Monday, October 28, 2019

Working on Handwriting Skills: A Review of Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks

logo of Channie's

Now that our four-year-old daughter is unlocking the code to reading, she is eager to start writing. When the opportunity to review products from Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks became available, she was excited to look over all the workbooks, dry-erase flashcards, and other products. From the four products available to review, we chose Channie's Dry Erase Flashcard for Alphabet & Number and Neat Numbers. Both our daughter and our six-year-old son used these two products to practice their handwriting and math skills.

What is Channie's?

Neat Numbers workbook and alphabet flashcards

Seeking to find something to help her son with his handwriting, Chan Bohacheff created a visual guide. This then developed into products that are known for making learning and teaching both easy and fun. For those struggling with handwriting, there has been quick improvement reported.

Channie's lists four reasons why their visual writing pads are so effective:

  1. The blocks provide for consistent letter size. 
  2. There are double vertical lines to guide proper spacing. 
  3. The middle green shade is there to help with lowercase placement and writing in straight lines. 
  4. They provide the ability to self-correct when writing outside of the lines.
There are so many great products to help your child learn to write more clearly. From learning to print to working on writing in cursive, there are multiple writing tools to help work on those skills with your children. If you are looking to work on math skills, there are 14 different products from one-page-a-day single-digit addition and subtraction that would be great for our son to double- and triple-digit LineUp workbooks for old children.

What Did We Receive to Review?

We received two products to review:

Alphabet & Number flashcards

Neat Numbers workbook

My intention was to use both of these products primarily with our four-year-old daughter. While she was very excited to start writing, she was not happy about needing to trace the letters or numbers. So we would work on the flashcards for a day and then set them aside for a few days so she would not get frustrated that she was not tracing them perfectly. This did allow time for our six-year-old son to use the flashcards to practice his penmanship.

The flashcards are a set of 26 alphabet cards (lowercase on one side with a blue border and uppercase on the reverse side with a green border) and 10 number cards. They are 5.5 inches by 4.5 inches so they fit neatly on a table or desk alongside other workbooks. The alphabet cards have two letters to practice tracing and then space for your child to write the letter themselves. The number cards do not have any to trace – just blank spaces to try writing the number.

The Neat Numbers workbook pad is 80 pages long. The back of the cover has numbers 0-21 printed on it for easy reference and starts right with the number one to practice tracing. The pages are 8.5 inches by 11 inches so you could include them in a folder or binder if you take them out of the pad. They remove easily.

How Did We Use the Flashcards in Our Homeschool?

We started using the letters L, t, and i with our daughter. I asked her to trace them on the flashcards and then she could pick the other cards she wanted to work on each day. On most days, I let her choose which cards she wanted to use because she is still a little too young for me to push formal homeschooling yet.

Letter T Channie's flashcard

Letter P Channie's Flashcard

Letter A flashcard and Letter A Workbook
Prior to being selected for this review I had purchased the My First Letters pad from Channie's.
Our daughter spent some time working on it alongside the flashcards. 

The flashcards were a perfect exercise for our daughter to do while her brother was working on his own work. She could sit there and practice writing with the dry-erase markers and then erase the cards to work on the same letter again if she wanted.

Our six-year-old son also used them. They share their toys and homeschooling materials so it was only natural that he wanted to try his hand with the flashcards.

How Did We Use Neat Numbers in Our Homeschool?

Our daughter practiced writing a few of the numbers and tried her hand at a few of the trace & try pages towards the end. Similar to using the flashcards, she grew frustrated when her tracing was not perfect so we would set aside the Neat Numbers workbook for a few days.

Neat Numbers number 1 tracing

addition page from Neat Numbers

I used the addition and subtraction pages at the end of Neat Numbers for our six-year-old son. After the forty pages that have the student trace numbers 1-20, there are several trace & try pages to teach the basics of addition and subtraction with images like apples, soccer balls, and fish. After these pages, there were horizontal addition and subtraction pages with numbers. Our son completed these over the course of the review period. After the horizontal problems worksheets, there were several worksheets with the problems listed vertically. This was a new way to do addition and subtraction problems for our son. Finally, there were blank pages to practice writing numbers and pages to write our own addition or subtraction problems.

subtraction Neat Numbers worksheet

Subtraction Neat Numbers worksheet

Addition worksheet from Neat Numbers
At first, he was confused by the extra box when the addition problems were set up vertically. So, I highlighted the part where he should write the answer to the math problem.

