Buying a homeschool computer and trying to figure out the best home computer for your family can be overwhelming. Before you waste time and money on a homeschooling computer setup, check out these 9 tips for buying laptops and computers for kids to use for learning at home.
BUYING A HOMESCHOOL COMPUTER
Before we get to our tips for buying a computer for homeschooling and your quest for the best desktop computer for homeschooling (or homeschoolers laptop), let’s cover something that I get asked a lot by homeschoolers:
Do you need a computer for homeschooling?
You may be wondering Can you homeschool without a computer? Computer-based homeschooling, or using computers or laptops for home school, makes homeschooling easier. However, it is not required. Some homeschoolers use physical homeschool curriculum and then go the public library and use those computers for free if they need it.
Do you need a laptop for homeschooling?
You don’t need a laptop for homeschooling unless you are schooling at home (through a public school) or with a program that requires a computer connection. A homeschool laptop is convenient because your student can take their work with them outside the home, but it is not required for homeschooling.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT USING COMPUTER GAMES & BOARD GAMES FOR LEARNING?
Let’s get to our computer tips for homeschooling. (Read through them before you buy a homeschool computer!)
Whether you’re looking for best homeschool desktops or a laptop for home school, these are the things you need to consider…
Home school computer considerations:
- Computer / laptop cost (Budget)
- Storage needs
- Sharing needs (number of computer users)
- Computer accessories
- Parental monitoring
Read on for more detail!
9 Important Features For Buying Homeschool Computer
1. Computer Cost: What is your budget?
What is your budget for a homeschool computer? Homeschool computers, both desktops and laptops, can be costly, so you definitely want to set a budget before you begin.
Both laptops and desktops can range from a few hundred dollars into the thousands. Remember, with desktops, you will also need to purchase accessories like computer monitors, keyboards, mouse, etc.
2. Speed: How fast does your computer need to be?
Speed is a big deal, especially if trying to connect to online classes or work on multiple things at once. One of the things that will affect your computer speed is not enough RAM. Many people can function just fine with 8GB of RAM. However, if your homeschooler often has multiple apps or programs open at one time (or is also a gamer), then go for at least 16GB of RAM.
(Another thing that affects speed is your internet connection speed, so check that, too!)
3. Storage: How much computer storage do you need?
Computer storage is what helps keep all those programs and things on your computer, even after you shut it down. This is done through a computer drive. Storage and RAM are both things that can slow your computer down if there’s not enough of it. In general, 256GB of storage is plenty. However, if you do a lot of video, photos, or games, you may want to get more.
4. Software Needs: What software will be loaded on your computer?
Another important thing to think about before buying a homeschool computer is how will you be using the computer? Will you be loading different software on it for specific classes or requirements? Do you need to specifically access Word, or will another Word processing software program do the job?
Some computers come preloaded with software (like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.), so understanding your needs can help you get those upfront instead of needing to download and install them later.
5. Size: How much space do you have for a homeschooling computer setup?
A PC desktop set up is going to take more room than a laptop, which can be shut and put away in a computer bag or on a shelf when not in use.
Where will you put your new computer? Remember, monitors can take up a lot of room. So, if you’re limited on space, you’ll definitely want to go with laptops for students.
6. Portability: Where does your home school learning take place?
Is your kid OK working in one spot? Or, does your kid like to move around the house and sometimes even do work outside? Do you travel?
If your kids likes to study all around the house and you like the thought of being able to complete school work while out of the house or even when you travel, look for the best laptop deals for students.
7. Sharing: Who will be using the computer?
Who needs to use your homeschool computer? Will it be used by one child or shared between multiple children and used by the entire family?
If you need to share a computer, consider if you want a desktop setup (that will always be in one place), rather than everyone always chasing down a laptop.
8. Computer Accessories: What accessories do you need?
When budgeting for a computer, be sure to factor in computer accessories. Does your desktop need a bigger monitor? Do you need an additional keyboard and mouse? Does your laptop need a protective case? Do you have a safe, secure laptop bag?
Computer accessories can quickly increase your computer purchase cost.
9. Parental Monitoring: What is the best family computer to help keep your kids safe online?
The last thing I want to mention is parental monitoring. While it’s not specifically a computer feature, you should definitely consider how much monitoring needs to happen when your kids are connected to the internet.
A central desktop computer in a family area will be much easier to monitor than a laptop that a kid can use behind a locked bedroom door.
Guide for Computer Buying: Computer Technology Definitions
Sometimes all the tech lingo can get overwhelming when you’re looking for a new computer. How do you know what RAM and processing you need? What’s the difference between a PC and laptop?
These computer tech definitions will help, without (hopefully) getting too techie, in your search for the best computer for homeschooling:
• CPU: CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. It’s the “brains” of the computer. You will also see/hear it simply referred to as the Processor. Powerful and updated processors will help your computer work faster.
• Data Storage: Data storage is how much your computer can hold or store.
• Gigabyte: Gigabyte is written as GB as is used to measure storage capacity.
• Operating System: An operating system, or OS, is important because it is what manages and runs all of your software and other processes. Your operating system comes from whichever type of computer brand you choose. For example, a Mac may come with Lion (OS X 10.7)
• PC: PC stands for personal computer.
Is a PC and a laptop the same thing?
A PC is not the same thing as a laptop. A PC comes in several different pieces, like the monitor, keyboard, and processing tower. A student laptop (notebook for students) comes all in one portable piece.
• RAM: RAM, or Random-Access Memory, is the memory needed for accessing and running programs on your computer. It’s what your computer uses to get the work done. The more RAM you have, the better. But also, the higher the RAM, the more expensive the computer or laptop.
• Renewed: When you’re looking at laptops or desktops online, be aware that sometimes those are used (even on popular websites like Amazon). Refurbished laptops are sometimes called “renewed” laptops. If you want a brand new computer be sure to check the description for “renewed” or “refurbished.” That means they’re used.
• Storage: Storage is different from RAM, but often (mistakenly) used interchangeably.
Check out Tech Terms for more definitions and explanations.
Recommendations and Tips for Buying the Best Home School Computer To Meet Your Needs
1. If you complete most of your homeschool work through boxed curriculum or offline, you may want to skip the cost of a computer (especially if money is tight). Public libraries have computer rooms where you can use computers for free.
2. If you do a significant mix of learning at home and activities / classes outside of the home, definitely go with a laptop. Kids can grab the laptop and take it with them to complete work at the library, park, or even between classes and activities outside of the home.
3. Even though it’s more expensive, if you can afford it get a laptop with a touch screen. My daughter had a laptop with a touch screen and when we had to update to a new one, we didn’t get the touch screen and she really misses it. There are many online games and programs that use the computer touchscreen.
4. A renewed or refurbished computer is usually less expensive and might work for your homeschooling. However, be sure that you fully understand the return policies and warranties before purchasing.
5. Buy a computer with the software (like Word, Excel, etc.) preloaded. It can sometimes get pricey if you have to buy the programs after market.
6. If considering Chromebook for homeschool, check with your online classes or school. Although a Chromebook is fine for homeschooling in most cases, I have had people tell me they’ve had trouble accessing some classes with a Chromebook.