Why Chromebooks for Homeschoolers?

Why Chromebooks for Homeschoolers

Would you laugh if you heard someone say that every homeschooling family should own at least one Chromebook? Then prepare to giggle, because that’s exactly what I’m about to tell you. As one of the least expensive personal computers on the market, a Chromebook just makes sense for both homeschooling parents and students.

Here’s why.

Chromebooks Simplify Homeschooling

As someone who has homeschooled for 15 years now, I realize that one of the single most important goals I can create for myself is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Nothing will derail your motivation to home educate faster than trying to keep track of twenty different curricula, three different filing cabinets, and resources that are stored in twelve different areas of your home.

A Chromebook lets you manage it all in “the cloud” with free built in organizational tools like Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Google Photos. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I needed to print something and figure out where to store it. Google takes care of all that for me so I can focus on things I’d rather be doing.

Chromebooks Can Go Where You Go

If you are just beginning your homeschool journey, then you might want to sit down for this news: Homeschoolers are rarely at home.  With the growth of homeschooling has come the increase in educational and networking opportunities in local communities. Playgroups, co-ops, field trips, and local classes often fill many hours in a homeschooler’s week.

For that reason, homeschoolers may want to take at least part of their schooling along with them. Lightweight and mobile Chromebooks allow homeschoolers to connect to any available wi-fi or mobile network connection to finish up an online lesson or watch an educational video on drives, while waiting for siblings, or during a break at the park.

Chromebooks are Fun

With the ease of a tablet but the processing power of a computer, Chromebooks are the ideal choice for homeschoolers who prefer to blend fun and learning. Unlike iPads and Galaxy tablets, you don’t have to “hope” that your favorite online games, lessons, and videos will work on your device. Chromebooks are true computers that allow your kids to access any website – – even those with no dedicated mobile app.

Plus, you’ll find a ton of learning activities you may not have even been aware of in the Chrome store, like Vocabulary Spelling City, Storybird, PBS Kids Play, and much, much more. And if you choose a touchscreen Chromebook, your kids will feel like they are a part of the action in all of their favorite games.

Printing from a Chromebook

Printing from a Chromebook

What can I say?

We homeschoolers like printables. It doesn’t seem to matter how many lovely things we can do online – – there are still those occasions when we want to be able to hit that “PRINT” button, and get something tangible for our efforts!

I’ve often heard people express concern over transitioning to a Chromebook because of a worry over whether they will be able to print from a Cloud-based device. Well, worry no more! I’m going to guide you through printing from a Chromebook in this post AND share with you some of my absolute favorite sites for free printables perfect for homeschooling!

Printing from Cloud Printers

More and more printers recently manufactured are designed to be capable of “printing from the cloud.” You can find a full list of cloud-ready printers on Google.com. With these printers, you don’t have to have a PC to print from your Chromebook. All you simply need to do is:

  1. In your Chrome browser settings menu  , scroll down and choose “Advanced Settings”   Menu Icon
  2. Scroll down to “Google Cloud Print” and choose “Manage”
  3. Google Cloud Print will then scan your network for cloud-ready printers, and will ask you to register your device under “New Devices” (Note: if you have previously registered your printer in Google Cloud Print, this step won’t be necessary)
  4. Once you’ve registered your printer, print out a confirmation page
  5. You may now print successfully from your Chromebook

C4H TIP: To print the current webpage you are on use: CTRL+ P

Printing from Home or Network Printers

Even if you don’t own a cloud-ready printer, you can still successfully print anything to your printer connected to a desktop or laptop or a printer connected to your home network. It simply requires a few more set-up steps.

