By Christine Knapp
When Mary Ellen Stewart decided to homeschool her 11-year old son, Tyler, she looked to a group of area homeschool moms to help her learn the ropes: “I also knew Ty would want to meet other homeschool kids his age, so it seemed like a no-brainer to join a group as soon as we started this journey.”
But when Stewart came to her first get-together with the group, she noticed something unusual. “It seems like every single kid in this group is gifted, but I think I read somewhere that only like 5% of kids actually are. Isn’t that weird?”
Bitsy Falstaff runs the local group, Eclectic Homeschoolers Learning Through Play. When asked if her group has an unusually high percentage of gifted children, she laughed, “I don’t know. I’m not really one for labels. These kids are bright, for sure, but we don’t focus on that kind of stuff. But for the sake of clarity, my Aspyn is considered profoundly gifted. That’s a thing, you know? It’s even more than gifted. It’s like gifted on steroids.”
“My boys, Odin and Thor, wouldn’t know what the term gifted even means. That’s how much we don’t focus on it,” shared Ann Tremont, a member of the group for the past three years. “Technically, Thor’s IQ is immeasurable. He was basically asked to leave public school because his teacher was threatened by his intelligence, but he’s really just a normal kid.”
She added in a low whisper, “Don’t let Bitsy tell you Aspyn is profoundly gifted. She’s not. She’s only regular gifted, if that.” She continued, “My friend Judy has a friend that knows the receptionist at the place where Aspyn was tested. Let me tell you, that kid is totally not gifted.”
A few minutes later, while standing under the branches of a sprawling oak, Mary Ellen attempted small talk with another mother from the group. “Tyler is smart. He’s two grade levels ahead in reading,” offering a weak smile.
“Two! That’s great. You must be proud.” The mother, who declined to be named for this article, took her daughter by the hand and quickly walked away.
There was an awkward silence. Then, Bitsy Falstaff inserted, “That’s really, really good, Cary Evan! Trevor seems nice.”
“It’s Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen. And Tyler,” she sighed.
Nearly two million students are homeschooled in the United States. Reasons for homeschooling vary from concerns about bullying in schools to a desire for religious instruction, but the parents in Eclectic Homeschoolers Learning Through Play seem to agree that flexibility and ease in how their children learn is top on their list.
“Come on, Aspyn! We have to go! It’s time for your balalaika lesson!” Bitsy bellowed across the playground.
Then, turning to Mary Ellen, she said, “A balalaika is like a Russian lute.”
“Tyler was thinking about playing guitar,” Mary Ellen shrugged.
Aspyn scampered up to her mom, her blonde locks flowing behind her. “I don’t want to go. We’ve only been here for five minutes.”
“We’ve been here for 14 minutes. You know that’s our allotted time for unstructured play. Now, hurry up. We’ll be late. And don’t forget, we have your Tibetan throat singing lesson after balalaika.”
“I hate you!” Aspyn ran towards the parking lot.
“Kids! Am I right?” Bitsy scoffed as she followed Aspyn to the parking lot.
Soon, Mary Ellen found herself alone, watching Tyler kick a pile of dirt next to the swings. “I just wanted Tyler to make friends that he could hang out with, but these kids have tighter schedules than the President.” Eventually, Tyler ran up to his mom to tell her he was bored and ask if they could go home.
“Alright. Come on, kid. Maybe we can get ice cream on the way home.” Mary Ellen playfully patted the top of Tyler’s head.
Tyler’s blue eyes lit up. “Yeah!”
“Ty, can I ask you a question?”
“Do you know what a balalaika is?”
About the Author
Christine is a writer residing in Charlotte, NC with her husband and 13 year old son. She has been documenting her experience living with a rare sarcoma on her personal blog, I’m Sick and So Are You, since 2016.