Jane Kristoffy is an educational strategist who helps students find their academic direction. She motivates tweens and teens to unleash their potential by helping them develop their learning and life skills, and find their passions and strengths. Jane lives in Toronto, Canada with her Labradoodle and two teenagers and has been a teacher and guidance counsellor for over twenty-five years. Jane founded Right Track Educational Services in 2012, and works closely with students and families, virtually and in real life. She’s a popular speaker on a variety of education and parenting topics, as well as a regular guest expert on national television news programs. Jane is the author of Launch Your Kid: How to Promote Your Child’s Academic & Personal Success (without being a helicopter parent), which is jam-packed with no-nonsense tips for parents about how to get their kids through school and ready for the real world!
In this episode:
- Launching our kids. As parents, we can do little things each day to give our kids the learning & life skills that they need to be prepared to launch into the real world!
- Building resilience in our kids involves letting them face the consequences, normalizing failure & struggle, being a good listener, & providing opportunities for responsibility.
- Nurturing 21st century skills prepares our kids for the changing world that they will be launching into. These skills include grit, growth mindset, self-advocacy, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship, character, & critical thinking.
- There are three chapters in the motherhood journey but we often don’t think about or prepare for Chapter 3. Chapter 1: Before having your family; Chapter 2: Raising your family; and Chapter 3: Launching your kids.
Connect with Jane:
- Instagram: @jane_right_track https://www.instagram.com/jane_right_track/
- Facebook: @RightTrackEducationalServices https://www.facebook.com/RightTrackEducationalServices
- Website: https://www.righttrackeducation.ca
- Book: Launch Your Kid: How to Promote Your Child’s Academic & Personal Success (without being a helicopter parent)
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/janekristoffy/
- YouTube: Career Stories
On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a great conversation with Jane about her motherhood and work journey as a mom of two kids working in the field of education. She talked about launching our kids into the real world, strategies to build resilience in our children, the importance of nurturing 21st century skills, the three chapters in the motherhood journey, and so much more!
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 33 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
I really enjoyed my conversation with Jane. She is incredibly personable, warm, and engaging. I love how Jane gets us thinking ahead to that third chapter of our motherhood journey when we are launching our kids into the real world. With our oldest heading child heading into high school in the fall, suddenly this doesn’t feel too far off! Where has the time gone?
MOM & EDUCATOR HATS
It is hard to juggle the educator and mom roles. Jane says that our kids get annoyed by the “teacher voice” in anything to do with teaching. As a rule, she has outsourced a number of things. She also tries to model and not directly teach a lot of the time because it can become like that voice from the Peanuts cartoon when mom is teaching “again”.
When Jane first became a mother, she stayed home with her kids. She is currently divorced but at the time, she and her husband decided for the family’s sake that she would stay home. This was a decision that she never looked back on and she loved every minute of it. When her kids were school-aged, she started going back into the educational system on a part-time basis. This still allowed her to be very hands-on and engaged with her family. She also was very involved in her community as a volunteer doing things like Girl Scouts and running recreation programs up North at their cottage.
Jane started a side hustle, Right Track Educational Services, which eventually became her full-time business and has been really ramping up in the last few years. For Jane, it’s been an evolution. She started out really wanting to be home with her kids and supporting them and being involved in their lives at school. Then, slowly she dipped back into education and thenn, went from being an educator in the classroom to an entrepreneur.
As a teacher, Jane primarily taught middle school and most often Grade 8. She is a guidance counselor by training and in this capacity, she has worked with kids in all grades. Middle school aged kids are Jane’s passion. They can be a bit of a nightmare, a big, hot mess in a lot of cases, but she really loves them. For Jane, it is so exciting to witness them figuring out who they are, making tons of mistakes, and struggling. Jane loves working with teenagers!
Jane’s daughter is almost 19 and her son is almost 17. She has loved every stage. There have been hard patches here and there but they’re temporary. She can now look back and sort of laugh at those times. For Jane, that perspective has come along more clearly as she has gone through her motherhood journey.
RIGHT TRACK EDUCATIONAL SERVICES
Jane was looking for a way to get out of the rigid school calendar as a teacher. Yes, teachers have fantastic holidays compared to other professions but she wanted to get out of that defined schedule and call her own shots. As well, Jane had many people in her community and her network who were constantly asking her questions.
- Should I send my child to a private school?
- Should my child be tested for giftedness? What does that mean?
- Should we look at French immersion or not?
ALL THE DECISIONS
Parents were looking for help with making all kinds of decisions because there are so many options out there. Jane also had a number of people who would contact her in a panic because something had gone wrong at school and they needed advice. Jane saw a business opportunity, jumped on it, and slowly started consulting with families.
