Monthly Archives: January 2015


Three steps to raising a whole child

I don’t know about you, but I tend to associate the month of January with cutting back: I vow to slow down, promise to rid my life of this, resolve to stop doing that.  Year after year, inevitably I try…and inevitably I come up short.  Yet in this month of curtailing, I instead urge parents to take on some crucial habits for the coming year—habits that will contribute to educating your child in a holistic way.

Indeed, educating the whole child takes a resolve not only to encourage academic success, but it also means nurturing your child’s mental health, physical health, relationships, and character.  In my line of work, I too often see students and parents focused solely (and resolutely) on grades and test scores—on the outcome of “getting into college”—that they neglect the process, which includes learning how to have relationships and experiencing character building moments.  And what I have seen as a result is that this focus facilitates a fear of failure and an inability to learn for learning’s sake.  Yet the well-adjusted youngsters who have a passion, who know what they are working toward, and who have a strength in character are the ones who truly face a successful outcome.

Why not instead of (or…well…maybe in conjunction with) your resolutions to eradicate, vow to take on, promise to add, and resolve to start?  Here are some helpful hints for habits to educate the whole child.


Engage students in a way such that what they’re learning in the classroom can come alive in the outside world.  Make a point to familiarize yourself with what your child is learning and help him or her to see its real world application.  Find ways that your child can link an interest to something in the community—a volunteer experience, an internship.  Spark a passion.

Cynthia Muchnick, educational consultant and author of The Everything Guide to Study Skills urges parents, “Help bring the textbook to life. If you learn that your son or daughter is studying an artist or historical time period, take them to a local museum that might cater to that art form or time period. If your son is studying fractions, be sure he helps you bake in the kitchen to see how those numbers and quantities can be put to practical use in the form of measuring cups and recipes. If your daughter is learning about her environment in science class, take a family field trip to the dump, the beach, or on a camping trip to learn more about sustainability and taking care of our environment. If your son is in Spanish class, travel somewhere locally or by plane if you can to help immerse him in the language and practice with native speakers.”

Encourage your child to set goals.  Students who have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and who take the extra step to memorialize that on paper are more likely to work diligently toward those goals.  In my practice, I participate in goal setting with each and every student.  At first, they are universally hesitant.  But once they identify the steps they plan to take to achieve their goals, a smile betrays their furrowed brow, and the process starts to make sense; they come alive at the prospect of having a step-by-step plan.  Sit down with your child and talk about what they plan to achieve.  Make the goals relevant to them.  Let them choose what is important for them to achieve, and try to let them make these goals their own.  For each goal, set measurable and time-bound objectives that will help them conceptualize how to work toward them.

Encourage relationships and your child’s emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is equally as important as your child’s brainpower in the classroom.  Emotionally intelligent children who are able to recognize and verbalize their own feelings and who can do the same for others’ feelings learn empathy and learn how to manage their relationships with others; they mature into strong leaders.  And here’s a bonus: In a recent article in Business Insider, author Travis Bradberry asserts that individuals who have a high level of emotional intelligence also make the most money.  He goes on to say that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence while only 20% of those at the bottom possess high emotional intelligence.

Talk to your children about what they are feeling and experiencing and help them become aware of their own emotions and those of others.  Adds Ms. Muchnick, “Has your child ever been at the receiving end of a bully or unkind classmate? Has your child ever ever been an unkind classmate or bully to others? Chances are she has been on both sides of that social equation. Dialogue about these situations.  These are the real moments that you can help teach empathy. Real experiences are always more meaningful than hypotheticals, so capitalize on those sometimes very difficult moments and help teach your child to be a kinder human being in this world.”

You can find out more about Cynthia Muchnick and her excellent study skills and college admissions books at


Jenn-Curtis-headshot-color-150x150Jenn Curtis, MSW is the owner and co-founder of FutureWise Consulting, a college counseling, test prep, and academic tutoring business in Orange County, California. As an educational consultant, she works alongside high school students and their families to prepare them for the college admissions process. Jenn also developed and teaches a college and career readiness program for first generation students. She is the editorial assistant for an academic journal, has edited several books, and works with graduate and doctoral students in developing effective writing skills. With a background in mental health, Jenn’s passion lies in empowering students to become self-advocates, to uncover their strengths, and to find the motivation to reach their potential.


