Become a Spelling Bee Champion



Pronunciation: cham-pee-uh n
Definition: A person who has defeated all opponents in a competition or series of competitions, so as to hold first place.
Late Latin campiōn- (stem of campiō)

Sentence:  When she won first place in the pie baking contest, she declared herself to be the pie baking champion.


The country’s largest and longest running spelling bee is the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was started in 1925 when nine newspapers joined together to host the event. Little did they know that 90+ years later their competition would be SO big…SO popular….that it would

  • Impact 11 million students annually.
  • Be televised.
  • Inspire movie producers. Three movies you might want to check out include Akeelah and the Spelling Bee, Spellbound and The Best of the National Spelling Bee.
  • Have huge prizes. In 2016, Champion Prizes included a $40,000 cash prize from Scripps as well as the Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond; a reference library from Merriam-Webster; and $400 in reference materials from Encyclopedia Britannica.

Homeschool Winners of the Scripps Bee

In the early 1990’s only a few homeschoolers entered the contest; by the 1996 competition there were fourteen; and in 2006, the number increased to thirty-six.  In 2016, even though homeschool students made up just 2 percent of the school age population, they were more than 7.4 percent of the finalists. (Homeschoolers made up an even higher percentage at the National Geographic Society’s National Geographic Bee).

Homeschool Spelling Bee winners include:

Rebecca Sealfon, a homeschooler from New York. She was the first homeschooled student to win the national title, and she did so in 1997. Her winning word? Euonym.

In 2000, homeschooler George Thampy beat two other homeschooled students to win the National Spelling Bee.

Sean Conley won in 2001. He had been homeschooled the majority of his academic life.

In 2007, 13 year old Evan O’Dorney, was the fourth homeschooler to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He did so with the winning word serrefine.

“The recent successes of home schoolers in these contests have been very beneficial for home education because it now becomes credible to many people who were thinking before that this is just done by a bunch of weirdos who want to go in the back woods and isolate their children,” said Michael Smith, the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “There are people actually considering home schooling today [who] would have never thought about it 10 years ago.”

Regarding homeschoolers and their early 2000 dominance, Paige Kimble, Director of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee stated, “I think there’s a certain sense of astonishment. And frankly I think there’s also a sense of respect and jealousy.”


“I don’t think winning a spelling bee proves that one form of education is superior to another,” said Paul Houston of the American Association of School Administrators. “If that’s the way the parents want to spend their time with their child, that’s certainly a choice that’s valid for them to make individually. But I don’t think it says a lot about the form of schooling that they’ve gone through.”

Sounds a little bit like sour grapes, don’t you think? Maybe we should look at homeschool winners and see what they’ve accomplished since their wins:

·       Sealfon has a graduate degree from Columbia University. She founded Research Match, a startup that helps professors and students collaborate. She is currently a Software Engineer at Google.

·       Thampy graduated from Harvard in 2010, has a degree from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and he is currently working at GE Ventures.

·       Evan O’Dorney is also at Harvard alum. He graduated from Harvard in 2015, and he is presently attending the University of Cambridge studying mathematics. Evan plans to attend Princeton University to pursue a career in academia.

Clearly, their homeschool educations taught them a great deal more than memorization!

Learn More about Bees

You can do the following to learn more about bees, including the Scripps annual bee:

  • Attend a spelling bee or watch the movies mentioned above
  • Reach out to homeschool support groups and homeschool co-ops near you as they might have a wealth of local, state, and national bee information
  • Click here to take the actual 2016 Preliminaries Test. See if you could have qualified for the Finals.
  • Sign up for the Scripps free Word Club.