Monday, June 27, 2022

Art in Our Homeschool: A Review of Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Art in Our Homeschool: A Review of Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit; tiger print background

I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of this Card Kit from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Do you have one of those subjects in your homeschool that sometimes gets neglected? For us, it is often art. While our children love arts and crafts, I often save those projects for another day because we run out of time, need to gather materials, etc. Knowing how important the arts are to developing various skills, I was very pleased to review the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit from Timberdoodle with our two children. The Kit is included in the 2022 Fourth-Grade Curriculum Kit from Timberdoodle which I think is a perfect fit. 

What is the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit? 

This self-contained art kit includes all the components one needs to create a beautiful work of art. In our case, the card kit depicted a tiger. The company does have other kits available including a lion, kittens, owl, horse, and others. 

In the kit we found: 

  • 1 Card 
  • 1 Envelope 
  • Bags of Crystals 
  • Empty Plastic Resealable Bags 
  • 1 Crystal Pick-Up Pen 
  • Jelly Wax
  • Tray 
The card is covered with a plastic piece as the card itself is sticky so you can place the crystals. The instructions are located on the inside of the kit package and written in English, German, French, and Dutch. So, in addition to incorporating art into your homeschool, you can try out your language skills by comparing the instructions. 

Crystal card kit unopened package, crystals in bags; putting crystals on tiger

How Did We Use the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit? 

When it first arrived, our daughter was very excited to get started. She loves arts and crafts so this was perfect for her. After opening it, I was apprehensive that she would be able to complete it as she only turned seven and it is included in the Fourth-Grade Curriculum Kit. It looked like it would take great concentration to complete this kit. Would our daughter and our son have the patience to work on it? 

The first day I set aside time to work on the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit, I let our children pick which color we would complete first. We opened the appropriate bag of crystals, poured them into the tray, put the Jelly Wax near the tray, and started working. I began the process to show our children how to use the Pick Up Pen (or stylus). Our daughter quickly wanted to try it on her own. I held the plastic piece up off the card so she could apply the crystals. 

Between the three of us, we completed that first color over the course of the day. I would work on it for a little bit and then go back to work or homeschool one of our children. Our daughter would work on it for a time while her brother and I were working on spelling or language arts. Our son would then work on it after he completed his other homeschool assignments. We continued this process for several days. I even left it out so they could work on it throughout the whole day and evening. And there were quite a few nights I worked on the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit on my own as I found it relaxing. 

crystals in tray with pick up pen; working on tiger art picture

How Do You Complete the Picture? 

Choose which area of the card you want to work on and then look at the letter on the card. Find the bag of crystals labelled with that letter and pour them into your tray. Use the Pick Up Pen, after dabbing it into the Jelly Wax, to pick up the crystals. The crystals are attached to the dots labelled with the letter you chose. Don't remove the entire plastic piece until you are completed to protect the sticky parts of the card. 

When you are done with a specific letter, put that in a small plastic resealable bag and label it. You may notice you missed a few spots like we did and need to go back and fill them in later. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Art in Our Homeschool: A Review of Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit; tiger art on tiger print background

What Did We Think? 

At first, I was very concerned that our children would not be able to complete the project. It seemed to require great patience and hand-eye coordination. Would this work? I really thought that I would have to complete the entire card on my own but thankfully I was wrong. Our children enjoyed the process and seeing the card transform into a sparkly picture with the crystals. This simple card kit really brought art in our homeschool to life! 

What about the process? Was it easy to transfer the tiny crystals to the sticky card? Yes and no. If the crystals were the right side up, one could easily use the Pick Up Pen to transfer them if you had enough Jelly Wax on the Pen. Sometimes the crystals would fall off during the transfer but that wasn't that often. And we did have to gently shake the tray to flip the crystals over so we could pick them up the right way.  Once you get into a rhythm, it is quite easy to fill the entire card with the color you are working on at that time. 

We did notice that we had some duplicate bags of colors and one letter had two different bags of crystals. This wasn't too confusing and it did not impact our picture at all. 

I really enjoyed working on the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit. I found it relaxing and enjoyable. While our soon-to-be fourth grade son enjoyed this homeschool art project, our daughter really liked it. So I would definitely recommend it for your daughters who love arts and crafts. If they have good dexterity and patience, then a child as young as seven might be able to complete this with a little help. 

Our daughter shared, "Though hard at first, it was actually easy once you got used to using the pen to grab the crystals and putting them on the card." She said it was a lot of fun. Our son said it was an "epic experience." 

