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How To Prepare Your Teen For Life After High School

My special guest is Josefine Borrmann is the founder of Strive To Learn, a tutoring and college prep service that provides students with 1:1 support from experts who foster accountability and teach them the skills they need to prepare for life outside of high school. 

In our interview today, Josefine shines a light on what our teens need from us when preparing to leave the nest, the importance of mentoring versus monitoring so our kids will learn the skills they need while still at home, and so much more! 

Let’s dive in!

Scroll down to read the fully transcribed episode.

What You Will Learn: 

  • The difference between mentoring and monitoring and how parents can shift to mentoring their teens and tweens instead of monitoring them. 
  • How having too many rules for your teen may actually backfire on you. 
  • Letting go in stages so our kids can learn skills that will serve them well when they leave the house. 
  • The benefits of rephrasing the word “mistake” into “growth opportunity.”
  • Why you should find another adult who isn’t your teen’s parent to be a mentor for them.
  • What does it sound like for our teens when we ask them, “What were you thinking?”
  • The benefits of an improved relationship with your teen when they have a tutor. 
  • What to look for in a tutor. 
  • What should you not say to a child with a learning difference? 
  • How do you know if your kid is ready for college or not ready for college? 
  • The benefits of a gap year.

Where To Find Josefine and Strive To Learn: 

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And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and woman you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

Hi friend, Welcome to the show today! 

Before we launch into our awesome episode today, I want to make sure that you have signed up for our FREE 3-Day Workshop that kicks off next Tuesday, September 27th. The topic is – Escaping Entitlement: Raising Responsible, Respectful and Kind Teens in an Entitled Generation.

Moms have been begging me to talk about this topic.

If you have a tween or teen and you find yourself worrying about their future, or you’re dealing with disrespect or a lack of motivation, and you don’t know how to support them or you are burned out and need some encouragement and help – come.  I promise you will leave feeling so encouraged.

I’m going to share my personal story and experience, insights, and tools to empower your kids and improve your relationship.

To check it out, go to momsoftweensandteens.com/entitled and get signed up!

So let’s get on to the show.

My special guest is Josefine Borrmann is the founder of Strive To Learn, a tutoring and college prep service that provides students with 1:1 support from experts who foster accountability and teach them the skills they need to prepare for life outside of high school. 

In our interview today, Josefine shines a light on what our teens need from us when preparing to leave the nest, the importance of mentoring versus monitoring so our kids will learn the skills they need while still at home, and so much more! 

Let’s dive in!

SHERYL:  Josefine, welcome to The Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. I’m so happy to have you on because we’re going to be talking all about college and our kids applying to colleges and the application process, and parents are talking about it already and being stressed out. 

JOSEFINE:  There’s a lot going on for both rising juniors as well as students who just graduated and rising seniors. So everyone’s kind of busy in the summer before the next year.

SHERYL:  I know it’s a really stressful time. I want to jump in and first have you share a little bit of your story because you do have a story. And what led you to do what you’re doing? And working with students and being a professor and all the different things that you’re up to.

JOSEFINE:  Yeah, absolutely. I founded a company called Strive To Learn about nine years ago. And our goal is to help any student find joy and confidence in learning. So we started as a test prep company and tutoring company. Then I realized that I really wanted to give all-around support to local families. So seven years ago, we also started offering college counseling.

And now, we work with the Newport Beach Public Library, and we work with a high school in Colorado. And we’re the college counseling department of a high school here in California as well. So we’ve expanded our knowledge base and the team quite a bit, which is exciting. 

But when I first started out, it was just me. I was a tutor, putting myself through college with tutoring because that was something I was able to do and relatively decent at. And so it started with just me, and I knew what I wanted to do with this thing. Not knowing anything about business or anything like that. I just really wanted to create a space in which students who have fears about their future or anxieties about their schoolwork can work with a mentor who really gets them. And that comes a lot from my personal story. 

I’m from Germany, born and raised. I came to the US for my undergraduate studies and had to teach myself how to navigate this complicated University application system. It’s really different in Germany, and I had to do things like taking statistics, which scared the hell out of me. And it made me realize that I wanted to help guide others and their pathways with all the knowledge I gained and accumulated over my first few years here in the US. 

So that took me on a couple of different paths. I became a math tutor. Even though math had always been really hard for me growing up, I also taught several anthropology and sociology courses at Chapman University. I also built a team of college counselors at Strive To Learn. 

Through all of this, I realized that individualized reflective mentorship has the most profound impact on teens’ potential for growth, and that’s why we’re here today, right? 

How can we mentor teens? It’s not just other people who are mentoring. It’s parents who are mentoring as well. So I’m really excited to be here and talk about what we can do with mentorship when it comes to supporting our teens and our tweens. It’s a hard time in life. We know because we’ve all been tweens and teens. Some of us tend to forget; others don’t. And I think for me, the biggest thing that I remember from being both a kid and into teenagerhood was I always felt like I’m a real human. I am a full-fledged human. So why are people talking to me like I’m half of one or like I don’t know what I’m saying? 

