Our homeschool support group, Home Schoolers Loving God, hosted the Bible Spelling Bee. We had three age groups: 5-8, 8-12, and 12-18. The U8 group only had two young guys, and because there was only one U18 speller, the judges opened up the competition to anyone who wanted to compete at that level. All available chairs were quickly filled with eager children trying to win the coveted gift certificate to a local ice creamery. In the end, the speller who had actually studied the list won that level, but he was surprisingly challenged by a younger girl from the U12 group who held on for quite some time. My 10-year-old daughter Shannon was in the U12 group along with twelve other spellers.
Each word for the Bee was found in the Scriptures, and if the children needed context for the words they could ask for the verse to be read. The tough rules for this competition did not allow the children to self-correct if they realized they had made an error, and they would also be disqualified if they correctly spelled the wrong word. This is one reason the verses were so important as they gave the much-needed context for the words, some of which were homophones. Each child spelled one word per round. The children were not allowed to request definitions or information about word origins. Previous study and strength in spelling would determine the winner!
I had the unique honor of being the reader for the Spelling Bee, thus relieving our two judges to be able to focus on listening carefully to the spellers. I had to work hard on pronouncing the words as in normal speech, not carefully with syllable breaks or any other emphasis as I am so accustomed to doing in SWR dictation. I had to remember I was testing, not teaching.
By the eighth round of the U12 event, the field had been narrowed to only five spellers. These kids had studied hard, and the competition was strong. Entering the nineteenth round Shannon was still in the game with only two other students. The three of them spelled words correctly for another eleven rounds, each listening carefully to the words being read, each slowly spelling one letter at a time, each walking away from the microphone victorious. We wondered if they would exhaust our list!
At round thirty, little Abigail listed the wrong vowel in the word palace, an easy mistake to make. She had been a tenacious and talented opponent! We were down to just two, Solomon and Shannon.
Finally, in round thirty-three Shannon received the word justify. How many times had we practiced this word? As commonly happens in a competition like this, she slipped a cog. She proceeded to correctly spell:
j - u - s - t - i - f - i - e - d.
Wow! The Y’s Exchanging and ED rules had properly been applied . . . to the wrong word. When Solomon correctly spelled the next word qualify, he was announced the winner of this year’s U12 Bible Spelling Bee. Congratulations, Solomon!!!
Shannon was a very gracious runner up, and several of the parents commented on what a great encourager she had been for the other children during the competition. We were so proud of her!!!
One of the words Shannon studied was abundance. A technique we use to remember how to spell is called think to spell, in which we “think” the word in syllables as they are written, not necessarily how we speak them. While working on this spelling word, I promised my daughter that if she could place in the top four at the Bee, we would take her to get a Cinnabon cinnamon bun where she could do A Bun Dance.
We all enjoyed the sweet fruits of her success later that evening!