Federal Relations

Bright Spots in Home Schooling

June 8, 2005  

Minnesota homeschooler wins 2005 National Geographic Bee

Homeschooler Nathan Cornelius is more than a geography whiz-he's the top one in the nation. On May 25, 2005, the 13-year-old beat nine other National Geographic Bee finalists by correctly answering the question, "Lake Gatun, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal system, was created by damming which river?"

Nathan Cornelius (left) correctly answers the winning question at the 2005 National Geographic Bee. Right: Second-place winner Karan Takhar; moderator: Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.
Photograph by Becky Hale, copyright 2005 National Geographic Society

Cornelius' answer, "the Chagres River," earned him first place in the bee and a $25,000 college scholarship.

Cornelius hails from Cottonwood, Minnesota, where he pursues a variety of interests, including photography, piano, and classical guitar. However, he said, "I think geography is my favorite subject." Cornelius has been participating in the National Geographic Bee for several years; he represented Minnesota in both the 2003 and 2004 national competitions.

Homeschooled primarily by his mother, Michele, Cornelius said that preparing for the bee was a group effort: "Both my parents helped quiz me for the bee." Cornelius also spent several hours a day studying atlases and other geography books, such as the National Geographic Desk Reference and a book by last year's geography bee champion, Andrew Wojtanik.

Each year's National Geographic Bee finalists are culled from five million 4th-8th graders, who participate in preliminary rounds across the United States. Qualifying students go on to compete at the state level, whose winners represent their states in the two-day national competition in Washington, D.C.

On June 2, 2005, another young homeschooler, 11-year-old Samir Patel of Colleyville, Texas, tied for second place in the 78th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Thirty-four homeschoolers participated in the Washington, D.C., competition.

Home School Legal Defense Association extends hearty congratulations to Cornelius, Patel, and the many other homeschoolers whose national successes are shedding light on the effectiveness of home education.

 Other Resources

The registration deadline for the 2006 National Geographic Bee is October 15, 2005. Find out how homeschoolers can participate at www.nationalgeographic.com/geographicbee

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