Staff Highlight: Nick B.

July 8th, 2015


Nick GreenIvy_0435-Edit

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, go to college, and what brought you to Green Ivy?

I am a native of Center City Philadelphia and grew up four blocks from the Liberty Bell. I moved West to attend Stanford and studied Materials Science and Engineering and Urban Studies. I came to Green Ivy after graduating from college, and have been working with students on organization, time-management, study skills, ACT prep, and all levels of math and science.

Outside of work, you are an accomplished singer and actor. What is a favorite singing experience of yours over the past year?

I love to sing, and was recently lucky enough to play Joanne in a Stanford production of Company. This has been a dream role of mine for years. Being able to work on the role was challenging and magical. The experience became surreal when I performed the song ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ to an audience of 500 people, and at the end of the song there was dead silence for a solid ten seconds before I finally said my next line. For those who don’t know the song, it is a humorous but tragic piece where the character comes to the realization that she is living a life that she hates and judges, and therefore this absolute silence was the ideal response. I will remember that moment forever.

How do you think your prior experiences contribute to your success at Green Ivy?

I believe I draw on my academic experiences at Stanford most, and I try to remember how I felt when I was learning material, and what methods were most helpful in my learning and retaining of information.

NickGreenIvy_1462What do you think students should do if they want to improve their math skills?

Math is a subject that generally requires a certain amount of struggle. In many ways, a student who takes the time to complete their homework in a thoughtful way can improve retention and understanding in a shorter amount of time. I tell my students there are two ways of looking at homework. The first way is how many students approach homework, which is that it is something to be completed as quickly as possible by following the path of least resistance (and effort!). The other way to think about homework, which is more beneficial and generally requires more maturity) is using it as practice to solidify what was learned in class that day and take time to create one’s own understanding of the material by struggling with it. The second way might seem the fastest in the short term, but is a much better way of learning for the long term and often saves a lot of study time right before a test.

Any fun vacation plans or hobbies this summer?

This summer I will travel to Thailand with my sister during the month of August. I have not traveled outside the country since I was in second grade, so this will be a very new experience and I am really looking forward to it. I decided to go after my sister booked her ticket before telling me, and I decided I could not just let her have all the fun by herself.

This summer I will also be working on my learning goals. I’ve used a written planner (yes!) to keep track of a bunch of skills I personally want to learn or improve. There are about a dozen things that I currently am working on at least three times a week which range from stretching to try to learn how to do a split, to learning Spanish using Duolingo. I realized after graduating from college there are so many things that I still want to learn and that it is never too late to try something new.

What is one thing you’ve learning in your time at Green Ivy that you use in your own life to manage your time well?

My planner. I keep my life in a written planner and use it to keep track of finances, to set short and long term goals, to brainstorm ideas, and so much more. The planner has allowed me to take control of my life in a way that I was not able to before. I must mention that it was not only the acquisition of the planner, but also the understanding of how to properly use it as a tool. We teach students to look at their week and see what they need to accomplish and what they would ideally like to accomplish, and lay it all out to make sure that there is time for it all. Being able to see everything physically laid out helps me not procrastinate and also helps me to accomplish so much more, faster, and without worry. I think we could probably teach people of all ages and walks of life a thing or two with our organizational and time management workshops!

Some of the things I have accomplished this year with ease are learning piano basics, learning coding basics, and learning more than one thousand Spanish words…


Favorite breakfast: Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a roll with ketchup, salt and pepper

Favorite movie: She’s the Man

Favorite genre of music: Philly! (Roots, Erykah Badu, Diplo, Santigold,…)

Favorite Philadelphia food: Soft Pretzel

Last book you read for fun: Triumph of the City

Hobby that helps you relax: Playing instruments and singing



Staff Highlight: Abby M.

June 8th, 2015
At Green Ivy, we are fortunate to have a wonderful staff, each of whom bring a wealth of experience to our office. In some upcoming posts, we will be featuring our staff so you can get to know a bit more about them, and understand how their apprao.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, go to college, and what brought you to Green Ivy?