SHERYL: Wow. Do you remember what that felt like?

JOSEFINE:  Yeah, absolutely. Because I was like, “why are you talking to me like I’m stupid or didn’t think of X, Y, and Z? Just because I maybe don’t have your life experience? I can still think for myself.” I always felt a bit outraged about that. And the people who had the most profound effect on me were the people who spoke to me like I’m 100% human, not just 50%. 

It’s so important to feel seen and heard. And I’m not saying that’s people who said “Yes, amen” to everything I said, but it’s people who called me out on things that I said, who asked me to be responsible for the things that I said or did, and that has a really profound effect. You can take that responsibility because you’re also being seen fully as a full human. And that’s how I talk to my students because they are responsible for themselves – no one else is. They are. So let’s get down to business and talk about what’s happening here instead of trying to skirt around issues.

SHERYL:  Wow, I love that. We have to pause. You said so many good things. First of all, I noticed how you use the word mentor. I say a lot to the parents that I work with that we’re no longer trying to teach, although that’s a big part of what you do. But it was very interesting to me that you use the word mentor because when our kids are teenagers and when they become tweens, this big transition begins to happen

We talk at rather than what you were saying; when you were a teenager, do you remember the people that you would feel hurt by? They wanted to hear what you thought about things rather than talk to you like you didn’t know or were not a young adult. So I think that that that’s really interesting for you to share that and how I’m sure it’s impacting what you’re doing with kids today and how you talk to them.

JOSEFINE:  Yeah, absolutely. I recently went to a conference from the IECA, the Independent Educational Consultant Association, and one of their keynote speakers – I’m completely blanking on her name right now. But she said, “it’s about mentoring, not monitoring. Monitoring is a lot easier.” 

And again, these are not my words, and I’m stealing them. Monitoring is a lot easier, right? Saying yes or no to things. Checking your kid’s location, seeing that they do their homework, things like that. Mentoring and sitting down and talking about the why, the how, asking those questions, and really having them become a part of the decisions that influence their lives is harder, it takes more time, but it’s a lot more rewarding. And it’s really what gets teens to young adulthood.

SHERYL:  What did she say? She said, I mentoring versus monitoring?

JOSEFINE: Yeah, mentoring, not monitoring,

SHERYL:  This leads to what we’re going to talk about as the whole college application process. We’ll talk about other things, but that’s what I see and what I’ve experienced as a parent myself and working with parents is it is so easy to try and manage, monitor, and control things, especially when your kid does not seem to be motivated. 

So what are some of those things that you see working with teenagers that we should not do? Does that actually backfire?

JOSEFINE:   This may be a little controversial, but too many rules might not be the best thing. But again, also not too much freedom. Letting the teen have a choice in the decision that’s being made can make a big impact. 

My parents were very strict when I grew up, but they also gave me a lot of freedom, which sounds really weird. And it’s hard for me to try to explain that. I had the most chores of all my friends, the smallest allowance, and the earliest curfew. I definitely had those things. Both of my parents worked full-time. I would do whatever I wanted after school. So between one and five, I would have free range of wherever I wanted to go and whatever I wanted to do. These were pre-smartphones in your pocket. 

I grew through that – having these open spaces where I could be bored and had to figure myself out. Yes, they locked the TV remote away so that I wouldn’t binge-watch all day, which in retrospect, I’m very grateful for. But that made me get creative, get bored, and figure stuff out. 

I hung out with friends a lot. I read, did my homework, and did some stuff that probably wasn’t the best idea, but I learned from it. 

I think if we shelter our kids too much from making mistakes from doing – let’s just say dumb stuff – then they don’t have the opportunity to commit those mistakes and realize on their own, “wait, that was a really dumb thing to do. I don’t think I’m going to do that anymore.”

So if they can’t have that experience, then I think that is really problematic because what we see a lot is that when kids get to college – it’s a lot of freedom. It’s a lot of independence all of a sudden, and it’s a lot of drinking. It’s a lot of figuring out your own schedule. Not knowing when to do your homework or not because you’re not as hand-held by your professors as your high school teachers. How to do your laundry, when to eat food, and how to cook your meals are just very simple things that, putting all together, can become overwhelming for students. 

A lot of students report very high levels of stress and anxiety, and depression in college. I think it’s about 75% of college students now, at some point in their college career, clinical report levels of stress and anxiety. I’m throwing that out there – that’s not set in stone. (It’s something I read in multiple sources. Sorry, I’m a research methods geek. So just throwing out a percentage like that makes me feel like I need to go check my sources now.” 

But I do believe it’s somewhere around there. And how do we avoid that? How do we avoid these mental health problems in college? It can’t be all or nothing, and it can’t be the scheduled out life that you live, only to get to college. That’s the whole reason you’re doing all these sports, you’re doing the volunteering, you’re doing this internship that you really don’t want to do, but you feel like you have to, you’re taking all the AP classes, you’re getting all the good grades, you’re doing test prep, right? 

