Student heading to Scripps National Spelling Bee spends 5 hours a day studying

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website

Spelling Bee

Colin Francis, of Warren Hunterdon Christian Hom, wins the regional spelling bee finals, a qualifier for the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday at Northampton Community College’s Lipkin Theatre. Express-Times Photo | STEPHEN FLOOD


Some days you can find Colin Francis playing a musical instrument, whether it’s the piano, drums or the guitar. But not this week.

Francis, an eighth-grader from Warren Hunterdon Christian Home School, traded in his instruments to be alongside 280 international spellers at the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The spelling tournament begins Tuesday and ends Thursday.

After competing in his local spelling bee the past two years, Francis, of Milford, won the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in March at Northampton Community College. He became the first home-schooled student to win the regional championship sponsored by The Express-Times and

The 13-year-old said he wasn’t really surprised.

“I studied a lot, five hours a day,” Francis said.

Francis has been home-schooled since age 11 by his mother, Carolyn Francis. She said he follows a curriculum of math, English, science, fine arts and other subjects.

In preparation for the national bee, Colin said he has practiced using Word Club, a program Scripps provides to its spellers. It contains more than 120 spelling and vocabulary tests, covering more than 1,600 words.

Francis said he has a strategy.

“I go over them a couple times before I spell them,” he said. “Different languages, (I) go over more. I ask for the definition and I spell them based on the roots.”

Now only hours from the national stage, Francis said he is just a little bit excited.

“I am nervous about being on TV,” he said.

The National Spelling Bee preliminary round airs 1:15 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN3, followed by the semifinals Thursday. The finals start 8 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.