Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mental Olympics

I love competition! I am not so great at athletic competitions, I admit. Thanks to an older brother who dragged me into playing backyard games of baseball complete with ghost runners when we were kids, I learned how to pitch and throw. I've never been good at running though. I'm no Flo Jo. I love to watch the Olympics but never won any Field Day events in grade school.

Now for mental competition, it's different. I do well at those! I won lots of spelling bees when I was young. I loved it when my algebra teacher in high school had us do contests at the chalkboard to see who was fastest at solving problems. I consider it one of the great injustices of my life that I was not selected for my high school academic decathlon team, for any of the three years I was there. I always wished that there were regular academic games as often as football games. I won't go into that thread of why sports are more important in American culture than intellectual skills...

So, when I heard that Diann Jeppson and her group AYLI (see ayli.org) was sponsoring a Freedom Bowl, I was all over it. Thankfully, my two oldest kids are all over it too and willingly agreed when I told them they were participating. We homeschool and they are naturally as competitive as I am. My dad used to be a seminary teacher for the LDS Church. I remember with fondness hearing him tell stories of the fun Seminary Bowls he used to organize. I wanted my kids to have the same type of experience.

Last year my son, who I will call Valor, won first place with his team. My daughter, Virtue, didn't place at all. This year she was determined to make up for that. Last Saturday she and her team competed and they won FIRST PLACE in the jr. division (ages 12-13). Valor's teammates from last year were on an opposing team this year, along with the key player who led her team to victory in the jr. division last year. She turned 14 the day of the competition so technically she should not have been allowed to compete in the jr. division. Her mom is one of my best friends so I can give them a hard time about that. Anyway, this girl was on the opposing team with Valor's former teammates. He wasn't as quick as she was and his team lost to them. Those two teams answered 30 questions about the Constitution in eight minutes! Incredible! So the opposing team won first place in the sr. division (ages 14-18) and Valor's team got second.

Needless, to say, this felt almost as good as if my kids had won Olympic medals! Diann even had medals that looked like the Olympic ones as well as Olympics music. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if there had been more kids. There were four teams in the jr. division and five in the sr. So, mental Olympians in Utah and surrounding areas (we had one team from Idaho last year and this year), prepare for next year! This year's questions were on the Constitution, next year they will be on the Founding of our country. Your kids don't even have to be homeschoolers to compete. Stay tuned to ayli.org in the fall of 2009 to find out the date of next year's competition.

To top it all off, yesterday my daughter Virtue won the spelling bee at the local jr. high! There were only six kids competing, and the two homeschoolers took first and second place. If she wins the county spelling bee, she gets to go to Washington D.C. for the national bee. Time to watch Akeelah and the Bee and Spellbound again for inspiration to study!

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