Looking at these teens’ schedules, I’m floored. Some of my students sleep four hours a day, which is just so detrimental to your brain’s development, emotional growth, and anything else. And then they arrive in college, and they’re just so burnt out, and suddenly have all this freedom, and maybe they’re homesick, etc. And it can be quite a disaster sometimes. 

I think it’s of utmost importance not to shelter our kids too much. Having firm rules that everyone knows about and mutually agreed upon, “hey, if you violate this rule, this is what happens.” But also giving that independence, not over-sheltering, and letting go bit by bit, maybe even saying, “Okay, every year I’m going to let go of something else. So my kid is in sixth grade. By 12th grade, I want my child to know how to do X, Y, and Z to be confident in X, Y, and Z situations. Right now, they’re here; in six years, I want them to be there; what can I let go of as a parent every year, a type of monitoring, whatever it might be? What can I give back to my kid in that year so that they can learn that skill, confidence, and independence, bit by bit, and I’m here to support them?” And that way, maybe we can get there.

SHERYL:  Yes. I love how you connect that. I often teach this to moms, primarily moms and parents, about how to let go and think about it from the lens of what skills I want my kid to develop. We are a culture of parents who don’t want our kids to make mistakes, and we’re protecting them.

And we want we love them, and we want them to do well. But with that, we’re not allowing them to learn from mistakes. And so we have to remember, how do we learn skills? A lot of times, most of the stuff that I’ve learned is from the mistakes I’ve made, the biggest lessons.

JOSEFINE:   I think maybe that a good way to start tapping into that is rephrasing the word mistake into a growth opportunity. I know it sounds really cheesy, but really thinking about it. A mistake is never a failure. I think a lot of kids see failures. I see it. The easiest example would be a math tutoring student. “I failed this quiz. So I suck at math, which means I’m not smart.” No, no, none of these things are true. 

First of all, you made some mistakes on this quiz, which means you have an opportunity to grow. So let’s talk about how you can take this opportunity, grow, and move forward. Because if it is not a failure or a dead end, I think people who have made giant mistakes that they interpret as failures in their lives and now look back on how they grew and how that shaped who they are now. I think most of them will agree that “I would never be who I am now; I would never have learned what I did learn by doing that.” And so that’s why I really like that rephrasing of, “this is an opportunity to grow. Let’s figure out how we can grow here.”

SHERYL:  Yes. It’s the growth mindset with you being a California gal, and I’m sure you are familiar with Carol Dweck.

JOSEFINE:  I was going to say shout out to Carol Dweck, of course, 

SHERYL:  For all our listeners, it’s such a good book. And that’s exactly what you’re saying. And I love thinking of it that way because mistakes sound what she calls such a fixed mindset. I don’t want to make a mistake. So I’m not going to put myself out there. I’m not going to go out for that. Or maybe I’m not even going to try very hard.

Because if I try hard and don’t do well, then I’m going to feel stupid. Versus, this is a growth opportunity and a learning opportunity. And what did you learn from this? How did you get this grade? 

JOSEFINE:   I think one of the easiest ways to wrap your mind around the growth mindset without it feeling all cheesy and weird. Because it can do that, it can sound like, “oh, everything is rainbows, and I’m going to grow from the worst mistake of my life.” Well, you probably will. But it’s hard to think that at that moment. 

So one of the phrases that she uses is “I don’t know that yet. I’m not there yet.” I think you can use that as a parent. “Oh, my child doesn’t know that yet.” I get parents sometimes like, “my kid is 17. He can’t even do his own laundry.” I’m like, “well, let’s add a yet to that. And then let’s figure out why. Have you ever taught him?” And then, “well, I showed him once.” I’m like, “Okay, so then what happened when he was supposed to do it?” And then like, “well, it just kept piling up. So I just did it for him.”

And I say, “Okay, so he hasn’t done it. He’s only watched you do it, and you tried to teach him. So kudos to you for that. But he doesn’t know it yet. Because we haven’t done it yet. And we can only learn if we do it. I definitely cannot learn how to do laundry by never doing laundry but only watching other people. You have to do it a few times yourself. So let that pile of stinky socks, especially if they’re doing a team sport, I know it can get crazy and musty. Let it grow until they have no other choice than to do their own laundry, because then they will learn how to do their own laundry.” 

I love that you said when you think back about everything you’ve learned, it usually came from something that wasn’t super easy. Something that you had a speed bump, and you had to get over the speed bump. I think that it’s so important for parents to think about, “Hey, how did I learn this? Let me think back to how I learned this because I just think that adults should know this. So my kid should know this. But how did I actually get to know this?” 

Because all of that is learned, even culture is learned. And so how did you learn that and you have to dig a little bit deep on that. But if you can connect with that, and yourself, if you can reflect a bit, it’ll get a lot easier to understand where your teen is coming from and to meet them where they’re at, and to meet them as a human, not just as a kid.

