Friday, May 17, 2019

M is for McClellan (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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Depending upon perspective, George Brinton McClellan was either a beloved general or a thorn in the side of the plans of the United States during the American Civil War. No matter what, though, McClellan had a huge impact upon the Union during the Civil War.

George B. McClellan was born on December 3, 1846 in Philadelphia, PA. He would go on to graduate from West Point as part of the class of 1846, serve in the Mexican War, study military systems in Europe, serve as chief engineer and later vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, serve as president of a division of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, serve as governor of New Jersey, and commander of the Union Army during the Civil War.

Pre-Civil War Background 

McClellan was well educated and well read. Like some educated people, he only worked as hard as necessary to get by when he attended West Point. He graduated second in the class of 1846 – behind Charles S. Stewart who served in the Corps of Engineers during the Civil War.

The personal library of McClellan contained a great number of books that would help him study the history of war and fighting. There were works on the Napoleonic Wars and books by Caesar, Marlborough, Frederick the Great, Herodotus, Tacitus, Gibbon, and Macaulay, along with a variety of literature, philosophy, and other works.

He made his mark as a railroad executive while working for the Illinois Central Railroad. During his tenure, Abraham Lincoln represented Illinois Central in several legal cases. Politically, the two men had nothing in common. In fact, McClellan would support Stephen Douglas in 1858 for the Illinois Senate race. McClellan would write that in the famous Stephen-Lincoln debates that Lincoln was "disjointed" while Douglas "was compact, logical, and powerful."

McClellan never made his contempt for Lincoln a secret. From his first impression of Lincoln (he thought he was not of strong character and had coarse associates) to his working with him when Lincoln was President, McClellan would find it difficult to work with the beloved 16th President.

During the Civil War 

The cautious nature of McClellan would create problems for himself during the Civil War. He did not have much confidence in his officers. McClellan felt it necessary to supervise every aspect which often meant not much could get done to push forward in attacking the enemy.

As a general, he always prepared for the worst. He would anticipate the most unfavorable outcome and expect it to happen. Therefore, he would usually think he would not succeed. He took little to no risk with the Union Army which caused many problems with Lincoln and the other leaders. He usually believed it was greatly outnumbered by the enemy.

The Confederates would create a false view of what McClellan would be facing. For example, at the battle of Yorktown, the Confederate General Magruder paraded his two small divisions back and forth to give the impression that he had much larger numbers. McClellan would order the building of siege fortifications. He planned and planned and when he was finally ready to attack, the Confederate army had already retreated and there was no Union victory.

While he lacked confidence in his officers and superiors, he did place his confidence in the private soldiers. His confidence in his men might be part of the reason why they respected and loved him so much. His men called him "Little Mac." McClellan was loved by his men in a similar fashion to how Lee was loved and respected by his men. Due to the fact that the Army of the Potomac was largely unorganized when he took over, McClellan set forth proper training and and this helped create a bond within the army.

There are differences of opinion as to whether or not McClellan was really loved by the men. General Smith required his division to cheer for McClellan which gives the idea that the men didn't love him as much as one might think but there are other cases of letters stating how much they liked "Little Mac." In several letters from Captain Edwin H. Little of the 62nd PA regiment, readers come away with the impression that McClellan was well loved. He writes to his wife in November of 1861 that the men gave a "hearty cheer" for McClellan at the grand review and again in April 1862 that every man knows "our little Corporal" as he rides through camp. And finally when Little writes on November 10, 1862, he writes: "I this day Shook the hand and bid Farewell to the best General in the United States" when McClellan was relieved of duty.

Arrival of McClellan image from US History Images

Job as General 

McClellan held the belief that he was ordained to his role as General of the Potomac Army in the Civil War. He did not choose to serve as general; God had elected him to save the Union. McClellan wrote to his wife Ellen: "I feel that God has placed a great work in my hands." These ideas might explain his stubbornness in believing he was the only one who knew what was going to happen. But while he believed God chose him, he did not think that meant he was better than anyone else. In fact, he wrote: "I know that God can accomplish the greatest results with the weakest of instruments."

