Every so often I reflect on the great education I feel like my kids are getting here in Homer. There are so many "value-added" activities besides just school. One of these things is MathCounts, a nationwide middle school math competition that begins at the regional level, advances to state and then on to nationals. Aurora was involved in it both years in middle school, and now Denver has as well.
Middle schoolers who are in advanced math and have an A are pulled out of the regular classroom once a week to work on even more advanced math problems. The top 4 seventh and eighth graders (from Homer; if sixth grade is part of a middle school they are included), based on tests, are part of the official school team, while the next 4 can attend the regional competition as unofficial individuals. It gives them experience so hopefully they make it to the team in 8th grade. Aurora was only an individual the first year as she was homeschooled, and was on the Homer Middle School team the second year. Last year Denver went as an individual and this year as part of the team.
The competition involves three different types of tests: the Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Rounds. This year Denver's team got second place at regionals, qualifying them for state. What I didn't realize is that state is all-expense-paid, which in Alaska can be significant! The 4 kids and coach were flown from Homer to Anchorage ($240 or so per ticket), stayed in a hotel (2 rooms, 2 nights, $100+/night), ate out at restaurants ($10 per child per meal) and bussed around for various activities. This year the state competition was in Anchorage, though in recent years it has been in Fairbanks. The kids got to Anchorage at noon on Friday, visited a planetarium, got dinner and free time. Saturday was the competition and then a tour of the UAA Engineering Building which is being built right now, then free time and dinner. And finally they flew home Sunday morning.
It was a treat for middle schoolers to have this opportunity. Corporations, foundations and individuals contribute donations to make this possible. The hope is to inspire these bright minded kids to seek careers in math or engineering. But for kids who aren't thinking that far ahead, it can still be a fun time. This year Homer Middle School's team did better than they have ever done, getting second at state, with three top-10 finishes.
I am a little sad that this chapter of my kids' life is over. They have been involved in it for 4 years now and it has inspired their love of math, while developing their teamwork skills with that math. I am grateful that one of the local college instructors and a middle school teacher are willing to be there and help these kids on. It is one more thing that makes me appreciate their education in Homer!