This kit really brought art in our homeschool to life! Both our son and our daughter recommend it for your homeschool. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; completed tiger art picture

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Disease during the American Civil War

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Disease during the American Civil War; cannon photograph in background

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

Diseases and illnesses were a huge threat to soldiers during the American Civil War. According to The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War by James Robertson: "For every soldier who perished in action, two died behind the lines from sickness" (126). What a horrible ratio! And some research even indicates the number of soldiers who died due to disease and sickness could have been even higher. 

What Led to Diseases? 

The causes of diseases in the American Civil War were some of the same ones that impacted our world for hundreds of years. And while there were improvements over the course of the war, most of the conditions were still present in one place or another. 

  • Poor food and inadequate diet 
  • Poor sanitation 
  • Poor camp conditions
  • Poor hygiene 
  • Ill-equipped or ill-trained doctors and nurses  
  • Lack of specific courses of treatment
  • Lack of knowledge regarding some of the diseases and illnesses 
  • Battle wounds 
  • Food poisoning  
  • Bad weather (rain and heat) 
  • Mosquitoes and flies 
  • Filthy drinking water

What were the Typical Diseases? 

In an essay, Disease by Stanley B. Burns, MD, it is stated that there were 5.8 million sick cases during the American Civil War. What exactly impacted the soldiers in such great numbers? 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Dysentery (diarrhea with bloody stool) 
  • Malaria 
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Rubeola - Red Measles 
  • Pneumonia 
The two leading diseases were diarrhea and dysentery. Dr. Burns states that: "57,000 deaths were directly recorded to these most disabling maladies. The total recorded Union cases were 1,528,098." Why were diarrhea and dysentery so dangerous? In drastic conditions, it could lead to dehydration and make the men more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. If they entered battle while suffering from either of these maladies, the soldier could suffer abdominal pain or have a fever.

Following closely behind these two diseases were malaria and typhoid fever. Many suffered from malaria and while doctors and scientists were unsure as to how it was spread and caused, they did prescribe quine which helped keep the number of deaths down. Unfortunately, the same lack of knowledge as to what caused typhoid fever did not mean that there were treatments or cures. 17,000 Confederate soldiers died over one 18-month period of typhoid fever. In fact, one regiment, the 18th VA regiment, lost more men to typhoid fever than to combat. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Disease during the American Civil War; photograph of civil war medical tent

Final Thoughts 

I can only imagine the fear, worry, and anxiety that the soldiers faced during the American Civil War. They were afraid of seeing the elephant (entering combat for the first time), worrying about getting injured or killed, or their friends getting wounded or killed, and they must have been anxious about what was happening back at home. Was their family safe? Was their home being invaded or destroyed depending upon where they were from in the United States? Then one has to factor in their concern over disease and illnesses. So many worries. I am thankful for the advances they did have in medicine that helped and those men and women (like Clara Barton) who were able to provide medical care, comfort, and relief from diseases, illnesses, and wounds.

Would You Like to Learn More? 

PBS Mercy Street: Disease
Disease and the Civil War: Statistics

Friday, June 17, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: C is for Children and the American Civil War

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: C is for Children and the American Civil War

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

The American Civil War impacted all aspects of life. When sons signed up to serve in the Union and Confederate armies, parents were often both proud of their sons and worried about the risks. And then, on some occasions, when sons decided to fight for the "other side," parents felt even more concern and sometimes pain and humiliation and betrayal. Families would also be broken up as fathers enlisted, leaving behind wives and children. 

How did the children feel? 

I can only imagine how children felt when they said goodbye to their fathers (and brothers in some cases). Depending on how far the families lived from large cities, they may have had different opinions about the Civil War. Some families were very proud of their fathers and sons as they enlisted. Tied up with pride was a feeling of patriotism. Northerners and Southerners both felt they were serving their nation. Tied up in pride and patriotism were also sadness and worry. The families' lives were changing, and no one really knew for how long. 

What about those children who lived where battles were taking place? Can you imagine the children who would see armed men entering their towns and homes? In Civil War Soldiers by Reid Mitchell, we can read an excerpt from the diary of New York Officer Burrage Rice. On Dec 29, 1864, he wrote: 

"All I pity are the little children. They look up so sad with so much astonishment wondering, I presume, why we are all armed, filling their little hearts with terror, & why they are all so destitute & why Papa is not at home attending to their wants in this bleak cold winter weather. Poor children! They know not they are suffering the curse of treason."

