Open Thread

June 13, 2011 @ 7:31 pm | Filed under:

Been a while since I’ve opened the floor…

Got any questions? Stuff you’d like to talk about? Books you want to share?

all ears

I’m all ears.

Photo credit: Chief Trent.

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25 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Christie says:

    I think you recommended the short TV series Firefly, didn’t you? If so, thanks. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve got one episode left that I’m kind of hanging onto because I don’t want it to be over.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your writing projects.

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    Christie, yes, Firefly is possibly my favorite show of all time.

    And that episode is a really good one. πŸ™‚

    I should have more book news here soon. Waiting for the green light to gab about it!

  3. Melissa says:

    Yes please!

    What was the new Penderwicks book like ?

    And I’d love to read a post with some more of your thoughts on The Children’s Book.

  4. Ellisa Barr says:

    Thanks for your post a few years ago about sunscreen. At the time I didn’t realize there were so many considerations when choosing sun protection. I would love to hear if you’ve found anything you’d recommend.

    And on a related note: I’ll recommend a book called Freckles, by Gene Stratton-Porter. I’m not sure if you ever ended up reading Girl of the Limberlost, but I think they’re both wonderful.

    Thanks for all of the Rilla book suggestions. My kids love them!

  5. monica says:

    how is wonderboy doing with his speech therapy etc? if you want to share. . .

  6. MFS says:

    Did you read Alison Arngrim’s Confessions of a Prairie B”? What a riot! (Language alert for more sensitive readers.) Her voice is clear and descriptive.

    Also, why do I keep thinking of you and your husband while my husband and I are watching “Battlestar Galactica”? Should I search your archives? Were you folks fans of the SyFy series?

    Tuesday is Soylent Green Day, Melissa. Have a good one. (*wink*)


  7. Jenni says:

    I love your discussions of Lark Rise and other BBC shows. I’d also like to see a discussion on the Penderwicks. I just finished the third book and am dying to see what others think.

  8. Tracey says:

    I’d love to hear more details on how you run your Shakespeare club. I’d love to do something similar so any help you have would be so helpful: what works, what doesn’t work so much, how many kids, time frame, what a meeting might look like, what the span of the club might look like, your role, etc.

  9. sashwee says:

    I’m so glad you asked. I’ve been wanting to ask you some things, and been wondering if I should email or what…
    1. Do you have chapter book recommendations for a 4yo girl who is very verbal, and has a good attention span for listening, (similar to your Rilla?) but still only 4 (well almost 5) and not ready for the full brunt of…life?…fiction?.
    2. How is the homeschooling going? What are the different children doing? Is the tide up or down nowdays?
    3. How do you manage to provide for the big onces when you have little ones to attend to? How do you get focused time with the bigs?
    4. How do you handle naps and sleeping? (I’m asking in relation to question three.)
    5. What are your views on electronic media?
    6. More broadly, how do you balance the whole question of being in the world and at the same time protecting children from unhealthy influences? You seem to be open to many types of inputs, and yet I believe that you must also have a high moral standard that you are teaching your children. So how do you chose what to expose them to and how to talk about it all etc.
    7. Can you recommend good classical literature for the aforementioned 4yo? I feel that the issue in question 6 makes it difficult to find things that don’t have too muchviolence, romance etc. Maybe poetry? I feel I hardly have time to read to her properly with the baby, let alone go hunting and vetting.
    8. I find you and your life very inspiring and I’m so glad that you chose to share both on this blog. Thank you. (That’s not a question.)
    9. Can I reserve the right to ask more questions later, when I think of them?
    Best regards,

  10. Tabatha says:

    I’d like to hear about Shakespeare Club, too. And also, what age would you say is right for Firefly?

  11. Nina says:

    Well sashwee asked a fine batch of questions. I would love a kernel of advice that would help me make the leap. Too afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle being with my darlings all day long.

    Thank you so much for the Downton Abbey recommendation. I’ve only watched three episodes as I’m savoring each one and pacing myself.

    Also, I’m reading The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Again, thank you.

  12. Kathryn says:

    A Rilla book to share :). Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. One of the nicest new(ish) picture books I’ve seen in a while. Lots of good and detailed reviews on Amazon.

  13. Melissa Wiley says:

    Gosh, I’m loving this thread! I think I should tackle some of these questions in separate posts—the Shakespeare Club one especially (maybe next week after our performance on Saturday) and Sashwee’s list.

    @Melissa: believe it or not I haven’t finished the new Penderwicks yet! Mainly because Shakespeare Club is dominating life this week. After Saturday, things should mellow out around here.

    As for The Children’s Book, I find I am still thinking about it a lot, all these months later. I want to reread it. Now that I’m braced for the grimness, I’m kind of hungering to savor all that incredibly rich atmosphere and detail. Sometimes I picture the potter’s house and it’s more like remembering a place I’ve been than a place I read about.

    Did you read it? What did you think?

    Edited to add a link to my brief and rather shellshocked comment written too soon after finishing the book, and below it is Melanie’s more articulate response.