Even though he was modest, McClellan did not take criticism well. He was upset with the attacks on his decisions. He felt that Lincoln cast doubts upon his ability as leader of the Union Army. Eventually all the delays, including not pursuing the Confederate Army after the battle of Antietam in 1862, led to Lincoln replacing McClellan with General Ambrose Burnside in November of 1862. This ended McClellan's military career.

Ordered Home – A Presidential Election – A Governorship 

After being relieved of command, McClellan was ordered home to Trenton and await orders that never arrived. In 1864, he was nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate to run against Lincoln. McClellan ran on an anti-war platform – promising to bring peace. Had the war continued to go poorly for the North, that might have won him the presidency. However, there were a series of victories for the North that helped convince voters the war would soon be over.

McClellan and his vice presidential candidate, George Pendleton, ran on a peace platform. Lincoln and Andrew Johnson ran for the National Union Party (Republican party and some War Democrats). With the taking of Atlanta by the Union General Sherman in 1864, the war seemed to be nearing the end. The Union Party set forth the slogan: "Don't change horses in the middle of the stream" to promote the reelecting of Lincoln. Lincoln was elected to a second term in 1864. He won by a landslide, defeating McClellan by more than 500,000 popular votes and by 191 electoral votes.

McClellan would go on to serve as governor of New Jersey from 1878 to 1881. His term was conservative and without any real political problems. He would only serve the one term and afterward work on his memoirs (which would be published after his death). He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 58 and is buried in Trenton, New Jersey.

photograph by Public Domain Pictures from Pixabay May 16, 2019

Final Thoughts 

I think McClellan is another one of those historical figures who has been misrepresented through history. If you want to really know more about the man, it is necessary to read primary and secondary sources as well as taking a look at his own book, McClellan's Own Story. So while Lee has been built up over the years and then torn down, McClellan has faced many years of disparaging remarks. This is another reason why I think it is important to be careful when judging historical figures and leaders by standards not held within their own lifetime – times change and so do attitudes, beliefs, and ideas.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Virtual Refrigerator: Weekly Art Link-Up

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We would like to extend an invitation to you and your children to share their artwork created while homeschooling. Each month we will host a link-up for you to share your posts about you or your children's art creation.

After you link up, please visit the other blogs and admire what they have shared from their fridges.

This week I would like to highlight some of our children's past artwork.

God's Love 

After reading the new book Nothing by Natalee Creech, were inspired to create a piece of artwork to show God's Love.

We used tissue paper from our daughter's birthday party to create the cool effect.

Learning Shapes 

We made these very simple train crafts a year ago. While I cut out the shapes for my kids when we first made the trains, they could now trace and cut out the shapes on their own. Revisiting arts and crafts with kids as they grow older is a great way to see how far our homeschooling families have come. 


Our teen has been thinking about becoming a photographer, so he has been sharing photos on my blog for the past year or so. He has been working on taking pictures of a variety of subjects from objects to animals.


Jennifer at A "Peace" of Mind
Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break
Our Unschooling Journey Through Life
Kristen at A Mom's Quest to Teach

Please link up and grab our blog button, too!

Please keep all artwork shared family-friendly. We reserve the right to remove any blog posts that are not family-friendly or that do not fit the theme.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Studying Science Using a K-12 Unit Study – Natural Disasters

Disclaimer: I received this unit study for free from the author in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

There are a variety of different options for homeschooling families who wish to learn information together. One such option is using unit studies that are written for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Our family reviewed the Natural Disasters K-12 Unit Study from Love at Home Education. It contains 6 main units and 4 mini-units. Each of the main units is spread out over the course of one week so the entire Natural Disasters K-12 Unit Study could take about 10 weeks depending on if you supplement with additional books, videos, and activities. I am glad that I am able to share this K-12 Curriculum Review with my readers.

What Do You Receive?