How did the fathers feel? 

Many fathers were worried that their children would forget them. In the letters they sent home, they wrote their wives to remember them to their children. Both sides would share photographs. In some cases, fathers would send home photographs of themselves in their uniforms, while mothers would send snapshots of their children. Children also sent messages to their fathers through their mothers.

There were only a few occasions when fathers wrote letters directly to their children. In general, letters written home were meant to be read by adults, and only parts were shared with the children. Today, this might seem odd as we often send postcards, letters, emails, text messages, etc. to our children but this was not the norm during the American Civil War.

A Mom's Quest to Teach; Blogging Through the Alphabet: C is for Children and the American Civil War

Impact on Families 

The feelings of sadness would be multiplied if the fathers died in battle, in prison, or after being wounded. The numbers could be quite high for each unit. The chaplain of the 30th North Carolina Infantry listed the widows and fatherless children left behind. There were 114 husbands and fathers of the 358 who died. They left 114 widows and 249 fatherless children behind. 

There is one famous photograph of three children who were orphaned after the battle of Gettysburg. Their father was holding the photo of his three children but his body was unidentified. Magazines printed the photo and distributed the likenesses so they could identify the soldier. Eventually, Philanda Hamiston of Portville, NY saw the photo of the children. It was her husband, Sergeant Amos Hamiston of the 154th New York, and her children who had been orphaned. This is but one case of numerous children being orphaned in the American Civil War. 

I can only imagine the impact on the children both during the war and afterward. We are seeing the impact of an unusual couple of years on our own children. There may not have been a civil war, but our children – our nation – was greatly impacted by decisions made over the past several years, and we are only now realizing the toll it has taken on our young ones.

Read More 

If you want to read three letters a father wrote to his children, you can find them at The Blog of Gettysburg National Military Park

PBS: Kids in the Civil War

View "The children of battle field" at the Library of Congress

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Book Club: The Door in the Dragon's Throat

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Book Club: The Door in the Dragon's Throat

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

Our younger son loves to read! When asked to pick out potential gifts, he circled quite a number of books which made us quite happy. While I love gifting him things like Lego, reading is one hobby that I really want to foster in our son. My husband enjoys books by Frank E. Peretti, so we selected the first in The Cooper Kids Adventures series for him – The Door in the Dragon's Throat. It is a fast-paced Christian adventure book for pre-teens and teens. 

The Story 

"A mystery as old as the desert sands..." 

The Door in the Dragon's Throat starts with a conversation between President Al-Dallam and Gozan discussing the arrival of the archaeologist, Dr. Jake Cooper, his two children, and his small team. Dr. Cooper is there to uncover the truth behind an ancient legend involving a mysterious door hidden in a dark cavern called the Dragon's Throat. 

Danger quickly rears its ugly head in the eyes of a cobra and then a rumbling of the earth a short time later. Dr. Jake Cooper's children, Jay and Lila, explore the mysteries right alongside their father as they take faith in the knowledge that God will protect them. 

Including The Door in the Dragon's Throat Into Your Homeschool Day 

This book offers so many ways you can incorporate it into your homeschool day. From vocabulary to literature lessons, you can also spend time learning about earthquakes, characterization, and the Bible. What activities will you fit into your homeschool lessons? 


Define the following words with your homeschooler: 

  • Primitive 
  • Rampant
  • Magnificent
  • Conveyances
  • Seismometer 
  • Observant 
  • Surrender
  • Undulating 
  • Discernible  
  • Passageways 
  • Reversible 
  • Perilous  
  • Expedition 
  • Inscription 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Book Club: The Door in the Dragon's Throat - book cover

Study History 

While reading The Door in the Dragon's Throat, there are a number of geographical places for your child to study. You can research the ancient civilizations of Babylon and Chaldea, as well as study Nimrod. In addition to studying the civilizations, your child can label a map of the Middle East from the past as well as today.


During the course of the novel, there are a few natural occurrences and locations that you can study with your child. For example, earthquakes play a prominent role in the story. Dr. Cooper and this team bring a Geiger counter to take measurements and they do a visual check for any geophysical indications, cracks, or fissures that the area was different or unsafe. 

What about the animals that show up in the book? Take the time to study cobras, scorpions, and vipers. 


