Mia Wenjen, Pragmatic Mom, PragmaticMomMy oldest had a very bad year in first grade.

She was in a combined Kindergarten/1st grade which is a tough curriculum challenge as is, given the range of abilities at that age, but her teacher had a serious illness that went in and out of remission. The result was a lot of absenteeism. We’re talking substitutes for substitutes. It was not good!

By the time a long term substitute was hired, May flowers were in bloom and my child was behind. Waaay behind! It took 2 1/2 years to identify the holes to catch her up and I went crazy trying to figure out the best phonics system, home school math curriculum, etc. Luckily I had a lot of mom friends who were educators and they helped me enormously.

This blog was born from these efforts. From that bad year, the lesson that I learned is that it’s my job to make sure my child learns whether her education happens at home, through a tutor or supplemental class, or at school. Yep, the buck stops here. I accept that. (Of course, getting wonderful teachers makes my job easier and I’m very lucky most years!).

Rule #1 to myself: I am responsible for my children’s education not their teachers or their school.

What is strange is that I don’t live in an inner city. In fact I live in the #3 best places to live in the United States according to CNN.money: “Residents rave about the top-ranked schools, and parents are excited for the new high school opening this fall… It should be: The school cost $197 million…”

So the corollary is: no matter how great your child’s school or teacher is, you still need to monitor progress and do some heavy lifting at home.


Another thing happened to me that caused this blog to be birthed.

I love Newbery award winning books. One day after reading Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (one of my very favorite books in the world) with said oldest, I handed her another DiCamillo Newbery Honor Book, The Tiger Rising. How was I to know this book was depressingly sad akin to The Grapes of Wrath but in a slim book with large-ish font size? Oops! Sorry, kid! And yes, you don’t have to read it. This prompted another valuable lesson to myself.

Rule #2 to myself: Read the book before I hand it to my child. Or get a recommendation from her peers, teacher or librarian.

It sparked a realization that I love children’s literature more than adult fiction and now I had an excuse to indulge!

With three kids and a very helpful hands-on husband, I am able to chronicle our journey called parenting though my blog which focuses on education, parenting, and children’s literature.

And so my blog is born from lemons squeezed painfully into lemonade.

education: from my oldest child’s bad first grade year.

parenting: from 3 kids now about to enter 7th, 4th, and 2nd grade.

children’s literature: from handing over the wrong book to my kid and rediscovering my love of KidLit.


I am a Tiger Mom Failure.

I am Asian and my kids are a crazy mash up of Asian-y cultures: 25% Japanese (4th generation), 25% Chinese (3rd generation), 50% Korean (2nd generation). I can not and do not make them practice their instruments 3 hours a day. Heck, I’m lucky if they practice that much in a week, and truth be painfully told, sometimes that is the combined amount they practice in a week.

But what is more exciting to me than having them play classical music on a stage is watching them self actualize. To see them discover that “I may hate math but I am actually good at it.” or “I’m great at Rhythm Gymnastics but I’d rather play soccer.” Or even “I love to read chapter book series of 1) anthropormophic animals at war with one another AND 2) fantasy adventure books of characters with special powers and 3) realistic fiction; however I find science-y time travel books confusing.”

Rule #3 to myself: My kids came out fully formed but not kiln fired. I can only smooth out the rough edges that would otherwise hurt people. My job is to get them to self-actualize and find their purpose and passion in life. I provide options. I find solutions. I drive them like crazy to anything they want to do. But I don’t dictate their future.

At the end of the day, it’s their adventure and I’m just the cab driver to enable and keep them safe. It’s my job to fulfill my own hopes and dreams and not to impose that burden on my child. My husband and I remind each other of this often.

Raised by Wolves.

As for me, I was raised by wolves in Southern California (or at least my husband thinks so) and attended a very mediocre public school system. I took the 2nd plane ride of my life to land in Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard, I discovered that it took me and my S. Cal friends two years to play catch up here on the east coast amid the prep school, magnet school, and really outstanding public school kids. We vowed that our kids would go to decent schools so that they would have the pleasure of hitting the ground running when they went to college. I’m keep you posted on how that is going!

