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Under the Home (Full-Year Online Subscription) Review by Karen Waide

I was recently introduced to a new homeschool curriculum program called Under the Home. This online curriculum is being developed by Sonja Glumich for use with her own children. There are currently two full grades being offered, kindergarten and first grade, along with some subjects available for second grade. Mrs. Glumich has plans for Under the Home to be a full K-5 curriculum program. She will be completing grade two and adding grade three by March of 2018. The site will be complete, with grades four and five being added by March of 2019. The annual subscription costs $30 and can be used with multiple students. We received a full-year subscription which takes us through the end of June 2018.

This program can truly be a full homeschool curriculum for your child(ren). All the needed textbooks are digital copies available through links on the site, making purchasing textbooks unnecessary. In some instances, the lessons are able to be completed without actually using the textbook as they do a pretty good job standing alone. Along with the lessons, there are step-by-step instructional guides available just by clicking the “Lesson Guide” tab. Additionally, any music is also provided, so no need to hunt for CDs with specific songs. The majority of the lessons can be done online (on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or phone), but you will need a printer, ink, and paper to print out tracework, copywork, and coloring pages. There is also the option to print out the lessons and the guides if you prefer to work away from the computer. Additionally, you will need typical school and art supplies, such as pencils, crayons, paints, and notebooks for some parts of the lessons.

The kindergarten curriculum includes the following subjects:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Phonics
  • Music
  • Poetry
  • Prose
  • Art (both art history and studio art)

The first-grade curriculum includes all the above subjects, and also adds in history, geography, and science. Even though second grade is not complete, the majority of the subjects do appear to be available as of the writing of this review.

Once you click onto their website, you will see a grid of thumbnail images for each of the available subjects. You can choose to view these subjects as a list, with the thumbnail on the left and a description of each subject on the right. Access to one week’s worth of lessons is provided for free, so you can click on each thumbnail and see one lesson for each subject. If you choose to purchase a subscription, you will have access to all the lessons in every grade after clicking on those same thumbnails. You can choose to filter the lessons by grade, subject, or week. For instance, I can choose “kindergarten” to bring up all the kindergarten subjects so I can have all the courses appropriate for my son. Or I can choose a subject, such as “reading” to pull up all the reading courses if I want to focus on reading with both my children who are at different levels. Lastly, I can choose to select a grade and pull up all the lessons that would be taught for a specific week.

I mentioned that digital textbooks are provided with this curriculum. These books are “time-proven texts with well-developed teaching methodologies.” I spent most of my time in the kindergarten section of this curriculum. I was looking for something to use with my son as we had finished his curriculum for the year. So, I would like to focus on the books we have been using.

For reading, we are using McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer. The digital copy of the book is available through a link toward the top of the page. The 52 lessons (for K-1st grades) are taken from the book. The same pictures are used, and the sounds, words, and sentences listed in the book are also listed on the lesson page. What I found neat about the site is that the sounds, words, and sentences are clickable. After my son tells me the sound, word, or sentence, I click on it, and it is repeated for him. If a child doesn’t know what it says, they can click it first to hear it. I do need to mention that I have noticed the sounds of the letters are spoken by a child, and sometimes the sounds are not quite accurate. For instance, the sound for e sounds more like /a/ and the i sounds like an /e/. However, when the words and sentences are spoken, they are articulated by an adult female voice and they sound fine. I feel it would be much more helpful to a child learning to read if all the spoken parts were done accurately by an adult.

When we are done with the lesson, I will print out the corresponding trace or copywork from the writing section. These are composed of words and sentences from the McGuffey’s book. Usually my son uses the tracework which allows him to write on the dotted lines. He opts for the tracework because the spaces in between the lines are bigger. However, I think he would be ready for the copywork if there were lines of the same size as the tracework available. Unfortunately, the lines are a bit narrower than he is able to write in at this point in his fine-motor development. I don’t know if it is possible, but I would love to see an option to have the copywork on the larger lines.

