Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Feeling the Standardized Test Love…

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

We opened our Green Ivy inbox to find this GEM of an email from the parent of one of our students:

I wanted to let you know that Mignote did a great job getting [our son] ready to take the ACT.   He scored a 31 composite (97th percentile), 34 on reading, 31 math, 28 on  science.   The was a great improvement over his SAT of 1700 and his previous practice attempts on the ACT (19 was his highest ACT practice test score).

This has opened up an entire new range of college possibilities for him.   He was beaming when he told me his score!

Again, please express my thanks to Mignote and thank you, Ana, for creating great learning environment that cares about kids.

~ Father of a Mountain View HS Junior, April 29, 2014


Opening this email yesterday was basically the highlight of my day – it wasn’t necessarily about the improved score (though that was AWESOME!! From a 19 to a 31 on the ACT – can we say amazing!) but really it was about the heightened personal confidence I know this young man feels as a result of his improvement.

Don’t get me wrong – he worked hard. Mignote worked with him for nearly nine months to help him really understand the underlying concepts – to us, standardized test scores are just an indicator of other skills that need to be worked on – there is no quick fix, but good test preparation can be helpful for long-term success.

We understand standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, ISEE, and HSPT can be stressful. But they don’t have to be – and at Green Ivy, we focus on building the underlying skills rather than simply rushing through tips on how to increase scores is how we see marked improvement year after year. Our strategy pays off in terms of improved scores, increased confidence, and better preparation for college and the real world.


Do you want to learn more about our work and how we do it? Contact us.

Lateovers, Sleepovers and The Morning After

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014



A version of this was also printed on my website and on the Huffington Post here.

As spring turns to summer, high school prom season is in full swing, there are inevitably more parents hosting slumber parties and sending their kids to sleepovers in other families’ homes. Last week, I was speaking at a book event for The Myth of the Perfect Girl with a terrific group of moms whose girls were mostly between the ages of ten and seventeen, and one parent asked me what I thought about sleepovers. A lively discussion ensued.

The topic of sleepovers (and slumber parties) seems to be one of those issues in parenting where most have an opinion, and no opinion is necessarily right or wrong. A few years ago, Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens wrote a Sleepover Survival Guide, and in her New York Times article “Ensuring Domestic Tranquility at Sleepovers” physician Perri Klass notes, “The sleepover, along with its cousin the slumber party, has apparently become an essential part of childhood, for boys as well as for girls.”

One mom suggested her family’s solution of the late-over to describe the scenario where her child goes to her friend’s house until it is just before they are about to fall asleep, and is picked up right in time to go home and roll into her own bed. The late-over (can we coin this term?) is simple and genius in so many ways.  While I do realize having a late-over means parents have to pick up your child at 10:30 or 11 pm or later depending on your child’s age, I find that on the whole, everyone’s next few days might be better because of it.

If you are thinking about the sleepover versus late-over versus other social event situations, I encourage you to consider:

The term sleepover is such a misnomer – even with the best of intentions, very little quality sleep happens. I can generally tell when children (especially teenagers) have been to a sleepover because they are generally irritable, grumpy, and sleep-deprived. One teen girl I work with notes that while she likes sleepovers, she feels they are better in the summer because she generally feels cranky the next day because she is tired. Even when parents insist that they will make sure kids actually get to sleep, it’s not like they have a baby monitor on the situation. The key here, too, is quality sleep. The combination of sleeping somewhere new coupled with young people who distract one another typically means the morning and day after can and become an emotional disaster.

Terrible ideas come to many children in the middle of the night. I have more than a few stories of children who decided to do something relatively dumb in the middle of the night that they probably wouldn’t have considered with the same enthusiasm in broad daylight. Groupthink coupled with exhaustion (and maybe sugar-ladden giddiness) can cause some to make really impulsive and potentially dangerous decisions. The story that comes to mind is that of the three girls who decided to sneak out and try to get to a male classmate’s home, even though getting there involved walking along the highway. Fortunately, highway patrol officers found them walking barefoot along the side of the road around 2 am and called their parents. It’s 2 am, do you know where your kids are? Walking barefoot along the highway to some eighth grade boy’s house they deemed to be “super cute.”