What Do We Think?

I like the quality of the flashcards. Sometimes when one needs to use dry-erase markers, the cards or pages do not really erase well. That hasn't been the case so far with these cards from Channie's. Our children have been to be able to use the same cards to practice the same letters over and over and they can erase them cleanly.

The flashcards also fit neatly in the box even with taking them out of the small box over and over again each day for practice. This makes it very nice to keep them organized and with our homeschooling materials.

The Neat Numbers workbook is a very nice resource. I like that there are opportunities to practice multiple skills from tracing to addition and subtraction. The pages are of a thick quality so I do not think they will tear easily with erasing.

Our six-year-old son who has been writing for a longer time was not overly fond of having to write in the blocks and having to write in the style that Channie's uses. He enjoyed practicing his letter writing and working on addition and subtraction but often just wrote the letters and numbers his own way.

Our four-year-old daughter was very excited to review products from Channie's that were for her. Even though we had to take breaks in between using the flashcards and Neat Numbers, she did enjoy her time homeschooling. I think she really liked using the flashcards because she was in control of her work since she could write with the dry-erase markers and then erase them to write again.

I would recommend Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks to families looking for something to help their child write more clearly and those families looking for their children to practice math skills. When our six-year-old is learning cursive, I will take a look at the cursive workbooks to incorporate into our homeschool day.

Do You Want to Learn More? 

Be sure to check out the other reviews because there were two other products that the Crew also reviewed in their homeschool.

Channie's Logo

Channie's Crew Review

Crew disclaimer

Sunday, October 27, 2019

F is for Fair Oaks (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

Union army at Fair Oaks image from

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Sometimes battles themselves are not necessarily as important as their repercussions are. The Battle of Fair Oaks (or the Battle of Seven Pines as it is more commonly known) is one such battle. Fair Oaks set the stage for the Seven Days' Battles during the summer of 1862 as well as led to Robert E. Lee taking command of the Confederate Army.

General George B. McClellan, in command of the Union Army, was pursuing the Confederate Army under the leadership of General Joseph E. Johnston. By the end of May, Johnston and the Confederate Army had retreated a defensive position just outside of the Confederate capitol of Richmond. McClellan had positioned the Union army south and north of the Chickahominy River. This led Johnston to make a plan to attack the one-third of the Union army that was positioned south of the Chickahominy River.

Map of Battle of Fair Oaks; image from

General Johnston and General McClellan

The Battle

On May 31, 1862, Johnston made an attempt to overwhelm the Union troops on the southern side of the river. The Confederates south of the Richmond & York River Railroad pushed the Union back twice. They were successful in pushing back the IV Corps of the Union. Both sides would send reinforcements with the Union stabilizing their position.

Part of the reinforcements of the Union was that of the 2nd Corps headed by General Edwin "Bull" Sumner. One of his divisions traversed swaying bridges as the Chickahominy River had swollen by recent rains. They joined the battlefield around dusk near the railroad station of Fair Oaks.

Around dusk on May 31, a bullet struck Johnston in the right shoulder and a shell fragment then hit him in the chest. He fell unconscious from his horse. With a broken right shoulder blade and two broken ribs, he was evacuated to Richmond.

General Johnston
Johnston (image from

The command of the Confederate army was temporarily traded to Major General G. W. Smith. On the first of June, the Confederates resumed their attack but the Union had their reinforcements. That made it difficult for them to make any progress.

Both sides claimed victory despite neither side really winning a decisive tactical victory. There were about 10,000 casualties. This made it about the bloodiest battle to date.

Results and Impact

McClellan, who was always reluctant to commit to battle, walked and rode across the battlefield and saw the devastation. This further endorsed the idea in his mind that he did want to lose the men of his Army of the Potomac. He shared that he was upset by the death and that "victory has no charms for me when purchased at such cost." His reluctance would be seen time and time again as a flaw until eventually President Lincoln replaced him on November 5, 1862.

slaughter field of Fair Oaks; image from

The second and more important result of the Battle of Fair Oaks was the wounding of Joseph Johnston on May 31, 1862. While injured, Johnston was replaced as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia by Robert E. Lee. This change by Confederate President Jefferson Davis put the man who has been called "the most important figure, political or civilian, in the Confederacy" by Civil War Professor Gary W. Gallagher.

