Isaac Van Loh, 16, says his team’s victory on a Michigan quiz show helped to vindicate homeschooling and prove its rigor.
The Lansing Homeschool Chargers post the first win by a homeschool team in the 26-year history of "QuizBusters," a show on PBS affiliate WKAR in Lansing.
The Lansing Homeschool Chargers’ late-April win was the first time in the 26-year history of “QuizBusters,” a show on Michigan PBS affiliate WKAR that a homeschool team garnered the championship.
“It shows that we’re not just sitting at home or going on field trips to the amusement park,” Isaac told the Lansing State Journal. “We’re actually learning stuff.”
The Chargers faced formidable opponents in the returning champion Okemos Chieftains, who had consistently dominated the 60-school tournament.
Both teams faced a gauntlet of questions ranging from particle physics and Scottish literature to botany and African geopolitics – a range of inquiry likely to panic most adults. Yet kids on both teams remained calm and collected, routinely buzzing in answers before host Matt Ottinger could even squeeze out the first few words of the question.
Chargers captain Lily Van Loh (Isaac’s older sister), 18, scooped up the first two answers. From there, the Chargers never looked back until the ending bell declared them the winners 390–310. Lily, though exhibiting focus and ease throughout the intense competition, said it had not always been quite so. Her first quiz competition during her freshman year also was on TV. She buzzed in without having any idea what the answer to her question was. Years of practice and hard work honed her skills and those of her teammates.
“We learned to play really good quiz bowl through trying and losing a lot of games,” teammate Derek Edwards told the Lansing newspaper.
The Chargers’ other secret was not to make quiz prep an obsession. Van Loh family dinners were not organized into complicated interrogations, nor were the teens subjected to midnight wakeups to probe their mastery of minutiae.
And, while many schools devote extra study and resources to quiz bowl preparation – strategically assigning spheres of knowledge to team players – the Chargers let their capabilities overflow from general study. Of course, playing quiz bowl made them quickly apply what they learned, resulting in what Lily termed a “beautiful cycle” of motivation. Quiz bowl “made my life a hundred times easier,” agreed Naomi Van Loh, Lily and Isaac’s mother.
Lily also credited the Christian faith of team members with keeping them grounded. QuizBusters creates an environment where kids can become “cocky and insufferable,” she explained, as adults heap compliments on them. The Chargers stood out by carrying themselves with humility, she said, while admitting that there were occasional struggles.
Lily laughed recalling whenever they entered a match exuding great confidence, they invariably suffered a sound beating. “That’s not just embarrassing on a physical level,” she said. “There are lessons to be learned on a spiritual level, too, that I won’t forget.”
Lily was excited at how her experience will help toward her goal of becoming a teacher since she now knows “how to get a kid to love to learn.” She acknowledged the hardest part of getting kids involved is their fear of being wrong. “You can’t let it crush you,” she said, “but you have to pick up and buck up and move forward.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Koch writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C.)