I was born in Montana, but we moved to Oregon when I was eight. I lived there until I was 18, when I graduated early from high school and moved to Southern California in order to get residency for college. I ended up graduating from UC Berkley and lived in Seattle and LA afterwards, working in marketing and promotions before getting my MFA at UC Irvine. Since graduate school, I’ve taught a variety of subjects, including creative and academic writing, language arts skills and SAT/ACT test prep. For the last several years, I’ve worked with students on college admissions, something I find both challenging and rewarding. I came to Green Ivy given its philosophy of student empowerment and goal of nurturing students as complex individuals with a range of learning styles and needs. 
GreenIvy_1532You spend a great deal of time at Green Ivy helping students with their college applications. What is your favorite part of the college application process, and why?
I have two favorite aspects of the process, but they are closely related: helping a student find his or her stories and in turn, unique voice. It makes the application process about unearthing passions, joys, successes and failures in a way that can be a source of growth and reflection, as opposed to a stress-filled competition that leaves students exhausted and drained.
How do you think students (and parents) stress out unnecessarily over the college application process? What are some important ways to maintain sanity?
I think a lot of unnecessary stress from both students and parents comes in the form of pursing perfection in everything from academics, extracurricular activities and test scores, to the applications themselves. There’s a preoccupation with achieving the “perfect” way of presenting a student that will be globally appealing to all colleges, when the truth is, the process should be about finding the best fit between school and student. (Also, the perfect application doesn’t exist; it’s an urban legend.) I think the best way to maintain sanity is by treating the application process as just that—a process of uncovering and then illustrating a student’s genuine strengths and interests, and matching that to the best environments where he or she will thrive and grow. College is supposed to about exploration, not already knowing exactly who you want to be or what you want to do with your life before you’ve even graduated high school! Another great way to prevent stress is to start early on everything from filling out the application to drafting essays, preferably the summer before senior year. From there, we like to set a goal of having all apps submitted by Thanksgiving so that everyone can relax and enjoy winter break. (And so that pulling all-nighters on New Year’s Eve to finish college applications will also become the stuff of urban legend.)
You’ve had several different jobs since graduating from UC Berkeley. How do you think your prior experiences contribute to your success at Green Ivy?
Trying several different jobs (and careers) before coming to Green Ivy allowed me to uncover my passion for teaching. I was also fairly miserable in the corporate world, so this was a huge impetus to find a different path. With that, I bring a clear sense of what my strengths are and how best to use them to help students succeed. In terms of happiness and fulfillment, there is no comparison for me in terms of having searched out a career I love, as opposed to settling for a job that pays the bills.
What is a study tip or trick you encourage students to use to manage their time well?
Flashcards! They are old school, but they work. I also encourage students to make physical ones as opposed to digital versions, as I believe the act of writing down terms and definitions helps solidify memorization. If students make and review a few a day in the weeks before a test, they will save themselves hours of cramming at the last minute.
Any fun vacation plans or hobbies this summer?
My son just turned one and has yet to see the ocean, so we are hoping to get to Santa Cruz, Monterey and Big Sur this summer.
What is your own latest writing project?
I’m sketching out some essays about becoming a mom later in life, and all the joys, challenges, surprises and hilarious moments that come with it.
Favorite breakfast: Sunday scramble, complete with avocados, bacon, goat cheese and caramelized onions.
Favorite workout: A long run at Shoreline. 
Last book you read for fun: The Nakeds, by Lisa Glatt—my first writing teacher and mentor.
Hobby that helps you relax: Reading, but as a new mom, there’s not much time for it! In its place, I would say my current Zen-ish hobby is watching my son play. There’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler.
Healthy ways you manage stress: Exercise and writing. 

Welcome to Summer at Green Ivy!