SHERYL:  Yeah. And we’re learning, right? We’re learning all the time. That’s what I say to moms we expect our kids to know these things, but they’re developing. They’re not adults; they’re learning. This is such a process and developing new habits and things that they’ve never done before and increased responsibility, and having to manage so many things that are going on in their lives. 

So let’s talk a little bit about what not to do. So not too many rules, not micromanaging. Mentoring, rather than monitoring. What are a few of the things that are helpful that we can do? Allowing them to have growth opportunities. What else have you found helpful to the kids that you work with?

JOSEFINE:  Make sure they know you’re there to support them. So making sure they know that it’s okay to make a mistake. So that they’re not scared out of their wits to tell you but instead can come to you and say, “Hey, Mom, I did X, Y, and Z, and I may have just made a big mistake.” So make sure they know they can come to you and talk about that. I think that’s really important. They’re not too scared to come and seek help from you when they really need to because, as you said, they are learning, and we’re learning too. 

I know plenty of adults who are still waiting to feel like adults after 20 years of visually being adults; everyone is always continuing to learn and grow. I’m 35. And in 10 years, I’m going to be 45. I’m not going to be the same person I am now. A lot of me will be the same, but a lot will also have grown and learned more. We’re always in that way, very similar to teens; we’re also always growing

Supporting them, making sure that you’re there. And then another thing that I have found really helpful because I am that person is finding someone else who can mentor your kid in a way that you simply can’t because you’re the parent, and it’s not anything you’re doing. It’s just that kids don’t want to hear it from their parents.

Sometimes, I, as their tutor or as their college counselor, can say things to kids and be heard by them that their parents can also say but not be heard. “Oh, Mom, you don’t even know how that how it is out there. Like you don’t, you don’t even know, and you went to college like 20 years ago.” Then they’re like, “Oh, let me go ask Josefine.” And then Josephine says the same thing. They’re like, “Oh, my mom kind of mentioned that.” 

I do acknowledge that you can’t always be your kid’s mentor. You’re also their parent. And you have to find a balance there. I think it’s extremely, extremely valuable. I think it’s a must for every single teen to have at least one mentor who is neither a teacher, nor a parent, who is someone outside of that, that could be a professional mentor, it could be someone like a college counselor, or tutor someone with whom they can let their guard down, and discuss some of those fears that they may not be really showing to anyone else in their world, because I have some conversations with students where we dig deep, and I am not a therapist, and if it ever goes there, I tell them, I’m not a therapist, and I really recommend that you get a therapist, but if it’s just “regular” fears, that they just didn’t know everyone else is experiencing. They didn’t know if it was okay to talk about it. 

So having that and also having really positive role models, who have that mentorship impact, where it might not even be conversations, it might just be observing them just being around someone where the whom the student looks up to, and learn a lot through observation of like, “wow, this person does that. And it resulted in that.” 

There’s a lot going on in our minds. So why should we think that’s not the case for teens? What I hated the most was when people told me, “You’re not thinking. You’re not using your brain.” I was like, “I was, and I still made this choice. What does that say about me? Why are you pretending or saying that I am not using my brain even though I was? You know I’m a person. I was thinking, and I just made a choice that I knew was dumb, but I wanted to try it out.”

Haven’t we all done that as teens? I think that’s really important to know, and there’s a lot going on emotionally and cognitively in teens, minds and bodies. And not to assume there’s not much there, or they’re not thinking about much; they are even when you can’t see it. They really are.

SHERYL:  What do you think as you think back? What would you have rather heard than you’re not thinking?

JOSEFINE:  I think a question. So not, what were you thinking? Not in that tone. But “let’s get to the bottom of this. Why did you end up doing what you did? It’s okay if you don’t have a good reason. I just want to have a conversation about it.” Something like that.

SHERYL:  Yeah. Being curious about it.

JOSEFINE:  And not dismissing whatever answer you get. I think that’s hard when you muster up the courage as a teen to answer that question, even though it feels very uncomfortable to answer that. And then your answer is dismissed. I think that that’s really hard for teens.

SHERYL:  It’s easy to say that when you’re scared, as a parent, you feel scared, and you’re like, “oh, my gosh, they could have really hurt themselves or something bad. What were you thinking?” But then they’re not going to come to talk to you because they’re going to be worried that they will be judged. 

JOSEFINE:  I think sharing your own human moments is really important too. You could say, “I was scared. That’s why I said that. Yes, let’s talk about this.” Then maybe sharing something stupid you did. And showing that you are not always the saint that you might proclaim to be or not. A learning opportunity you had when you were their age. If they were caught drunk, when they really shouldn’t have been, and they’re under age, and they’re doing something stupid with alcohol as an example. 

I believe any parent at some point might deal with this. Think of yourself, maybe you don’t drink, or maybe you haven’t. But I think a lot of adults have done something similar in their teens; I sure did. And being open and honest about that, “hey, let me tell you about a time that I did something.” 

