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Home school student wins bee for second time

March 18, 2008
By RAYMOND L SMITH Tribune Chronicle
WEATHERSFIELD — Vocabulary has been very, very good for the McFall family.

Joshua A. McFall’s victory in Monday’s Tribune Chronicle Scripps National Spelling Bee makes him the first back-to-back winner of the competition and has given his family multiple wins.

Joshua’s sister Elizabeth won the Tribune Chronicle bee in 2006. Older sister Megan has competed for the national title.

The family’s latest victory came from the words ‘‘precocious’’ and ‘‘muslin.’’

‘‘I wasn’t as nervous for this competition as I was last year,’’ Joshua said.

The 13-year-old student with the Trumbull Education Association of Christian Home Schools (TEACH) has been home-schooled for most of his life.

Joshua’s parents, Robert and Patty McFall, of West Farmington, have schooled each of their six children at home. However, the couple said the credit for their success in these competitions is not what they’ve done, but their children’s hard work.

Even during the competition, the McFall children were sitting in the audience writing down the words that their brother had to spell on stage at LaBrae High School.

‘‘I thought the words were a tad bit harder in the first couple rounds this year,’’ Joshua said. ‘‘Other than that it was not very different.’’

Joshua said he worked a lot with his mother.

‘‘We had many spelling bees,’’ he said.

Last year, Joshua went to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., and failed during the written competition.

‘‘What am I going to do different for the national spelling bee this year?’’ he responded to a question. ‘‘Train harder.’’

Patty McFall said Joshua’s training consists of learning how to pronounce the words and a lot of spelling out loud.

‘‘We do it fast at first, then, toward the end, we try to slow him down,’’ she said. ‘‘It is so easy to stumble and say J while you meant G. And once you mistakenly say a letter, you’re out.”

After 21 rounds of the competition, second-place finisher Haley M. Foster, 10, was knocked out of the competition with the word ‘‘rapport.’’

‘‘Rapport was the only word that really gave me problems,’’ she said. ‘‘I had not heard the word before. Everything else I pretty much knew.’’

The fifth-grader from Champion Middle School admits she was nervous when the competition began, but calmed down by the third round.

‘‘I thought I had a pretty good shot at winning,’’ she said.

Margaret Foster, Haley’s mother, said her daughter worked hard to prepare for the Tribune’s contest.

‘‘Preparing for the bee became a family project,’’ she said. ‘‘We all helped her practice, but it was Haley who pushed herself. She took her words to school and practiced with her friends. She was very dedicated.’’

Now that she has gotten to the Tribune Chronicle round of the competition, Haley says she wants to compete in future contests.

Daniel Daum, 11, a fifth-grader at H.C. Mines School in Howland was disappointed with his third-place finish, but is encouraged that he will have more chances to compete.

Daniel and Joshua were rooting one another on throughout the contest, slapping each others hands as they figured out how to spell words and moved on round after round. They know one another from church.

This was Daniel’s first time competing in the Tribune bee.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,’’ he said. ‘‘My mom and my grandma quizzed me on the words. If I missed them, she would check them and we would go over the checked ones.’’

Nathaniel Butler, 11, a student at Cortland Elementary School came in fourth.

Joshua will compete for the title in the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals from May 26 to June 1 in Washington, D.C.

Public schools that participated in the Tribune bee included Bloomfield-Mespo, Bristol, Champion, Howland, J. Badger, LaBrae, Lakeview, Lordstown, Maplewood, Mathews, Niles, Southington and Warren. Private and parochial schools included Holy Trinity Academy, Saints Mary & Joseph, Notre Dame School junior high, St. Pius X and Blessed Sacrament, and St. Stephen in Niles. Members of the TEACH home-school program also participated.'>

Article Photos

Joshua McFall, 13, of West Farmington, a student with the Trumbull Education Association of Christian Home Schools, won the Tribune Chronicle Scripps National Spelling Bee Monday. Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
See this and more photos on CU at



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