June 4th, 2015
The school year is almost over (and for some of you, it’s long been over!) – which means it’s time to look at summer offerings! At Green Ivy, we are in the office Monday-Fridays during the summer, and doing our group workshops, as well as one-on-one work. Our schedule is limited and tends to fill up fairly quickly, so please do let us know if you’d like to sign your child up for summer tutoring slots. As a reminder, all our summer workshops can be signed up for online here.
If your child is a junior and wants to get a confident head-start on their college applications, our college counseling bootcamp is an excellent way to do so. In a small group setting maximum six students), we’ll walk them through the ins and outs of the application process and focus on the Common Application and UC application (unless there is another application they prefer to focus upon). We’ll help them draft personal statements, and give them a strategy to get everything completed in a more manageable way. A great way to ease the potential stress parents and children feel from college application process! 
Monday, July 13th – Thursday, July 16th | 12:30 PM – 4:30 PM – TWO SPOTS LEFT!
Monday, August 10th – Thursday, August 14th 3:00 PM-7 PM – NOTE NEW TIME!
We’ve had a flurry of sign-ups for our back-to-school organizational workshops, which are two hour interactive and motivational way to start the new school year! In a small group setting, we review binders, planners, when/how to manage time and complete homework, how to study for tests, nutrition/sleep/stress management, and personal and academic goals. We offer this workshop in a small group setting, as well in as one-on-one. To sign up for group workshops, click here. To sign up for a one-on-one workshop, contact us.

Seven Tips for a Successful School Year Finish

May 13th, 2015

finals books

It’s only a few weeks until summer, but first, FINALS. For so many of our middle school and high school students, I like to tell them they are in mile 25 of the marathon. Almost there, and the finish line is near! To end the year as well as possible, we’ve put together our top seven tips:

9273635634_93f9997e6e1)    Actively manage stress instead of avoiding it.

Many students try to play on their phone or go online to relax. In reality, though, distractions are not stress relief! Instead, we encourage choose activities like playing an instrument, going for a walk, journaling, or engaging in sports to channel out stress.

2)    Visualize the finish line.

When students think in terms of “just one more month,” it can give them an extra boost to fight burnout. While the next few weekends might be heavily scheduled with study time, this is only temporary. Whether it is a road trip, a summer action film, or simply the appeal of sleeping in late, coming up with something to look forward to at the end is persuasive motivation!

3)    Start early and break up tasks.

At Green Ivy, we help students developed a personalized study plan for finals. The key is to do the “heavy lifting” of studying the week before finals testing begins. Instead of cramming, we ask students to put together individual study packets about a week before finals begin. Then, we help students create a rigorous study plan for the week before testing, adding daily study blocks specifically for finals review. We recommend pairing a more challenging subject with an easier one to switch between intensity levels.

4)    Mix it up.

Whether it is a local library or a hidden, quiet café, a change of study space can 2302027163_675bfed1a6offer new focus. Furthermore, working with a study buddy can be encouraging and helpful, particularly in preparation for a memorization-heavy exam. Ideally, this study partner is equally committed to academic success and organization!

5)    Take some time to process and reflect.

When students possess an adaptive academic mindset, they will be more likely to understand that they can grow their abilities through resilience and new learning approaches. The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research includes persistence, goal-setting, help-seeking, and self-regulation on its list of non-cognitive factors related to academic performance. An in-depth analysis of the factor categories can be found in Chapter 2 of “Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners.” A growth mindset can influence your child’s perception of abilities dramatically. In an experimental Stanford psychology study, “teaching a malleable theory of intelligence was successful in enhancing students’ motivation in their mathematics class.” In the study, 7th graders who believed intelligence is malleable saw an upward trajectory in grades while those who believed intelligence is fixed saw a flat trajectory.

5200728012_e81a4d633d6)    Get the help now.

When we work with students at Green Ivy, we always ask them to start the review sheets the day they are given out. That way, students can ask teachers for help with confusing concepts or questions early on. Seeking outside help through collaboration, tutorial, or another type of study hall is especially crucial as the year comes to a close.

7)    Sleep and eat healthily.

Most growing kids need about nine or more hours of sleep, as sleep deprivation alarm-clockwill lead to impaired memory function and decreased focus. Sleep is brain fuel, and finals week is the time to get lots of it. Similarly, plenty of water, hearty breakfasts, and calcium-rich or complex carbohydrate snacks will prepare your student for the best possible finals experience.

With some planning and scheduling, finals season becomes manageable and methodical.


As a bonus link, check out learning columnist Annie Murphy Paul’s article for KQED MindShift on ways to motivate students to learn.

Summer at Green Ivy

May 5th, 2015



As the 2014-2015 school year begins to close, we at Green Ivy want to send congratulations to all of the students who have made it through another academic year and are ready for a well-deserved relaxing summer. For so many students, there is no greater feeling than completing the last final of the school year and taking a long and deep sigh of relief. With that in mind, we fully support and understand how important it is to take time off and relax after the final days of school.

