Geography Beeutiful

I remember being in sixth grade and excited to compete in a geography tournament. For the first round, you needed to be able to label 48/50 states correctly. I got 48 (because I switched North and South Carolina. Seriously)

I am hazy on the next steps, but I believe it was to memorize all the capitals. I passed. Then it was a series of geography multiple-choice questions. I had no idea what most of them were asking. I felt embarrassed even to be taking the test. But I figured no kids could do that well on it, so even a bad score would be ok.

Now I know my son. He loves the geopolitical world so much that he plays historical grand strategy games like Europa IV. I am homeschooling him for his eighth-grade year and want to focus on making it as enjoyable as possible. So we study history and geography. It dawned on me that he would probably love to compete in the geography world.

No More Geography Bee

Before the pandemic, there was a National Geographic Bee. Once I discovered this no longer existed, I assumed nothing was available for him. I continued to dig and learn about the International Geography Bee and its feeder events provided by International Academic Competitions. I started to feel like Charlie from It’s Always Sunny.

There are different Geography Bees for different age ranges and two different tracks. For example, middle schoolers can compete in the National Championships in Elementary or Middle School, but they can also compete in the Junior Varsity National Championships. Based on these results, they can compete in the International Geography Championships but not in the International Geography Olympiad, which requires you to be at least 16.

One might assume that you pay some money and attend these competitions. But, there are online qualifiers before the regionals.

I knew Logan would love to test his geography knowledge.

There are three different sets of questions, and all you have to do is get a passing score on one of them. You only get 10 minutes to answer 50 questions. On the first and only test Logan took, he got 49 right in three minutes.

This competition was for him.

We did almost as well in history and did reasonably well in science. So as a result, Logan qualified for the regional finals. He then tried to take the high school level qualifiers for the same events but could only be eligible for Geography. So he could go to the high school nationals in Washington, DC. Before actually even going to the middle school regionals in Saint Louis.

He qualified for two different events at the Junior Varsity Nationals. The US Geography Bee and the International Geography Bee. You would think the differences would be as simple as one is about US geography, and one is about world geography.


The US competition is not just about human geography in the United States of America. It includes geology and earth science things like volcanoes and earthquakes. These are not things that excite my son. It is a series of written exams, not a buzzer-based competition like the regionals and the International Geography Bee.

High School Nationals

My son’s first competition was in a Marriott hotel in Virginia. He didn’t know what to expect, but he knew his geography. Most of his competitors were two years older than him. He struggled to identify rocks and volcanoes and was out-buzzed by more experienced players.

He finished 31st out of 43 in the US Geography Championship and 46th out of 63 in the International Geography Bee.

Middle School Nationals

When my Dad planned a big family trip to Disney World in June of 2022, he had no idea that the week he scheduled it for would make it so we would be in town for the National Academic Competitions, but it is a magical place.

On Friday, he took a Historical Geography Exam and finished 8th out of the 31 competitors. But, unfortunately, that was his best result. Since we were there, he decided to compete in all the buzzer-based events he could.

His results preliminary round results

  • 84th of 119 in the Natural History Bee
  • 26th of 32 in the US History Bee
  • 61st of 96 in the Science Bee
  • 21st of 30 in the Academic Bee
  • 13th of 114 in the International Geography Bee

The International Geography Bee Octo-Finals

His results in the Geography Bee gave us hope that he could make the finals, possibly as he was hanging with the young man who finished in fourth place. They took 72 people into the “Octo-Finals.” Twelve rooms of six competitors, the top three moving on to the next round. Scoring changed dramatically,d though. Instead of one point per correct answer, you could now get between three and six depending on when you answered the question: the earlier, the more points. However, you also lost a point if you gave an incorrect answer and two points if you gave a wrong answer while the question was still being read.

I told Logan to be conservative as he tends to be overconfident.

His score throughout the round:

-1 (-1) | -1 (-2) | -1 (-3) | +3 (0) | -1 (-1) | +3 (2) | -2 (0) | -2 (-2) | 4 (2)

If he had not gotten any questions wrong, he would have finished second. But, instead, he finished fifth. He was the second most knowledgeable in the room, but he struggled as the moderator was having a terrible time trying to pronounce words. He was also getting out buzzed by the other side of the table.

He was in shock, like a 3 seed being upset by a 14 seed in March Madness.

It happens, but you never want it to happen to your child. But, unfortunately, you don’t have words to explain that just because he knew more doesn’t mean he gets to move on.

Hopefully, he will have more enjoyable experiences in Vermont for the International Geography Championships this upcoming week.

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