Visiting Experts

How to speak and write authentically—in college admissions and all of life


by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud © 2015 Story2. All rights reserved. I was cleaning up my office recently and found my Strengths Assessment report from the days when software was delivered on a CD-ROM with a code to activate it when you put it in your home…

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4 Not-boring ways to prevent summer slide


The first few weeks of June bring the last few weeks of school and the tantalizing lazy days of childhood spent in expectation-less freedom. While teachers and students are very much ready to let go of the rigors of the school year, especially after testing, parents are already thinking about how to keep their children from…

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Yes, they really said that: real essays from students who got into their dream colleges


It pays to be real when writing college essays. We mothers of college-bound students like to pretend we’re working overtime to get our young scholars into their dream colleges and universities. Sure, there’s a lot of hovering, gentle prodding and oversight to be done so all the deadlines are met. But let’s face it; we are only witnesses…

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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…

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What do you get the kid who has everything? [+giveaway]

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What do you get the kid who has everything? [+giveaway]


Seriously. Between tech gadgets, LEGOs, video games, and clothing, what do you get the kid who has everything?

Or a better question may be... do kids really need more stuff?

I'm not saying don't give any gifts. I'm saying consider the fact that our kids might not need more stuff just for stuff's sake. For a minute, consider incorporating a new kind of gift: an experience.

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You know what they say... Give a toy, play for a day; Give an experience, make a memory that lasts a lifetime.

OK so I just made that up. But it's true, right? My daughter will not be able to list the number of dolls she's outgrown since she was younger. But she will most definitely be able to describe every piece of clothing she created in her Fashion Design camp last summer. My son only wears one of the five pairs of sneakers he owns, but he can recall every pitch he threw to help bring his baseball team to the playoffs last year. Of course they enjoyed the dolls and the sneakers at the time, so it's not like I'd go back in time and deprive them, but I'm just thinking about how all the experiences they've had are the things that have really settled into their hearts. I want to give them more of those.

But... what if those two things could come together in perfect harmony?

This year we are doing something different. The kids' "big" gifts are going to be activities. My daughter wants to take an immersion Spanish course this summer, my son wants to do some kind of outdoor adventure, and my youngest daughter - well she wants to do everything under the sun :)

I use Thrively to get recommendations for them. Thrively is a strength-based activity finder for kids. It helps me find unique and highly rated activities, plus filters for what's going to be a good fit for both their strengths and interests. I entered "Backpacking" as an interest for him, and "Spanish" as an interest for her. Thrively then scans the thousands of activities in the directory to find the ones that match those interests as well as their strengths from their Strength Profile.

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Here's the recommendation that popped up for my son (umm can I go too?):

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 1.33.43 PM    

Perfect. Now don't tell my kid. Here's where the "stuff" comes in. I went to and found:

The "stuff" here is not the experience in itself; but it facilitates the experience. My son may not remember the shoes themselves when he gets older. But he will remember the way they stood up to mud, he'll remember cinching them tight at the start of a long day on the trail, and he'll remember taking them off after a week of exploring the outdoors and looking at stars.

I plan to print a little framed card of the camp and tie it with a ribbon to his new boots. I can't wait until he opens it :)

Join us on this adventure. 

Sign up for and find that perfect adventure for your kids, whether it's a class or a camp. Then enter to win one of eight $50 Gift Cards from, so you can get the right gear to match the perfect activity you find through Thrively.

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Fine print: giveaway ends 12/14 at 11:59pm. Open to United States residents only, age 13 or up. No purchase necessary. 

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Is your child suffering from toxic stress?

Stress infographic

Not all stress is created equal. Some stress is good for us. It helps us learn, grow, adapt, and improve. Other stress is temporary, and teaches us resilience and to overcome fear. But some stress is downright harmful, and as parents, we need to be able to recognize the signs and know when to pull…

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Loving the Child You Have


As parents, we want the best for our children. Encouraging our kids to be the best they can be while remaining true to themselves can be tricky. Sometimes, what we want for our children clashes with who they are. A highly educated parent who is a voracious reader might be completely confounded by a child…

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The three causes that young people care about most


When it comes to determining volunteering behavior, whether or not a young person’s friends volunteer regularly is nearly twice as important as having the ability to work on an issue s/he cares about deeply. That being said, there are regular trends regarding which causes young people care most about and what they are most interested…

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Ten ways to maximize family harmony

A smiling family

Do you wish your family would be as harmonious as the ones in this picture? Or does this photo feel like a fantasy-land? Sometimes it takes baby steps, sometimes it takes a total about-face. Here are ten steps to maximizing family harmony.

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Follow this one simple rule to be happier

Family sitting in hammock

I recently had a baby.  And amidst the groggy haze of my first year of motherhood, I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time to devouring many a “How to Raise Your Baby” book.  Equal parts fascinating and amusing, they sometimes teach me less about raising my baby and more about self-help tactics, but I digress. …

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