So a battle with which most people are unfamiliar in the history of the American Civil War had a tremendous impact on the rest of the Civil War. One can very easily play the 'what if' game in regards to Lee not taking command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Maybe the Civil War would have ended sooner? Maybe the Battle of Gettysburg would never have taken place? Who knows what the results would have been if the bullet and artillery shell had both missed Johnston on May 31, 1862.

General Lee
Lee (image from

(Johnston did not die from his wounds. He would continue to command in the western theater of the Civil War but never in as prominent a position as when he was in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was removed from command in July 1864 but reinstated by Davis after public outcry in the Confederacy. Eventually he would surrender to General Sherman in April 1865.)

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Friday, October 25, 2019

A Wonderful Shopping Option for Homeschool Families

When looking for somewhere to purchase homeschool curriculum or materials for your homeschool, there are so many choices that shopping might seem a bit daunting. We were fortunate enough to discover Timberdoodle Co, a family-owned company that started in 1985 to help homeschooling families.  The special emphasis of Timberdoodle is a focus on hands-on and thinking-skills products that kids will love and learn from, too.

Note: This is a non-sponsored post.

When family asked if they could purchase a gift certificate for a homeschooling company to help us purchase needed materials for our homeschooling journey, I thought of several options but settled upon Timberdoodle. I had already made a purchase from Timberdoodle with which I was quite happy. So, I suggested their company.

As we are a family that reviews products and shares them on our blog, I knew that purchasing an entire curriculum package was not what we needed from Timberdoodle. (Although their packages look AWESOME and I would love to purchase one in the future.) I was able to get materials and items for every member of the family from our four-year-old daughter to my husband and myself.

What Did We Purchase

We purchased both curriculum items and items that might be considered just for fun even though they are educational.

  • Batman Science 
  • Kum 4-in-1 Pencil Sharpener
  • IQ Stars
  • Show Me How to Survive
  • Exploring Government Curriculum Package
  • Curious Chef 3 Piece Nylon Knife Set
  • Channie's My First Letters
  • Q-bitz Solo 
Channie's My First Letters

How Will We Use These Items

From our previous experience, we purchased two sets of science books from Apologia for the next two years for our middle son and later our younger daughter. We are currently using the Astronomy book and loving it!

The pencil sharpener is just what I needed! I haven't found a good electric one yet and just needed something to keep with our homeschooling materials. This one is compact and works quite well. Perfect for regular pencils and colored pencils.

Exploring Government books

Our teen is using the Exploring Government Curriculum Package for his homeschooling studies this school year. So far, we are only a few chapters into the book, but I really like how it is divided. The lessons are laid out quite clearly so that our teen knows just want is expected of him each week. I also like that there is a language arts component that is optional. With that, we could have our son read several books that tie into the Exploring Government material.

Our two younger children and myself are enjoying using the IQ Stars and Q-bitz solo activities. What a fun way to work on building logic skills and keeping the brain active!

IQ Stars and QBits solo games

IQ Stars solo game
I love how everything fits nicely into the IQ Stars container.

Q Bitz solo game
The cards, blocks, tray, and instruction booklet fit nicely in the metal tin.

What I am Dreaming About

As a history teacher, I really love the look of Uncle Sam and You Curriculum Package and the Exploring America Curriculum Package. I feel like I can never have enough history books and materials.

I am also keeping the next books in the Exploring Creation series from Apologia in my wishlist as our two younger children are enjoying the Astronomy textbook and notebooking journal.

We would also like to add the other Q-bitz games to our family collection of games. We can never have too many games or activities that promote critical thinking skills.

Blog Team

As a member of the Timberdoodle Blog Team, I will be sharing reviews of some products that Timberdoodle sells and includes in their curriculum packages. In the future, I will be sharing our thoughts about Bugzzle – a game that will assist children ages 3+ in working on spatial reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Monday, October 21, 2019

E is for Early (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

image of a cannon

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Like so many other officers who served in the Civil War, Jubal Anderson Early attended the United States Military Academy. He graduated 18th of a class of 50 from West Point in 1836. He went on to serve in the Florida area fighting the Seminole American Indians in the Second Seminole War but resigned and became a successful lawyer, serving in the Virginia House of Delegates. Again, like so many other men of the day, he fought in the Mexican War.

