In Memoriam: Benedict and Nancy Freedman

Ben Freedman, my friend, inspiration and the co-author (with his wife Nancy) of my favorite book as a girl—Mrs. Mike-died on February 24 at the age of 92. I found out earlier this week when the New York Times obituary page called me for a quote. Here is a picture of my original copy of Mrs. Mike, which I still have, held together by scotch tape and rubber bands.

Ben and Nancy (who died in 2010) led rich, full lives—I loved going to their apartment to listen to stories of their adventures, schemes and foibles. Even in failing healthy, they were exuberant and intellectually engaged, full of plans for the future, still writing every single day.

In honor of their lives, and to mark their loss, here is a link to Ben’s obituary.

And here is a link to a piece I wrote for Oprah Magazine about what they meant to me . I’m so grateful I had opportunity to write it—and even more grateful that I could do it while they were still around to read it.

Nancy and Ben were iconoclasts, free-thinkers, the ultimate champions of the  "fight fun with fun" mentality.  Nancy used to reminded me, “You have to celebrate bad news. Good news, you're happy anyway, but bad news--you've got to have a great dinner and kick up your heels.”

May we all, like then, remember to kick up our heels.



Please Judge this Book By Its Cover!

Just got a copy of the Cinderella Ate My Daughter paperback, hot off the Harper Press. Looks so eye-catching--and they kept the sparkles!  

I'll write more about real stuff soon (busy time) but just wanted to post this. I'm such a proud Mama.....

Oh, and it's in stores Jan 31. If you live in one of the cities I'm visiting, please come say hi!

It's Not JUST about Sexualization

Today's New York Times has an article about Kumon academic "enrichment" programs for preschoolers. At best, the article concludes, they are useless. At worst, they undermine kids' love of learning. I wrote a piece about this trend--accelerated academics among preschoolers and kindergartners--in the New York Times Magazine in 2009. It was called Kindergarten Cram. I am adamantly against accelerated kindergarten and preschool--and research backs me up. Sometimes I don't know whether I'm liberal, conservative or just radical on these issues, but my core philosophy is that kids should be allowed to be KIDS as long as possible and that we need to push back against everything in this culture that imposes traits that are beyond their years--whether it's sexualization, mind-numbing computer games, massively licensed products that co-opt their imagination, flash card drills or daily homework. They only have a few years in which they can simply play. The internally-driven creativity, fantasy play, imagination of small children is a precious resource and should be cultivated for its own sake, not to create some super-kid who is smarter/faster/earns more money. It's about "enriching" their HUMANITY not their elementary school grades.

Play, draw, read, go for walks, stare at ants, climb, jump, pretend....Repeat (for as long as possible).

I especially love Alliance for Childhood on these issues.

Also Alfie Kohn, a voice of reason in education. And Howard Gardner at Project Zero

All About My Scandalous Grandma

My Grandma Betty is one of my heroes. I loved her so. She lived her life her own way and damned what anybody thought about it. I was lucky enough to inherit her engagement ring. The one from her first husband. The husband none of us knew about for a long, long time. I wear the ring always, and whenever I happen to glance at it, it reminds me of her, her courage, and how much I miss her. Here's a "Blessings" column I wrote for the current (February) issue of Good Housekeeping about it.  Family Jewel