Cultivating Thanksgiving and Anticipating Christmas

November through December is one of my favorite times of year.  Not only is our weather simply beautiful, but it’s a time of year when I pause to think.  I’m sure I can’t be the only one that gets super busy with the changing of seasons…  When we start a new “school” year, life is hectic as we slip into new routines, resume regular activities and tackle fresh challenges.  I get going a million miles a minute and if I’m not careful, I’ll look up and realize I’m not headed in a direction that I want to go. As November dawns, I find myself slowing down.  Not physically, but rather mentally.  It is a soul slow down.  My spirit becomes quiet and I sit back to take stock.  I sit back in gratitude for all God’s done.

Yesterday, our pastor spoke on the cost of discipleship.  I’ve been mulling it over in my mind continually since then.  In a culture that prizes comfort and convenience, our pastor challenged us to not be subject to these two idols.  Jesus did not come to grant us a life of comfort and ease.  He came to rescue us.  He came to call us to kingdom work.  And so I sit and think.

This has me looking forward to this season and seeking ways to cultivate these stirrings that God’s placed in my heart.  I want to invite my kids into the act of listening to the Lord and then FOLLOWING Him wherever He leads -no matter the cost.  I want to remember back and I want to prepare for the future.

Our culture is changing so rapidly.  It’s vital that we, as a family, become grounded in God’s Word.  The rumblings in our culture remind me of what the puritans went through back in England and how God used that time to move them here to the new world.  As I look towards the future and the role God’s called me to play in shaping these young lives we are blessed to nurture, I want to be intentional.  I want to be resolved and yet relaxed as I follow God’s call in discipling these kids of mine and whatever else he brings along the way.

So we’ll be pulling out our favorite Thanksgiving books.  We’ll be talking about counting the cost.  We’ll be talking about Jesus, why He came and what it means to follow Him.

So I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts and resources (including several exclusive coupon codes) that help us during these two seasons!

Favorite Thanksgiving Resources

LessonsInThanksgiving

I’ve collected all of my posts here on our hands-on history lessons, crafts, and book recommendations!

Mayflower Boat Tutorial

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve made our Mayflower Walnut boats.  With Greta being 3 now, I think it is definitely time to pull these out again!

Christmas Thoughts and Resources

I love to slow our schedules down a bit in December and really savor time together as a family and time to spend with the Lord.

Here are a few favorite posts.  You can check out all of my Christmas related blog posts here or take a peek at my Christmas Pinterest board.

Christmas Young Children     A Giving Countdown for Christmas.
Open-ended water-color project with beautiful results           Beautiful picture books for the Christmas season

4 Amazing Christmas Devotionals/Resources

This post may contain affiliate links.

Truth in the Tinsel

Truth in the Tinsel 2014I love this devotional from my friend, OhAmanda.  We’ve done it 3 times now.  It is fun and engaging – even when we went the easy route with the coloring ornaments instead of the messy crafts during two of those years!  We’ll be delving into it again next year when Greta is four!  Here is our initial review that I wrote and then my followup post on it from last year.  I even have a special coupon code, just for you all!

COUPON CODE ALERT: Use CULTIVATE to get 20% off the ebook!  It’s good for the rest of 2015!

 

More than a Holiday

More Than A Holiday
I’m super excited about this one.  I’ve been reading through it and can’t wait to do this devotional with the kids this year.  It is a great resource that answers a lot of questions.

It’s divided into the following sections:

Is the Christmas Story Real? – How do we know and the role of genealogies and prophesies.
The Christmas Story – one day just focused on the overall account.
The Characters of the Christmas Story – a deeper look at the people involved.
Elements of the Christmas Story – giving historical background that will foster appreciation and understanding.
Why is the Christmas Story Important to Us? – this section addresses myths surrounding the Christmas story as well as the take home question, “Who is Jesus to You?”