  • Venomous snake 
  • Lives 20 to 30 years 
  • Lays 12 to 60 eggs, depending on the specific breed of cobra 
  • Cobras live in Africa and Asia


  • A variety of species lives in Africa 
  • Member of the arachnid class 


  • A variety of vipers lives in Africa, including the largest one – the Gaboon viper 
  • Most vipers eat small to medium-sized animals 

Language Arts Lessons 

There are many wonderful characters in The Door in the Dragon's Throat. There are a number of activities your child can do to help them describe the characters in Peretti's book. They can create trading cards, a photo album, and more to demonstrate what they know about the characters. 

Characters include: 

  • Jay Cooper 
  • Lila Cooper
  • Dr. Jake Cooper 
  • The Shaman of the Desert 
  • Gozan 
  • President Al-Dellam 
  • Jeff 
  • Bill 
  • Tom 

blank back and front of a trading card; draw your favorite character; what does your character do in the book

Questions to Discuss 

  1. How would you retell the Gospel to someone who has not heard it before and who has no background knowledge of the Bible? 
  2. What Bible verses would you read or recite to calm your fears? 
  3. How is the Door described? 
  4. What was the scariest moment in the story for you? 

Books give us the opportunity to learn more about the world around us. They can be wonderful forms of entertainment and education. Our children can enjoy mysteries, adventure stories, and nonfiction. We only have to find out what they like and the world can be open to them through books. If you are looking for more exciting books for your pre-teen and teen, read my review of Britfield & The Lost Crown. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Anatomy Puzzle for Kids: A Review of the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Anatomy Puzzle for Kids: A Review of the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle

I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of this puzzle from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Do you like to include fun activities in your homeschool day? We love being able to bring learning to life by using hands-on activities like games, experiments, and puzzles, especially in our science lessons. I find that our children retain more information when they can be actively involved in their learning. Being able to include a well-made puzzle like the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle into our science lessons helps bring our science to life. 

As a member of the Timberdoodle Blog Team, we were privileged with being able to review the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle in our homeschool. We reviewed Dr. Livingston's Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzle: The Human Thorax last year with our oldest, so I knew the quality of the puzzle would be excellent and that our children would enjoy completing it. 

Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle in progress

What Is the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle? 

The Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle is a 100-piece floor puzzle that measures four feet in length. It depicts the following parts of the body with a 50% magnification: 

  • Head with the brain and eye 
  • Chest showing the lungs
  • Abdomen showing the digestive organs 
  • Limbs showing muscles, bones, arteries, and veins 

There are no gender-related details in the puzzle. 

It is just one fun and educational part of the 2022 First-Grade Curriculum Kit from Timberdoodle

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Anatomy Puzzle for Kids: A Review of the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle; completed puzzle; Read the Reviews!

How Did We Use the Kids Anatomy Puzzle in Our Homeschool? 

The day after the kids' anatomy puzzle arrived, our children joined me on the floor to put it together. We started before dinner time, took a break, and then jumped back into the puzzle after dinner. We even coaxed the oldest (who is now 19 years old) to help us complete it.

Timberdoodle offers a variety of wonderful resources that would be perfect to accompany the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle or the other Dr. Livingston Anatomy puzzles, including Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (which we hope to use in a few years), the Usborne - My Very First Science Book (find my review here: Book Club: My Very First Body Book Review), and the Dr. Bonyfide Presents Bones series (which I also hope to use soon). 

While we only have one of these resources from Timberdoodle, I did a quick search through my files and found some different anatomy worksheets and lapbooking activities for us to work on before, during, and after our puzzle-building time. When you homeschool, it is so easy to find things to fit together into your homeschool day. 

As we didn't use a formal anatomy curriculum in conjunction with the puzzle, I can see a number of ways you could incorporate the kids' anatomy puzzle into your homeschool routine. From allowing your children to complete it while you are occupied with other duties (but you still want homeschooling to happen) to a more formal use of it during your science lesson, the possibilities are almost limitless. 

mostly completed Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle

What Did We Think? 

We struggled with putting together The Human Thorax puzzle because it was so detailed and intricate. Our children definitely wanted to help their older brother but it wasn't possible for them to do a lot more than find the correct colors. With the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle, our children are able to complete the puzzle independently. Yes, we worked on it together the first time but with each successive time, they are able to put it together with less and less help. In fact, the second time it only took us about 20 minutes, even though we were talking about the different parts of the body as we put the puzzle together. 

When asking our son about the kids' anatomy puzzle, he said, "I think it is a good puzzle if you want difficulty but don't want to move on to the harder puzzles."  He said the puzzles are good for children of different ages. The Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle "is more of a kid-sized body, while the Thorax one we put together would fit an adult-sized body" (actually it would be over 7 feet tall if they were all put together). He enjoyed focusing on a specific part of the puzzle each time we put it together. 

