Okay, here’s a new segment I think I’m going to throw in when the need strikes me. Today seemed like just the day to inspire it. This recommendation is certainly not a cheap one, but I highly recommend the investment, computers.
Now, one thing I’m learning is having one or two computers for my house of six isn’t really enough to suit all of our needs. This may seem less important for kids who are purely unschooled with no online curriculum to follow, but even then, it could make a huge difference.
This may not seem as important if you’ve only got one kid, younger kids, or if you do a lot of learning through field trips. It’s easy to negotiate parent time around one or two kids, or even with a bunch of younger kids. I’ve found for younger kids or kids that are just really into looking stuff up, a tablet may be a good option, but if they like writing, graphic design, or playing Minecraft on the computer, it might just be best to invest in one of their own. That can make life easier.
If you plan on backing your unschooling up with any kind of computer games or programs, especially if those things help you have accountability for state standards, that can also create competition. We’re using Time 4 Learning as a fun way for the kids to learn, and with four kids, it’s going to keep my computer busy all day to make sure they each have a chance to get a turn. All of the time your kids would be online, you’ve got to think about how that factors into the daily competition for computer use.
What about families that do most of their unschooling through field trips? They’re not going to have as much of a need for computer time, right? While that may be true for some families, other kids will like the ability to look up more information on the things they’ve learned. If they like doing any kind of tech based activities, like blogging, writing, or graphic arts, their time will be more limited due to all the time out. The more time you’re out, the less time they have to coordinate who gets computer time when.
So what do I recommend? Think about getting your kids each their own laptop from the time they’re old enough to want to use it with any regularity. I’m not talking a super expensive laptop (unless they’re into computer gaming). I’m not suggesting getting them each a Microsoft Surface. Those are awesome options if you’re inclined and have the funds. I’m just suggesting a cheap computer that will get the job done. It doesn’t need to be high powered, just powered enough to do whatever they intend to do on it.
When I say inexpensive laptop, I think maybe I should support this with what I mean by that. I’ve got a friend that works with computers and his suggestion was not to go with the cheapest computers you can buy, not unless you’re comfortable with frequently replacing the computer. Remember, you get what you pay for. His recommendation is to look for something in the $400 range.
How is this on a budget? Well, the cost of a laptop for each kid isn’t exactly cheap, but if you’re going to budget for one big purchase, this is it. You can aim to do just about everything else for free or dirt cheap, but this expense is one I find worth it. Making a decent investment now will mean you’ve got a product that will last for quite some time. Depending on how old your kid is, it just might mean a gift they can take to college, if they go, or the ability to set up a website for their own business, if they choose to run one. It opens up lots of options, especially as they get older.
And, if you think about it, it’s not hard to build your budget around buying a laptop. If you’ve got tax returns in, chunk out some of that to put down on a computer. If you’ve got multiple kids, start with one they can share, then add more as your budget allows. You can also suggest to family that they might want to pitch in and get one as a gift for a birthday or holiday. Set aside $10 per week and you’ll have enough by the end of the year. It’s worth it. I know that’s what we’re going to be doing in my house, saving up to start buying computers, working our way down from the oldest to youngest.
I know some families would rather have a desktop, but there’s an advantage to having laptops. You can use them anywhere in the house, which is nice if your kids want to move their work to somewhere quieter or more peaceful, or if they want to easily be able to show off what they’ve found. They’re small, which means storing them takes up very little space at all. Unlike a desktop, they can also be put away, so the work space can be cleared for other things when not in use. This is my favorite aspect of having a laptop. Of course, you probably already know these things, but when thinking about how many computers you may have in your house if you start buying them for everyone, these features may just be the biggest asset.
This may not sound like an important way to spend money, but if you’ve got a kid that’s entered the modern technological era with joys of programming, graphics, writing, and beyond, I highly recommend it. Even if most of your schooling is out in the world, it’s a good option to come home to. And again, I suggest a good laptop for ease of movement and storage. It can be a huge asset to any unschooling family.