I mentioned recently that the last week in May was "officially" our last week of school, and that what "school" means for us is that there is some required work to do and work that "counts". For instance, during one of our "work" periods (from 2-4 PM, say), you can't read a Warriors book but you can read The Secret Garden or Beowulf or The Fellowship of the Ring or Critter Chronicles. You can decide that you want to write a book telling people how to watch and feed backyard birds or a poem that you illustrate with oil pastels, or you can sew a few pillows or work on crocheting a scarf, or you could build a stone wall, or you could use One Year Adventure Novel to work on the fantasy novel you're writing, or you could listen to a Redwall book on audio, or you could try to draw a Celtic-style whale, or maybe learn the Greek alphabet. But you can't watch TV or play video games or go outside and swing a stick at dandelions for forty-five minutes. And you'll have to do math and Latin. And grammar (not every day). And maybe spelling. And possibly you'll have to write something on a topic of your mother's choosing, if she thinks you haven't been writing enough. And if you spend a lot of time not finishing books or projects, she will probably also have a talk with you. Because she has a book list. It's sort of informal and it changes over the year, but it's a goal in her mind, see. It's often based on the interests you listed for her at the beginning of the year, and sometimes it's even enshrined in writing. And if it's enshrined in writing -- meaning that she spent time actually writing something down for you to follow -- she expects you to follow it... I mean, well, maybe not to the letter, but couldn't you use it as a guide like other homeschoolers seem to do? What about all these lesson plans? Wouldn't it be easier if we were all more organized?
And then... school's out. 180 days have been logged as "school" days for the state, some of them more structured than others. Your mother is in a tizzy to accomplish 4000 things in 15 days before she gives birth to another little brother for the family, but since she is also quite hugely pregnant at this point, she also must sit around in a lawn chair quite a bit. All this busyness and sitting on her part (not to mention a persistent stomach virus making its way through the ranks) means that you really are left to your own devices much of the time, when you don't have chores.
So what do you do? Do you swing a stick at dandelions for hours or whine about not being able to play video games all afternoon because you're bored?
No. This is what you do.
You set up a paleontological dig in your garden. You even make grids for it. Then you cart your finds back to the house and break them open with a rock hammer.
Your brother finds a geode in this way, a real honest to goodness geode that wasn't even part of a kit. And you find a perfect snail shell... which happens to be solid rock, hundreds of millions of years old. You want to identify it so you come in and look through the Ward's Geology catalog to see if they have any samples that match. (The Ward's catalog is becoming tattered from use, because almost everyone is using it to see if there are any interesting fossils cheap enough to buy with kid money.) When they don't, you go to your mom, and she finds a very useful key online, and you discover that it really is a fossil snail.
And in the afternoon, maybe you and a sibling make dinosaur models out of newspaper and masking tape, then paint them with tempera.
You practice your violin for a recital...
... where you are introduced by your music teacher in terms of your expertise as a birdwatcher, when everyone else is introduced by way of how many lessons they are taking and how they are doing in school. Playing in public gets you excited about music again, so you actually practice more after your recital than before, and you even write a song, which your music teacher plays and compliments.
And your mother, who keeps an eye on what you're doing no matter how busy she is, thinks, hmmmm.