As is my habit with all major holidays, when Thanksgiving approached, I took a "pause" from our normal history curriculum to weave together a holiday unit-study.
Typically, I am a "jazz hands" kind of unit-study planner. I like to incorporate songs, and games, and videos, and hands-on crafts, and books...lots of books..., and field trips, and, and, and...
But this year, as I gathered my resources and made my final preparations, my tone was more meditative...more reflective. While handprint turkey paintings and construction paper pilgrim hats are fine, I purposed to de-clutter our holiday. With my children seeing advertisements of the BIG BOX STORES opening their doors earlier than ever on Black Friday creating a Black Thursday, I wanted to refocus our family on what truly matters about this national holiday.
I wanted to put THANKS back into Thanksgiving and spend two weeks directing our attention to THE ONE worthy of it.
And so, I scrapped the cute acorn cookies. I scrapped the paper bag Native American vests. I scrapped the homemade cornucopias. In truth, none of these ideas were all that bad. They just weren't the BEST for my family...for THIS Thanksgiving.
In my effort to provide meditative reflection for both the history and the true purpose behind our national day of thanks, my selections were SIMPLE.
Simple activities and simple resources.
Muted BUT intentional!
Together as a family, we voted on a theme verse to memorize for our two weeks of thanks. It was a unanimous decision in favor of...
"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what He has done." I Chronicles 16:8
An attitude of gratitudeFor the past two weeks, we have spent our dinner-time family devotions focused on nothing but worship and praise. Each night, we have gone around the table giving words of Thanks for specific attributes OF and blessings FROM God. While it is nice for children to respond to a "What are you thankful for?" prompting with a curt, "My mom and dad" or "My toys", The Hubs and I wanted our kids to begin to grow a SPECIFIC and PURPOSEFUL list of gratitude. Our evenings have been filled with thoughtful and thankful discussions of undeserved grace and goodness.
We've made a tree of thanks in some form or another for many years. This year ours was gifted to us by a group of treasured motherly mentors. Each paper leaf bears TRUTH...a passage of Scripture intentionally chosen to provoke a heart of thanks.
I plan to bring this thanks GIVING tree to our annual family feast and with the children's help will encourage each extended family member to pick a leaf, meditate on the gift of TRUTH it gives, and write a note of gratitude on the back. We will spend time sharing our thoughts of thanks before the meal is served.
The historical piece of our unit-study came from a handful of exceptional living literature books. While I ALSO checked out a few simple and whimsical Thanksgiving-themed books for our read-aloud time, the bulk of our reading came from historically-accurate ANCHOR books read during our bi-weekly history study. (As a side note, I reserved so many Thanksgiving books from the library that when The Hubs lugged them all home for me, his exact words were, "This is a bit excessive!" No worries. In true "book snob" form, I weeded through the junk and only kept those that deserved our attention.)
Here's a list of my favorite Thanksgiving-themed books in rough chronological order.
Most of these are classics. A few are out of print.
- On the Mayflower by Kate Waters
- Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness
- Across the Wide Dark Sea by Jean Van Leeuwen
- Samuel Eaton's Day by Kate Waters
- The Plymouth Thanksgiving by Leonard Weisgard
- Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast by Kate Waters
- New Friends in a New Land: A Thanksgiving Story by Judith Bauer Stamper
- Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Anderson
- A Holiday Book: Thanksgiving by Lee Wyndham
Here is a short list of my recommendations for Thanksgiving-themed chapter books for kids to enjoy on their own.
- Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Joyce K. Kessel (easy reader)
- Pilgrim Thanksgiving by Wilma Pitchford Hays (simple historical "novel")
- Squanto: Friend of Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla (chapter book)
Family movie night
For the sake of my littlest ones, we enjoyed a family movie night featuring A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving which is surprisingly historically accurate.
In a world filled with discontented people clamoring to get a better deal on the NEXT BIG THING, I wanted to take two weeks and be intentional to GIVE. THANKS. I wanted to simplify in order to clarify. I wanted to be plain on purpose.
My plans were simple.
My plans were purposeful.
A Thanksgiving unit study intentionally un-cluttered.