At the same time, we also see how some students benefit from focusing on specific subjects during the summer when they are not also juggling different classes and extracurricular activities. At Green Ivy, we offer several different workshops to make sure students are fully prepared for next year.

Starting June 15th, we will switch to our summer schedule, and will be in the office Monday through Friday (we revert to our school year schedule in late August). We will still have one-on-one sessions with our wonderful academic coaches during the summer. In addition, we offer several different workshops, including: Intensive SAT Prep, Creative Writing Workshop, and Playing the Game of School: How to Have an Organized, Successful School Year. To sign up for these workshops, visit here.

8090724892_a7745e7eb8 Intensive SAT Prep

With hectic school year schedules, many students find it nearly impossible to properly prepare for the SAT Reasoning Test. Our Intensive SAT Prep course is a two week long course focusing on the basic strategies for each section of the test. Students will comprehend the different types of problems in each section of the test, learn test-taking strategies focused on answering the most questions correctly in the time limit, and receive advice on how to prepare outside of these sessions.

Creative Writing Workshop

As students enter middle and high school, they receive writing assignments: personal narratives, analysis of poems, argumentative essays, etc. Many students have a difficult time transferring their thoughts onto paper in a succinct way. Our workshop helps students build critical underlying writing skills. Through individual and partner exercises, students will learn how to brainstorm, create an outline, and properly structure an essay. At the end of these sessions, students have increased confidence in their writing ability, and have the proper tools to improve their overall writing. Note: we also develop one-on-one writing programs between 8 and 12 classes in length for students over the summer.

Playing the Game of School: How to Have an Organized, Successful School Year

Every August, we offer our very popular Playing the Game of School workshop (it fills up quickly!), journal-writing-mespecially designed to help ease students’ anxieties caused by an overload of schoolwork and outside activities. Our academic coaches introduce a variety of strategies to improve organization and time-management skills, as well as promote overall wellness and proactive stress management. These techniques help break down students’ overwhelming schedules into manageable pieces so students are better able to deal with the potential overload of stress and anxiety.

Again, we at Green Ivy want to wish you and your family a happy and relaxing summer. Good luck on finishing out the rest of the school year, and we look forward to helping your children prepare for the upcoming school year.

The SAT vs. The ACT: Which Standardized Test Should Students Take?

February 14th, 2015



Our terrific college admissions counselor Abby wrote this post – she also coaches students on writing and helps with SAT/ACT Prep!

For years, parents have asked us whether their child should take the ACT or SAT. Until recently, the ACT was considered somewhat less popular, even though it has been well-known in the Midwest and Southern part of the U.S. for several decades. However, in 2012, the ACT overtook the SAT in popularity, prompting many students and parents to question which test is “better” to take for college applications.

The simple answer? Neither. Both are accepted by colleges and universities, and are weighted the same in admissions. The harder answer comes when determining which test students might score better on, given their particular strengths and skill set. The emphasis here is on might, as one important statistic to keep in mind is that the bulk of students score nearly the same on both tests—most students and parents aren’t aware of this fact. Many student prep for one exam and then turn to the other when scores are less than desirable, which can add unnecessary stress and not be the best use of time and resources. The tests are quite different and require different preparation strategies, but taking both can add an unnecessary workload in the already packed junior year.

A better plan is becoming familiar with both tests before registering and choosing one to focus on. In most cases, we recommend taking a test 2-3 times in the junior year and senior fall, if necessary, and brushing up on core concepts and sections proven to be most challenging in between exams.

So how do students start to differentiate between the two tests and decide which one to take? Here are a few of the major differences to consider:

1. Scoring and Sections

The ACT has a total score of 36, with four long sections (five with the “optional” essay which most schools require, so it’s not really optional) which cover English, critical reading, math and science. There is no score penalty for wrong answers.

The SAT has a total score of 2400 with 10 sections, covering English, critical reading, math and writing. One-quarter of a point is taken off for wrong answers. However, the SAT is being redesigned, and starting Spring 2016 the new SAT will be out of 1600 points and there will be no penalty for wrong answers.