Each days devotional is divided up into sections that provide parents and older kids a deeper historical and theological context, a scripture to read, a daily devotion, dialogue questions, a simple prayer and then optional family time activities.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  For those that want to join in and do this with your family, I have a coupon code for you that is good through NOVEMBER 8TH!  Use “CULTIVATED” to get 20% off the More Than A Holiday ebook.  If you are a print book kind of person, it is also available for purchase over at Amazon.

SQUILT Christmas Carol Study

An in-depth look at 5 Christmas Carols: a guide to quietly listening and discussing these classic carols.

If you are anything like me, you are asking yourself, “What is SQUILT?” SQUILT is short for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time. Doesn’t that sound lovely?  This book contains 5 lessons that are designed to take 5 weeks, assuming you “do SQUILT” 2 times a week.  It centers around these 5 Christmas carols: Carol of the Bells, Away in the Manger, The Little Drummer Boy, Angels We Have Heard on High and Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.

This study is a great way to sneak in some quality music with your children and help build their habit of attention while listening for different musical details. It melds music appreciation, listening for tempo, rhythm, instrumentation and mood with a snapshot of this history behind the Carols.  There is a notebooking component that is clearly laid out for those of us that, ahem, don’t really do a whole lot of that.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  I’m full of coupon codes today!!!  It’s Mary’s birthday today, so if you use the coupon code “BIRTHDAY” you’ll get 25% off the Christmas Carols ebook or any of her other SQUILT Music Appreciation programs.  The coupon is good through NOVEMBER 10TH!

Praying the Scriptures through Advent

Jesus, Light of the World: Praying the Scriptures Through Advent  And then finally…  a resource for ME!!!  My friend, Candace, just released a simple and beautiful devotional for praying the Scriptures through Advent.  I’m looking forward to curling up on the couch in the morning with a cup of tea, my Bible, and this ebook for some special time with Jesus – {hopefully} before my kids wake up.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  And yes, Candace was gracious to give me a special coupon code for you all.  You can use “CULTIVATE” for $2 off that is good through November 26th!

Thanksgiving Learning Fun

Thanksgiving Learning Fun - Simple, creative ideas for learning about the Pilgrims and the 1st Thanksgiving

I love this time of year.  Really, I just love holidays.  They are so festive, fun and provide an excellent learning opportunity for my boys!

In keeping with the spirit and because planning can be so helpful in preparing our children for any holiday, I thought I would post links to past Thanksgiving learning projects we’ve done!  As you can tell, we love hands-on learning in these parts.  Give them a costume and we’re golden!

What are you doing this month to celebrate or learn about Thanksgiving?  If you have any ideas or have blogged about anything related to Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, religious persecution, native americans, etc feel free to leave a comment and/or link!

Mayflower Nut Tutorial

We did this child-friendly, eye appealing project last year and it was a huge hit.  The boys loved playing with them and they doubled for beautiful decorations!

Mapping the Mayflower {Learning about the History behind the first Thanksgiving}

Our adventure mapping the journey of the Mayflower and reviewing why they left the Old World for the New World.

Two years ago we learned about what life was like on the Mayflower.  Our favorite activity was dressing up as boys on the journey over.  We ate food similar to what they ate (w/out the bugs, mold and extent of staleness) and slept in a replica we made of a family’s quarters on the Mayflower.  The boys loved it.  I for one am glad we don’t live at that time and that I have a nice king-sized bed!
Thanksgiving Books
This post also includes links to our favorite books on the Pilgrims!
Along with learning about the Mayflower, Xander was also learning about the story of Noah in Awana that year.  To gain perspective, we went out to our street and measured the dimensions of both the Mayflower and Noah’s Ark.  It was so helpful for my boys to visualize the sizes…
We also had a co-op day that year, learning all about pilgrim life.  Our little group loved learning about planting corn, how instrumental Squanto’s help was, having a make-believe hunt, etc…
Several years ago, we made our first Turkey countdown.  It was such a hit that we did it again last year.  We incorporated learning about gratitude by writing down something we were thankful for each day.  When all the feathers were filled in, we were ready to celebrate!
For more fun ideas check out my Thanksgiving Pinterest Board or these four ideas:
I’m just in love with this idea over at Rhythm of the Home.  I definitely want to make a set for my kids!  Giving kids the opportunity to use pretend play really reinforces what they have learned.  The Wampanoag Indians didn’t actually live in tipi’s, but watu’s/wigwams.  The tipi is so cute though, isn’t it!?!
I love this idea of having a ‘popcorn’ turkey. One Charming Party has excellent directions to assemble this visually appealing Thanksgiving treat!  This would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving Feast re-enactment!
I love these Thanksgiving Story Beads idea at Little Page Turners.  It is a darling way to help kids review the basics of the Pilgrim’s story…
Here is a cool Mayflower handprint project that could be fun too over at Almost Unschoolers.Finally here are a few free digital books that you can download.  They are beautifully written and make for great read alouds.