  1. In your computer that is already wired to your printer, or is connected wirelessly to your printer, open up your Chrome browser. (If you don’t have Chrome already installed on that computer, you’ll need to do that now)
  2. Make sure to login to your Chrome browser on the connected computer with the same login you use on your Chromebook
  3. Click on the Menu button in your Chrome browser and choose “Advanced settings” Menu Icon
  4. Scroll down to “Google Cloud Print” and choose “Manage”
  5. Click on “Add Printers” and Google Cloud Print will search for any connected or network printers you have attached to that computer
  6. Select the printer that needs to be added and click on “Add Printer”
  7. You should see a confirmation screen letting you know you’re printer is ready to be used with Google Cloud Print
  8. You may now print successfully from your Chromebook

Now for the really fun part…let’s talk about FREE PRINTABLES

Top Sites for Free Printables for Homeschoolers


Infographic: Level Up Your Homeschool with YouTube Gaming


The new YouTube Gaming app and website kicks off today, August 26! It is likely to be a huge hit among teens and preteens, so why not take advantage of your homeschooler’s avid interest in video gaming by integrating the new platform into your educational goals for this homeschool year?


Level Up Your Homeschool With YouTube Gaming


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Symbaloo for Homeschool

Symbaloo for Homeschool

The apps and extensions I most appreciate in my homeschool are those which help keep me organized. And one of the most incredibly useful programs I’ve discovered in the past few years is the free tool Symbaloo.

The idea behind Symbaloo is to help organize and easily access the sites and programs we use most frequently. AND, as an even bigger bonus, we can then share our Symbaloo “webmixes” with others – – which comes in amazingly handy when homeschooling 1 or more students.

Get started with Symbaloo

If Symbaloo is brand new to you, I recommend watching their introduction video.

Then, it’s as easy as setting up your account and starting your very first webmix. For more tutorials on Symbaloo specifics, explore their YouTube Channel.

Top three ways I find myself using Symbaloo for homeschooling

  1. To Get Answers Quickly

screenshot-www.symbaloo.com 2015-08-25 13-41-37No matter what we’re studying, and no matter what curriculum we’re using to study it, my kids are always going to
have questions that aren’t answered in the text. So to prepare for that, I’ve created some Symbaloo webmixes to make it easy to follow our curiosities about everything from when Legos were invented to where Beatrix Potter was born. For example, my “reference tools” webmix is full of kid-friendly sites where we can get quick answers to questions that pop up as we’re going through a lesson. (By the way, Legos were invented in 1932 and Beatrix Potter was born in Kensington, London!)

2. For Unit Studies

One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is when we do unit studies. Instead of folloscreenshot-www.symbaloo.com 2015-08-25 13-51-17wing a defined curriculum, we are able to take a given subject or theme and explore it until every one of our curiosities about it is exhausted. We do several of these each year to “spice up” our homeschool experience, and usually my children will vote for the subjects they want to cover. I’ve created Symbaloo webmixes for each of these units, including ones for nocturnal animals, computer coding, World War 2, and the rainforest. Spending just a little time getting those webmixes set up saved me hours of frustration as we studied each unit in detail. Plus, because Symbaloo makes it so easy to share webmixes, my kids can explore all the resources I’ve collected on their own time as well! 

3. For Safe Surfing

screenshot-www.symbaloo.com 2015-08-25 13-41-37Young kids are excited to learn on the web, but my youngsters aren’t allowed to just surf freely without boundaries. Symbaloo takes care of that. By creating webmixes of sites and games that I know are free of adware, commercial messaging, and phishing, they are able to access fun and educational internet content without accidentally landing on a site that is inappropriate for them.

Top Symbaloo Webmixes for Homeschool

One of the most exciting things about Symbaloo is that if you don’t have time to create your own webmixes, it’s unlikely you need to. You can let others do that work for you by searching through thousands of publicly shared webmixes by keyword in the Symbaloo Gallery. Some of my absolute favorite homeschool webmixes are:

 Symbaloo on Chrome

screenshot-www.time4writing.com 2015-08-25 14-54-28As if it weren’t easy enough to use Symbaloo, let’s take it one step further and talk about using Symbaloo on a Chromebook. The Symbaloo Bookmarker extension, available in the Chrome web store, allows you to add sites to your webmixes right from where you are.

