Can contests and competitions help your homeschooling? In short, my answer is yes, but read on for why you should incorporate contests and competitions in your homeschool.

Recently my eleven-year-old son heard about an essay contest hosted by The Daughters of the American Revolution. The prize for the chapter winner is $50.00, which is a nice chunk of change for a pre-teen. With dollar signs in his eyes, he decided to tackle his very first essay. Nothing could have taught him better how to research, use resources, write information in his own words, and eliminate run-on sentences better than the hope to fatten up his wallet.

When his older sisters were in 4-H, they entered many competitions because they wanted to win prize money or trophies. The Food Show, the Fashion Show, the Youth Show, 4-H Round Up, you name it, one of my kids wanted to enter it. Each competition required preparation and study well before the actual competition. The kids had to keep records, participate in workshops, complete applications, submit resumes, and be interviewed. One of my daughters entered a cake in the Youth Show and it earned $600.00 at auction! The skills they learned were skills I wanted them to learn, but they were much easier to teach to interested and motivated students.

I believe that real life is the best teacher and strive to implement real activities rather than utilize textbooks or worksheets to teach the concepts, principles, and skills that I want my students to know prior to graduation. Contests and competitions are the perfect venue for acquiring and using real life skills.

Working with your kids to enter contests and competitions isn’t all sunshine and roses. For my son, reaching the minimum of 300 words was a struggle. He had to learn what run-on sentences were and how to make sentences more interesting without plagiarizing. He learned that writing is hard work. He also learned that writing is more enjoyable than he thought it was going to be and wants to enter more contests.

Contests and competitions can help your student learn a new skill or give them an opportunity to be recognized for an exceptional skill. I encourage my son to participate in a mix of contests and competitions so he can improve existing skills and learn new ones.

An example of a competition to improve an existing skill is his continuing participation in The Healthy Kids Running Series. It’s a five-week kids running event that is hosted in the fall and the spring. He began nine seasons ago with running a quarter mile distance and now runs the mile. At first he struggled with learning to pace himself for the race. He learned that in running, while you compete against the other racers, you are also competing against yourself. He learned to be a good sport and support other racers. One season he excelled and won the first place trophy in his division. With every race he is improving his skill at running and persevering over challenges out of his control, such as weather conditions and his own physical limitations. He’s made friends over the years as well.

There are opportunities abounding everywhere- in local community organizations with national offices such as the Elks or the VFW, in youth civic organizations such as 4-H, Scouting, and Civil Air Patrol to name a few, who host competitions and contests for their members, and nationwide art, writing, history, and civics competitions open to students of all ages. A quick Google search will turn up an overwhelming amount of choices!

Whether your child wins or loses in a competition is not the most important part of their participation. In my opinion, ultimately they’re all winners because of all they learn as a consequence of participating in the event. I would even say that they learn more when they don’t win and that what they learn will carry them through the rest of their lives.

So, don’t wait- find a contest for your kids to enter today, then sit back and watch them grow!