Inspiration Through Failure: Elon Musk and SpaceX

AHH the abort button is so close to his hand! Careful, buddy.     from

AHH the abort button is so close to his hand! Careful, buddy. from


How many times to we fail and then give up? More than anything, failure keeps us from driving forward. But what if we looked at failure in a completely different way? What if instead of being afraid of failing, we welcomed failure as something that pushes us forward, even forward faster than success?

Elon Musk is often compared to Tony Stark, the alter ego of superhero Iron Man. I’m pretty okay with the comparison - both were child geniuses who built empires based on technology. Although I’d argue that Elon Musk is even more inspirational, because Elon Musk has transformed his genius into innovative visions for our future, and he’s making them real.

One of those real visions is SpaceX, the company that’s taking over NASA to become the primary channel for space flight. Musk doesn’t profit immensely from these ventures (he made his fortune creating PayPal), but pursues them because he loves innovation.

Perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from Musk is that failure is important, not just something that happens, but something that must happen in order for us to be successful.

Last week saw Musk live that out. SpaceX was poised to do something incredible – to send a rocket full of supplies to the International Space Station and then have that rocket touch back down safely so that the same unmanned machine could be reused. The mission went well until the moment of truth – touchdown – when the rocket came this close to landing perfectly but instead landed much too roughly (and when I say “much too” I mean it exploded). One could technically consider this mission a failure.

Rather than meeting this with bravado or blame, Musk issued the following tweet in the hours after the rocket missed it’s landing:


That’s what I call “getting over it in 140 characters.” Musk sees inspiration even in failure. And that’s something that we can take to our children, and to ourselves, as we pursue our own successes.



The billion dollar reason to make sure your teen’s college is the right fit

TL;DR? This is a post about how Admittedly can help your teen pick the right college. Check em out, sign up for free, and tell ‘em we love ‘em, wouldja?

You fantasize and agonize over your child’s first day of school.  Will she be an enthusiastic learner or fade into the background like an academic wallflower?  Will he find his tribe and make several lifelong friends or become a lonely misfit?  Will she rule her new environment or wish the time away until she comes home?

No, it’s not the first day of kindergarten parental jitters, though the anxiety attack feels strangely familiar.  Looking back, it’s easy to feel ridiculous about putting yourself, and your child, through such needless worry.  Sure, he was shy for the first few days.  But one plate of cookies shared with all of his new “friends” at recess made his social stock go up overnight.  And somehow academics and playground politics fell into place, which is how your child arrived at this milestone of applying for college.  So why stress now?

Because the stakes are higher this time.  Much higher.

We’re talking writing-a-check-for-tens-of–thousands-of-dollars-and-she-may-boomerang-back-home-permanently-and-be-perpetually-unemployed-higher.  It happens for a variety of reasons – some preventable and some unforeseen.


College-dropout-rates Click the image to expand the infographic and see the full financial impact of dropping out, which can amount to billions of dollars in lost wages and subsequently, tax revenue.

After hyperventilating over that possibility, check out Admittedly.  While high school seniors are anticipating responses from colleges and universities, high school juniors are revving up for an overwhelming college search.  Even sophomores and freshman who enjoy the luxury of a little more time can benefit from early exploration of high learning.

Like finding the right mate, there are so many factors that go into ensuring the right “chemistry” between a school and its students.

With thousands of options, it’s impossible to visit every potential college or university.  GPA, SAT or ACT test scores and extra-curricular activities like sports and the arts will narrow your options.

But how do you weigh student compatibility with the less tangible characteristics of a school?  Does your son or daughter prefer a school that emphasizes Greek life?  How do they feel about college sports dominating the campus culture?  What if you send your liberal student to a conservative campus?  Will it be a clash of values?  Is your son or daughter at home at a faith-based school?  Will he or she relish a school that emphasizes research participation and co-op programs over community service and social activism?

The founders of Admittedly, Jessica Brondo-Davidhoff and Emily Cole, with respective backgrounds in College Planning and Psychology, created a gamified, student/college matching algorithm.  Admittedly’s task is just as ambitious as the over 100K college-bound students it serves.  But it handles the challenge deftly, casually querying users about personal preferences like the weather, how they like to spend their free time, campus vibe, student body size and affiliations, and faculty engagement.  Admittedly churns out a match list with feasibility rankings attached to each college or university, based on each student’s GPA and test scores.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 5.06.30 PM

From there, the real fun begins, as any high school senior (or their parents) will tell you.  There’s an art to applying to multiple schools.  A student applying to half a dozen or more colleges can easily have a to-do list of 25+ critical deadlines.  It’s an overwhelming project, even for the most organized students and hands-on parents.  That’s why private college consulting is a booming industry.  Admittedly’s Application Manager takes the wheel and creates your student’s college app to-do list.  Even for families working with a college consultant, having an interactive roadmap feels reassuring.