I started a company in college with two friends that morphed into an international talent agency placing marketing and creative professionals. Did you catch that? It’s a fancy name for a staffing company. Realizing that I couldn’t not read my own company financial statements, I did a pit stop at The Anderson School at U.C.L.A. to earn my M.B.A. in Entrepreneurial Marketing.

A few start ups later, I stayed home for 7 1/2 years as a SAHM (stay at home mom). When my youngest went to preschool, I became a WHAM (work at home mom). Then I discovered blogging which is where SAHM hits WAHM — you work all the time and you barely get paid. What is the definition for addiction again? I think I need someone to remind me…


My 3 Kids Could Not Be More Different

Grasshopper and Sensei is my oldest and is now in high school. She’s the one juggling the soccer ball on the top left corner. Her special gift is her ability to get along well with others and her vast innate creativity.  She’s a kind and generous person who makes friends quickly and keeps them forever. She also gifted in her ability to forgive.  When she turned 10, she realized that she wants to attend the Rhode Island School of Design after visiting the museum.  She actually uses up dozens of markers and a case of paper a month because she draws every single day.

PickyKidPix is my middle child and what a middle child she is (and in middle school as well)! She has expressed two goals: play soccer for Stanford and become a billionaire. She is best described as (hmmm… diplomacy required here): driven, fearless, and a force of nature. At 10-years-old, she gets hired out as a mother’s helper, an organization assistant, a dog walker. She is also her sister’s art agent. Not surprisingly, she sold nearly all the art on her sister’s blog, making a 20% commission. You can ask her about simple versus compound interest and what a franchise business is. She an expert on both topics after realizing she only was making 1 cent per quarter from her savings account, and that she can’t own a Staples Superstore, dashing an early dream of hers.

My youngest is pictured here outdoors. Normally, you would find him in front of a screen. He would like to develop video games and has vast experience as a gamer. He finished all levels of Angry Birds when he was barely in Kindergarten. Now he’s in elementary school watches YouTube videos to master making different types of cannons on MineCraft. As the youngest, he’s independent and low maintenance. If he becomes a successful game developer one day, I won’t have to feel guilty for all the screen time he seems to inveigle. Here’s hoping!

Our year in 2014 via video and photos!

They keep me and my husband busy because these are some of the extra curricular activities they do during the year (thankfully most are seasonal): soccer, tennis, lacrosse, volleyball, hip hop, swimming, surfing, fishing, horseback riding, golf, flute, guitar, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, basketball, skiing, karate, kickboxing, snowboarding, art, and cooking. I am tired just thinking about it. Thank goodness for car pools!

In my spare time, I can be found boxing obsessively, on hikes with my dog, kickboxing (Muay Thai) , or practicing yoga (Vinyasa).

In addition to a Board of Director position for Aquent, I am a co-founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day which is January 27th and dedicated to celebrating diversity in children’s books.

Let’s Get To Know Each Other

So here we are together and I thank you for coming to my blog. I hope you will come back and that we will get to interact. I’m easy to find on social media and I invite you to connect with me on TwitterFacebookPinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Google +. I will follow back!


  1. Valerie Daniel

    Pragmatic Mom,
    Your “contact me” tab isn’t working and I want to contact you. You have a great blog that I look forward to reading more.Thanks!

  2. Dear Pragmatic Mom,

    I love your blog! I guess what appeal to me in your personality is the mixing between entrepreneurship and literature. That’s the kind of cocktail I want for my children too. I’d like to submit a story to you also about entrepreneurship and getting kids to love reading. Where shall I send?

    Kind regards,

  3. Dee

    Mia, I had somehow never read your about page! And it makes me worship/envy/love you all the more!
    Dee recently posted…Life as a LamborghiniMy Profile

  4. Yasmin Waring

    Dear Mia,

    I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while now. We’ve connected there and I have no qualms retweeting your sensational posts. As the daughter of a mathematician and a very hands-on-and-involved-but-not-overly-intrusive-new-aunt I love learning about books and practices that I can share with my own niece and the other children in my life. We’re a beautifully mixed family of African-American and Vietnamese and I’m humbled by the unconditional love and example set by my Asian family.