Simply click on the extension icon in your toolbar, and you will receive a pop-up dialogue for choosing exactly how to label the tile and which webmix to add it to. Genius!


Creating a Simple Form in Google Drive

In our last post we featured an infographic showing all the different ways that you can use Google Drive in your homeschool. Some of you may have looked at that infographic and thought, “That sounds great, but I’m not that computer savvy myself.” So I thought I could spend a couple of posts on tutorials for how to do some of these things we suggested.

So for this post we will learn how to make a simple form using Google Forms. Your very first step is opening the form maker in Google Drive. You will click on the red button that says, “NEW”.Untitled design

You will not immediately see the forms option until you click on the “More” option. Once you do, Google Forms will be the top option. After you click on that, you will see a page that looks something like this:

Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 3.13.30 PM

Choose your form settings in the first set of options at the top of the page. I have already given this the name, “Simple Form”. Now we need to decide what questions we are going to ask and what type of questions to use.

Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 3.28.19 PM

Here I have entered my question and chose multiple choice for the question type. Keep adding as many questions as you need.

Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 3.31.18 PM

When you are finished adding items, you will click on the “View Live Form” button at the top of the page.

Screenshot 2015-08-21 at 3.45.12 PM

As you can see, you also have the options to change the theme, where you can select from several pre-set themes, or view the responses to your form from the people you have shared it with. I hope this very simplified tutorial has given you the confidence to try making a few Google Forms for yourself to enhance your Chromebook for homeschool use.

Infographic: 8 Ways to Use Google Drive for Your Homeschool

8 Ways Google Drive Homeschool Infographic

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Three Reasons Every Roadschooler Should Own a Chromebook

Three Reasons Every Roadschooler Should Own a Chromebook

3 Reasons Every Roadschooler Should Own a Chromebook

Who wouldn’t want to be a roadschooler? Learning not by reading or hearing about the world, but by experiencing it for yourself. Having new adventures daily. Creating memories to last a lifetime. It’s hard to think of very many downsides to the roadschooling lifestyle, except perhaps that space is at a minimum. Whether traveling by car, van, or RV, a roadschooler has to carefully consider what items are necessary, and what items can be left behind. That’s exactly why a Chromebook makes an incredibly smart choice for any roadschooling family.

Here are three reasons why every roadschooler should own a Chromebook:

  1. Chromebooks take up less room than the average textbook. And yet they hold the ability to access the information of all the textbooks in the entire world! The average chromebook is approximately the length and width of a standard piece of paper and is less than an inch thick. And yet, it includes a full-size keyboard! That means it could fit easily in a backseat cargo holder, an underseat bin, or even in a large glovebox!
  2. Chromebooks will last the better part of a day’s drive. On a single charge, most Chromebooks will stay powered for 5-7 hours, which means that your homeschool student could complete a couple online courses, write a blog post, play several online games, and edit dozens of trip-related pictures without ever having to plug back in.
  3. Each student can have a separate account on a single Chromebook.  One of the greatest features of Chromebooks is the ability to create multiple user accounts and easily switch back and forth between those accounts. When you do that, the bookmarks and profile settings of each distinct user are remembered, so it’s like having a separate computer for each child – – no need to pack multiple computers!

If you are a roadschooler, and are considering a Chromebook, definitely explore our Online Store to find the Chromebook that best fits your needs. Also, bookmark each of these amazing roadschooling resources:


Chromebooks for Special Needs Homeschool

Chromebooks for special needs homeschooling

So hopefully you are convinced that Chromebook is an excellent tool for homeschooling. But what if you are homeschooling a child with special needs? There are plenty of wonderful apps for special education.