And just peeling back that myth of parents, they’re just separate because they’re adults, and they’re different. And someday, I will be an adult because it makes you think, as a teen, that there’s this switch that’s going to flip. And usually, they think, “Oh, that’s probably going to happen when I go to college, like, it’s going to flip over. And suddenly, I will be an adult and have adult thoughts and feelings, and I’ll be super in control of myself, and I will have everything figured out.” And that’s not how it works for anyone. 

So showing them the human side of yourself where you were between having nothing figured out and having those things figured out. What are some things that happened in between there that helped you figure things out? I think that can really help teens become kinder to themselves as well. Because feeling like a failure is tough, and it affects the rest of your future. It can affect your academics, and it can affect your love life and can affect your career, and so many things. 

So being human and sharing some of your own faults and maybe weird experiences with your kids. Especially in situations where you were scared for their safety or when you really need to make a point, just to show them, “hey, that door is open because I do get it – you think I don’t get it. But let me show you the story that shows you I do get it because I used to be you. And now I’m here to help you out.”

SHERYL:  I like how you said, “I was feeling scared.” And if we do freak out as parents, I just want to say this to the moms that are like, “Oh, I’ve said that.” We can always go back and say, “You know what? I thought about it. I was just feeling scared. I was scared. And you know, I’ve also done those things. And because what I have experienced as a mom is some of the things that kids have done that I did that was really dumb. Those are some of the things I freaked out the most about.” Right? Not wanting to do some of the same dumb things I did because I knew that it would impact me. 

JOSEFINE:   Because you’ve done it, but they don’t know because they haven’t.

SHERYL:  And isn’t it interesting that you mentioned how then that impacts how they see themselves? And it impacted how I saw myself? That’s why I freaked out when they were doing it. They don’t need us to pile on. Chances are, even though they might not admit it, they’re already feeling bad about it. It’s important to remember. 

So you deal with kids all across the board, a lot of mentoring. Why do you say mentoring rather than tutoring?

JOSEFINE:   I also say tutoring. But I would say we do tutoring, we do test prep, and we do college counseling; what are those three have in common? They’re very different as far as the expertise that you need. I have people on my team who have a master’s degree in physics, and I know gravity because my pen falls, and that’s about it. Right? 

I have no knowledge of physics otherwise, yet I have a really strong background in languages. I teach German, English, and Spanish, and someone else might not have that. And then my counselor William is really great at helping students destress in the college application process. And he has the degrees and the experience leading up to that. So it’s all very different as far as how we got to where we are – everyone on my team.

Why are we doing what we’re doing? We’re doing it because we love the one-on-one mentorship with students. And that’s why I say mentoring or coaching could be another good word. We use that as well. But the idea that some people think tutoring is like, “I’m just going to tell you how to do this. Here’s how you do your homework now. Now we’re done.” 

That’s not how we see tutoring at all. I think most tutoring companies, well, most small and independent tutors, don’t see it that way. Or at least I would hope. So this is my hope for our profession. But for us, we really say we want to put ourselves out of a job. I want to help this student gain the confidence and knowledge to help him or herself. And I can’t do that by telling them how to do their homework, right? What I can do is figure out what’s holding them back from being able to do their homework on their own, really zoom in on those concepts, or maybe it’s study skills, maybe it’s not even the concepts. Or maybe it’s how to apply the concept. Maybe it’s a confidence issue; help clear that up. 

Then they can go home and do their homework. So what have I done? I’ve really mentored that student, whether it’s on their pathway towards college, whether it’s on their path towards a better math score, or whether it’s helping them mitigate their test anxiety around test prep. I’m really trying to instill in them that confidence and knowledge that they can help themselves with that growth mindset. So it’s about much more than the label of the session. Every single session has mentorship in it. And that’s how we train our tutors extensively before they start with students.

SHERYL:  I love that because it sounds like you do a lot of listening and empowering. The word coming to me is that it sounds like you’re empowering them. You’re just not like making them do their homework. And they can come and talk about what’s going on, and you hear them, and then you’re guiding them and mentoring them in that process. So that they feel like they can do it. 

JOSEFINE:   Yes. Because otherwise, we’re just fostering dependency. And that’s not going to help anyone, especially not the student, and part of our mission is we are here, we embrace one on one mentorship, to really to promote the wellbeing of the student. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not here for our parents, and we’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for the student. 

What will serve the student? That’s really of the utmost importance, and at the core of everything we do, and if that is taking half the session, to talk about something that happened in school, just because you need to get it out, because otherwise, you can’t focus even if you study for five more hours, then that might be the right thing during that session, honestly, because those are the things that hold us back from performing well. 

SHERYL:  Yeah, I love it. I kind of think of it as unclogging a drain. You’re all clogged up. And you just need to unclog that drain so you can move forward. Do you find that many of your students are dealing with procrastination because they’re anxious?