Mapping the Mayflower

Since we have been exploring world geography for the last several months, we decided to pull out our Global Twister map and chart the path the Mayflower took.  There is something magical about getting to ‘experience’ that trip for themselves.  As they grabbed their walnut Mayflower ships, we talked about how the pilgrims left England for Holland (to escape religious persecution), but then left Holland (because they were losing their kids to the secular culture) and departed for the new world, etc…

It is amazing how raptly they listen so they can re-enact the journey!
Of course, this turned into an impromptu review of all we’ve learned as they wanted to sail all over the world.  They were turned loose for some exploratory free play!  It is amazing to watch children’s minds busy at work while they play.  What a wonderful, painless way to review and solidify what they’ve learned!
And of course, we couldn’t put the map away…

…without playing some Global Twister!

Related Posts:
(including how we play our Global Twister game)

Mayflower Nut – a tutorial

Fabulous tutorial on how to make a Mayflower boat out of a walnut shell.

I’ll be the first to admit that we are a little nutty over here!  But that’s just how we roll…

In preparation and anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I always love to review a little history.  We’ve pulled a few of our favorite Thanksgiving books together and I couldn’t help squeezing in a few fun projects before we leave to visit family.

So here’s our homemade miniature Mayflower ships and a quick tutorial so you all can make this super easy craft too!

Here’s a quick inventory of what you will need for this project:

  • playdough (we used our favorite recipe and I added cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to capture that scrumptious ‘fall’ smell.)  Clay would probably work better, but I don’t keep any of that around.
  • walnuts (I bought three in case I ruined any of them.  I knew I needed at least three ‘good’ boats.)
  • toothpicks
  • paper
  • pencil and scissors not pictured, but needed to draw and cut out sails

FIRST: Using a butter knife, carefully separate the walnut into two halves.  In hindsight, I wish I had bought a couple of extra walnuts.  I think the boys would have enjoyed trying to do this.  Since I was afraid of ruining all of them, I did this step.  Gut the walnut shell halves and have a snack!

SECOND: Trace three rectancles (with sides angled inward) in graduated sizes.  Cut them out.  Depending on the age of the child this can be a you job, a them job or both (and then let them pick what set of sails they want to use.

THIRD: Let them place a line of glue down the center of each sail and place toothpick with at least two centimeters of space at the bottom of the toothpick blank.

FOURTH: Allow to dry.  Go play with the playdough! Pinch off small bits of playdough to stick inside the walnut shells.

FIFTH: Place your sails and embark!

Up Next: Playful learning with our new Mayflower ships!

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Lessons in Thanksgiving!

I love this time of year.  Really, I just love holidays.  They are so festive, fun and provide an excellent learning opportunity for my boys!  This year, the boys are counting down the days until we get to fly out to see their grandparents and experience a midwest Thanksgiving!

In keeping with the spirit and because planning can be so helpful in preparing our children for any holiday, I thought I would post links to past Thanksgiving learning projects we’ve done!  As you can tell, we love hands-on learning in these parts.  Give them a costume and we’re golden!

