One of the things you notice when you watch the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee every year is how many of the finalists are home-schooled. Now before you think "here comes another attack piece on public schools", calm down. The time needed to develop the memorization and recall abilities, and the knowledge of language of origin patterns possessed by the super-spellers on display last night cannot be committed to in the classroom setting. Besides, kids today need to learn more important things than spelling--like the history of labor unions and the proper application of a condom. (Sorry, had to get a little dig in there)
What the National Spelling bee shows is the incredible power of parents getting involved in their kids' educations--and what happens when you encourage--and expect--excellence from a child. None of those finalists last night got on that stage by watching a video on spelling, or by putting off their practice sessions until after they watch "American Idol" or "Sixteen and Pregnant". You don't become a great speller (or a great anything for that matter) by sending 500-text messages to the kids you saw just ten minutes ago at school. And did you notice that none of the kids on stage had the IPod earbuds in while waiting their turn?
Too many parents have abdicated their duties as "educators". Sit and read with the kids? They can learn just as much by watching Elmo, right? Make sure the kids do their homework before plopping down in front of the computer? Why bring up that battle every night--their teachers will make sure their work is done. Feel uncomfortable having the discussion about "birds and bees"? Don't worry, the public schools will teach your kids everything they need to know about having sex--not so much on the why they shouldn't have sex.
Like all activities, there are "Bee Parents" that are out of control--thinking their child is superior to all others and not capable of error (You didn't pronounce that word correctly!! My daughter was confused!!)--but at least they are very involved in their child's education. Hours spent together going over word lists, practicing words and sitting in gymnasiums and auditoriums listening to hundreds of kids spell thousands of words that the average person will NEVER use in their lives. And I'm positive that spelling isn't the only thing at which those kids excell. And I doubt they will be borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to pay for their college educations.
Amazing what can happen when you commit the time actually needed to be a parent.