You can order either just the PDF or the PDF and a Print Copy (bound). Natural Disasters K-12 Unit Study consists of 7 units for a total of 129 pages. There are six main units and one mini-units set of lessons.

Six Units

  1. The Earth's Layers 
  2. Earthquakes 
  3. Volcanoes 
  4. Tornadoes
  5. Hurricanes
  6. Storms 
Mini-Unit on 
  • Landslides
  • Avalanches 
  • Glaciers 
  • Droughts 
Each of the six main units has five days' worth of information and activities for your homeschool. Besides learning new vocabulary, children will be able to share their artistic side with clay figures and painting, use food to help recreate different aspects of the earth, and view suggested videos from YouTube. With the variety of activities provided, you can easily adapt each day's lesson to meet the needs of your homeschooling family.

One of their favorite activities was painting the earth and the layers.

How Our Family Used the Natural Disasters Unit Study

science vocab cards
Woodward Caves pictures
After talking about the first several sets of vocabulary with the kids, we looked at photos from trips that their father
and I took to Penn's Cave, Woodward Cave, and Lincoln Caverns. 

As the review period did not consist of 10 weeks, I chose from among the variety of units, lesson ideas, activities, and work for our family to study.  We started with the first unit—Earth and Its Layers—so we could have a firm understanding of the basics and then moved onto other units. We then spent time reviewing the different vocabulary from all of the units in addition to talking about volcanoes.  We also spent some time going over earthquakes and storms.

We went through the five days as suggested for the first unit and studied the earth and its layers including the inner and outer core, the mantle, and the crust. We also spent some time collecting rocks because what homeschooling child doesn't have a rock collection?

I chose to only spend one day discussing earthquakes for now (we had just read a few books about them) and moved onto volcanoes. Our children had great fun combining colors to create the perfect color of ash and magma for paintings. We also watched some videos on volcanoes and reviewed the vocabulary each day.

Painting their favorite volcanoes. 

Reviewing vocabulary while we waited for the paintings to dry.

I love how the volcano is shown with a cross section because it makes it look like an angry creature.


We also talked about storms – thunderstorms, blizzards, and hailstorms – and painted one of the storms. While painting with the water color paints, our children narrated their painting. Our four-year-old daughter explained how the platypus was stuck in the blizzard. It was a baby platypus who was purple. Our five-year-old son painted all three storms in one painting.

What Did We Like

Our children loved the fact that they could paint, play with food, and explore different topics in a variety of ways. I loved all of the different options for using the unit study as part of our homeschool curriculum.

With each unit within the K-12 Curriculum divided into separate days, I was able to easily plan out our days. It made it easy to see approximately how long the entire unit study would take our family if we did the activities each day.

The way Natural Disasters is designed also allows for children to explore the topics they enjoyed in more depth. For example, when studying earthquakes, the unit study suggests watching some YouTube videos on them. If children are really interested, there is a considerable amount of media available to view (depending upon their age and maturity). Our kids were really into the volcano unit so we spent some time watching several videos on volcanoes including the one from SciShow Kids.

Natural Disasters also allows children to become scientists through exploration of theories and hypothesis. For example, there is discussion of theories in regards to faults and the opportunity to speculate what would happen if there was an earthquake along the San Andreas Fault. I remember watching the 1974 movie Earthquake which speculated what would happen in the Los Angeles area if an earthquake occurred.

There is also the option to write about the cause and effect of earthquakes based upon a child's age and writing abilities. From writing and drawing the sequence of events to writing a proper 5-paragraph essay for a homeschooled high school student, there are tips as to what may be appropriate for your family.

One of my favorite parts of the whole unit study is the suggestion to make an Earthquake Emergency Kit (or if you don't live in an Earthquake zone, just a regular emergency kit). I think this is a great way to have a discussion with the family about being prepared. It could also extend into an opportunity to give back by having your family prepare emergency kits to donate to a shelter, church, or other location based upon need.