    Ellisa, re sunscreen. For myself I’ve been happy with Philosophy’s Hope Is Not Enough, which, while more expensive than I’d like, doesn’t smell at all like sunscreen. And I found that for me, that was a clincher. I strongly dislike that distinctive sunscreen smell.

    For the kids, I went with California Baby, and then ran out and defaulted to that well-known but poorly rated brand, Old Stuff We Had in the Cabinet. (Slogan: Now with extra crusty bits around the rim!β„’)

    In related news, I really need to go shopping.

    I am chagrined to admit I still haven’t read Limberlost—nor Freckles! I know so many people (of literary tastes similar to mine) who cherish those books. I have Limberlost on my Kindle! What I need (is this too much to ask?) is a week in which to do nothing but read.


    Monica, WB’s speech therapy is going well, although progress has been slow. He attends sessions twice weekly at the speech and language department of our local state university, and he gets half an hour of speech per week at school. (If you recall, we enrolled him in a really wonderful special ed K/1 class in March. He is home now for the summer and is looking forward to going back in August. It’s a small classroom—ten kids, 3 teachers/aides—and he is getting speech, OT, adaptive PE, and audiology services there. I don’t know that we’ll continue much beyond 2nd or 3rd grade, but for now the program is a perfect fit for him. It’s strange for me, you know, because it is basically a day full of busywork—not at all my cup of tea, and not at all the way his siblings love to learn and live. But he is a very different kind of kid, and I’m all about giving each child what suits their needs best.) πŸ™‚ Anyway—since getting new hearing aids in March, he has made tremendous strides in consonant production. He still does not have all the consonants, and he can be hard for strangers to understand. But we’re seeing big progress. He can say FARM now (for example), crystal clear, and that is a really really big deal. We spent YEARS working on that F!

    This comment is quite long so I’ll post it and answer more questions in the next. πŸ™‚

  14. Melissa Wiley says:

    MFS: I did indeed read the Alison Arngrim memoir and enjoyed it immensely. She is one funny writer. I would love to hear her perform her one-woman show, which I believe includes many of the same stories she shares in her book.

    Here’s a brief note I wrote about the book last June:

    Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson & Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim. Alison had, it turns out, quite a difficult childhood (understatement), but playing one of America’s most loathed TV villains gave her a curious kind of strength. She writes with great humor and warmth, dishing up affection and snark in equal parts. The Little House fangirl that I am really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek at the TV show that played such a huge part in my childhood. Colorful language (ahem), colorful anecdotes, and some quite touching sketches of cast and crew members, such as the makeup artist who had worked with Marilyn Monroe and still carried an engraved money clip she gave him in appreciation of his talents.

    (I would LOVE to go on the Little House [show] reunion cruise in November, with Alison and a number of other cast members, including Charlotte Taylor who played Miss Beadle. Neither Melissa Gilbert nor Melissa Sue Anderson is attending, and *someone* needs to represent the Melissas of the world, don’t you think?] πŸ˜‰

    As for Battlestar Galactica, Scott and I are HUGE fans. The Syfy reboot, I mean. (I loved the original as a child.) I thought BG was some of the most probing writing on television–or anywhere–about themes pertaining to the Iraq War, terrorism, and xenophobia (without being at all heavy-handed). I miss it. We’ve been talking about beginning all over again, with Jane’s company, this time.

    I don’t seem to have written about the show here at all, however! Huh.


    Tabatha, re Firefly: I’m not very good at recommending ages because people’s lines are drawn in such different places. It’s a pretty adult show—lots of sexual humor and situations. One of the main characters is a [licensed] prostitute. And of course a lot of violence. Jane watched it at age 15.

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    I just want to say it makes me really happy to hear that people have enjoyed books I’ve written about here. And I LOVE it when you recommend books for us to try. Kathryn, I’ll be hunting the Kevin Hawkes book posthaste.

    Nina, your question is another good topic for a longer post.

    Thanks, all of you, for your kind words, and for letting me know what you’d enjoy hearing more about!

  16. coffeemamma says:

    Finished Miss Buncle’s Book, and loved, loved, loved it! Hubby did too, and he’s pickier than I am.

    I’ve ordered the sequel to tuck away for summer reading- if I can wait that long;)

    I would also love to hear more about how schooling is going and maybe even a bit about what you’re using lately (yes, it’s planning time here).

  17. Tabatha says:

    Thank you for humoring me πŸ™‚ I know that’s an impossible question, but it’s good to know when Jane saw it. Thanks for the recommendation of Downton Abbey. We’re enjoying it.

  18. Ruth in NC says:

    A perfect opportunity for me to recommend the streaming Netflix Downton Abbey which is the British version. I watched it on PBS originally but last week I shared it with my 19yo daughter who just returned from a year in Israel. I much prefer the BBC editing. It makes so much more sense. And it’s even more delightful the second time around.

  19. Sara says:

    I’m a couple days late with my question, but since I just picked up the 3rd Joy Hakim book from the library, I have to ask. I was expected slightly smaller, summer-reading type books here, but they look incredible. So my question is a bit of a 2-parter:

    How does Science eduction work in your unschooly home? (Would that change if you knew you were sending your kids to high school?)
    And how would/do you incorporate these books? I’m really tempted to buy them and just read them, one chapter a day until we’re finished. But that might get old.

