One of the latest trends in education is “flipping” a classroom. Before I explain what flipping a classroom is I want you to know that it’s one of many strategies used in education and not a whole sale replacement for a more traditional model of learning. Ok what’s flipping a classroom?
A simple definition would be when instruction is done at home and classroom time (at school) is used for activities and practice. The idea is that teachers can best help a student during class if they engage that student in guided activities and question/answer activities. The “theory” of flipping a classroom is a teacher can be more valuable if they spend less time delivering instruction as in traditional modes and more time correcting and guiding a student through learning activities. So the flipped classroom is one where students receive direct instruction from technology (like videos) and come to class already having the instruction so the teacher can review and check their understanding. I have used classroom flipping when I taught in schools and the benefits can be powerful. However with every approach there are considerations and risks – I hope to touch on these in the article. More importantly I will frame the discussion to flipping a “homeschool” classroom and explore it’s practical value.
Pros of Flipping for Homeschoolers
As homeschoolers your environment is more than likely very flexible and rich. So you may be doing activities that are basically like flipping. Of course the big difference for homeschoolers with respect to flipping is that flipping is really designed for a more traditional classroom setting like public school. However if you are a part of a homeschool co-op or group of parents that homeschool in a school/classroom environment you may want to consider adding in some flipping. Remember the benefits of flipping is your classroom time will be less instruction and more guided practice correcting any mistakes students make in real time. For example let’s say your child learned about percent the day before independently you could spend your 1 hour guiding them through practice worksheets and correcting mistakes. Guided practice is an excellent format for teachers/students so the more time you can spend doing it the better.
The Cons of Flipping For Homeschoolers
Flipping is a great concept but it is very difficult from a practical sense to execute especially for homeschooling. First your child will need an extremely high quality independent learning system so they can learn on their own and receive instruction – this type of curriculum is not easy to find. Now there are many good educational systems out there but most programs are not 100% truly independent they often require the support of a teacher or parent. I would like to think my www.TabletClass.com math system is one of those truly independent learning systems as that is how my team and I designed it years ago. Assuming your child does have access to a good system that they can learn on their own than flipping maybe a viable option. However there are a few more downsides to classroom flipping to consider as a homeschooler. One of those downsides is flipping will generally require more time as your child will have to learn on their own and then spend time practicing under your supervision. Clearly this can be difficult on a homeschool schedule and would require much more planning. The other downside is you as the parent will have to be prepared to guide your child during activities. Of course you probably do a lot of this now as a homeschooling parent but as your child gets into more advance topics like algebra 2 then it will be very hard for you to guide them as an expert unless you are fully qualified in those subjects.
Knowing more about options in education will make you a better homeschooler. When I was teaching middle and high school math in a classroom I made a website with my own math videos. I directed students to watch my video tutorials before the next lesson or use them for homework and test prep help. The results from my students were so encouraging and powerful that the effort of making my website was well worth it. Seeing what was possible in education by using technology I left teaching and started TabletClass- this was 2004. So I’m a big believer in the great results flipping can produce but I do know first hand how difficult it is to create an excellent flipped classroom.
I would not suggest trying to flip your classroom unless you planned out activities and obtained all the necessary materials. Nevertheless you may want to experiment with some of the concepts of flipping and maybe try “mini flipped classrooms” where you flip every few weeks for variety. Last word: never be afraid to try something new once or twice when it comes to teaching your child that’s how you keep the educational experience fresh and exciting for both of you.