Excerpt from 10 Quick Homework Tips (McKinley Alder & Trombly): Tip #4, Know Where to Get Help

TIP # 4


Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. ~ Barack Obama


Why is this Important? 

It is very frustrating for kids when they come upon something they don't know how to do while trying to complete their homework.  Getting stuck can really derail concentration for some kids.  That’s why it is good to know, ahead of time, what your child should do if she gets stuck.

What You Can Do:

Teachers sometimes use the “Ask 3 Before Me” rule.  This means that before kids go to the teacher for help, they are encouraged to try to solve the problem themselves by asking/using three other sources first.  At home, there may not be three other people to go to for help besides you, but you can brainstorm possibilities: friends, maybe even a pre-arranged “study buddy”; the textbook; her notes; online; a classroom site…

If it happens frequently, you might want to keep track of what is hard and ask her teacher for some specific ideas. Generally speaking, homework is used by teachers as a review of something they have already covered in class.  Most often the information is not new.  Therefore, usually, your child should have the prior knowledge from school learning to combine with her notes and book for help.  

If those resources are not enough, and something is difficult, try to figure it out together.  It is good for her to see how you try to solve problems, too. (See Tip #9 for more on this.)  

You might find that sitting down with her to start a homework assignment, even just for a few minutes, gets her focused and off to a good start.  It also lets you see if she knows just what to do or if she needs some guidance to begin.  Just remember: it is always OK to help her out; just make sure she is the one doing the work.

If completing homework is consistently tough for your child, do consider getting a tutor.  Her teacher may be able to recommend someone to work one-on-one with her once, or even a few times, a week.  A tutor trained in teaching techniques may be able to offer more than just help with homework, but might also help your child learn life-long study habits, coping skills, and even offer fun ways to master skills.

* Modification for School-from-Home Learning: 

When kids are not receiving as much instruction from their teachers as they normally do, it is more important than ever to have alternate ways for them to get help.  If you are also working from home, you might find it hard to balance doing your own work and helping with hers.  If she has a list of places to go for help, everyone will feel more supported.

Tip # 4 Take-Away:

When kids get stuck on homework, and eventually they all do, it is important to have some tools ready to go in their toolbox, places they can go for help so they don’t get frustrated and off track.


For more posts by and about Cindy Alder McKinley and Patti Trombly and their books,


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