    I also love your personal story and think you are extraordinary! Thank you for sharing so much with us.

    I do have a favor to ask.

    My interactive children’s ibook–Maxine Machine–is now available for download on the iBookstore and is receiving great reviews and ratings from kids that I don’t even know. The underlying themes cultivate a natural love of science (or at least are meant to). I would love it if you could review it and tell me what you think. I can send you a promo code for a free download if you email me at max@maxinemachine.com.

    Regardless, you’re a phenomenal woman that I love learning from and will continue to follow!

    Take care,

    Yasmin Waring

  5. Hi Mia,

    Great website! Really appreciate all the trouble you go to in order to promote reading and education for children!

    I have written a children’s picture book entitled “The Zoo’s Annual Piggyback Race” that I thought I would let you know about. If you are interested you can watch a full video of the story with sound effects on the link below.


    I am actually currently trying to promote the book and use crowd-funding as a means to publish the story. Am not sure if you are able to help but any assistance would be greatly appreciated. (Even if not I would love to hear your thoughts after viewing the 3 min video!),

    Thanks again!

  6. Mandy

    First off, I’m glad to see the material you put out.. tech, learning, good gifts, fun learning, savvy shopping.

    You came to my attention because I recently joined a new company, ATOMS Express Toys. You may already know about ATOMS and our Kickstarter Campaign (since you’re already following us), but just in case… ATOMS are “smart” blocks that integrate with all kinds of toys (like legos) and build in tech to help kids “make things that do things” straight out of the box (like making stuffed animals talk when moved or vehicles that can be controlled by an iphone or being able to blow up a lego building on command) and do all of it pretty much straight out of the box.

    I found you because I’m on a hunt for savvy ladies to weigh in on ATOMS. You see, we hear from a lot of guys and dads about our product (via lots of tech scene interest), but know that moms and women are just as interested in good toys, technology, and fun learning tools for kids.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on what we’re creating. It feels like we could also be a really good fit for your interests. At the very least, I think you’ll love our kickstarter video. ATOMS is just that cool. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atoms/atoms-express-toys) Let me know if you’d like to find out more about ATOMS.


  7. Jane

    Hi Mia – I came to your blog page after hearing about you from Noreen and also after meeting a mom who is a SAHM who want to be a SAHM/WAHM. Your honest approach to writing is wonderful and I really appreciate your comments on kids not being “kiln fired”. So true, and a good reminder for me. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!

  8. It’s good to hear your honesty-sounds to me like you have it about right. We make mistakes, but the secret is learning from them. Sometimes I feel like I’m blundering about, accidentally coming across things that work-parenting is a tough gig, but I love it! I too am a SAHM turned WAHM-only way I can make things happen the way I want them too. Best of luck and nice meeting you.
    Redpeffer recently posted…Our new family memberMy Profile

  9. Wow. Found you through the comment challenge (Well, you hopped over to my blog via the challenge, I think, and I hopped here…) I love your blog. Hopping over to FB and Twitter to follow.
    Michelle Cusolito recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Old Man’s Beard (Lichen)My Profile

  10. Hi Mia

    I am Elle who is a mom of three korean-american kids in Croton, NY. Of course, I am a Korean.

    I would like to say you are not a Tiger Mom Failure. Certainly, you are a Tiger Mom Success.

    I have observed a lot of great attributes and values from your mom’s parenting via your website and posts. That makes your blog very unique for your readers.

    Elle Yi recently posted…Effective Parenting: How To Smooth Out Family ConflictsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Elle! You totally made my day. By the way, my college friend is Chinese American and lives in Croton-on-Hudson too. Denley Chew. I wonder if you might know him and his family? He has 3 kids too! It would be such a small world if you know them too but you never know! The world is a small place!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Family Vacation in BostonMy Profile

  11. Hi Mia:

    Great — and useful — site you have. I’ve listed it on my site (a blog my 2nd grade daughter and I keep to review and discuss books). Your rule #1 is spot on. I too have learned that how much my daughter does (or does not) read is entirely my responsibility and correlates directly to how much time I spend overseeing her reading activities. I look forward to perusing your site more!


