In Max Butler's first weeks at school, he will help set up a computer system.

Max, 12, will also join other students of various ages in a writers' workshop. He will take classes called understanding math and algebra, studies in science and problem-solving.

And that's only the first month.

An advisor with the new Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School helped Max design this schedule recently. In coming weeks, they will decide what comes next.

"It's pretty exciting," said Max, of Gay Head. "For the first time ever, I can't really wait to go back to school."

On Sept. 16, Max and 73 other students start their fall classes. But life at the new charter school will be different from what they're used to.

At this school, recently built in West Tisbury, each student will meet with an advisor daily. Some classes will last one hour, some will last two hours -- but schedules are flexible. As students prepare for school, they are choosing between courses that allow them to study math, repair furniture for classroom use and write the rules for the new school. Because it is a "project month," students will be allowed to devote the whole month to one thing, if they want, such as writing a book or becoming proficient in a foreign language. Lunches will be vegetarian.

As the first day of school nears, students and their parents are eager to get started.

"We're excited. We really are," said parent Jennifer McCurdy of Tisbury. "I think it's going to be a great adventure in learning for all of us."

The school is one of about 15 charter schools in Massachusetts, each of them designed by an individual community and chartered by Governor Weld.

Vineyard parents began planning their school several years ago. They were awarded a charter in 1995, and this September marks the realization of their vision: a school where learning takes place both in the classroom and in the community, and where children learn by completing projects, not worksheets. Students at the charter school will help design their own curriculum, and there won't be any grades.

School will take place at a nearly complete building on State Road near the upper entrance to Indian Hill Road in West Tisbury. The post-and-beam structure houses the school meeting room, the office and bathrooms. The building will be connected to portable structures, which will house four classrooms. The school sits in the middle of a thickly wooded area.

Jean Lythcott, one of six teachers, said things are going well.

"There is an amazing burst of activity in almost every arena you can imagine," she said. "The building projects are coming along. The teachers have launched themselves into the initial conversations with kids and parents. For some of them, these conversations have resulted in a schedule for the month that everyone's happy with."

Parents have also been busy. Many parents have joined committees to help prepare the new school. One committee, for example, is studying the possibility of a new playground. Another group is working on a monthly newsletter.

Parent Christina Napolitan is in charge of the lunch task force.

"We're seeking an alternative program," she said. "We feel that for ecological reasons and nutritional reasons there is no need to offer children anything more than a vegetarian meal. Basically, we're looking for a whole food alternative lunch program that involves our children,"

The lunch program will probably not be ready for the first day of school, so students will bring their lunches. But members of the lunch task force hope eventually to find a kitchen that can be leased, in a church or another nearby building. After that happens, students may help prepare lunch. Parents may be asked to volunteer. Mrs. Napolitan hopes that lunch will become a fun part of the day.

Mrs. Napolitan is also looking forward to her daughter's educational experiences at the charter school.

She likes it that students will meet daily with their advisors, so "every child will feel that their input is wanted in the school." She also likes it that children will work on projects.

"I think it is a great opportunity for students who maybe are not living up to their full potential in the school system," she said. "Not that it isn't adequate. It's just that some students do not learn as well.

"My family is a perfect example. I have two children. I have one that is doing beautifully in the schools and one that needs an alternative. When I heard about the charter school, I immediately became interested."

One of the philosophies of the charter school is that students should be allowed to follow their passions.

For Corinna McCurdy, 12, that means continuing her study of the Civil War. Corinna's mother, Jennifer, hopes that her daughter will be able to write a play about the Civil War.

Mrs. McCurdy's son, Matt, 10, a sailing enthusiast, will also attend the school. The children decided for themselves that they would give it a try, and their mother agreed that it was a good idea.

For Mrs. McCurdy, some of the high points are that children will work with other students of various ages, and that they will work on projects in the community.

"It seems more like life, real life, if you will," Mrs. McCurdy said. "By placing children in the community more, they become more fluent in dealing with different kinds of people.

"It's interesting, because we've enjoyed the children's school. They've had good experiences at the Tisbury School. There was nothing negative involved in choosing the charter school. We're just coming to a positive, something we thought was a real positive adventure."