Social media + Sleepover = Recipe for disaster. If I have one major sleepover rule, it’s that there should be no social media whatsoever. If kids are coming together to hang out, they should focus on interacting with those in attendance rather than trying to tweet, text, post pictures of themselves on Instagram, send Snapchats, watch YouTube videos or start Rumres. When social media gets involved, I often find that some type of meanness – either intentional or unintentional – ensues. For instance, kids can post all about the sleepover while it is going on can make others who are not there feel excluded. Worse, kids – and yes, it’s mostly girls we are talking about here – can turn on one of the sleepover guests and isolate them at the event with maneuvering that would make the Mean Girls blush. So it is exclusion at the exclusive event. The list is endless.




The morning after is generally not very pretty. Kids can be exhausted from sleeping in a strange place (or not sleeping at all), and some comment or interaction can leave them a bit upset and not knowing how to process. If you are planning to send your child to a sleepover, make sure they have ample time the next day to rest and recover – perhaps take a nap, have an easy afternoon, etc.


Post-prom co-ed sleepovers for teens can set up big expectations that can potentially backfire. More and more parents host post-prom, co-ed sleepovers in attempts to thwart late night driving and other potential issues. But the flurry around prom, which in this day of group dates and online communication is some teens’ first formal date, can set up some overwhelming wedding-day type expectations. Encouraging prom to become an overnight affair can only heighten those expectations for all involved.


I do understand the fun that can potentially happen at sleepovers and slumber party, and I am a big fan of any positive in-person social opportunities provide in our tech filled world. In truth, sleepovers can be fun for young people, and can offer a mini-vacation for both parents and kids. But while I am sure there are plenty of kids who get are able to get a restful 8 hours of sleep at a friend’s house, perhaps it is just that I haven’t met them yet. I seem to see the kids who are cranky, irritable, and annoyed because they are sleep deprived and/or something happened either during or after the sleepover that made things weird.


So, to borrow the term from the cool mom I met last week, I prefer late-overs to sleepovers. Regardless of your preference, hosting parents should have all electronics and social media devices turned off and stowed away for the duration of the social experience. House rules around social media use should be expressed early and often. And, surprising kids with fresh baked cookies or another treat as an excuse to check-in is never a bad idea.  


What do you think? Sleepovers or lateovers? Or neither?




Our Holiday Book Drive is BACK – Collect Books and Donate Today!

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Did you know that children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3-4 times more likely to drop out later? 

We’re excited to announce our 4th Annual Holiday Book Drive to benefit the Children’s Book Project!  This  wonderful organization promotes literacy by providing books to children in need.

From now through Thursday December 19th, we will be collecting all of your new or gently used children’s or YA books here at our Green Ivy office!  Books are donated to homeless shelters and places in need all around the Bay Area. Feel free to stop by to drop off your books; our office doors will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11 AM until 7 PM, and we would love to see our collection bin fill up again this year!

Please contact us if you have any questions!

Girls Read Book


Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

I know October is almost over, but this short clip from Kid President was a bright spot in my week; not only does he promote a good cause, he also gives some facts about social media use these days that can seem surprising.  For example, did you know that 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day?  What else is your student doing over the Internet?

To participate in #Socktober, please read more here. At our office, we are getting ready for our annual November and December drives, so stay tuned!

Surefire Girls Conference

Monday, October 7th, 2013

I am excited to announce that I will be speaking at the Surefire Girls Conference in Santa Monica on this Saturday, October 12th!  The event is an all-day conference for high school girls and their parents, and I am honored to be one of the speakers for the Parent Presentation on The Culture of Perfectionism.

Some of the highlights for students include how to get an internship, and parents will have the opportunity to learn how the media can impact career choices, and much more.

The Surefire Girls Conference will be held at the Art Institute of California, 2900 31st Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405, and will run from 11 AM until 7 PM.  This will be a wonderful event to motivate and inspire girls and their parents, and I hope to see some of you there!