Before Secession

Early was opposed to the idea of secession. As representative to the Virginia Convention in 1861, he voted against seceding and condemned the bombardment of Fort Sumter. But again like other men of the time, he joined his home state when they seceded. He accepted a commission as the Colonel of the 24th Virginia Infantry.

image of a cannon and Confederate flag in the background

Early Battles

At the first Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas), Early served with distinction. His unit helped drive the Union from the field. Shortly after this battle, he was promoted to Brigadier General. He also participated in the Peninsula Campaign and the battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862.

Throughout the Civil War

Early was involved in many of the key battles in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War such as the second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and others.

At the battle of Fredericksburg, Early led a counterattack against General Meade's forces which had broken through Confederate forces. Meade's men had penetrated Jackson's line. Lee was impressed by Early's performance. He was promoted to major general on January 17, 1863.

Battle of Fredericksburg
Battle of Fredericksburg

Early was involved in the Confederate invasion in Pennsylvania in 1863. He captured towns like York and demanded a ransom from the towns.

Shenandoah Valley and Move on Washington D.C.

General Lee put Early in charge of 14,000-15,000 soldiers (known as the Army of the Valley) in 1864. They drove the Union Forces from the Shenandoah Valley. Early and his men then turned north and fought the Battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864. There were 6,600 Union troops near Monocacy Junction with Early's much larger force to the north in Frederick, MD.

The Battle of Monocacy would be known as "the Battle that Saved Washington"  

Union Major General Lew Wallace blocked Early's best route to Washington D.C. The Union would hold the Confederates off till their lines began to waver towards the mid-afternoon. By early evening, Wallace had to retreat to save his remaining men. Even though the Confederates won the battle, Early's advance on Washington D. C. had been delayed enough that Union reinforcements reached the Union capital.

On July 11, Early and his men were five miles from the White House. There was skirmishing that took place on July 12 at Fort Stevens. To witness this skirmish, President Lincoln stood with sharpshooters' bullets zooming past his stovepipe hat. Early and his men stood on the doorstep of Washington D.C. but Union reinforcements arrived and Early had to withdraw into Virginia on July 13.

While retreating, Early's men seized and burned goods and towns. They demanded money from the towns they went through including Hagerstown and Frederick. If the money was not paid, they would destroy both private and public property.

While Early did not actually invade the Union capital, his men's escapades at the outskirts of the city led some to believe that the Confederacy was still strong. In fact, the London Times stated "the Confederacy is more formidable than ever." And Lincoln called for 500,000 additional men to serve in the Union army.

Jubal Early Quote: "The Army of Northern Virginia was never defeated. It merely wore itself out whipping the enemy."
Early's writings after the Civil War contained many ideas to promote the Lost Cause of the South.

Little by little, Early's men would be decimated and destroyed and Early was relieved by General Lee before the surrender at Appomattox. After the Civil War, Early would help push the idea of the Lost Cause which condemned Reconstruction and promoted the cause of states' rights.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of Hope's Highest Mountain

book cover of Hope's Highest Mountain

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. Thank you.

I found myself reading through Hope's Highest Mountain at a record speed. It was an easy, enjoyable read. I could not wait to find out what happened next to Ingrid and Micah because each chapter was filled with tension. I did not want to put the book down. I even stayed up late one evening to finish this enjoyable story by Misty M. Beller.
image of donkey and book cover of Hope's Highest Mountain

The two main characters of Hope's Highest Mountain are Ingrid Chastain and Micah Bradley. Their lives become intertwined through an unfortunate accident when the wagon on which Ingrid was traveling (to reach Settler's Fort and bring smallpox vaccines) crashes over the mountain, leaving her as its only survivor. Micah, a non-practicing doctor, was living by himself in the mountains after the tragic death of his wife and daughter.

Misty M. Beller created well-developed characters including Samuel and his mother, Joanna, that joined Ingrid and Micah on their journey through the snow-covered mountains to Settler's Fort. I felt I was able to connect with the characters on a personal level. They really came to life! The story of Micah and his loss as well as Ingrid's injury and her own loss at the beginning of the book were poignant and meaningful. I found myself crying on numerous occasions as I connected with the troubles and plight of the characters as they struggled to get to Settler's Fort.

Quote: Micah was in the Lord's hands - the very best place for him.

