequences.

    The lack of push to integrate is definetely one of them.

  • Raymund

    An anecdote from Houston:

    My yard guy is clearly a native speaker of Spanish. His English isn’t great, but we communicate well enough. I pay him $35/visit, of which he pays a small amount (I don’t know how much, but I’d guess a tiny fraction of that $35) to a couple of Spanish-only, probably illegal immigrant, day laborers to do most of the work.

    What do the day laborers see? A guy with passable English and a willingness to work, who’s running his small business well enough to recently buy a big new pickup truck. That’s the kind of example I want them to see.

    Oh, as for the explosion of Indian/Spanish-language media in the UK and US, respectively, don’t worry about it. Around 1900, Chicago had a dozen German-language daily newspapers; today, the descendants of those readers have seamlessly assimilated into US culture.

  • ed


    1. There is evidently a large difference between Mexican immigrants in Texas and in California. The reason behind this difference is that in Texas there aren’t as many public assistance programs while California has nothing but those programs. In effect it’s a lot easier to be on the dole in California.

    2. I’m absolutely in favor of making English the required language with no exceptions. I’m a first generation immigrant myself and I base my success in life on a certain level of mastery of the English language, no matter how painful it was initially acquired. The biggest danger to a country is the fracturing the population for any reason. The biggest danger to any immigrant population is being marginalized and “ghettoized” because of an inability to assimilate.

  • toolkien

    Oh, as for the explosion of Indian/Spanish-language media in the UK and US, respectively, don’t worry about it. Around 1900, Chicago had a dozen German-language daily newspapers; today, the descendants of those readers have seamlessly assimilated into US culture.

    Something to keep in mind is that the reason there were so many such newspapers is that there was little or no way to communicate with ‘home’ except for letters that took weeks or months to deliver. The transplants would likely assimilate to their surroundings and meld in the melting pot. Today, with the internet and instant communication of ideas in seconds, a transplant may not have to change their culture too much to get along, just enough to meet the basics. Meanwhile they may not have to assimilate as much as they used to. Just a notion.

  • “By no particular coincidence, the English fluency of California students who arrive in school knowing only Spanish has markedly improved since.”

    It may have improved, but consider thisCA state report: “Sixty percent of non-English speaking children who begin attending California schools after kindergarten never become fluent in English”

    “I would add that such is the work ethic of Mexican immigrants and California-born Hispanics that if they were all to leave California, the state would be paralyzed.”

    Very few Mexican illegal immigrants are employed as rocket scientists. Most of them are employed in low-wage, and thus low-valued, jobs.

    If all of them left overnight, we would save billions of dollars in welfare services, and employers would be forced to hire citizens or legal immigrants to do their jobs. If they didn’t want to pay the wages those people demanded, they would be forced to, for instance, invent machinery to do the job.

    The presence of cheap serf labor has allowed some industries to postpone indefinitely modernization, and has encouraged some farmers to continue planting crops that favor stoop labor. Take the cheap serf labor away, and we’ll either invent a strawberry picking machine or import strawberries from other countries and current strawberry growers will switch to crops that aren’t so appropriate for serf labor.

    “such as turning Orange County into a civilized society”

    I’m rarely peek behind the Orange Curtain, so, could you explain in detail exactly what you mean?

    “as for the explosion of Indian/Spanish-language media in the UK and US, respectively, don’t worry about it”

    Do worry about it. Those stations generally promote an illegal-alien-friendly, frequently bashing message. Unlike past ethnic media, they’re large and directed at one ethnic group.

  • S.A. Smith

    John Fought wrote:

    “Instead, [Mexican immigrants] are accomplishing miracles, such as turning Orange County into a civilized society.”

    If by “civilized” you mean more conjested, dirty and dangerous, then yes it is becoming more civilized, more civilized by the day. But then you were being cute, though, weren’t you? In any case, have a stroll through Santa Ana after dark.

  • In case anyone is still reading this and waiting for John Fought to respond, I’d like to point out one of the problems of the ethnic media. (Link): “Many opponents of the license movement, such as Figone, only recently learned about the vigils, which are broadcast primarily by Spanish-language television.”

    Read the story to put that quote in context.

  • Beth R

    My daughter competed in the National Spelling Bee in both 2003 & 2004. While there, we were lucky to preview the movie Spellbound in 2003 Bee, as well as meet the producers and some of the children from the movie, by then mostly high school seniors.

    The ethical diversity of the movie is only one theme. The spirited of competition that is not just American, but is a wonderful aspect of our society is also a theme. A sub-theme to that is the way different contestants endure and prepare for competition.

    The diversity is just as true at the Bee as it is in the movie. 260 children from all across the United States (and a few other places..i.e. Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Guam, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, and American Samoa at times) bring with them not only cultural diversity, but competitive diversity as well.
    Yes, there is an underlying home-school vs. public school competition at the Bee. Parts of the two groups band together and cheer each other on, secretly (?) hoping someone from “their” team will win. Our daughter attended parochial school, but we have considered home-schooling at various times. Do the homeschool kids have an advantage? I would have to say that they probably do. I know the amount of time my daughter, who is highly competitive by nature, put into her studies, and that was in addition to a normal school week, advanced classes, extracurricular activities and other competitions (she earned her to way to two State writing competitions tandemly competing in Spelling Bees). In addition to her “normal” week, she spent 40-60 hours studying for the Bee. Had she been homeschooled, she would have probably devoted even more time. And advantage with more time, but ould that guarantee a National Win? No, because when it comes down to it, Spelling Bees are an unusual sport -unlike many other competitions, if you miss just once, you are out. Baseball, you get three strikes, and nine innings. Football (American), you have four innings and many plays to overcome a fumble. Not a Spelling Bee. That is one of the things that makes them so exciting and frustrating at the same time.