JOSEFINE:   Yes. Or because they think they can’t do it. I feel confident. I’ve seen this happen so many times: they lack confidence in themselves. It is what creates procrastination. Negative self-talk.

SHERYL:  All three of my kids had tutors, but they were mentors to help my kids with learning differences. It was so helpful. I just have to tell the moms out there that are listening. Because it got me out of the middle and my husband in the middle where there were so many power struggles.

And we’re always fighting about getting the homework turned in, and they did their homework, but then there are zeros, and you could see everything in Power School, yet you never handed it in. Getting that mentor, that tutor to come in and work with my kids. It was such a relief because then it wasn’t us trying to drive the process, but somebody else was coming in and influencing them and helping to build that confidence.

JOSEFINE:  I think we occupy a unique niche and a student’s life that parents can’t. Teachers can’t. So that’s why I always say, there’s the student, there are the teachers, there are the parents, and then there are friends, and we are none of those things. We sometimes look like a friend, we sometimes look like a teacher, we sometimes look like a parent, but really we’re none of those things. And we’re really the people who help parents nag less because someone else can take over those questions, and the student was probably going to be less defensive if someone else is asking those questions. 

And that enables you as the parent to really be there more for your kid and to focus on having those positive experiences instead. Having a nice family dinner and talking about how your day went or going to their games, etc. Instead of also filling the day with three hours of trying to help with homework. 

Especially if you have children with learning differences or ADHD, we help so many students who have ADHD who have any other types of learning differences. And it’s really having someone who understands executive functioning, and how the students have executive functioning skills where they are strong, where they are maybe a little challenged, and how to really navigate that in a way that slowly builds confidence and skills rather than creating dependency. It’s really nice to have a professional who does that all day long.

SHERYL:  Oh, yeah, I because two of my kids I’m talking about have ADHD. And that was huge for them to learn how to study, to learn how to manage her time, and I, frankly, was not good at helping them with that. And it made all the difference when they went to college. Yes, we know how to study, they had that confidence, they knew they could do it. Huge difference.

JOSEFINE:  And you’re learning about it, while they’re learning about it, it’s hard for you to be able to guide them along the right path if you’re the parent because you haven’t seen 100 students with similar issues, and how every single student, even though they may have the same diagnosis is completely different from the next. So you haven’t had the opportunity to try out all of these different techniques and tactics. 

I think it’s really hard. You’re learning about it at the same time. You’re also going through something just like your child is as they’re figuring it out. Why is my brain different? And how does it work? And you’re asking yourself the same thing? Why is my child’s brain different? And how does it work? 

And so having someone come in and navigate that and share their knowledge and try out different things in a creative way, really someone who really gets your kid. Everyone is different, and I always say it’s all about fit. One tutor may be a great tutor for your friend’s kid, but not for your kid. You have to try out people, and you have to make sure it’s a good fit. Because that motivation, that clicking, that vibe with one another between the student and the tutor, that is what’s going to set the stage for success. 

If you want your child to actually get some form of mentorship out of it, because you’re not going to look up to someone who you just don’t look up to, you’re not going to listen to them. And I think that, especially with learning differences, you have to get really creative because you asked me about the do’s and don’ts for parents, right? 

Here’s a big don’t. If your kid has a learning difference, don’t tell them they can’t do something, do tell them, “you can do this; it might be a little bit different from how your friend does it. But you can totally do it. So let’s tackle this. Let’s figure out how you can do this.” 

I had a student who had dyslexia, very severe dyslexia, and I did test prep with her. And you know, I do recommend reading if you want to get better at the reading section. It does help. So we talked about that. I asked her how do you feel about reading, and I had nothing to do with this; she and her parents had come up with this amazing tactic of figuring out how to expose herself more to reading and how to actually find joy in it, even though it was the hardest thing in her life. Everything jumbled all the time and flipped all the time. When your words flip, and instead of reading, you say a bear because there are a lot of similarities there, and it visually floats around on the page. It’s incredible how different it can be for someone with dyslexia. 

And so, she would listen to the audiobook while reading the book. And that’s how she actually found joy in reading. And it also really helped her a lot more because she could sound anything out. So a lot more sight recognition and things like that. I love that. And that was such a creative strategy. And this was someone I tutored at the beginning of my tutoring, or at least at the beginning of my test prep journey. I had been a tutor for years, but not for test prep yet. 

I just loved hearing her story and seeing how creative she was. Because, again, it’s the growth mindset. I have parents who come in and say, “he has really severe ADHD. So he’s not going to be able to do X, Y, and Z. And he’s not going to be able to go to a college that X, Y, and Z.” I like to challenge that. Because I think parents know their kids really well. I have a lot to learn about students from what their parents can tell me.

But I also think parents have many fears for their kids. And sometimes might think their kid can’t do something because they want to shield their kid from falling. So it’s great to invite someone into your family bubble who might challenge that a little bit. Because it can really provide an incredible growth opportunity for their future, I’ve had kids who had ADHD who did things their parents thought they would never do. And it was amazing.