Some may argue that there were too many things that went wrong for the characters as they trekked through the snow-covered mountains with their precious cargo but I do not find that to be the case. Keeping in mind that Hope's Highest Mountain is set during an approaching winter in the 1800s with a smallpox outbreak, there are so many things that could go wrong for the characters. These events and hurdles allowed Ingrid to demonstrate her trust and faith in God. In turn, Ingrid served as a role model for Micah as he developed a new relationship with God.

In the end, I think the only thing that disappointed me was that the ending did not explore what happened to Joanna and Samuel in more detail but I think they might show up in another book. (I hope they do!)

I recommend Hope's Highest Mountain to fans of Christian Romance, fiction, and historical fiction. After this first experience reading a book by Misty M. Beller, I will be on the lookout for more of her works.

Want to Know More About the Author

Abbreviated Biography from Misty M. Beller's website:

"Misty M. Beller writes Christian historical romance and is the author of the bestselling Mountain Dreams Series and the Texas Rancher Trilogy. 

She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Building a World of Fun: A Review of Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks

Wooden Building Planks

Sometimes the best way to learn is through play. Our family has been playing with Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks for the past several weeks. During the review period, we have been building our own versions of the suggested towers, bridges, walls, trains, and houses along with using the wooden planks to create corrals for toy animals and furniture for dolls. Almost every day since Brain Blox arrived, our two younger children have had them out and incorporated them into their day somehow.

Note: I share a lot of photos in this post to show off our children's fun designs and use of the Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks.

box of 200 wooden building planks

200 wooden building planks from Brain Blox on drawstring bag

Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks are available in three different size sets: 100, 200 (which we received to review), and 300. With the 200 precision-cut wooden planks, we received a red drawstring bag to store the planks and a color idea booklet which helped our kids get started on building awesome builds. It was very easy for me to go to the Brain Blox website and download their free resources to provide additional ideas for our kids. We used the idea cards and Brain Blox World eBook to stretch our imagination and build new things.

free resources for wooden building planks

Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose "mission is to empower families to be more conscious & intentional with one another." Through the development of toys, games, and journals, Brain Blox hopes that children will live happier and healthier lives by turning off the screen and engaging in the world around them. In addition to the Natural Wooden Building Planks, they also have Fun Family Chess for families (the Homeschool Review Crew also had the chance to review the chess set).

building a tower with Brain Blox wooden building planks

How Did We Use the Wooden Building Planks in Our Homeschool? 

This was one item that I really just let our younger children play and use on their own without a lot of instruction from me. They played with them every day taking them out to either build towers or other buildings as suggested by Brain Blox or they incorporated them with their other toys.

They used the wooden building planks to build roads for their cars or toys, enclosures for their toy animals, and whatever else struck their imagination. They even built an ice hockey rink.

ice hockey rink built with wooden building planks
The ice hockey rink with nets built of Brain Blox.

I had lots of fun building towers with our children, too!

wooden building planks tower

top of wooden building planks tower

What do we think? 

I love educational toys and these fit the bill. Our kids worked out problems (like how to create ramps and balance the wooden blocks to build higher towers) and also worked on cooperation as they designed race tracks for their cars and zoos for their animals.

animal toys and wooden exhibits

 planks and then used the planks vertically to create the enclosures for the animals
We made paths with the planks and then used the planks vertically to create the enclosures for the animals.
bridge built with wooden building planks
They designed a bridge to be part of their car tracks.

flower built with wooden building planks
Our son designed this flower. 

I like the fact that it comes with a drawstring bag and all the planks fit neatly into the bag which closes up nice and tight. No loose wooden planks laying around. The bag also enables our kids to put the wooden planks away alone or without too much assistance. One child can hold the bag open while the other picks them up and drops them into the bag. I love seeing my children cooperate and work together. 

drawstring bag used to house wooden building planks

When asking our six-year-old son his opinion, he said, "I like pretty much everything." He likes making houses. His future plans for building including making airplanes from the Wooden Building Planks.

Our daughter enjoys using them for creative play. She incorporates them into her kitchen play as well as building towers and houses. She likes stacking them. She said, "I love making really tall towers up to the roof and making train tracks."

My husband thinks Brain Blox give our children a lot to do because they are versatile. They have a lot of fun with them.

I would recommend Brain Blox to families. They definitely foster imagination and allow kids to show their creativity!

Do you want to learn more about Brain Blox? 

Because the Wooden Building Planks are so versatile, please be sure to check out the rest of the reviews to see how different children were able to use them to foster their imagination.