Grown-ups feast on algorithms, linear to-do lists and probability rankings.  But again, what about the starry-eyed students who will be force-fed the real world in less than a year?  Admittedly has something to relieve their anxiety attacks too – peers and mentors. Admittedly’s hyper-social users have fielded nearly 5M Q&A’s, with empathetic students doling out well-timed advice.  College students also rank each school on multiple categories (dorms, food, weekend life…) and overall campus personality.

High school seniors will soon learn, like their wise and weathered parents, that there are no certainties in life.  But good guidance can navigate some of the uncertainty, and help place you on the right path.

Try Admittedly for free and get your kids on the college track.



Amy von Kaenel is a highly enthusiastic Thrively Amabassador. She’s been a veteran of the tech industry for two decades, wearing dual hats in market intelligence and marketing strategy. Amy’s co-authored industry reports on Smartphone Enterprise and mHealth technology. Her organization, Tech Coast Consulting, has served Global 2000 and start-up organizations in both the tech and healthcare industries. Amy holds a BA in Economics and an MBA from the University of California Irvine. 


Kids Activity: Make Your Own Snow Globe

There is just something absolutely magical about snow globes. They have this ethereal quality to them that brings joy to anyone who sees one, and can instantly transport you into a little winter wonderland fantasy. And um, it’s almost impossible not to shake one!

These snow globes are inexpensive to make, mostly relying on materials you already have around the house. Plus it’s easy to put a unique unique twist on them, making these homemade wonders that much more special and relevant to your child’s interests. Fill them with soccer trinkets or ballet shoes, or whatever waterproof trinkets you have around your home. Even if you don’t live in a wintry climate, you can bring a bit of the winter fun right into your home. They’re so easy to make, you’ll find that your kids want to make them out of everything!


  • Small jars like baby food jars or mason jars, cleaned thoroughly and the label removed
  • Little plastic toys to put inside, and other decorations – artificial greenery is nice!
  • Mineral oil or unscented baby oil
  • Fine glitter and/or crumbled styrofoam
  • Heavy duty glue or epoxy

How to:

  1. Glue the toys to the inside of the lid and let dry completely. It’s nice to let a few items float around as well! With your hot glue gun, put a little hot glue on the bottom of your top to anchor some pieces in place. This is where imagination and resourcefulness can run wild!
  2. Fill the jar ¾ of the way full with oil. Add a generous amount of glitter or crumbles styrofoam.
  3. Put beads of glue around the edge of the lid and screw it into place. Allow the glue to dry for the amount of time recommended on the instructions.
  4. Shake it up and enjoy! It’s that easy!

A New Year’s Resolution: Stress Management for Kids


We often think of childhood as an easy going time of fun and games. But the truth is, in today’s age when kids are completely covered up with activities and school expectations, it can be easy for kids to get overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to feel as though they can get their heads above water and catch a breath.

Good grief!

You might not even realize it, but you can empower your child with tools that will allow them to deal with stress both right now and when they are adults. And reducing stress means having kids who have more fun and are more joyful in their lives.

We’ve touched on types of stress and which ones are bad and which ones are good. Now here are some super kid friendly tips that will not only ease stress now, but which will also give your kids solid tools to work with going forward. Think of it as helping out your adult child!

Imagine it

Active imaginations are one of those huge markers of childhood. Those vivid experiences can just as easily offer children pleasant or stressful emotions. Kids can learn to harness the power of imagination when they feel overwhelmed and to envision a peaceful scene.

If your child seems to be struggling with everything going on, invite them to share a moment of quiet imagination with you. All you do is to sit quietly and think of floating on a cloud, or wading in the water of the ocean, or whatever peaceful scene is inviting.

Stress Check

This is a simple and yet incredibly powerful tool for combating stress, even in young children. When the world becomes overwhelming, teach your child to stop and do a “stress check” in which they mentally hold up a stop sign. Then have them ask themselves out loud, “Why am I stressed? What can I do, right now, to stop this stress?” Sometimes it’s an easy fix, and it just takes that moment of reflection. This is a great technique for you too mom and dad!

Breathe It Out

If your child can count to five, then they can use controlled breathing to lower the physical signs of stress. Count to three slowly while breathing in, then slowly count to five while breathing out. It’s important that the outbreath is longer than the inbreath, as this actually triggers the brain to lower stress hormones.