Are you in the market for a new school computer for your kids? Would a laptop or Chromebook be best? Two years ago we made the switch from expensive laptops and PCs to Chromebooks, and they’ve been simply perfect for us! Read on to learn why we’re thankful we went with Chromebooks instead of more expensive laptops. Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. You’re under no obligation to use them or purchase a product, but if you do you’re helping to provide an income for my family.
Chromebook Vs Laptop
Questions people ask me about using Chromebooks in our homeschooling
Can my child play Minecraft on a Chromebook?
YES! The cool thing about Chromebooks is that they are Google Play compatible, meaning, they can run any app an android tablet or phone can run! One of those programs is Minecraft Pocket. Yes, it’s the mobile version of Minecraft but Minecraft Pocket can run mods, has skins, and offers multi-player capability.
Can I install software or run software via CD?
No. But wait, it’s ok! The good part about not being able to install software is that your Chromebook is virtually virus & malware proof! That means your Chromebook’s processing speed will never decrease. I’ve never used a computer that responds as quickly as the Chromebook. We did have to make a few changes, such as using CTC Math instead of Teaching Textbooks, but those small changes are hardly noticeable.
Can I use my child’s drawing tablet on a Chromebook?
YES! Most drawing tablets, we have three Wacom Drawing Tablets in our house, can be used on a Chromebook. You won’t be able to download the drawing app that comes with the drawing tablet so things like pressure sensitivity may not work quite right, but you can download similar apps from Google Play and use the pen like a mouse. My daughter, the biggest user of drawing tablets, splits her drawing time between her Chromebook and the old PC we keep around for printing purposes (see next question!)
Can I print from a Chromebook?
YES! It can be tricky though, so let me break it down for you. Most importantly, you need a wifi-enabled printer*. If you’re buying a new printer make sure to get one that is Google Cloud Print enabled, it should say right on the box if it is. If it’s compatible you can go home and use it right away, you’re done!
If you have a printer that isn’t Google Cloud compatible, like ours, there are two workarounds.
If you have a smartphone: download google drive and print from your phone (I’ll explain more below, but Chromebooks store everything in the cloud so you can access your files from any internet-capable device).
If you don’t have a smartphone, or don’t want to use it: follow these instructions to connect your printer to your Chromebook.
*If you don’t have a wifi-enabled printer you can still work on a Chromebook and print your files via Google Drive from any computer that is connected to a printer.
What word processing and spreadsheet software can I use with a Chromebook?
Chromebooks are designed to be used with Google Drive, which is a spectacularly convenient service accessible from all of your devices. Google Drive is free with your Google account and offers spreadsheet, document, database, form-creation abilities, and more!
If you’re used to using Microsoft Office Suite though, no problem, just sign up for their online services. Did you know you can get Office Suite FOR FREE if you’re a student or educator? You have to request special homeschool access, but you qualify! Click here for more information.
What is the storage capacity of a Chromebook
Well, basically, none. Ok, not much anyhow. With a Chromebook everything is stored in the cloud, and while it may seem strange at first, it’s super convenient. You never have to worry about losing access to your files because of a computer crash, virus, trojan, or malware. No more paying for expensive recovery services to get your photos and files back.
Does a Chromebook need wifi to function?
No! If you’re not connected to wifi your apps won’t work, but you can still access your Google Drive files. Before you lose access to wifi you can mark files as “available offline” and you’ll be able to work on them without wifi. You can also create new files without wifi, they will save to the cloud when you are again in an area with wifi.
What is the battery life of a Chromebook?
Forever! Ok, so not forever, but pretty darn close. My touchscreen model will run for a solid 6-8 hours on one battery charge. My husband and daughter have models that aren’t touchscreen and their batteries last 10-12 hours. A Chromebook is a computer you can take with you without having to worry about finding a power outlet. They also reach full charge quickly, meaning you can even charge it in your vehicle while you drive to your destination.
Are Chromebooks secure?
YES! In fact, if you can find a way to exploit a security weakness in a Chromebook, Google will pay you $100,000! Remember that your computer is only as secure as your Google Account password, so don’t give your password out, make it easy to guess, or allow remote access to anyone.
What other cool things can a Chromebook do?
I already told you about how Chromebooks can access any app from Google Play, but there is something else really cool that they can do, Chromecast! Anything that can play on your computer can be “cast” (sent via magical wifi) to a SmartTV! This is so convenient for those of us who use streaming media heavily in homeschooling. For example, if I watch an amazing video on Facebook that I want the kids to see, I can make it show on the TV in our school room! How cool is that??
There are so many models of Chromebook! What models do you recommend?
I have an Asus Chromebook Flip 10.1″ Touchscreen. I specifically wanted a small, lightweight, ultra-portable Chromebook that could convert to a tablet and had a touchscreen.
My daughter and husband both have an ASUS Chromebook 11.6″ Ruggedized/Water Resistant model. Theirs don’t have touchscreens but they both love the model, especially the larger screen and how the edges are rubberized. We tend to drop things in this household.
When a disabled relative needed a computer we chose an Acer 15.6″ Chromebook for them because they needed a bigger screen and a lower cost.
Do you have any more questions about how and why we use Chromebooks in our household?
Meg Grooms (she/her) is a decades-long secular homeschooler, mother of many, writer, Florida ex-pat, and all-around swell gal. Meg & her partner have raised their kids all over the USA, finally settling on Southern California. For now, anyhow.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool. Meg is available for speaking engagements, workshops, and gameschooling classes, please see the About Us/Contact Meg page for more information.