Setting the Bar

Home Science Tools Banner
* This post may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. *

Did you like this article? If so, please help by sharing it!

Megan had a ball coach year before last who’d never coached Little League before. He’d coached high school girls softball, but never Little League. I’ll never forget the first few practices of the year. Once Coach got a feel for everyone’s abilities, he assigned them positions. Then, he started coaching.

High school girls’ softball.

I mean, seriously. He was teaching them to throw the ball to first. In five- and six-year old league? Throw the ball? They’ll throw it away. He taught them that this player backs up that player and if this guy goes after the ball, this player runs over to cover that base. Really? In five and six? They don’t even know how to cover their own position most of the time.

setting the bar

But, he was the coach, so nobody told him that you don’t coach five and six that way, that he was expecting too much.

And you know what? Nobody told the kids either. And, they did it. They learned to back each other up, to throw the ball, to catch the ball, to play as a team…and they came in 2nd place.

I’ve always heard that kids live up — or down — to your expectations. I think that’s true. And, it can be a fine line to walk, as a homeschool mom. I mean, we don’t want to push our kids beyond their developmental readiness. We want to give them time to develop at their own pace, to explore their areas of strength and not allow them to become defined by their areas of weakness. However, in allowing them the time and space to develop, we also want to make sure that we aren’t unnecessarily lowering the bar.

So, how do we do that? How do we make sure that we keep the expectations high while not pushing? I certainly don’t have all the answers (probably not even part of them), so I hope you’ll leave your thoughts in the comments (or even post about it and leave the link in the comments), but following are a few things that come to my mind:

Don’t wait too long. If something has proven difficult for your child and you’ve decided to take a break and put that particular item on the back burner for awhile, that’s fine. Just don’t leave it there. Give it a few weeks or even a few months, but pull it back out every once in awhile and see if the child might be ready for it now.

For example, Brianna went through a phase where a spelling program seemed a waste of time. She’d remember the words long enough for a test, but I’d never see the results in her regular writing, so that was something we put on a shelf for awhile. We did no spelling for several months and when we came back to it, I saw marked improvement in her retention.

Try different approaches. Just because a kid doesn’t understand one way of doing something, doesn’t mean she might not understand another. Brianna had a really hard time with multiplying multiple digits (such as 524 X 652). The traditional method just wasn’t clicking for her. Then, I heard about lattice multiplication. It sounded crazy, confusing, and difficult, but she got it! It worked for her. She used it for about a year or two before it all clicked. She can now multiply in the more traditional way with no problems.

Just keep swimming. I love Dory from Finding Nemo. You’ll often find us singing, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” Just because something’s hard, doesn’t mean you give up. It may not be where you spend the majority of your time and effort, but spend some time on it daily.

Josh struggles with reading. Unlike spelling, reading is not something I’m willing to completely put aside for awhile, so we just keep swimming. Every day we spend some time on reading. It’s hard for him, so we’re not fixating on it to the point of giving him a complex about it, but we keep trying and he’s seeing the results of his efforts. And, every once in awhile, I’ll pull out a book for him to try and I’ll be his cheerleader — “I know this was hard for you before, but you’ve come such a long way. Give it a try and I’ll help you when you get stuck.

Try a back door approach. Let’s say that writing is difficult for your child, but he’s got some great ideas. Let him dictate to you — or into a recorder, or on video. You can write or type out his words or let the family enjoy his video production while ensuring that writing difficulties don’t curb his creativity.

Encourage problem solving. My kids often ask me simple things that they could figure out, such as, “How long until we do {fill in the blank}?” They never like my answer: “Well, we’re doing {fill in the blank} on Friday and today is Wednesday. How long is that?”

It is often hard, as parents, to ignore that urge to just supply the answer or do something ourselves because it would be quicker or easier. However, when we do that, we’re missing an opportunity for our kids to learn how to figure out their own solutions and often, when we give kids room to solve their own problems, they exceed our expectations.

What solutions have you found to walking that fine line between not pushing, but not settling?

+ posts

Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

Did you like this article? If so, please help by sharing it!


  1. Fabulous! Such a great encouragement, and one that I really need to read before we embark on our next school year. Thanks for the great reminder. 🙂

  2. Wonderful! We have a challenged reader and I am struggling between just keep swimming and pushing right now. Thanks for the timely reminder.

  3. It's a big challenge to find the balance. One thing that helps me is comparing to public schools, and the top elite schools. My kids are all bright, so they'd better be doing better than the public schools. In some areas, I can challenge them to the top standards.

    I find the big hold-up is me. If I don't have goals and expectations for a field of interest, the kids settle for less than they could do.

    On the other hand, all our children are late readers, and that's OK. Their knowledge and other skills can increase without reading.

    Annie Kate

  4. That is so true! Often our best work comes from our greatest weakness, because we spend so much time working on it!

  5. Thanks for this post! I have high expectations for my daughter, and sometimes I feel like I'm expecting too much. That's when I start to cut too much slack, only to realize I need to expect more. I wish I could live in the middle somehow!

    Thanks for the ideas and bringing this to my attention again. It's good to refocus on it as the new school year approaches.

    Wonderful post!!

  6. What a wonderful post, Kris! In fact, I'd say this was my all-time favorite post so far.

    I can relate to the coaching scenario you laid out, since I spend most of my summer, it seems, at ball games. But the problem we've seen of NOT touching the kids to throw to first and how to back up is that when they "graduate" to the next level, they don't even know those concept exist. So when you linked that to homeschooling, the light really came on for me. Thanks!

    Jenny (who also loves Dory)

  7. Thanks for sharing all these solutions. There are so many different ways to confront the various learning issues our kids face over the years.

    Good to remember that the same approach isn't always the right approach. As quick as the years go we can take a break from something if we really need to and probably end up better off in the end.

    Thanks for that reminder.

  8. I struggle with this too. Every year, I set goals for G and sometimes we don't reach them because I have to step back. I have to just keep swimming with math for G.. if not we would never get anywhere. This was a great post and a good reminder to slow down when needed. But to also not encourage a quitter attitude.

    BTW, now I have Dory in my head…love Dory!

  9. Great post, if we get stuck I try a totally different approach the following week, and keep searching until it clicks.
    Thanks for the lattice mult. link, that is cool! Have you ever heard of Mike's Math Brainetics??

  10. Kris, your site has been great for me as a relatively new homeschooler. Thanks so much for all the help!

  11. Wow — that lattice multiplication is pretty cool. I'll have to remember that as we get to bigger numbers, if the kids have problems.

  12. I've been really enjoying looking through your blog and I particularly enjoyed this post.

    I'd like to invite you to participate in my Mom 2 Mom Carnival entitled "Encouraging Your Children's Relationship With Jesus". It took place last week, but I've since had several late entries, so I've decided to do a wrap up this Friday. Everyone who participates by Friday is eligible for a giveaway. I'd be honoured if you would do a post for my carnival – I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.