2. Degrees of Difficulty

The ACT is perceived to be more straightforward and based on general 2824506032_be22415f5bknowledge, but don’t get too comfortable. Two reasons: math and science. The math section is quite a bit more advanced than the SAT (it includes trigonometry) and the science section is an outlier—while in-depth outside knowledge isn’t necessary, it is helpful to understand how scientific hypotheses are formed and the basics of experimental set-up. The science section really tests reasoning ability, and boils down to how well a student can evaluate data from graphs, charts and experimental results.

On the other hand, the SAT focuses more on reasoning and goes easier on students’ math skills, testing through coordinate geometry. However, deep knowledge of vocabulary is necessary to survive the English and critical reading sections. Other things to consider: there are no scientific experiments to interpret and the sections are notably shorter.

3. Test Length and Pacing

scoresThe ACT takes 3 hours and 25 minutes with the writing test, while the SAT is slightly longer at 3 hours and 45 minutes. While both tests require that students be able to read and absorb material at a quick pace, a crucial piece of how successful a student is on the ACT involves keeping a close eye on the clock. One example is the math section, which consists of 60 questions in 60 minutes.

Again, the SAT is being redesigned for Spring 2016, and the new test will be shorter – 3 hours in length instead of 3 hours and 45 minutes. The essay on the redesigned SAT will be optional and come at the end of the exam.

Hopefully this post gives students and parents a sense of the tests and a starting point to determine which might be the best fit. The best way for students to make this decision is to take a practice test of the ACT and the SAT, which will give them a hands-on idea of what’s ahead.

Here are some additional resources on the issue:



Our Upcoming SAT Classes for the January and March SAT Tests!

October 3rd, 2014


At Green Ivy, the majority of work we do with students is one-on-one, but we also offer small group classes to help students prepare for the SAT. We’ve been helping students prepare for 15 years, and we have had numerous students improve up to 400+ points with dedicated practice. Our classes are limited to six students, and have nine Sunday sessions focused on content and strategies, as well as several practice test options on various Saturdays.

Our upcoming class starts in November and ends just in time for the January exam. I recommend high school juniors who are planning to play a sport or participate in a major spring activity (i.e. Spring Musical) try to take the January SAT to get it out of the way. In general students should take the test 2-3 times, and taking the test in January can alleviate some stress. To sign up, please contact Sophia at our office.

The November Class Schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 11/23, 12/7, 12/14, 1/4, 1/11, 1/18
  • Proctor Exams: Saturday 11/15, 1/3

Our class that begins in January ends just in time for the March SAT, which is the time when the vast majority of high school juniors take the exam. However, check the date, because it often ends up being the same day as many schools’ junior proms, which can make for a very long and distracted day. To sign up, please contact Sophia at our office.

The January Class Schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday 1/11 (1-3 PM)
  • Sunday 1/18 (1-3 PM)
  • Sunday 1/25, 2/1, 2/8, 2/15, 2/22, 3/1, 3/8
  • Proctor Exams: Saturday 1/31, 2/28

To sign up, simply contact our office and get registered – the classes are small, so they tend to fill up in advance. Thanks!


Starting the School Year Off Right with Green Ivy in the Schools

July 28th, 2014


Every year, Green Ivy visits middle schools and high schools around the country and gives talks to parents, students and faculty members on how to create an amazing school year. We also give our 90 minute workshops on organization, time-management, personal purpose and setting goals for the school year – it’s fun, interactive, and kids often comment that it was one of the most helpful assemblies or orientations they’ve been to (personal moment of happiness: when parents at the evening talk told us they came because their children sent them after our daytime school assembly).

It’s almost back to school time, and we love visiting schools and helping Back to school againstudents think about their choices as members of their classroom and greater school community. With increasing social media and digital options, so many students are left confused about all the different ways they can socialize, communicate, and collaborate.  Here are some examples of what Green Ivy does in schools:

–       Middle School Back to School Presentation: We talk about organization, time-management, social media, food and sleep choices, and goal setting. The talk is interactive, fun and lively. Last year, one principal came up to us and said, “I had no idea that was going to go so well.”

