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The Blessing of Wendy Mogel

A few months ago I began a mommy-ed reading list suggested by Dr. Chris McCurry of Seattle that was designed to help educate parents about raising resilient children. My favorite books on the list were The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus by Wendy Mogel, and I made my regular Teaching My Baby to Read readers a promise that I would be blogging several posts about them soon.

Flash forward almost two months later, and the original posts I had written about Wendy Mogel have mysteriously disappeared. On my desktop? On my hard drive? On a scrap of spiral notebook paper somewhere? I have no idea, although the hardcopy theory is likely. There are future “I Brake for Mom” column ideas all over our house and it’s driving my husband nuts. There are bound to be some blog ideas floating around too.

Okay, so neither book is as fresh in my head as I would have preferred. But in some ways, that will make this review even better because you’ll be able to see the essential things I have learned from Wendy Mogel that have stuck with me.

Both books are written from a Jewish perspective, primarily for a Jewish audience. As a United Methodist, I found this refreshing. Dr. Mogel also seemed to be writing for an extremely affluent audience; the type of people who can afford $30,000 a year for private school and still afford to send their teenager on a humanitarian trip to Africa. I am clearly not in that socio-economic circumstance but am familiar with those types of neighborhoods through my own personal life experience.

Even if you were not interested in learning any new parenting tips at all, it would be really interesting to read The Blessing of a B Minus just to hear Dr. Mogel describe how wealthy, educated parents try to “game the system” and coach their teenagers into elite colleges. Can anyone say “Modern Day Castrati?” Since I somehow managed to go to Stanford through my own determination, with my public university educated parents not knowing any of those tricks, it was fascinating to hear about the advantages some of my wealthier classmates might have had. I never had a tutor nor did it ever occur to my parents to start grooming my extracurriculars for future glory starting at age 6.

It’s really thought provoking to think about all of those high-achieving parents spending oodles and oodles of money on their children’s private school educations and extracurricular in the hopes of them going to elite universities, and then sending their kids off to college without knowing how to do laundry. This explains half of my freshman dorm, and I’m not even joking.

I don’t think you could “make” your kid get into Stanford anyways, unless you were an extremely famous politician. My husband and I have talked about this extensively. By around 8th or 9th grade (at the latest), a teenager has to decide for himself that he really wants it. When I was in high school I remember having enough time to watch The Nanny each week with my mom and little sister, and that was it. Those thirty minutes of recreation were my big treat to myself because the rest of the time I was studying or running various school clubs. Parents can’t “make” a kid have that type of drive.

My husband and I can’t “make” our kids get into our alma mater, and that’s okay. If they really want to go to a school like Stanford then they will have to put in the effort to get there on their own. If they don’t want to work hard enough for that, then Stanford isn’t the right place for them. I’m saying “Stanford”, but you could fill in the blank there for any competitive college of your choice.

Dr. Mogel’s book for parenting younger children, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, spoke a lot more about her own personal recommitment to Judaism, and what drove that decision. Again, I found that really interesting. I’ve read the Christian Bible cover to cover at least half a dozen times, but I have never read the Talmud. I had a basic knowledge of how Talmudic teaching effects women and children that I had previously gleaned from reading Maggie Anton’s fictional series Rashi’s Daughters, but that was it! I was especially inspired by how Dr. Mogel talked about the dinner table as the altar of a family, and weekly Shabbat meals as a religious experience.

Okay all you Wendy Mogel readers out there… I think the comments on my blog are working again. What are your thoughts about either book? I’m dying to hear!


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