Our daughter learned about the different parts of the body. For example, she said, "This is what my bones and muscles look like." And she really enjoys doing things together as a family, so completing this puzzle was perfect for her. 

I definitely appreciate the quality of the puzzle pieces and the strong box with a Velcro flap for its storage. The double-sided laminated sheet with the body labeled on one size and fun facts on the other was a great addition to the puzzle. It helped us put together the kids' anatomy puzzle as well as provided interesting facts to read while we completed the puzzle. 

I would recommend the Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle to families with preschool to elementary-aged children. I think younger children will benefit from putting together a puzzle that might be a tad more difficult than the average floor puzzle. Older children will benefit not only from completing the puzzle – looking for the pieces that match up – but also from the discussions that can be had from the content of the puzzle. This is an excellent hands-on learning resource for your homeschool. 

Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle box and putting together the puzzle

What Else Can You Find at Timberdoodle? 

Language Arts - Mosdos Press Literature Opal Edition - Read my review here: Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal 

History Resources -  U.S. History Detective® Book Two - Read my review here: Critical Thinking and Supporting History: A Review of U.S. History Detective® Book Two 

completed Dr. Livingston JR Human Body Floor Puzzle

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: B is for Belle Boyd

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Blogging Through the Alphabet: B is for Belle Boyd -  Civil War Cannon photograph

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

There are several well-known spies from the American Civil War, including ones for both the Union and Confederacy. Two of the most famous from the South include Rose O'Neal Greenhow and the subject of this post - Belle Boyd. And while there was no official network of spies both the Union and Confederacy had many individuals who served to gather information to help the war effort. 

The Start of the Belle's Career 

Maria Isabella "Belle" Boyd was born on May 9, 1844, to a prominent family near Martinsburg, Virginia (West Virginia today). She received a good education during her youth. When war broke out, her forty-five-year-old father enlisted in the Confederate Army and would serve in the Stonewall brigade. 

While her father was away, Belle would start on the road to infamy when she shot and killed a Union officer. On July 4, 1861, a drunken Union soldier insulted her and her mother so she shot and killed him in their home. Belle would later write in a post-war memoir that the soldier had "addressed my mother and myself in language as offensive as possible." She would be found not guilty after an investigation into the event.

Confederate Courier 

At the age of 17, Belle started her career as a Confederate spy and courier. In May of 1862, she took news to General Stonewall Jackson regarding the Union strength at Front Royal. Jackson captured Front Royal and acknowledged the contribution of Belle. 

She would continue to gather information by frequenting Union camps. One of the ways she gathered information is through flirting with the Union officers and using her charm. In the years after the Civil War, she would exaggerate her spying by saying she eavesdropped at Union headquarters in Front Royal. She became so famous that she would be dubbed by the press as "La Belle Rebelle" and "Cleopatra of Secession." 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Blogging Through the Alphabet: B is for Belle Boyd; photo of Belle Boyd from The Everett Collection


Belle did not avoid arrests. In fact, she was arrested six or seven times. In July of 1862, she was arrested in Washington D.C. and held at the Old Capitol Prison. After about a month, she was let go as part of a prisoner exchange. But Belle would be arrested again in July of 1863 and released in December. 

When sailing for England in 1864, she was arrested as a Confederate courier. She only escaped to Canada with the aid of Lieutenant Sam Hardinge, a Union Naval Officer. She would later marry Lt. Hardinge after getting to England. She would stay in England for several years, writing her memoirs, including Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison, and gaining fame on the stage. She returned to America as a widow and mother to share her story.

After the War 

While in America, she married again (another man who fought for the Union) but divorced him after 16 years, in 1884. Two months after her divorce, she married an actor 17 years her junior. Belle Boyd died on June 11, 1900, of a heart attack in Kilbourn, Wisconsin. 

As a Confederate spy, Belle Boyd defied the traditional women's role of the day. She continued to defy the traditional role by sharing her experiences during the American Civil (a bit exaggerated) in both memoirs and on stage. For someone who was so well-known during the Civil War, I found it odd that I hadn't really read her name as much as I had read about "Rebel Rose." I also find it interesting that she married two men who fought for the Union when she was such a supporter of the Confederacy. 

Do You Want to Read More? 