  20. Melissa Wiley says:

    Sara, in our high tide times, we have pretty much always had a history book of some kind serving as a spine to our mornings—I’ll read aloud, and all the kids (even the big ones) will listen, and the topics we’re reading about spark ideas for other reading, games, and projects. Usually I’ll have a semi-related novel (often historical fiction but not always) going as a read-aloud with the middle crop—as when I read STRICTEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD while we were reading about Victorian England.

    Right now I’m reading THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE to Rose and Bean, which pairs beautifully with the Hakim books.

    We always seem to shift to low tide in the spring—who can stay indoors?—and then (often) back to hide tide in summer. When the Hakim science books arrived last week, that was the catalyst for our seasonal shift, and I’m reading 2-3 chapters aloud a week. We’ll take side trips as inspired/directed by the Hakim books. For example, chapter 2 discusses creation myths, so we’re lingering there a bit and reading creation stories from various cultures. And Chapter 3 talks about lunar calendars, so we’re starting a moon chart and I have some good complementary picture books/poetry/etc in mind to strew or share. Adding picture books is a good way for us to include the younger kids.

    (And these high-tide times are why we are unschoolISH, but not full-blown unschoolERS. This seasonal rhythm works really well for us, always has.)

    As for science in general, we are very much a CM-ish science-through-nature bunch in the younger years. Plus occasional fun kits like Wild Goose. Jane (just turned 16) has a real passion for science and has taken some excellent lab science classes with a local teacher who offers small-group labs to homeschoolers. She took his Physical Science lab last year, and this year she was torn between Bio and Chem. She couldn’t decide, so she wound up taking both. πŸ™‚ The classes are lab experiments only. She reads a lot of science nonfiction on her own. Most of what Hakim is talking about in the Story of Science books is already familiar to Jane, but she’s listening in for fun, and that’s great for the rest of us because she chimes in with lots of interesting tidbits.

    Edited to add: I can see it taking us three years or more to read all three Hakim books. I love its history-of-science approach; I think it will be a wonderful spine or springboard for us in these next few years in the same way that Landmark History of the American People has been in years past.

  21. stephanie says:

    I would love some suggestions for my 2nd grader – we are going to be covering Ancient Civilizations (Greeks, Romans, China) this coming school year and I’m wondering what read-alouds or chapter books you would suggest to her. She is an advanced reader so I’m looking for both books that would challenge her plus ones I could read to her with younger siblings. I’ve never tackled Greek myths before and need some age appropriate guidance! : )

  22. Fraser says:

    Hi Melissa,

    I am also always delighted with your book recs., but am wondering what you do – if anything – differently for your boys?

    Thank you!

  23. Melissa Wiley says:

    @Fraser, well, my boys haven’t yet reached the chapter book read-aloud stage yet, so it’ll very much be a figure-out-what-works-as-we-go process, just as it has been with the girls. I do think many of the books in my 4yo list from the other day have boy appeal too (to generalize broadly since book appeal is such an individual thing…what appeals to one boy or girl may not appeal to another).

    My 7yo is a special needs kid with an atypical pattern of development…he reads quite well, almost eerily so, but his comprehension of story events and abstract concepts is much more like a younger child’s. He loves the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems—those are really the perfect level of ‘story’ for him at this point. Caps for Sale, Daisy Thinks She Is a Baby, Mother Goose are all favorites of his. But even, say, Miss Rumphius is too complex a story & too much language to hold his interest.

    As for the 2yo, if the book has wheels or steam engines in it, you have him at hello. πŸ™‚

  24. Melissa Wiley says:

    @Stephanie, here are some Greek favorites of ours—

    D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths is the main one, the book that has enchanted every single one of my girls from age four on. (See above comment for more about my boys.)

    Mary Pope Osborne has a lovely Greek myths collection as well.

    A bit older, and my kids go nuts for Percy Jackson.

    Jim Weiss has several Greek myth cds—they + D’Aulaire are what sparked my Rose’s interest in Ancient Greece at age five, a passion that endures to this day. (Though lately she’s more into Egyptian mythology.)

    Odds Bodkins has an Iliad storytelling CD—we checked it out once years ago after hearing many rave reviews, but I think I jumped the gun; the graphic snakes-eating-the-daughters-of-LaocoΓΆn part in the beginning terrified my tiny girls. I’m sure they would listen with relish these days, bloodthirsty lasses that they are. πŸ˜‰

    Oh, another big hit has been Famous Men of Greece by John Haaren (you can read it for free at That one focuses more on historical figures (some legendary) than gods & goddesses.

    Also, the Ancient Greece chapters of A CHILD’S HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

    This is turning long—I should bump it to a post, probably. There’s more stuff: a BBC website I linked to a long time ago; will hunt up the link after I publish this comment.

    (And rereading your comment, I see you’re interested in Romans as well—DETECTIVES IN TOGAS is the first thing I always think of, a real favorite of my kids; its sequel also; and big chunks of Foster’s AUGUSTUS CAESAR’S WORLD, but we never made it through the whole thing; and I know there are more we’ve enjoyed, so hang on for a continuation of that thread too.)