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Many homeschool moms (and dads) come to me with a very similar problem: They have a laptop, but want to get a computer that is more kid (and budget) friendly. In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with a Chromebook.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so! Many public schools are using them in their classrooms. Even students as young as kindergarten are learning techie skills thanks to Chromebook.
But what is a Chromebook, what sets it apart, what’s the best kind to buy, and how much will one cost you? That’s what this article is all about.
What is a Chromebook?
If you’re like me and embrace techie homeschooling, then a lot (or most) of your learning resources will be found online. I’m talking tools, educational games, and online classes. In order to access these things, your students will need a good computer that is able to access the internet. That’s where the internet-dependent Chromebook comes into the picture.
When you boot up your Chromebook (which takes less than 10 seconds!) the first thing you notice is that there isn’t a big menu of things for you to navigate. The only app that comes pre-installed is the Google Chrome app. And you use that for everything – including downloading other apps (more on that later).
What sets the Chromebook apart?
As you may be able to tell from its name, the thing that sets the Chromebook apart is its operating system. Rather than depending on a Windows operating system, the Chromebook utilizes the Linux-based Google Chrome as its operating system. This means that your students will have the power of Google on their side (which is not a feature to be taken lightly, given the powerhouse company’s focus on security). It also means that the computer was built specifically for internet use.
So, as long as you have a solid internet connection, you don’t have to worry about being able to get online.
Anyone who has ever done and stored work on a computer has come across one of these problems:
- You are working on an important document when, unexpectedly, your computer powers off or something else happens that causes the program you were using to close – before you were able to save your progress. Panicking, you open the program back up and, sure enough, all of your recent hard work is gone.
- Your computer starts displaying the “blue screen of death” or just flat out refuses to boot up. Now, every single thing you had on that computer is gone – unless you can afford to send it to a computer technician who can TRY to save either your information or the computer.
It’s a terrible feeling (and can cause a lot of stress, depending on what was lost). With Google Chrome, incidents like this become a concern of the past because most of the documents and apps exist “in the cloud”.
This means that even if you get booted off your computer or your computer crashes and can’t be revived, your documents can still be accessed from another computer. So, all of your student’s assignments, pictures, videos, and anything else they create will be safe.
All Google accounts get 15GB of free cloud storage. On top of that, Google automatically provides 100GB of cloud storage for every computer that is good for two years. After that, you will still have access to your files, but will have to buy a storage plan to add any additional files. The Pixel Google Chromebook steps the game up by offering 1TB of storage for 3 years.
Wide variety of web apps
Another great thing about having a computer that operates on the Chrome operating system is that you have access to all of the amazing apps and extensions available in the Chrome Store. Whether you’re looking for something to make your kids more productive, help them with certain skills, or just have fun, you'll find what you need.
Chromebooks range in weight from 1.2 to 4.85 pounds, so you can rest assured that any Chromebook you buy for your child will be lightweight and easy to carry.
Easy to use
There is practically no learning curve when it comes to using a Chromebook. In fact, if you can use a browser (which kids seem to be born knowing how to do nowadays), you’re pretty much all set! You can be up and running in minutes.
How much is a Chromebook?
One of the things that make the Chromebook such a great option for homeschool families is that they are very affordable. You can easily find options for less than $200, making it possible to buy multiple Chromebooks if you have multiple children.
What's the best Chromebook for kids?
Honestly, it all depends on the size and features you’re looking for. Some reputable brands who offer Chromebooks include Acer, ASUS, Dell, Google, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba. In fact, you’ll find some version of a Chromebook being offered by just about every major computer manufacturer
With so many options, it can be a challenge to narrow it down to the one you want to buy. What I recommend is creating a list of must-have features your child will need in their Chromebook and then read product specifications and reviews to see which one is the best fit. One fantastic website when it comes to reading unbiased reviews of tech products is Digital Trends.
You can ask the Techin' Your Homeschool community of Facebook for their opinions as well.
You should also try to see the Chromebooks in person before making a final decision. However, are a few that have received great reviews:
Marketed as “The Chromebook that bends over backwards, this touchscreen model can be opened into a tablet, a stand-up display, or a tent-shaped display – making it one of the more convertible Chromebooks on the market. It’s also built for speed, surpassing many other wireless technologies – including other Chromebook models.
With its spill-resistant keyboard, drop-ready frame, strategically-placed grips to prevent slips, and kid-friendly keys, this is a great choice for young students.
This Chromebook can convert into a tablet for use on-the-go. It has touchscreen options for those who love that type of feature. Its durability, long-lasting battery, and the larger screen makes it a good choice for older students as well.
Featuring the biggest screen that Chromebooks have to offer, superfast wireless capabilities, an advanced webcam, and better-than-average speakers, this Chromebook is an absolute steal at less than $150.
>>> Watch to discover why we love our Chromebooks <<<
Which Chromebook features should I know about?
While the specs will vary based on which Chromebook you are looking at, here are some of the general things to know:
All Chromebook models come with at least 2GB of memory, with 2018 models coming equipped with at least 4GB. There are several models with 8 GB and one of the Acer versions having up to 16GB.
All Chromebooks offer 16GB and some offer a 32GB SSD for those who need a bit more storage. This includes storage that is already taken up by the Operating system. However, if you are using the cloud technology, this shouldn’t be a big deal. You also have the option to use USB flash drives and SD cards to store files.