American Battlefield Trust 

Smithsonian: Women Spies of the Civil War 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: A is for Arlington

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo:  Blogging Through the Alphabet: A is for Arlington on background of civil war cannons

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

Today, Arlington National Cemetery is known as a place of reverence and respect, as it is the resting place of approximately 400,000 men and women. One can walk among the graves of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and all the way to today's conflicts. Or you can visit the grave of President John F. Kennedy, the memorial to the Space Shuttle Challenger, the graves of numerous five-star generals and admirals, Tuskegee Airmen, and many other notable men and women. But did you know that the land the cemetery sits upon once belonged to the stepson of President George Washington?

Property Inherited in 1802 

George Washington Parke Custis built a mansion and "shrine" to honor his father. The original plans were to have it named "Mount Washington" (similar to Mount Vernon) but it was eventually named Arlington. Custis had been adopted by President Washington when his own father died in 1781. The mansion's construction started in 1802 and when finished after 14 years it looked like it had been on that Virginia land forever.  

The property and mansion passed to Custis' only surviving child Mary Custis Lee in 1857. She was well-educated, a painter, and an avid rose-gardener. 

Mary Custis Lee married Lieutenant Robert E. Lee on June 30, 1831, in the family parlor of Arlington House. She loved her family home and ended up staying more frequently at Arlington House than wherever Lee was stationed during his military career. In fact, six of their seven children were born at Arlington. 

Following in her mother's footsteps, Mary was a devout Episcopalian. She held family prayers, attended services either at Christ Church in Alexandria or the Arlington Chapel and continued the tradition of teaching the enslaved children Sunday School lessons and reading and writing. 

When Mary's husband decided to fight for his home state in April of 1861, she wouldn't be able to stay at her beloved home of Arlington – where Robert and Mary had lived for 30 years. During the American Civil War, Mary and her children stayed at the homes of various family and friends as Lee traveled with the Confederate Army. 

During the War

After Mary and the family left, the property was soon taken over by Union soldiers. They set up tents and built fortifications. Trees were felled to clear the way for potential artillery. In addition to the Union soldiers stationed there, Freedman's Village would be built for recently freed slaves, numbering about 1,500. Sadly, many items were taken from Arlington House, including mementos of the Washington family. 

Eventually, the grounds of Arlington would start to be used as a burial ground. Montgomery Meigs, the Quarter Master General of the U.S. Army, was looking for somewhere to bury the steady flow of casualties of the American Civil War. Even though Meigs had been a friend of Lee, he was also very vindictive and believed that all Southerners who joined the Confederacy were traitors.

An unauthorized burial of  Private William Christman, of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, occurred in May of 1864. Eventually, Arlington was approved by the Secretary of War. Meigs wanted the bodies buried close to Arlington House so they wouldn't be disturbed. He even had 26 bodies interred in the middle of Mary's beloved rose garden. He wanted to make sure that the Lees could never live in their home again.

The cemetery started as a place for unidentified soldiers or for those whose families couldn't afford funerals. There would be changes made and, in time, many more soldiers would be buried at Arlington. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Blogging Through the Alphabet: A is for Arlington with photograph of Arlington House

Returning the Land 

During the Civil War, the property passed from the hands of the Lees to the federal government when Mary was unable to pay the taxes in person. After the end of the Civil War, the Lees attempted to regain their home. Robert E. Lee did not make it well known, but he was actively pursuing getting Arlington back as late as three months before his death.

Mary petitioned Congress to examine the federal claim to Arlington, but she was defeated. Several months before her death, Mary toured Arlington one last time via carriage. It did not look very much like her beloved home as Meigs had been expanding the cemetery and building on the land. 

In 1882, the Supreme Court found the American government illegally seized the land. It had been purchased by the Union government for nonpayment of taxes, but Mary had sent the money for the taxes (it was refused because she sent a representative and did not go in person herself). It was returned to Mary's oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee. But by this point, there were 20,000 individuals buried there, an Army fort, and Freedman's Village. What would happen to these things and people?

George Washington Custis Lee sold the land back to the federal government for $150,000. The land officially changed hands from the Lees to the federal government with no questions now. 

Presently, there are as many as 6,000 interments every year with 3 to 4 million visitors to Arlington National Cemetery. If Mary Custis Lee were able to visit her beloved family home today, I wonder what she would have to say about the continued changes to her home. I pray that she would be at peace now, knowing how important her family home is to America.

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Arlington National Cemetery 

How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be 

Arlington House, The Robert E. Memorial