In the Future and Observations

I can see us revisiting the Natural Disasters K-12 Unit Study when the children get older so we can study the topics in more depth. Homeschooling materials like this allow families to build upon what they have learned in the past as their children move through their educational careers.

As our children get older, we could use the the vocabulary words as part of their spelling words. In fact, depending upon what area of science our teen takes in the future, I will be able to reuse the vocabulary cards with him.

My only negative observation is in regards to the font chosen for the vocabulary cards. My younger children had difficulty reading some of the letters and words. If I was going to make one recommendation, it would be to use a plainer font for the vocab words.

Two of the vocabulary cards.

Do you want to learn more about Love at Home Education? 

Love at Home Education offers secular and religious curriculum for PK through 12th grade. There are faith-based unit studies, ones on presidents, and ones on the human body.


If you are interested in seeing what we think about another unit study from Love at Home Education, please visit my post on Thomas Jefferson!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of Nothing by Natalee Creech

Our children love books. So we were very excited to hear we would be able to review a new book, Nothing by Natalee CreechNothing is a new book from WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group written by Natalee Creech and illustrated by Joseph Cowman. Finding a children's book with a Christian focus can be difficult unless one knows publishers and authors they can turn to for solid books.

Our daughter was thrilled to sit down and read through Nothing Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love! The colorful pictures caught her attention as she flipped through the 32 pages of the hardcover book. She eagerly pointed out the different illustrations of children, the animals on the pages, and the flowers in the garden.

At the beginning of book, suggested for ages 4-7, there is a quote from the Bible (Romans 8:38-39 –CEB). Depending upon which translation of the Bible you prefer, you may wish to have that version at the ready to share this opening quotation. No matter what translation you choose, the idea at the heart of Nothing remains the same—God loves us no matter where we are in the world.

There are multiple children depicted on the pages that allow children of many racial and ethnic backgrounds to connect with the tale. I love books that allow children to find themselves in them. It really helps build a connection.

The font is very pleasing to the eye and easy to read. Certain words are bolded and others are capitalized throughout the story. This makes the story very easy to read aloud. And Nothing does not take a long time to read aloud, making it the perfect 'one more story' or a quick read while a brother or sister completes a homeschooling assignment. But don't think just because it is an easy, quick read it is not filled with a beautiful and important message—because it is!

"God's Love is Everywhere: desert, moon, beach...there's no place at all that HIS LOVE cannot reach!"


There are a number of great ways to incorporate the reading of Nothing in your homeschooling day. From searching out specific items on the pages to crafts, our family had lots of fun with the book.

In the very opening of the book, three children lie on the grass looking up at the sky with the text: "Can anything separate me from God's love?" As a family, you and your children could go outside and lie on the grass. Look around at the wonders that God has created. Talk about how God is all around you.

Nothing shows the children in different areas of the world—mountains, under the sea, and in the desert. This presents the perfect tie-in for social studies. One could write down all the places shown and then study those habitats. What animals live there? Where in the world could you find these habitats? (And for much older siblings you could even talk about missionary work in those locations.)

The book also discusses the fact that God's love cannot be separated by natural disasters like volcanoes erupting, earthquakes, or floods. These are times that children (and sometimes adults) often question God's love. So while reassuring children that God loves them all the time, one could also discuss the natural disasters and why and how they occur.

The children in the story travel by many different ways from a hot air balloon to a train. Perhaps you and your family could travel one these ways. If you get to soar in a rocket, I would love to hear about it!

There are also many animals illustrated in Nothing by Joseph Cowman. Make a list with your children and spot them on each page! Our daughter really loved the cat in the space suit.

We decided to make a craft using tissue paper and one sheet of construction paper to remind us of God's love after reading the story. It will look so pretty hanging in our kitchen to remind us of this lovely hardcover book.

While our daughter and I were the primary ones reviewing Nothing, our five-year-old son also read the book by himself. He loves all the different underwater scenes. When asking my daughter what her favorite part was, she flipped through the book and basically picked almost every page. She liked the hot air balloon ride and the train ride as well as the kitty in space and the giant octopus under the sea. I think it is safe to say she loved the book. 