For more information about the event or to purchase tickets, please click here.

Highlight of My Week

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Throughout the year, I visit schools across the country giving parent, student, and faculty/staff presentations. This past week, I was on my way to give a parent talk at a school when a 7th grade girl stopped me in the hallway and exclaimed, “You gave the talk to us last week!” I asked her what she thought of the presentation, and she looked at me confidently and said, “It helped me a lot more than I thought it would. I am going to have a really great year this year.”

I was thrilled.

Happy Back to School, everyone!

Back to School Lesson in Kindness

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Many of our students go back to school today – amazing to see how quickly the summer has flown by!

My piece entitled Back to School Lesson in Kindness is on the Huffington Post today. Click to the link here to share it or read the excerpt below.

I spent the first 11 years of my life in Mansfield Center, CT, a small, sleepy town in the northeastern part of the state. Right before the seventh grade, my family moved across the country to Los Altos, CA, a community right in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and I enrolled in the local public junior high school.

Junior high was an all-over culture shock. I always managed to feel about ten steps behind. The curriculum was much more difficult then what I was used to, and I would spend hours each night trying to finish homework. And it wasn’t just the academics. I distinctly remember coming home from school one night and telling my mom, “I think we bought the wrong clothes.” Everything was just different.

There were some people who were welcoming, though junior high isn’t by definition the most inclusive place. Others were reliably apathetic. And, as there often is, there was one girl in particular who did all the typical mean junior high girl tricks — tell her friends not to be friends with me, have them switch tables if I sat nearby for lunch and make sure I wasn’t invited to her friends’ birthday parties. Once, a classmate I thought I had become friends with came up to me and announced, “I was going to invite you to my party this weekend, but so-and-so said if you were invited she wouldn’t come.”

I made it through junior high relatively unscathed, went to a private high school nearby and then left for college. Fifteen years later, I was rolling out my mat at a yoga class in San Francisco and heard someone call out my name. I looked around, and saw her smiling at me — the girl who had once been so mean, now a young woman. We made small talk after class about where we were living, what were doing and how life was going. I was friendly, but I couldn’t help but wonder: Did she remember all the things she said and did? I had nearly forgotten, and perhaps she did as well.

A week later, we ran into each other at the same class. Once again, we spoke for a few moments afterwards — she seemed so nice, but in my mind I still wondered: What am I doing here? And then, without missing a beat, she looked me squarely in the eye, and said:

“I am really sorry for how I treated you in junior high. I was awful, and you didn’t deserve any of it.”

All of the sudden, I felt tears forming and memories come flooding back — about being the new girl in school, about feeling left behind, about trying to figure out the maze that was the Silicon Valley as a seventh grader who came from a small town in Connecticut. It was then that I realized something even greater: She carried that regret with her all these years, and I had not.

Sure, she probably didn’t think about me every day, or worry about how her words and actions had affected me. But the way she looked at me that day, and the way she authentically delivered her apology, made me realize that her behavior left her with some semblance of regret. In reality, her behavior affected her far more than it affected me.

With the new school year approaching, we frequently talk with children about how to academically have a good school year — how to be organized, complete homework on time, study for tests and get good grades. We often talk less about how to be a person of character — how to err on the side of kindness, as George Saunders spoke of in his commencement speech at Syracuse this past year (if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to print it out and discuss with your children).

So, this year, instead of simply asking your children how they will have a better school year in terms of school, sports and activities, ask them how they can become a better person. How can they be a person who is inclusive, has good character and treats others with kindness? To whom will they introduce themselves? How will they actively be part of their school community? What can they do when they see someone sitting alone? Which classmates can they make an effort to get to know?

We all have choices. Learning how to err on the side of kindness is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. It is the first step to show them how to live a life without regret. And that very well may be the most powerful childhood lesson of all.

Back-to-School Organization and Time-Management Workshops: Available at Green Ivy and in Schools!

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

All this week, we’ve been doing our Back-to-School organizational workshops at our office – and the response has been wonderful! We redesigned the workshop this year, and have taken it to another level – and in two hours, our students get to really figure out ways to set up this school year to be their best ever.

