A lot happened since I last posted, however. Mason and I went down to Mankato, Minnesota, on Thursday night. We had a fun time traveling together as we always do. We ended up stopping early for "road food" in Burnsville. Shawn laughed pretty hard when I called from the "Old Country Buffet," given that we hadn't even managed to break the exo-suburbs before pulling over. To be fair, Mason had had one slice of pizza for lunch (one of those school fundraising things) and I was just generally starving, too. Of course, the food there was.... meh. I always make the mistake of thinking the taco bar should be okay. (It's not.)
We only got turned around a couple of times once we reached Mankato. The in-city map was printed very small and there was the classic confusion of is Stadium Road the same as Highway 58 (or whatever)??? Turns out it was, but we at least figure that out BEFORE we drove too far out of town. Yes, there is great irony in the fact that we got LOST ON THE WAY TO THE GEOGRAPHY BEE.
We spent out hotel time doing geography quizzes based on Trivial Pursuit cards, which was our fun way of studying. Mason did bring along some atlases and such, but it was much more fun to read the questions and think... is the answer going to be the USSR? Or some other country that no longer exists because this deck was printed in the early 1990s???! We laughed a lot, which, IMHO, is the very best way to study.
On the day of, we got up early (too early in my case. I woke up precisely when the cats normally would rouse me: 5:45 am.) We were too nervous to do much constructive, so we at at the hotel (passably okay) and then thew everything into the car, checked out, and headed to the bee, which was being held in the Student Union of Mankato State University, about four or five blocks away.
Here's another attempt at a picture:
This is a picture of a smiling (smirking?) Mason holding up the classic yellow National Geographic magazine's frame around his face. He's wearing a blue plaid shirt and you can see his official geography be name tag over the right pocket of his shirt. The wall behind him is marble-esque and has some letters carved into it, which make up some part of Mankato State University, I suspect.
After some brief discussion, it was decided that I sit out the preliminary round. Two of his teachers were there--Ms. Lesser and Ms. Croone. Ms. Croone was there as one of the judges, but Ms. Lesser went in with Mason to root for him. I would have done the same, but we decided that me being there might make Mason more nervous. If you can't tell, one of the big themes of this trip for us was that we really, really wanted this to be as FUN as possible. No stressing about how far we made it in the competition, etc. Just to accept that it's really pretty damn awesome that we made it this far--because it is/was. Mason had to beat out not only his whole class, but also the other two grades that were eligible (there were some 6th graders in the competition: Mason is in eighth.) Out of the 500 people who got that far, only the top 100 scorers on the written test advanced to state.
Out of those 100? ONLY 10 advanced to the final round.
Mason wasn't one of those. But both he and his teacher thought that he did very well in the preliminary round, but he was eliminated. You have to get a near perfect score (only one wrong is allowed, two wrong and you're OUT) to advance.
We stayed to watch the final elimination round and it was INTENSE. There were a couple interesting things that happened. At one point, in the second round of questions, you could hear someone in the audience give the right answer. What I found fascinating is that, though there was an admonishment from the National Geographic judges to the audience, that question was allowed to stand (no re-take) and the person who answered that question went on to be the final-place winner. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but the judges decided to let it stand. I'm really surprised that they didn't give that particular competitor a different question. But, whatever.
it's also interesting to me that the winner was actually the previous year's winner... and home-schooled. I've been trying to decide if I feel like homeschooling is an unfair advantage here, or not.
Also, 90% of the competitors were white and male.
As Mason wondered out loud, "Why? What about geography has a gender bias?" Outside of institutionalized sexism and racism, I have no idea. Two of the ten finalists were obvious PoCs, but they were all male.
Other than that depressing observation, we had fun. I don't know if there is a high school version, so Mason may not have a chance to do this again, but we ARE planning to watch the National bee when it's aired
. Despite the weird start, we ended up liking the state champion. Mason called him, "The Han Solo of Geography Bees" because it was very clear that he was making a lot of educated guesses that were turning out correct (you could tell by his occasional SHOCKED expression.) That made him very likable, so we will root for him in the Nationals.
The drive home was fun. Mason LOVES road trips, so we had our usual enjoyment of watching small towns roll by, commenting on especially creepy rural cemeteries, etc. We managed to leave behind Mason's school iPad's cord, but that was the only even vaguely dark cloud on the whole trip. (Cue a lot of calling the hotel, not getting answers, and then finally what I think of as a brush off, which was, "Nope we never found it." The next whole rigamarole will be getting a new one either from school, or apparently the Apple store, but that's a whole other headache. Though, it should be noted, ultimately VERY solvable.)
Saturday was Shawn's birthday. She has now successfully leveled up to level 50. When I went out to fetch the birthday cake and coffee on Saturday morning a lot of the people I interacted with asked, "So BIG plans?" I had to say, "Listen, Shawn is an introvert. It's big enough we're going out to dinner." And, it was true, after the excitement of cake and presents we spent much of her birthday doing a lot of napping and jigsaw puzzling on the porch. It was so lovely out that I did a little garden prep, but that was about the pinnacle of excitement for us. :-) Dinner was at the Indian place in Maplewood, per usual. Shawn and I both really love that place. Turns out, Mason loves it now, too, so that's extra wonderful.