  12. Jenny Seiger

    Hi! My name is Jenny Seiger and I am the author of Why Is Mommy So Tired? I found you on Pinterest and would love to be added to your community Children’s Book boards if you are interested. I look forward to hearing from you!

  13. Gerry Gaston

    Hi! I am an author, loving ferret master and collector of Pirate Adventure children’s books. I have a growing collection of books on my Pinterest board @newsblog59. I would love to be added to your “Best Books for Kids” board, if you would approve.

  14. Gerry Gaston

    Yes, I received the invitation and I accepted it, thanks!

  15. Tracy Rose

    Hi Mia,

    Healthline is interested in contributing a guest post to pragmaticmom.com. We would be open to contributing any blog that would be of interest to your readers. Healthline bloggers have been featured on a variety of sites including:

    Washington Times: communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/tango-mind-and-emotion/2012/aug/10/how-healthy-choices-easy/
    Natural News: naturalnews.com/036515_diabetes_strawberries_prevention.html
    Patch.com: strongsville.patch.com/blog_posts/where-and-what-to-eat-in-cleveland-to-beat-the-winter-blues

    Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

    Warm Regards,

  16. Hi! I came across your site and I love it! I also “liked” your Facebook page and I sent you a “like” request for my page.
    For thirty-five years I taught Elementary Education, grades first through fourth. One of the special times of each school day was right after lunch recess when I read a novel to my children. It didn’t take the kids long to get quiet and settle down for they were anxious to hear where the next chapter would take them. I soon realized that books were doors to imagination for all children at any level of learning.
    When I retired, I missed all of those young faces and their emotional involvement with the characters and story lines from the books I read to them. So, I decided to work on an illustrated novel with my son, Raymond Thornton, who is an artist. Thus, Upir and the Monster Gang was born, a world of monsters, mad scientists, zombies, ghosts, vampires and all things that live in the night. Besides the Upir series, I am working on several other children’s novels.
    I read your blog about your child being put into a split class. That type of situation can be very harmful to children if the class doesn’t have the right combination and the right teacher. For two years I taught a split 3rd/4th class. I loved it and the children prospered intellectually and emotional. When I was asked to take the class, I informed the principal I would be happy to teach it if two criterion were adhered to. One, I wanted the bright 3rd grade achievers and the middle to low 4th grade achievers. Also, I wanted no more than 12 children in each grade level. That way the students were not too far apart educationally.
    I also had the 4th grade students help the 3rd graders whenever they didn’t understand a concept. I don’t think these lower academic achievers were ever asked to help other students before. The interaction of these two groups of kids was amazing. It wasn’t too long before I saw self esteem rise along with academic achievement from both groups.
    At first the parents were very apprehensive about having their child in a split class but by the end of the year, both groups scored grade level or higher on their state tests. This also held true the second year I taught the split class.
    I am sorry to hear that your child had such a bad year during her early educational life.

    • Hi Sharron,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! My daughter’s split K/1 was a disaster. I don’t think K/1 is a great split in general since there is such a wide variation in academic ability especially in terms of reading. I would guess that 3/4 might be better. The kids weren’t really placed on ability either.

      How exciting to write and publish a book! I think teachers and librarians make great children’s book authors because they’ve read a lot and they know what kids like!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Top 10 Best Chapter Books Set in Florida’s PastMy Profile

  17. Amy Palmer

    A kindred spirit!! I’m new at Pinterest & Twitter; begrudging about FaceBook and texts, but I love what I am seeing in your blog and on your boards. I’ll be back to watch and read more of what you and your crew are doing!

