Answers for Your Questions about Homeschooling and Computers
A. Every family's situation is different, so the best choice will depend on
your own circumstances.
But I can give you some points to think about.
The first question I always ask myself is,
What software will this computer be running?
Consider whether you will be using software from one
of the major curriculum vendors. If so, then you clearly need a computer that is compatible
with their products, which generally will mean a recent model PC running a recent version
of the Windows operating system (OS). The overwhelming majority of PCs sold today are Windows-based
and therefore the overwhelming majority of software is written for these types of computers.
For most families, a low ($500) to medium ($1000) priced Windows PC is a good choice.
However, if you are not tied to a particular program or curriculum, there are some other possibilities.
One option is a Macintosh, which can be particularly strong in the graphic arts arena.
Another option would be a Linux based PC. This can be good choice for an older and/or
advanced student is strongly interested in computers, since Linux allows anyone to get
"under the hood" and learn how things work.
A. This question is asking about RAM (Random Access Memory),
versus the other types of memory that a computer has.
As always, if you plan to use a specific software program, check with the vendor and follow their recommendations.
In general, I've found it best to buy more RAM rather than less,
because the performance of the computer is significantly impacted if it is short on memory.
However, the prices of RAM chips can vary significantly depending on demand.
You can often buy a new computer with the standard amount of memory and an expansion slot
that let's you add more at a later date, when prices have dropped.
In fact, I did that with the computer my kids use.
I bought the vendor's standard configuration, then doubled the memory after a couple of years.
For most machines, installing the memory is relatively easy, but make sure that the model
you are considering has the expansion capacity before you buy it.
Also, you need to be aware there are different types of memory,
so you have to make sure you are buying the right type for your computer.
A. This question is asking about the processor speed (or clock speed).
This used to be expressed in MegaHertz (MHz), but with today's PCs is usually measured
in GigaHertz (GHz). Just as a high-performance sports car costs more than a family sedan,
the faster the processor (CPU), the more you can expect to pay.
If you have to have the latest, greatest, fastest processor chip,
then expect to pay a premium price for it.
In general, I find it isn't worth it to me to buy the fastest machine available.
On the other hand, if you plan to keep the computer more than three years, you should
consider spending more for a faster processor, so that it can still run the latest software
at an acceptable speed even after several years.
Also, be aware that while it is usually easy to add RAM to a older computer,
upgrading the processor is more technically challenging, though it can be done.
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