SHERYL:  I love that. I’ve witnessed it with my own kids, and I’m just amazed that they can. And you’re exactly right because we’re afraid we don’t want our kids to get hurt, but how she rose to that challenge, and what a different way of looking at joy and taking on this challenge. So just love that.

JOSEFINE:  Yeah, you can go from A to B in so many ways. In school, we’re put in a box, and we think we can only go from A to B in one way. But when you have a kid with ADHD, or dyslexia, or anything else going on, or even, even a neurotypical child, there are so many ways to get from A to B, and it may not be your way, and it may not be someone else’s way. But it’s their way. And you can be there to support them to help them find their way to get there.

It might be a longer route, it might be a shortcut, but they can get their whatever A and B are, whether that’s different points in life, whether that’s the knowledge that you’re gaining or a study habit, but I really think there’s so much hope and excitement and, “hey, let’s tackle this because we can get there. And let’s figure out how to get there because this is new for me, too. Let’s go figure that out.” And making that an opportunity instead of a barrier can really help support your child and their confidence, and they’re growing.

SHERYL:  So, so encouraging. As you’re saying that, I wish I had met with you when I was in school, you would have helped me so much because there were so many things. I thought I couldn’t do this because I have learning differences. But our brains are amazing. Because it might just not look the same, but they have so many other strengths. So it really sounds like you help them pull that out.

JOSEFINE:  Yeah, that’s the goal. For anything we do.

SHERYL:  Well, I want to ask you two more questions. So how do you know if your kid is ready for college or not ready for college? This is one that’s coming up a lot in my community.

JOSEFINE:  That’s a great question. I think talking to your kid helps. Here’s what not to do. Don’t ask your kid about college every day. I like the idea of making most of the week of a college-free talk-free zone. And then maybe block out time, say Saturdays in the afternoon, we get to talk about college. That way, it’s not as overwhelming. 

As soon as they turn into juniors, they’re constantly being asked, what college are you going to apply to? What are you going to major in? They’re 16. Did you know what you would do for the rest of your life when you were 16? I didn’t. I’m still not quite sure. But it’s hard. It’s tough. 

People start wearing sweatshirts and places they want to go. A lot of students don’t even know what sweatshirt to put on. They feel bad about that. And they shouldn’t – it’s a time of exploration. Give them that time. And so explore with them. Go visit colleges starting junior year, just casually visit some campuses, do some college tours, just to give them an idea of what’s out there. And how they engage with that. What kind of questions do they ask? What kind of conversations do you have with them after that? That’ll start giving you a hint as far as my kid is ready for college now. 

And because it’s also like, you’re not just going to automatically be ready for college. Again, there’s no switch that we can flip. So providing your child with the opportunity to feel bit by bit ready or ready for college, I think, is the key. So kind of what we talked about at the beginning of this episode, even with chores and little like responsibilities and, you know, little by little relinquishing control and giving over more independence to them. That’s part of being college ready. 

High grades don’t make you automatically college ready. But there is a big fear “hey, if my kid has all of that, they have a job.” They’re obviously independent and running their own lives, but their grades just suck. They barely graduated high school. They’re barely getting there. I don’t think grades suck; I’m just saying that this might be a thought the parent has. 

I think it’s about finding the right fit. If your kid wants to go to college, finding a college that has a lot of balance that has great mentorship, it might not be a giant college; it might be more of a mid to small-size college being flexible and like geographic location, being open to college names you’ve never heard of. There are 3000 colleges in the US. How could you ever have heard of all of them? There are so many amazing colleges. Throw the prestige factor out the window, and open your mind to “Hey, what are the opportunities for my child?” 

I have a lot of parents who come to me and say, “My kid has a 2.5 GPA. So they’re not going to college, or at least not to a four-year” Man, I really want to go to a four-year. I feel ready. I want that experience. I feel like I would be a lot more motivated because the classes seem more interesting. And there are certain things that I would like to try and major in.” 

Or some students are still undecided. But still would really like to face this next step in their lives; supporting them and finding the right fit for college, I think, is incredibly important. And all of the parents who have come to us, not just me, but also my colleagues, my whole team, we have a free consultation and start by saying, “hey, my kids, probably not going to college, but I just wanted to chat with you and maybe get help with applying to community college or something like that.” And we say, “well, do you not want to go to a four year because that’s fine. That’s great. Let’s talk about some alternative pathways, alternative things to do after high school.” 

But if it turns out that the student would really like to go, then we say, “let us work together and find the perfect fit college because that college is out there.” All of our students who came to us in that like that are now at four-year colleges successfully. And they’re at great institutions that are offering them exactly what they need and that have that mentorship to allow them to explore careers to explore themselves. Some of them might have had ADHD or learning differences. And they have excellent accommodations in their college now that are really helping them figure out. “Okay, so this is how I can navigate this.” 