  18. Joanne Viola

    How fun to meet you! Especially that you are also from the Boston area :)) Thank you for following me on twitter as it gave me the opportunity to also find you! Look forward to reading your posts!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…A Shelter From The StormMy Profile

  19. I just found your blog! Our missions are very similar although our snooty colleges are on different coasts. I’m curious if you’ve heard of the term “Afterschooling”?
    Jennifer Bardsley recently posted…What Parents Can Learn from BroniesMy Profile

    • Hi Jennifer,
      Tell me more about “Afterschooling”; no I haven’t! I’d love to learn more!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…How Pi Tells Stories: Happy Pi Day!My Profile

      • Afterschooling is when parents take ultimate control of their kids’ educations, and yet still send them to a brick and mortar school; public or private. You can Afterschool to help fix a deficit, like if your child is behind in reading or math. Or, you can Afterschool to help a child advance, which is especially important in schools without gifted programs. Other reasons to Afterschool would be to teach about world religions, or subjects your school might not have like art, music, a foreign language or geography.

        A lot of parents do this already and mistakenly say they are “homeschooling” over the summer or on the weekends. If you said this to an actual homeschooler they’d get miffed. Homeschoolers have a whole bunch of things to deal with that Afterschoolers don’t. It’s really quite different.

        But… homeschooling curriculum can really help with Afterschooling. Singapore math books, Dreambox Math, the Jim Weiss Great Hall Production Cds, Story of the World, Snap Circuits etc.; all of that is great. It’s really hard though, for Afterschoolers to enter the homeschool curriculum world and not fall prey to all of the ultra-religious curriculum out there too. The options can be confusing.

        The message I want parents to know is that even if your local school district isn’t great, even if you can’t afford private schools, even if homeschooling isn’t the right choice for your family (it isn’t for mine), you can still make sure your kids have a top notch education. There are tools and resources out there to help round out your child’s education at home. Afterschooling can make a difference.
        Jennifer Bardsley recently posted…Birthday Parties have “changed”My Profile

        • Hi Jennifer,
          Oh, thanks so much for that clarification. We are definitely Afterschoolers. My kids do Singapore Math and Daily Word Problems during the summer. My son plays with Snap Circuits and is learning the computer program Scratch. My middle daughter is learning to cut and style hair as a Afterschooler. My oldest is developing her art portfolio that same way. We don’t go to church, so I am using books to teach them world religions too. We are also learning world languages this way.

          We are definitely Afterschoolers!! But we don’t do it in a really rigorous or disciplined way. I just try to sneak it into little gaps here and there and I bribe my kids to do math during the summer. I guess that still counts?
          Pragmatic Mom recently posted…March is Women’s History Month Picture Book of the DayMy Profile

  20. Absolutely! I bet if you added up all of the extra hours of learning your kids were getting, the number would be huge. 🙂
    Jennifer Bardsley recently posted…Here comes the lambMy Profile

  21. Dana Wilson

    Hi Mia,
    Just came across your blog indirectly on Twitter. I applaud the time you’ve invested in looking for quality literature with multi-cultural characters! I am a former homeschooling mom who now writes and publishes literature-based curricula. And I’m ALWAYS looking for book suggestions that reflect the diversity we observe in creation. Can’t wait to dig in and see what you have already discovered.

    Blessings to you and yours.
    Dana Wilson recently posted…Teaching Character Using PoetryMy Profile

  22. Jane Allen

    The first tip just got me hooked:

    “Rule #1 to myself: I am responsible for my children’s education not their teachers or their school.”

    And, I have learned so much from it. If my child’s education is not going as planned, the challenge is mine to fix. I’m not going to look for anyone to blame. Thanks so much for pointing this out. I’ve found it helpful.
    Jane Allen recently posted…What is the Best Recliner for Newborn?My Profile

  23. Love, love, love this About Page. Thank you for being so open, up front, and funny. I enjoyed reading about you and your family, the history of this blog, and your amazing journey throughout.
    I was introduced to your blog by Patricia (won’t reveal last name but I hope you know about whom I am talking) and you will be hearing from me on a different context soon. I will be following you on Twitter and hopefully, get to message you directly instead of this open space. Thank you.

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