–       Workshops: We give our 90-minute interactive workshop on organization, time-management, social media choices, and overall wellness as a part of a greater school effort to focus on building community and making good choices. It’s a great way to start the school year, and teachers and counselors can do weekly follow-up to maintain good choices.

–       Parent Presentations: Keeping parents feeling empowered and informed to make good parenting choices is one of the hallmarks of our work. We talk about organization and time-management, as well as updating parents on the latest social media issues of which they should be aware. Check out Green Ivy founder Ana Homayoun’s Huffington Post piece, “The Teen Vanishing Act.”

–       Faculty/Staff In-Service: So much of organization and time-management begins in the classroom, which is why our founder Ana Homayoun’s  books That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week and The Myth of the Perfect Girl are typically chosen as all staff reads.

To book a talk or a workshop, please contact Sophia at sophia at or call our office 650.472.0617. You can also fill out this contact form.

Sometimes, life gives you (nice) surprises!

July 10th, 2014


Sometimes, life throws you surprises. Hopefully, more of the surprises are of the happy variety, of course – like last month, when I got home from dinner with a friend (at local kitchen and wine merchant in SF, which is a personal favorite and has the best brussel sprouts dish ever) and found out that my second book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl: Helping Our Daughters Find Authentic Success and Happiness in School and Life, was A Mighty Girl Pick of the Day!

For those of you unfamiliar with A Mighty Girl – it is a terrific website and Facebook page that has over 450K followers, and has great posts about inspiring girls and women, and offers tips on toys, books, games and the like. If you have girls, work with girls, are a girl, know girls – you should follow them (I’ve covered pretty much everyone, right?!) Every time I go through their posts, I am inspired and learn something new.

The Myth of the Perfect Girl is based on the work I’ve done at Green Ivy, and I still clearly remember the day I was talking to Natalie*, whose story I recall at the beginning of the book. It was the beginning of summer, and I convinced her to spend some of her time in the summer trying to figure out what she liked to do – which she found more arduous than her summer reading.

So, imagine my lovely surprise when I experienced the power of being a ReadingMighty Girl pick firsthand! Amazon sold out of books within a few hours (they’re restocking, don’t worry!) and over 1000 people shared the post, with parents, educators, and psychologists commenting on how it was a must read topic…now that is a mighty nice surprise. We’ve had inquiries on our website from all over the world – amazing. As we move into the slower summer pace and summer reading, I hope parents of pre-teens and teen girls will consider reading the book with their daughters.

How are you helping your daughters overcome the perfect girl myth this summer?

*name has been changed

NYC Event on June 18th on The Culture of Perfectionism: Understanding and Overcoming the Unique Stress of Our High Stress, High Impact World

June 10th, 2014


When I wrote my second book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl, I interviewed many pre-teens, teens and young adult women on the particular challenges of today’s world. I also benefited from having over a decade of experience working with young people on the unique aspects of today’s always on, all the time culture. When I first started my work, there was no Facebook, Tumblr, or Snapchat. Friendster and MySpace were relatively new additions, and it was okay for email to go a day or so before being checked.

One of the best parts about writing the book was speaking with the young women who offered to be readers of the book. So many saw themselves in the book, and one young woman – then a college sophomore at a highly selective school – proclaimed, “This is the book that really discusses what everyone is dealing with but no one is talking about.”

42-16851004I had another mom, a few months after the book first came out, email me to say that she read the book intending to read about ways to help her daughter, and that she found herself recognizing things she did and said within the pages of MYTH – and that it made her feel highly uncomfortable to come face to face with such obvious and painful truths. “Imagine how I feel,” I replied, “Writing the book made me feel as though I was re-living my adolescence, and once was quite enough, I must admit!”9780399537714_MythofthePerfectGirl_CV.indd

So I am really excited to be presenting in NYC on The Culture of Perfectionism: Understanding and Overcoming the Unique Stress of Our High Stress, High Impact World. The talk is sponsored by the Duke Alumni Association, and really addresses the issues we all deal with as young women, older women, mothers, daughters, and anywhere in between. The talk will be about 45 minutes long, with time for Q&A, and it is meant to be a practical, prescriptive understanding of the world we live in today, and offer customizable solutions to redefine success on our own terms.

If you are interested, please register here and join us!