Before the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably never expected that hand sanitizer could be such a hot commodity, that face masks would become an outfit staple or that airplane travel would seem like a luxury of the past. Another unexpected turn? The trend toward distance learning and homeschooling. If you’re planning at-home lessons this year, we’ve rounded up the best homeschool gadgets for a range of subjects and ages. Choose the ones that work best for your family and make the most of those months away from the classroom. These gadgets will even remain super handy for schoolwork whenever your homeschooling journey ends.
For All-Day Cramming
One of your best budget laptop bets, HP’s lightweight HD Chromebook is the perfect fit for high achievers—at a super affordable price. Its Chrome OS interface is easy to navigate, plus it has a six-hour battery life and can be used for work (it’s plenty fast for Microsoft Office 365 and surfing the web) or play (thanks to its stereo speakers).
For Getting a Head Start on Learning
Kids in preschool through first grade will love LeapFrog’s LeapStart interactive learning system—especially if they’re visual or auditory learners. With its audio cues and 3D-like animations, it helps to build math, reading and problem-solving skills with more than 25 activity-filled books (each program sold separately) that you can download onto the device.
For English, French and Language Arts Reading
Nothing can replace the feel of holding a real book—but for tech-savvy kids, an eReader will be way more appealing. The Kobo Clara HD has a slim, six-inch touchscreen that easily slides into a backpack, stores up to 6,000 eBooks (way less clutter!) and automatically reduces blue-light exposure, which can affect kids’ sleep.
For Multi-Device Charging
With everyone at home ’round the clock, your power outlets will be a hot commodity. Sidestep family spats by buying a wall charger with multiple USB ports. That way you can charge several phones and tablets at the same time, even if everyone’s hanging out in one room (and coveting the same outlet!).
For Writing and Sketching
More affordable than the Apple Pencil, Adonit’s Note Plus version of a tablet pen (a.k.a. stylus) is just as comfortable to use and is compatible with the newest iPad models. Art-obsessed kids or teens will love the quick-charge capability, palm rejection (meaning they can rest their hand on their tablet) and over 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity so they can sketch anything that sparks their imagination.
For Solving Complex Math Problems
A classic choice of all the best homeschool gadgets out there, a scientific calculator is a must-have for grades nine and up. This solar-powered option from Texas Instruments has a two-line display to combine stats and scientific functions—and it’s pink. (P.S. To keep your calculator and other school supplies neat and tidy we suggest putting them in a DIY homework station—see more organizational tricks in our back-to-school hacks from real moms.)
For On-the-Go Learning
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A with an eight-inch screen is light, compact and a great choice if you plan on roving lessons (at the park, grandma’s house or mom’s office). The Samsung Kids app has a ton of learning games, books and movies, plus the kids will be able to take pictures during family field trips or chat with relatives through video calls. This excellent homeschool tablet will also work well as a second screen if you don’t want to invest in an additional family laptop or clunky monitor.
For Screen-Free Coding
For kids as young as five, Botley 2.0 by Learning Resources is an adorable plastic robot that teaches coding skills minus a screen—meaning your kids won’t need access to a tablet or phone. STEM newbies can build coding sequences of up to 150 steps and transform Botley into a train, police car, ghost and more. The little man also moves in six directions and lights up in the dark.
For Simple Storage and Document Sharing
Let’s be real: For kids, looks are everything. That’s why these cute 16 GB flash drives (in shades of neon pink, yellow and orange) will be a hit for transferring files between family devices, or sharing documents and media with friends.
For Working, Watching and Interacting
The Acer Spin 1 is a super-versatile choice if you want a laptop that can be used as a tablet (thanks to its touch screen), flipped into display mode (to use as a traditional laptop with keyboard) or even tipped into tent mode when showing films or presenting lessons. It’s also Bluetooth-enabled and comes with a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365—score! (For more great laptops that fit your budget and your students’ needs, check out our roundup of the best laptops of 2020.)
For Wireless Clicking
If you have a computer monitor or kids that struggle to use a laptop trackpad, a wireless mouse can be a saviour. This ONN mouse is comfy to use (no cramps, thank you!) and will never get tangled. (For even more nifty gizmos, check out our 40 tech gadgets for college and university students.)
For Biology and Anatomy Studying
Life at 600x magnification is a fascinating thing for kids of any age (even for those less-engaged students), which makes a digital microscope a helpful tool. The easy-to-use Celestron MicroSpin has six magnification powers ranging from 100x to 600x and captures crystal-clear images and video.
For Easy Homework Cataloguing
A scanner might not be the first homeschool gadget you think of, but it could be one of the most beneficial. Unless you have a ton of storage space, hanging on to every single drawing, math test and essay that your kids create can be an overwhelming proposition. Instead, scan everything into digital files using the Plustek Photo and Document Scanner and cut down on all the loose papers cramping your style.
For Typing Long Essays
This sleek wireless keyboard is a good homeschool gadget if you’re looking for a more spacious place than a small laptop for your kiddos to type away on. That said, the Logitech Wireless is about 20-per-cent smaller than a standard keyboard, which means it’s great for tiny hands and will easily fit wherever your kids choose to work. It also has a three-year battery life (so no need to track down new batteries!) and quiet keys.
For At-Home Science Experimenting
Ideal for young kids three years and up, the Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set comes with 22 different pieces (including a beaker, magnifying glass, goggles and test tubes) as well as activity cards. It’s won a bunch of awards for the ways it fosters an interest in chemistry and helps to teach skills like planning and following directions.
For Listening to Educational Music and Videos
Whether the kids are watching educational videos, listening to mind-expanding music or simply playing video games, you don’t always want to go along for the journey. A pair of wireless headphones like Beats Solo³ (with up to 40 hours of battery life!) will keep your home nice and quiet while providing a clear, more-immersive listening experience for kids and teens.
For Printing Notes, Lessons and Assignments
This affordable HP printer with built-in WiFi makes printing everything from colouring pages to science quizzes a total breeze. Plus, it’s super compact and even has copying and scanning capabilities. (Looking to stick to a budget? We have even more ways to save on back to school this year.)
For Art-Meets-Coding Fun
By connecting to a tablet or computer, kids ages seven to 12 can program a small robot named Artie to draw simple designs on paper. Beginners can start out with pre-programmed shapes and games, then eventually work their way up to writing custom code.
For Geography Practice
A globe is a standard classroom tool, but this one’s a little more teched-out than the typical rotating ball on a stand. The Educational Insights GeoSafari Talking Globe includes more than 10,000 geography questions, plus it can even be turned into a quiz game (with automatic scoring!) for one to four players. Try it for kids in grades three and up and make geography class way more fun.
For Making Movies into Magic
Whether you’ll be showing educational videos, teaching about the magic of filmmaking or simply taking a movie day (even real teachers need a break from lessons now and again), a home projector is a pricey-but-worthwhile investment. This Minibeam LED Projector uses wireless mirroring to connect to a smartphone or tablet (or it can be hooked up to a laptop or TV) and can display movies, pictures and even documents on a white wall or on a sheet in the backyard.
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