Last week, I presented a group organizational workshop at a local high school, and two administrators sat in and observed to watch. At the end, one of the administrators thanked me for letting him “watch you work your magic” and the school is having all of their freshmen and sophomores do a similar curriculum that I designed.

Yesterday, several incoming high school freshman told me they learned how much more sleep they need in order to be successful academically and athletically.  To me, that is extraordinary. We always tell high school students they need more sleep, but we explain why in a way that is meaningful for them. Our workshop gives students the skills to get to bed earlier – we show them how to be more organized, manage their time, and also how to avoid distractions that can disempower them from achieving their goals.

We have a few more group workshops this Saturday, and you can sign up by emailing us here. Otherwise, we do the workshop one-on-one throughout the school year as well. Simply call our office to set up a time and date.

Also, if your school is interested in having me work with them on bringing our work to their school, feel free to contact our office and we’d be happy to give you more information.

An Open Letter to High School Juniors

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013


Being a High School Junior can be so stressful! Last week, I wrote a short “Open Letter to High School Juniors” that was featured in the Huffington Post’s College Column.

“I sense you may be a little stressed. Spring of junior year can be a whirlwind of expectations and obligations; and it can seem nearly impossible to concentrate on homework, grades, standardized test scores (here’s hoping you get an easy Critical Reading passage!), prom, extracurricular activities, meaningful summer activities that will set you apart in the college admission process, and the fact that your [fill-in-the-blank] teacher rarely gives advance notice for [quizzes/tests/projects worth half your grade]. Maybe the person you wanted to go to prom with is going with someone else, or perhaps you are really struggling in your advanced math class. Clearly, you have a lot on your plate….” Read More Here!

Spring Cleaning Can Be Fun (Don’t Forget the Car Trunk!)

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Plastic Cans and Brush

I feel as though spring came a little later this year. Because even though spring technically began on March 20th or so, it’s been cold, rainy, and snowy well into April (sorry NYC!)

The other day, I was working with a high school freshman who had some out of control binders – fifty or so papers stuffed in the front pocket, some papers in the wrong binders, others crumpled at the bottom of his backpack, and yet others in digital disarray on his iPad (his school has a one-to-one iPad program). I proclaimed the beginning of our session Spring Cleaning Day, and we devised a system together and he set off to work.

Keeping Backpacks Clean Beyond the First Day of School

A mere forty minutes later, he looked relieved and kept commenting on how less stressed he felt – just by organizing his binders and going through his planner and his school-issued iPad. Even though students often put it off (and let’s face it, the trunk of my car should have been cleared out long before last weekend…) the feeling of completion is, well, amazing. Maybe not chocolate chip cookie dough worthy, but amazing nonetheless.

A few tips to make spring cleaning more manageable:

- Make it fun. Schedule a time in advance and get everyone involved. I generally say two hours is the max before focus starts waning and you sit down with old photos and start posting on Facebook. Figure out beforehand what is to be tackled – closet, drawer, backpack – and get all the materials in place. For teens, maybe having a friend come over, putting on some loud music and organizing together can create make it a more collaborative effort. When I was in college, I used to have my best friend come over and sit on my roommate’s bed whenever I was trying to clean the room. I needed to be doing something other than just focusing on the sorry state of my dorm room.

- Keep it manageable. Simply focusing on one drawer or one cupboard or one bureau (and not the entire room at once) can make things seem a little more do-able. If you have time, and get to something else in the time allotted, bonus. If you don’t want to, NBD. You’re done.

- Have the right supplies. Sometimes organizing a closet or cabinet can seem impossible, or it can quickly revert to old ways. I refrain from spending excessive time at Target or the Container Store because they have such amazing options that I can go overboard, but creating a simple storage system can at least give everything its place and allow re-grouping to happen more easily.

And, don’t forget the trunk of your (or your child’s) car! It is amazing what long lost treasures can be found – umbrellas, books, favorite mementos, old letters… clearly an experience I am all to familiar with…

What is in need of a little Spring Cleaning in your life?