Depending on the make and model, Chromebooks have anywhere from 4 to 14 hours of battery power before you have to plug it back in. Consider how much you'll be using yours for on-the-go homeschooling.
With screen sizes ranging from 9.7” to 15.6”, you can find one that fits your child’s viewing needs. We prefer larger screens to reduce eye strain.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if we don’t have internet access?
Sometimes you’re somewhere where you can’t get a solid wifi signal. Is the Chromebook worthless then? Not at all! There are several tasks your student can complete offline – such as:
- Accessing Google Calendar to see what is on the schedule
- Composing emails in Gmail (though they can’t be sent until there is a wi-fi connection)
- Creating and editing documents in Google Drive (just be sure to activate the offline feature in case you need it)
- Take notes in Google Keep
- Read saved web pages
- Listen to any downloaded music
Can my kids use their Chromebook for gaming?
Although the Chromebook is not built for gaming, if you have the Google Play Store on the Chromebook, your child can play Android games for Chrome, like Super Mario Run, Sonic the Hedgehog, Minecraft, Roblox, and Angry Birds.
Can my kids watch movies on the Chromebook?
If you have subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, the Chromebook is certainly capable of providing bit of entertainment or education through documentaries. However, it does not include a CD/DVD drive, so you won’t be able to watch any movies from your family’s DVD collection UNLESS you attach an external CD/DVD drive.
Will I have to pay a lot for anti-virus software?
Because the Chromebook is powered by Google, you honestly don’t have to worry about paying extra for antivirus software. Security is pretty much taken care of by consistent (and automatic) updates.
Can my kids use the Chromebook to video chat?
Each Chromebook comes with a built-in webcam and stereo speakers, plus a earphone/mic sockets. Google Hangouts is a great option for video chats and conferences.
How often will I have to update it?
One of the beautiful things about the Chromebook is that you don’t have to worry about updates or maintenance. Google takes care of all of that for you in a hassle-free way.
What techie homeschoolers have to say about Chromebooks
We talk quite a bit about devices in the Techin' Your Homeschool Facebook group. This is what other techie homeschool moms have to say about Chromebooks…
Kristin D: “ I have a Chromebook and LOVE it. I do a lot of writing, and love that Google Docs saves things automatically as I write, and it's easy to stay organized with various folders, etc – I also love that I can access all those folders from any internet connection, so I can work on other computers too if needed. I don't miss the lack of hard drive space since I do most other things (editing pictures, creating documents, looking for recipes, crafts, etc.) online. They're really inexpensive – we got a new one on Prime day for around $150, the battery lasts a LONG time, and they're lightweight and easy to carry from place to place.”
Kimberly L: “ I have a laptop and tablets but my daily go-to item is my Chromebook.”
Becki M: “My nerdy (term of endearment) 15-year-old is a computer geek. He builds computers and works for my husband in cybersecurity. He highly recommends a Chromebook for kids / high school kids. His words: “they are virtually hacker-proof, it’s a good solid computer, you can drop it on its face/ spill water on it and it keeps ticking- that’s why most public schools are opting for them as their issued device over iPads or something like that. Go with an Acer – you can get a good mid-range Chromebook for $200-250 and it should last you 4-5 years.
Sasha P: “We got a Chromebook for our kids to use and its great. We are Mac people so it took a little bit of digging to figure out the best parent controls and things like that. But for what they needed it for it is great.”
Lizabet S: “LOVE our Chromebook for my daughter.. and its waterproof and has a rubberized shock drop binding on it… Google Docs, etc are awesome.. she has not had any issues logging into any site. I have hers set up as a kid one with filters… I have even used it to log into our business things when we have been out of town.. love it!”
Stacia A: “I'm a big fan of my [Acer Chromebook] R11. I use it for school with my kiddo when we're not at home. I also use it for my own writing and entertainment. The storage can be an issue, as can the inability to use regular desktop programs. That said, the R11 has a microSD card slot, so you can expand the memory quite a bit. There are Chrome and Android apps that may not entirely replace conventional desktop programs, but they make a fantastic substitute. Some really do replace some programs. I love the touchscreen and the keyboard is responsive. That said, I did get a wireless mouse and a USB hub because sometimes I prefer a mouse to the touchpad if I need to use it for an expanded amount of time.
Katie B: “We love our Chromebooks! We have Asus Flips but I wouldn't hesitate to get an R11 either. We have not had any issues with storage. The Asus Flip has a slot for a micro SD card so I purchased an inexpensive 32gb one for mine and I keep things mostly on that. My kids don't have any extra storage but we have never had an issue. They do keep most things we complete for school on Google Drive though.”
Brie C: “We have 3 Chromebooks, a Samsung, an Epik, and an Asus. Each were under $200. We love them. Haven't had any problems with them at all.”
The Chromebook is a great homeschool computer that makes it easy to surf the web and do other online tasks. Their lightweight build and affordable price range make it a solid pick for young students. They’re fast, secure, and easy to use. With a robust selection of Google and Android apps/extension, the experience can also be customized for each user. Do your research when comparing the different models and you’re sure to find an option that is the best fit for your family.
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Tell me, do you agree that Chromebooks are the best computer for homeschooling?
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