For parents of homeschooled kids, setting up the infrastructure of a classroom is part of the job. The modern student – specifically one pursing education at home – needs access to a computer. While a machine dedicated totally to the student is ideal, it’s not absolutely necessary – as long as the student doesn’t have to stagger his or her all-important schedule around the needs of other computer users in the home.
Many home educators are wondering if a laptop is necessary. The short answer is no, but a laptop is a huge help if you have the budget to purchase one.
The Scoop on Laptops
Laptops, like tablets, were once – in the not-so-distance past – novelty toys for people who could afford more than one expensive computer. Now, a laptop is no longer a supplement, but the most common choice for people who only own one computer.
They’re nearly as portable as tablets, and nearly as powerful and reliable as desktops. With plenty of storage and memory, the ability to – unlike tablets – read CDs and DVDs makes them perfect for the modern home classroom. If you can only own one machine, a laptop is the way to go – and a decent one won’t cost you much more than a decent desktop.
Some laptops that would be great for homeschooled kids: Acer C710-2055 11.6-inch Chromebook, Dell Latitude 3330
You may be considering – or your child may be trying to get you to consider – getting a tablet instead. Modern tablets are remarkably fast and powerful and can access virtually all of the apps that any laptop can. But there are several drawbacks.
First of all, even high-end laptops don’t come with sufficient internal storage for a homeschooler. You would likely have to pay to upgrade, which many tablets can’t even allow you to do. Also, consider that many tablets don’t come with USB ports. USB is a universal format through which all external hard drives, flash drives, microphones, printers, scanners, and many other devices connect to a computer. The lack of USB input can limit your options. Also, tablets are amazing for observing and digesting information, but not so much for inputting. Although there are many cool hybrids on the market, true tablets don’t have a keyboard. The onscreen digital keyboard is cool for short bursts, but not efficient for long-term work such as writing papers.
Of course, Internet safety is an absolute necessity for kids online. But there are plenty of proven strategies – as well as software, parental controls, and password protections – that smart, engaged parents can use to keep their children safe. Learn about them through community programs such as Safer Internet Day 2014.
The dark side of the Internet is always looking for a way to creep into your living room. But common sense and diligence can make a laptop at least as secure as a desktop.
Laptops are great for homeschooled kids, and it’s difficult to make an argument to the contrary. They are not absolutely necessary, but they – unlike immobile desktops – can go where the student needs to go without sacrificing any of the features that tablets are forced to leave behind. You can get along without one, but if you have the means, your kid’s education will thank you.
Contributor: Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about classroom technology.