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The Ask Three Before Me Homework Rule

If you’re used to sitting with your child as he or she does homework and providing immediate help, or checking each answer, here’s a simple strategy to start him or her on the road to homework independence: ASK THREE BEFORE ME.

Here’s an example. Your child says, “I don’t get this math problem. Can you show me?”

You say, “Did you check your notes? Did you look for a similar example in your book? Who else might you ask?” Let’s look at these one by one.

  • Checking notes. It’s amazing how often the answer truly is in the notes a teacher required students to take. Also, familiarize yourself with the teacher’s website. Can your child review the teacher’s lecture? Are there sample problems there? Many teachers are archiving key topics to provide this sort of support.
  • Looking through the book. Yes, some textbooks may as well be written in a foreign language, but some have very helpful sample problems. And definitions! Children, though, may be used to getting information from the teacher and therefore ignore the help that lies within those pages. Help them learn to use the book, not you.
  • Asking someone else. With young children, that person is most often the teacher, before they leave the classroom. Most teachers provide some class time to get started on homework, yet young children often daydream or chitchat those moments away, or, do the first problems which are usually the easiest. Encourage your youngster to look at all  the problems and ask questions before coming home.

Older students can be encouraged to call a friend. Research shows that when students explain problems (not just provide answers) to each others, they learn at a deeper level. If you want your child in a great study group in college, encourage processing questions with friends now!!

If your child still doesn’t understand, you might help. You might also consider sending a note to the teachers with a description of how your child attempted the problem, with a request for more instruction. After all, if you provide too much help, the teacher may not grasp how and why your child is struggling—and thus can’t provide the support he or she needs!

Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is