My kids were asked this question a few times this past week when we had some snow on the ground, in the course of conversation about weather-related school closings. I always get a little laugh watching my kids when they are questioned like this. I see this desperate "huh?" look on their faces. They want to be polite and answer the question but they have no clue what the person is talking about. Of course we have snow days! It snows here, right? So a day with snow is... a snow day. But somehow they know that's not the answer the person is looking for. So they send their silent appeal to me.
Since I am already laughing a little I just shrug and say "sure we do. " This is not the answer the questioner is looking for either; usually, I'll see a bit of confusion and I know the person is about to ask some variation on "but you don't need to leave your house to have school!"
So depending on the level of interest I perceive, I launch into my explanation. Right, we don't need a bus to get us to school. We could start right into our work first thing after breakfast and hope the snow lasts till lunchtime. But why should we do that? Why shouldn't we enjoy the snow and do our work later? It's not like we have big snowdrifts all winter long. This isn't Michigan. The few inches we got last week is probably it for this year. It's a novelty and I want my kids to have the chance to enjoy it.
So, yes, my kids are outside, messing around, enjoying a snowy day when we get one. Then they come in, and we do our work. Of course if I was really good I could figure out how to call their snow play schooltime. For sure there's PE. I could assign them to build a snow fort of certain dimensions and call it math. Or I could just let them play and have fun. Because, you know, we can do our work in the afternoon, in the evening, on Saturday... We have the flexibility in our academic year that I can give them the day off if we want to, or do a half-day and make it up somewhere else. There's plenty of time in a year to get 180 days (required by state law) of educational activities in.
While some homeschoolers I know find questions like this annoying, I usually enjoy them. For the most part, people are either sincerely curious about it or are just making small talk. We get some sort of friendly(ish) question about half the time we are out and about during the school day. Most often it comes in the form of "no school today?" If we are in a big hurry, I just smile and nod and move on. But usually, one of the kids will say "we homeschool" and then the person takes it from there. Sometimes people just make a noncommital comment and that's the end of it. Some say they know someone else who homeschools. Others make jokes about my kids having a nice (or mean) teacher. Usually the conversation doesn't go very far. I wouldn't expect a lot of interest in the topic. But sometimes people want to know more.
Today at the library the person checking out our books asked, "no school today?" When told we homeschool, she was full of questions about it. It took a long time to get our books checked out, but the library was mostly empty and there was time to talk. She was very interested, but she tossed in the obligatory "I could never do it with my kids" at the end. I don't say "sure you could" but prefer to just say "it's probably not for everyone, but it works for us." I don't like to argue or try to "sell" people on it. Except about the snow days.