I would also love to hear any ideas that you all have.  There is a linky at the bottom and if you’ve blogged about how you celebrate and learn about Thanksgiving with your children, I’d love for you to share!  If you don’t have a blog, comments are also most welcome so we can have a central spot with lots of ideas!

Last year, we learned about what life was like on the Mayflower.  Our favorite activity was dressing up as boys on the journey over.  We ate food similar to what they ate (w/out the bugs, mold and extent of staleness) and slept in a replica we made of a family’s quarters on the Mayflower.  The boys loved it.  I for one am glad we don’t live at that time and that I have a nice king-sized bed!
This post also includes links to our favorite books on the Pilgrims!
Along with learning about the Mayflower, Xander was also learning about the story of Noah in Awana’s last year.  To gain prespective, we went out to our street and measured the dimensions of both the Mayflower and Noah’s Ark.  It was so helpful for my boys to visualize the sizes…

A child-friendly, eye appealing craft that is fun to play with and also use as a decoration.

Our adventure mapping the journey of the Mayflower and reviewing why they left the Old World for the New World.

Last year, we also had a co-op day, learning all about pilgrim life.  Our little group loved learning about planting corn, how instrumental Squanto’s help was, having a make-believe hunt, etc…
Several years ago, we made our first Turkey countdown.  It was such a hit that we did it again last year.  We incorporated learning about gratitude by writing down something we were thankful for each day.  When all the feathers were filled in, we were ready to celebrate!
Now I’d love to hear from you.  I will keep the linky option open for the entire month.  I love tucking away good ideas to use both this year and for next.  If you blog (or have blogged in the past) about how you plan on teaching or sharing Thanksgiving with your kids, feel free to leave a link so we can check it out!
Ideas for celebrating/learning about Thanksgiving could include: craft ideas, pilgrims, mayflower, religious freedom, gratitude, plants they grew, animals they hunted, etc…

If you post, feel free to grab the button below:


Lessons in Thanksgiving 
 

Pilgrim Learning, Part 2

This last Wednesday we had our monthly co-op get together and the theme was Thanksgiving, naturally.

After reading, Pilgrim Cat, one of the boys favorite Thanksgiving related books, we did some corn planting of our own, Squanto style.  A few goldfish, popcorn kernals, sand and globs of glue later, they proudly showed off their neat rows of newly planted corn!

Next we went on a hunt for game.  Each child took an imaginary bow or musket outside for the hunt.  Turkeys, deer and rabbits were found and brought in!

Next we talked talked about how thankful the pilgrim settlers were for God’s provision throughout their first tough year in the new land.  To help them start thinking about things they could be thankful to God for, we played a fun game.  The boys have been clamoring to play this again, so I’m guessing we’ll have several family rounds of this in the next week!
Materials needed: a hankerchief of some kind.
Everyone sits in a circle and passes the hankerchief around while chanting:
Thankerchief, thankerchief, around you go —
Where you’ll stop, nobody knows.
But when you do, someone must say,
What they are thankful for this day. 
The player holding the “thankerchief” when the poem ends, must say aloud, one thing for which they are thankful. This continues until everyone has had their turn.
Once we had ideas flowing on how many things we have to be thankful for, we revisited our Turkey Countdown from last year!
The boys have had fun filling in something they are thankful for each evening as we count down the days until Thanksgiving!
Part 1 found here.

Mayflower Living for Wee Folks

Despite our rocky start, our Mayflower day was still fun.  My goal was to give the kids a small, prek/k friendly, taste of life aboard a boat…

Families tacked up blankets to give themselves a little privacy aboard the Mayflower.  Although we couldn’t mimic the crowded conditions aboard, we did decide to set up some “living quarters”.

Our quarters were a bit fragile (playing football in and around quarters, as well as a 20 month old on the loose has a way of doing that).

Mayflower Living for Kids: Learning about the Mayflower voyage by acting out the journey!