  • Birdhouse for Autism helps you keep track of your child’s appointments, therapies, meltdowns, sleep and wake times and everything else related to raising a child on the spectrum.
  • Ameba is a sensory app that creates visual stimulation. Anyone who has lived with an Aspie or an Autistic knows why this is necessary.
  • Speech Therapy App helps you to encourage your child to speak by showing them a graphic and giving an audio cue.
  • What’s the Expression is a Chrome extension that teaches autistic kids to recognize facial expressions.
  • EARLYThree is another Chrome extension. This one is an Autism screening tool to help detect autism in the first 3 years.
  • Touch Autism has a variety of apps to help with very practical issues that spectrum kids deal with such as learning how to use proper manners, learning to take turns, and knowing how to behave around strangers.
  • The Zones of Regulation helps kids on the spectrum learn to regulate their own behavior.
  • Reading Friends gives help and motivation to kids who are struggling to learn how to read.

I hope these few apps and extensions will help you as you wrangle the day to day challenges of raising and teaching a special needs child. If you know of more apps that are not listed here, please feel free to contact us to share those. We may be able to compile them to make another future post.

Chromebook Parental Controls

Since your students will be spending so much time using their Chromebook computer, it behooves us to spend some time exploring the Chromebook parental controls.

Where Do You Find the Parental Controls?

You will find this feature which is called “Supervised Users” in your settings when you click on the “Manage other users” button.

Screenshot 2015-08-03 at 11.41.15 AM

Then you will simply click in the box for “enable supervised users”.

Screenshot 2015-08-03 at 11.47.27 AM

Once you set up a supervised user account, you are able to control where that user is allowed to go and what they are allowed to see while using that particular Chromebook.  

You can block specific websites or just restrict special ones. You can also review your user’s browsing history. Please keep in mind that all of this is still in Beta which means there may still be bugs to be worked out and hiccups along the way.

How Do You Set This Up?

You will click on the status area where your account picture is. Log out, then click on the three vertical dots which you will most likely find at the bottom of your screen. This will open up a dialog box which allows you to choose a name and password for your new Supervised User account. After this is done, you should receive an email confirming your new account and inviting you to manage the settings.

Peace of Mind

The peace of mind you will gain from taking the few minutes to set this up will be invaluable. It is all too easy to accidentally find inappropriate content on the internet. And there are some predators who purposely target children via the world wide web. One can never be too careful when children are using the internet.


Chromebook in a Flipped Homeschool

As I do research for this blog, I see the concept of the flipped classroom everywhere. Since many homeschoolers are out of touch with the public education scene, we have no idea what this means. So in this post I want to explore,

What is a Flipped Classroom?

At its most basic, a flipped classroom is one where the instruction happens outside the classroom and students do their “homework” in the classroom. Since most homeschools utilize the world at large as their classroom, how is this supposed to work? Obviously, you will not be using an actual classroom. However, we can still take this concept and apply it to our homeschool. Chromebook is the perfect tool for making this happen.

Flipped Homeschool
What Would This Look Like?

Here is an example of how this might look in the homeschool setting. Using their Chromebook, you have your student do their assigned instructive activities from their online homeschooling programs, say  Time4Learning.com. Once that is done, you sit down with your student and discuss what they learned. You might even have them complete a worksheet which is often included with the lesson activities. You have just employed the model of the flipped classroom.

What Ages Can This Benefit?

This pattern of teaching can be used with both younger students as well as teens. I would suggest that you sit with the younger student as they complete the instruction activities. Also, their instruction, discussion, and homework times will be shorter to accommodate their shorter attention span.

As their attention span lengthens and your students are able to be more independent, you would spend less time instructing them, allowing the Chromebook to do that job, and more time discussing with them what they learned.

What are the Advantages to This Teaching Model?

This teaching model allows you to be sure that your students have understood the concepts before you move on. They will be less frustrated with the homework they are assigned because you have made certain that they understand the instruction they received.

As your student completes the instruction, they can write down any questions they have. You can then answer those questions during your discussion time with them.

Many of us are already using this model in some form. Now you know what to call it!