And you are then building your independence brick by brick as you are away. The other thing that you can do is start talking about a gap year. I cannot talk enough about gap years. Anyone who has heard me talk about them before, I apologize. I love them. As you all know, I think that kids in American culture are thrown into college from high school way too quickly. There’s no break. And as I was saying before, High School is a lot of go-go-go. It’s a rat race for a lot of kids. A lot of kids just have packed schedules. And so, we see a lot of burnout happening either during college or post-college. Because post-college, you want to keep going because you’re like, “Yes, I’m in the zone like I have these good contacts. And I want to start a career.”

So when are you going to take a break? And a break is not really what a gap year is. It’s an opportunity for a different type of growth and outside-of-the-classroom experience and learning. So more experiential learning, so part of your brain gets a break. That academic side to sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures all day portion. But the other part is getting a huge education. So it’s not really a break. If you feel like your child is not college ready, if you feel like they’re not ready yet to go to a four-year or a two-year, whatever it might be, and sit in class and take it seriously and be motivated, I would highly, highly recommend talking about a gap year with your child. 

There are so many opportunities out there. There are even college admissions counselors that do only Gap Year counseling. I’m blanking on another name. She’s in Vermont, and she’s virtual, and she’s amazing. Anyway, you can always email me. If you want to find out more, I’m happy to refer her. 

I took a gap year, and I took gap experiences because I went to Spain when I was 16 and in 11th grade. I lived there for half a year with a host family, and I attended school there. That’s how I became fluent in Spanish after having it for five years in class. After which, I knew I would not be getting good grades for a long time because I had stopped studying vocabulary for like three years. That’s not how you learn the language. So I went there. 

And then after I graduated high school, and mind you, in Germany High School – you’re usually about 19 when you graduate, so it’s an extra year compared to the US. That’s when I took a gap year, and I worked for about four or five months to save up money, and then I went to Argentina and interned at a theater also completely in Spanish and lived in a dorm with other people who were there to take language classes or internships from all around the world. So it was pretty fun. We had a really good time, and I traveled through South America. 

And then, after that, I came to the US to go to college. I love sharing that with my students because they feel like, “oh my god, I have to hurry, I have to rush, I don’t really know what I want to do yet. And I don’t really know where I want to go yet. But I just I’m just going to pick something because I need to keep moving forward.” I think we need to get away from that, too, because a lot of employers and a lot of universities love seeing this on any type of job or college application that you have had a gap experience, where you have been able to learn something about a new culture, learn something about yourself, learn a new skill, whatever it might be. They know those students; they’re going to do really well in college. So, students who have had a gap year tend to have higher GPAs and graduate within four years at a higher rate than students who did not have a gap year. So it can be incredibly beneficial because it allows your kid to mature, gain independence, gain confidence in themselves learn more about the world and their place within it. And then they can take those lessons confidently.

SHERYL:  Wow. That is so good to hear, moms, isn’t it? Yeah, we’re in such a hurry. I just love that. I love how you, during this time, have just reframed things and looked at things with a different mindset, a lot about just growth and opportunity and experiences. And rather than this pressure cooker that has to look a certain way, we’re falling behind, or we’re failing in some way. It’s been a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Josefine, for coming on and talking to us and telling everybody where to find you.

JOSEFINE:  https://www.strivetolearn.com/ is our website. Strive as in striving for more. My email is [email protected], or you can email [email protected], and you’ll get either one of my amazing team or me. 

We have a podcast as well called Mindful Admissions. And we call it that because it is a lot about college admissions. But it is a lot about how to be mindful along that path. Whether you know college is the end goal for you or an alternative option. We have a whole episode on gap years on there. For example, in case I sparked your interest, we have an episode actually on how parents can best support their kids with my colleague Melinda Blackman and myself. I really recommend that you check those out if you know you want to kind of gain more insights on the specifics of the college application process and how to help along each step of the way. 

Because we all know it’s a journey. And at Strive to Learn, we only have one on one sessions. But we also do partner with schools. So if you think that anything that I had to say would be something great to share, either just with your kid or a friend, we have a free consultation, where we just get to know you and tell you a bit about what we do, to see if we would be a good fit for each other. And if you think that your kid’s school would need presentations or anything like that, then we do that as well. So just reach out to us at [email protected]

SHERYL:  Awesome. I love how you work with people all over the world and in the United States. It’s awesome.

JOSEFINE:  Yeah, that’s the great thing about being virtual. We’ve been virtual for the whole nine years that we have existed. We were also brick and mortar – we had both going on. So we were not new to zoom when the pandemic happened, which made that transition a lot easier. It’s all about engaging personally with every single student and family. So we try to make our zoom sessions as fun and interactive and hands-on as possible. So our students who’ve had zoom classes say, “Wow, this is really different than a zoom class.” And I like it because I can keep an open mind and reach out to us wherever you are.

SHERYL:  Okay, and I will share the links as well. Thank you so much, Josefine, for coming to the show.

JOSEFINE:  Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. I had a really great time. Thank you so much.

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