In math, we are using the four-phase method described in The Eclectic Manual of Methods. You don’t really need the book to teach the lessons, but it is really helpful to read this information so you can understand the method. The lessons are laid out with step-by-step instructions on how to teach each phase. Phase I focuses on recognizing groups of objects up to ten. Phase II teaches a child to combine and separate imaginary objects in their head. Phase III has children learning to add and subtract numbers. And in Phase IV, children actually learn to write addition and subtraction problems. These lessons are to be taught to mastery. After we have completed all the lessons, we can move into Ray’s New Primary Arithmetic which is the textbook used for grades one and two. I don’t know much about this book, except that it was recently recommended very highly to me by some fellow homeschooling moms, so I am very glad to see it as a part of this program.

A link to the book Word Mastery by Florence Akin is provided in the phonics section, which spans from kindergarten through second grade. The lessons on the site work on phonemic awareness with ear-training phonics games to start with. For example, I would tell Harold, “Point to something r-e-d,” and he would have to figure out what word I had said phonetically in order to figure out what to do. Or I would say a list of words slowly, emphasizing each sound, and he would have to tell me the word.

These words are then used in a story, which the parent reads. When I come to those specific words, they are printed with the dashes “p-i-g” so they can be read phonetically for the child to figure out and participate in the story. Then the lessons move on to tongue training where the child is given specific words phonetically and asked to repeat certain sounds. From there, they move on to actually recognizing the letter and its relation to its sound.

Another digital textbook that is available for kindergarten is the book for studio art titledText Books of Art Education. This art curriculum has the child listening to a poem while viewing a picture of a work of art that illustrates the poem. Then the child is to create a related work of art. These art projects range from color drawing and pencil sketches, to color mixing, collages, and silhouettes. There are also origami and sculpture projects.

For poetry, the program provides selections from The Poetry of Mother Goose. There are 108 lessons, each one focusing on one of the poems. The text from the book is used, and there is an audio reading that plays while showing the picture from the book. The lessons include a synopsis, enrichment activity ideas, and review questions.

The prose section shares charming classic books for the children to listen to and study. Such titles as My Father’s Dragon, The Velveteen Rabbit, and stories by Beatrix Potter are available. Digital copies are again provided, but the full text is also shared right in the lesson, so it really isn’t necessary to pull up the digital copy. Additionally, the audio of the story being read is right there in the lesson. While most of the lessons are very much teacher-led, this was something I was able to allow my son to listen to while I worked with his older sisters. Then we could discuss the passage together using the lesson guide.

The art history focuses on works of art from various artists. Each work of art is a separate lesson which is meant to take a week to complete. And each artist has several different pieces featured, so you are spending a month and a half with such artists as Raphael, Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, and Henry Ossawa Tanner. A copy of the painting is provided, and the lesson guide leads the parent in a study of the painting and the artist. These lessons each include a synopsis, vocabulary, information about the artist, enrichment activities such as finding objects in the painting, narrating what is happening in the painting, acting out the painting, and coloring the related coloring page, and review questions.

Like art history, the music lessons do not have a digital book that they are based on. There are 36 lessons, enough for one for each week of a school year. The musical selections are all focused around the different seasons. An audio clip of the music is provided, just like the poetry and story from the prose section. The lesson guide gives instructions for getting the most out of each musical selection. Again, we look at the synopsis, and there are different enrichment activities. The child will be asked to describe the music, look at a work of art that is related to the music, discuss the topic the music is based on, act out the music, or even create a work of art inspired by the music. Review questions are again provided.

For the prose, poetry, art history, and music lessons, it would be helpful to have the guide opened on one device while the child can view the story, poem, painting, or music on another. Another suggestion would be to print out the guide. This would allow the child to focus on the painting while you teach.

The older grades are taught in the same way, though they use different, grade-appropriate books. When the child is done with McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, they move on to McGuffey’s First Eclectic Reader. And I already mentioned that children move on to Ray’s New Primary Arithmetic in math. History, geography, and science are added.

As you can see, Under the Home is most definitely a complete curriculum. All your subjects are included, and the lessons are laid out for you, making it easy to log in and teach. How much time you spend around the computer depends upon on how much you decide to print out, though obviously some of the lessons are dependent on being around the screen.

I love that there is a Charlotte Mason aspect to this curriculum, with the short, simple lessons that help guide a child in enjoying works of art, music, poetry, and wonderful children’s literature. Living books are used for the various subjects, and narration and copywork are used throughout. However, you do not need to be following a Charlotte Mason philosophy to utilize Under the Home. It is a well-rounded curriculum that can take your child from kindergarten through fifth grade when complete.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017