Hard work pays off for home-schooled boys

Posted: March 19, 2014

The Winchester Star

George Estep, 14, spells a word during the 37th annual Regional Spelling Bee Tuesday night. George’s brother Edwin, 11, sits and waits for his turn to spell.

WINCHESTER — George Estep and his younger brother, Edwin, spent one to two hours a day studying words in the runup to the 37th annual Regional Spelling Bee on Tuesday.

In the past month, they were spelling 400 to 600 words a day. In the past week, they had gone over, eight times, the 1,500 sample words that the Scripps National Bee had provided.

Their father, George, even gave them odd pronunciations of words, just to throw them off.

“We’ve been doing it a lot,” Edwin said, of studying.

After 61 rounds, 14-year-old George beat out Edwin, 11, to become the winner of the Bee.

He will now head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., from May 25-31.

“It feels very invigorating,” he said of being in the final two with his brother.

It’s a victory for the eighth-grader in more ways than one.

A few years ago, the home-schooled student started to experience depression and his academics began to slide. He couldn’t spell words like he used to, and he often had a hard time breathing.

About a year ago, doctors diagnosed him with Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that can affect a person’s brain and body. Since going on antibiotics, he has improved dramatically.

“It’s like we got our son back,” his father said.

George said it was the reason he wasn’t able to advance as far as he would have liked in last year’s competition, in which he placed third.

Samuel, who attended Tuesday’s competition, said he was proud of his brothers.

“They worked really hard to get here,” he said.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com