Many gifted children, whether they are traditionally schooled or home educated, enjoy the challenge of academic competition. Academic competitions can address a wide range of interests. By participating in these contests, children bolster their skills in specific subject areas and gain mastery through practice. They may also develop a better understanding of where they stand in relation to peers and other gifted children.
Your child might enjoy taking part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, an annual competition that culminates in May. Stringent regulations for bee participation are detailed at http://www.spellingbee.com The Scripps Bee is open to students in grade eight and below.
A newer cousin of the spelling bee is the “geo-bee” or geography bee. The most popular geography bee is sponsored by National Geographic. School and homeschool organizations must register in the fall and students who win local competitions in the fall go on to state bees in April and then national level competition in May. Check it out at http://nationalgeographic.com/geographybee/
The National Mythology Exam and Exploratory Latin Exam are both run by the American Classical League. The Mythology Exam is just what it sounds like: an exam on mythology; primarily focused on ancient Greek and Roman tales. This year, kids from grades 3-9 may take part, though in previous years students above sixth grade were ineligible. The mythology exam must be administered during a specific week at the end of February. The Latin exam is for grades 3-6 only; and may be administered any time from October to April. The ACL website is http://etclassics.org
Mathematically gifted children might want to try the American Mathematics Competitions offered through The Mathematical Association of America. There are three different exam levels available. For students in grade 8 or below, there is the AMC 8. The AMC 10 is for kids in grade 10 and below, and the AMC 12 is for kids in grade 12 or below. Kids who place exceptionally well on a mid or lower level exam are invited to try a higher level challenge. Http://www.unl.edu/amc has all the details you need to learn more about the AMC.
If your child is more of a generalist who loves trivia, the Knowledge Master Open might be just the ticket. KMO teams may vary greatly in size, and with time at a premium, sometimes the smaller teams can do better. The KMO has options for students in grades five through high school. See http://www.greatauk.com for more information.
Some may say, Why take a test if it isn't required? But the growing popularity of these academic quests has made it clear that there are kids who enjoy matching wits on a different plane. If your school or group doesn't currently promote these competitions, perhaps you could step forward and offer to coordinate!