GROWING SERVICE OFFERINGS
Offering “SOS” support was one of Jane’s services. Then, she started offering some test support and application support for getting into specialized schools or independent schools. As a guidance counselor, she has career counseling, training and experience. Using this expertise, she has moved into the post-secondary pathways area. Jane now works with kids and their families from pre-Kindergarten all the way through to post-secondary.
STRATEGIES THAT HAVE HELPED WITH JANE’S JUGGLE:
- QUIET TIME: When Jane’s eldest child, her daughter, stopped napping, they implemented quiet time. They laid out expectations of what one to two hours would look like and had lots of educational toys and activities in her room. It took time to establish the routine but when Jane’s son would nap, her daughter would go for her quiet time. This allowed Jane time to also rest, to take a break, or do what she needed to do. It became a regular part of their family routine. Having this consistent expectation has benefited their family in the long term, because her kids became independent at home. They are good at spending time on their own in their rooms, reading, and doing quiet things. This allows everyone to have a break and there isn’t a demand on mom all of the time. You can go really crazy if you don’t have a break!
- PLANNING BACKWARDS: Time management is a really big thing in Jane’s home. She has a big calendar in the kitchen with everybody’s stuff written on it. She and her kids talk about what’s coming up. They plan backwards for whatever events or deadlines are coming up as well as for getting out the door in the morning. Daily to-do lists and having her kids be responsible for things like packing their own backpacks with their ski stuff the night before skiing are all part of this.
- COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Jane has always reached out to the mom groups in her community as well as online mom groups and getting ideas by reading articles from bloggers. She has also asked for support from friends and my family. Jane says that it can be hard to accept help. However, when you do it’s like a light bulb goes off and you wonder what you had been waiting for.
HELPING OUR KIDS WITH THEIR SCHOOLWORK
Jane reminds us that during COVID times, we all just need to give ourselves permission to be frustrated and to know that this too shall pass. This is a really hard time for everyone involved. As a rule, with COVID, Jane says to make sure everybody’s got their own private workspace and have the kids be very involved in setting up their own schedules and routines. This will help them to feel that they have control over something.
In non-COVID times:
- CONSIDER OUTSOURCING: If your child is struggling with something, make the decision to either help them yourself or to outsource. Everybody’s busy and there can be lots of activities on the schedule. Maybe both parents are working. Time is tight and parents aren’t the expert in everything. When you make the decision to outsource, it can preserve the relationship with your child. As parents, we can be annoying when it comes to schoolwork. As well, school is part of our children’s life. We are not there and we have to respect some boundaries around their life at school. Be okay with outsourcing but don’t outsource everything.
- ENTER WITH RESPECT & MANNERS: If we do decide to help our kids ourselves, we should enter the session with respect and manners. We need to remember that this is their life and space.
- GET CLEAR ON THE CONTEXT: It is important to understand the context of what the assignment or activity is because parents can make it bigger and more complicated than it needs to be. Take the time to get clear on what it is your child is asking about, what they need help with, and what the assignment is asking them to do.
- SET EXPECTATIONS: With your child, set expectations about things like how long you’re going to work on the assignment and how nobody’s allowed to raise their voice.
A helicopter parent is the parent who just swoops in and does everything, takes over, makes decisions, and saves the day whenever there is a problem. Sometimes, just leaving your child to figure it out on his or her own is the best thing to do. If they fall on their face, that’s maybe the best thing that can happen. The sooner that happens, the better, because they’re going to have that happen in real life. Jane says that it is better to let them go through that experience under your own roof. It’s painful. It’s very hard to step back and let them sort through challenges. However, it’s a really important thing to do for your child’s long-term development and mental health.
HELPING OUR KIDS BECOME MORE RESILIENT
Resilience is the capacity to rise above setbacks and failures and to move forward with confidence and a positive outlook. In a nutshell, it’s buoyancy. Jane’s gives the analogy of a beach ball and you’re pushing it below the water surface and it’s bouncing back up. That’s what we want for our kids. We want them to have this ability to bounce back.
- LET THEM FACE THE CONSEQUENCES: As parents, if our kids are having struggles in school or maybe if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, let them face the consequences. Let them deal with the struggle or failure.
- NORMALIZE FAILURE AND STRUGGLE: As well, it’s important to normalize failure and struggle in our own lives. Modelling our struggles, rather than hiding them, shows our kids that this is part of life and through our struggles, we grow.
- BE A GOOD LISTENER: Listen to their problems but don’t solve them. If they don’t get invited to that birthday party, don’t call the mom and say, why is my kid not invited? That’s a life experience. And it’s an important thing to learn how to deal with. Getting a bad mark or getting cut from the team are life experiences. These are failures but our kids can bounce back from them. If mom gets involved, she’s not helping at all. She’s actually making things worse. So listen, provide support, and talk to your kids about their experiences.
- PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR RESPONSIBILITY: Providing opportunities for kids to have responsibilities is really important. For example, give kids chores so that they are taking responsibility at home. With responsibility, they will become more independent. We want them to grow those wings and to be ready for the world.
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY SKILLS:
21st century skills are the skills that we really need to nurture for our kids or for the world that they’re entering into. When the time comes, we don’t know what jobs are going to be out there, what schedules are going to look like, and what compensation will look like. It’s really a changing world and so we have to prepare our kids for the unknown.
HARD AND SOFT FACTORS
In the past, there was a lot of emphasis on what are called hard factors. These are things that can be measured and evaluated like test scores or specific skills such as accounting or nursing. These hard factors are still very important but the soft factors, or the soft skills, are really important too.
EXAMPLES OF SOFT SKILLS:
- GRIT: Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance. Angela Duckworth, a PhD psychologist, wrote a book on this called “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”. This is seen in the student who never gives up and who is always trying to reach their goal.
- GROWTH MINDSET: Growth Mindset is the idea that the ability to learn is not fixed and that you can achieve anything with continued effort and determination. This idea comes from the work of Carol Dweck.
- THE 6 Cs: The 6 Cs for 21st century learning are collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship, character, and critical thinking.
SUPPORTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOFT SKILLS
So how can we help our kids develop these skills at home? Jane says that we need to set expectations for our kids’ behavior and choices. We also need to model our own soft skills. For example, we can teach them empathy and help them to try to see things from other people’s perspective and we can really listen to what our kids are going through. A good question to ask our kids is “What do you think you should do?”. This can help to develop their critical thinking with how they look at situations and problems so that they can figure it out on their own with your support. You’re there for them unconditionally as their mom but you trust in them. You believe that they can come up with the answers that they need.
LESSONS FROM DAD
Jane’s dad always said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. She now says this all the time to her kids. Self-advocacy, another important skill for the 21st century, is the hardest one to nurture in them. It’s so hard to bring out their voices. Some kids are just so shy and scared to speak up because they think that it is so awkward. However, once they do have success from an effort of speaking up, they want to do it all the time because they realize how easy it is. Getting started is difficult but with practice kids become much more confident.
MOTHERHOOD & IDENTITY
When Jane’s children were young, her identity was really wrapped around motherhood. This was to the point of losing her identity in some of the other areas of her life. She really embraced being a mom and jumped in with two feet. Jane loved being home with her kids for that time and she has no regrets.
ONE OF MANY PARTS
However, life took an unexpected turn for Jane when her marriage ended. When that happened, it was a struggle because so much of her identity was wrapped around being a mom. What Jane has learned is that being a mother is part of who she is, it will always be a big part, but it is not everything. Jane says that if she were to do it again, she would have a more balanced outlook or perspective on that role in her life.
LONG DAYS & SHORT YEARS
Something that people say all the time to moms is that the days are long, but the years are short. Jane reminds us to try to enjoy every single day because before you know it, you’ve got a kid living in residence that’s a six hour drive away. For Jane, that is her daughter who is away at university. Her son is not far behind. Every part of the motherhood journey is exciting. Things change over the years. You’re needed less but you are still needed. It’s not going to end. It’s just going to change.
THE BIG PICTURE
When our kids do move on to their next phases, what is life going to be like for mom? We should be aware of the big picture. For 18 years, we have our kids at home and that time goes by in a snap. Your kids may move back for a while but things are different. Jane encourages us to mentally prepare for Chapter Three.
THE THREE CHAPTERS OF MOTHERHOOD
Jane refers to Chapter One in her life as the time when she was on her own and becoming her own person. Chapter Two was when she started her family and her children were growing up. Chapter Three will be when her children have launched and it’s more about her again. Jane says that we should be prepared for that phase. It’s exciting but we need to make sure that when the time comes, it’s not a shock. For some moms, they’re not ready for it.
LAUNCH YOUR KID
Jane recently released her book called “Launch Your Kid: How to Promote Your Child’s Academic and Personal Success (Without Being a Helicopter Parent)”. She put the book together based on feedback that she collected over years. Jane has led numerous presentations and would get written feedback from parents in response to the question “What keeps you up at night?”. She has also had numerous anecdotal discussions with clients, parents, and people in her network about the things that they were really scared or unsure about when it comes to raising kids.
TANGIBLE TIPS & STRATEGIES
Jane’s book is a no-nonsense discussion about how parents can promote their kids’ academic and personal skills at home. You don’t need to be a teacher, a social worker, or a psychologist. The book provides parents with really easy tips and strategies to minimize the feelings of overwhelm and worry. It goes into depth about the learning and life skills that kids need to arrive and thrive in the 21st century. Throughout Jane’s book, she reminds parents how easy it is for them to do a little bit each day to support their kids with the ultimate goal of launching them.
Thanks so much to Jane for this fantastic conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!