Nothing is a very uplifting book. It is a great way to end the day. Reading Nothing at bedtime is perfect for reminding children how much God loves them each and every day. I would recommend this book as a perfect birthday or holiday gift. Or even a gift for anytime. It is a perfect addition to our children's bookshelves!

If you would like to learn more about Nothing and WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, please visit the following sites:

Other families were also able to review Nothing. Please be sure to check out what they thought of this beautiful children's book.

Friday, May 10, 2019

L is for Lincoln (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

photograph of Lincoln

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For some reason my brain was telling me that this week's letter for Blogging Through the Alphabet was M and I was all excited. I actually have two rough drafts written for the letter M. But alas, this week is the letter L and this sent me scrambling. Writing about Abraham Lincoln seems like a very natural choice when I have written about so many people – including Grant and Lee – and places associated with the American Civil War. But how does one write just one blog post about Lincoln when there have been hundreds of books written about the sixteenth President of the United States? In this post, I will share some of the examples of books written about Abraham Lincoln.

A Brief History of Lincoln Prior to the Civil War

Considering the fact that the public knew very little about Abraham Lincoln when he was sworn in as the sixteenth president of the United States in 1861, almost every aspect of his life has been written about since his election and assassination. The man who was born in Kentucky to a frontier farmer would receive a basic education in a one-room schoolhouse. Lincoln's father and mother, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, struggled but they still provided a happy home for their children.

After the death of Lincoln's mother, Nancy, Thomas Lincoln returned to Kentucky about a year after the death of his first wife and married the widow Sarah Bush Johnston. With her three children, she joined the Lincoln family in Indiana. Abraham Lincoln and his stepmother would become very close. During this adolescence and early adulthood, Lincoln continued to learn more on his own through the reading of biographies and other books and after a brief time in the military during the Black Hawk War, he worked at a variety of jobs before finally becoming a lawyer.

Lincoln was in and out of politics but it was prior to the Civil War that he would become very well known for his speeches and then debates with Stephen Douglas. These debates made Lincoln a national figure. And in 1860, Lincoln was nominated as the Republican Presidential Candidate.

If you want to read more detailed information, especially about his actions president, where do you turn? 

photo of Lincoln Memorial


There are many biographies to choose from on Abraham Lincoln. So how do you know where to start? If you are able to visit one of the many Civil War historic sites, you could ask an employee if they have any personal favorites or recommendations. For example, at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C., there is a 34-foot tall sculpture of over 6,800 books of the over 15,000 books written about Lincoln. Included in this awesome piece of artwork are 250 actual books.

If you are unable to get to a historic site to ask the opinion of an expert in the field, I recommend you look for one written by a reputable Civil War historian or one that includes a detailed bibliography of primary and secondary sources. One biography that I really enjoyed reading (and have made lots of notes in for future reference) is Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, first published in 1995.

Another excellent place to start would be with Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 volumes) by John G. Nicolay and John Hay. As private secretary to Lincoln, Nicolay was able to provide a great deal of information to create a good benchmark for all future biographies of the man. In addition to these volumes, you can also take a look at the War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. This are known as the Official Records (O.R.) and provide the correspondence and reports of the war.

Fictional Books

From children's books in which Abraham Lincoln puts in an appearance (like B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet) to more outrageous fictional books like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, President Lincoln has been written about in a great number of books for kids and adults. He has also played a part in the famous series by John Jakes: North and South

When studying Lincoln one must even be discerning when looking at paintings. The room where Lincoln
died was expanded to fit in a variety of people who were not present but who were deemed important
politically by the artist(s). 

On the Silver Screen

There are numerous occasions in which Abraham Lincoln is portrayed in movies from biographical films about the president to features about the Civil War. He is, of course, discussed in numerous Civil War documentaries. I would highly recommend watching Young Mr. Lincoln starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford.

Want to Read More about the American Civil War? 

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