The paint has not even dried on the kitchen table from the seventh-grader's box camera experiment (materials: sharp objects, power tools, Band-Aids) before the fourth-grader's famous American reenactment project takes over the schedule.
The girl is a method actor, so we have been living with an 18th-century 10-year-old for the past two weeks. She pins us down at every opportunity to rehearse her portrayal of Benjamin Franklin.
"You can call me Ben if you want," she says.
In the enterprising yet thrifty spirit of her character, we apply ourselves industriously to the task of reproducing an authentic-looking costume using only what we can borrow or scavenge.
We make a kite from an old pillow case, a couple of dowel rods and an old-fashioned key. We dig out a pair of old baseball pants and a pair of silver-rimmed glasses. We borrow a purple velvet coat, brocade vest and a gold neck sash.
Then we decide we can not complete the look without spending $4.99 on silver hair spray and $29.95 on black shoes with silver buckles. A penny saved is a penny earned. Please, sir, do not lecture me. The science fair is next week.
He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. Spoken like a man whose responsibilities leave time for kite flying. What, pray tell, were Mrs. Franklin's hobbies?
I go early to bed and stay up late reading Walter Isaacson's Franklin biography, in which I learn that Mr. Franklin was not above "flaunting" himself in a "genteel new suit." So there.
Besides, shoes make the outfit and she nails the performance, regaling Mrs. T's fourth-grade class with such tidbits as, "I wrote Poor Richard's Almanack - for people who needed help with knowing stuff." I never said anything like 'shoes make the outfit...'
Whatever. Anyway, true to character, our fourth-grade Franklin demonstrates a knack for thinking on her feet. Shortly after the portly colonial printer and Hannah Montana fan describes her famous lightning experiment, she finds herself briefly stumped by a 10-year-old John F. Kennedy.
"Isn't it true," asks the former senator from Massachusetts, "that the next man who tried that experiment died?"
There is a long pause while Ben considers the question. I watch from the back of the classroom. That is worth looking up, I think. I have no idea whether this is true. And neither does Benjamin the fourth-grader.
But this is the kind of moment where method acting and $30 shoes can really pay off.
Benjamin Fourth-grader peers over the top of her spectacles and glares at JFK with the confidence of a self-made man.
"That," she says pointedly, "was a very, very long time ago."
Well done is better than well said.