After some finagling we were set for our day.  To get in the mood, the boys decided to dress the part!

Nothing helps you learn about the trip the Pilgrims took on the Mayflower like dressing the part and sleeping in small quarters. {Thanksgiving Book list Included}
As I mentioned before, I ended up putting together our meal all by myself.  Did little pilgrim boys not cook?  They seemed to think so…

Due to ‘severe’ (imaginary) storms, we had dinner in our living quarters below deck.

We dined on stale biscuits, dried meat and cheese.  In a departure from historical accuracy, we didn’t go for worm-infested food… No one really complained, except daddy.  But I don’t think any of us would be thrilled with a diet of this and very little else.

Later that night we bedded down for the night in our tight quarters.  They had a blast and think living on the Mayflower would be lots of fun.  Mommy, on the other hand, is so thankful for modern day comforts like a dry home, soft mattress and SPACE!  One night of my feet sticking out of our living quarters and little limbs smacking me was enough.

Maybe in the future, they will grasp how hard life was on the Mayflower and how incredibly easy we have it nowadays…  For now they enjoyed stepping into another life for a while.

Part 2 of our Pilgrim learning adventure found here.
Measuring – A lesson in comparison – Noah’s Ark vs. the Mayflower.

Lessons in Thanksgiving: Links to helpful “hands-on” learning ideas.

12 Captivating "Living" Books that draw you into the historical background for the first Thanksgiving.

Favorite Thanksgiving/Pilgrim/Mayflower Books of ours:
The Story of Thanksgiving ~ This charming board book is the perfect introduction to Thanksgiving for the 1-4 year old.  We loved reading it last year, but were unable to get it from the library in time, this year…
Pilgrim Cat ~ This is one of their favorite pilgrim books.  It follows a pilgrim girl and her cat during their Mayflower trip as well as first year in Plymouth.  Keegan had me read this to him 5 or 6 times the first day we had it.  It introduces several key Thanksgiving story themes in a very relatable way.  The boys were running around taking turns being Samoset and Squanto.
On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice and a Passenger Girl ~ This charming book includes photographs from a reinactment aboard the Mayflower II.  The boys found the photographs mesmerizing and loved the perspective being from the young boy and girl.
You Wouldn’t Want To Sail On The Mayflower!: A Trip That Took Entirely Too Long ~ Interesting tidbits about the trials of life aboard the Mayflower.  For kids a bit older, but easily adaptable down to this age.
. . . If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 ~ Another great book that gives you an overview of life on the Mayflower.
Off to Plymoth Rock! ~ This lyrical, rhyming book is the first book Xander ever received.  When my mom gave it to me at the Thanksgiving of 2003, none of us knew that Xander was growing inside of me!  The hopeful grandma had signed it – ‘from Mom/MIL/sometime Oma.’  Subtle mom, real subtle. 😉
Squanto And The Miracle Of Thanksgiving ~ A beautiful telling of Squanto’s story and how God brought him to the aid of the Pilgrims.
Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy ~ The photographs in this book are captivating for my boys.  The text is a bit advanced for a 3 and 5 year old, although there are times that Xander enjoys it.  We will definitely get this and the girl companion book as the kids get older.
Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl ~ We love this peek at the life of a pilgrim girl.  The photographs are amazing and really help transport you back in time.
Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times ~ This is the third in this photographic series and gives a lot of factual information about the Wampanoag.  
Saying Grace: A Prayer of Thanksgiving ~ Ok, this one is fiction, but it is a beautiful and inspiration look at praying a prayer of Thanksgiving.  I’m so glad we’ve added this to our collection!
Stories of the Pilgrims ~ We discovered this a few years ago.  It is an engaging read-aloud that follows the pilgrims from their days in England under persecution, to their journey over to the New World in search of freedom to worship God as they wished.  As we read this, it opened up dialogue about how deep their faith was and what they were willing to sacrifice in order to worship God.

Of Measuring and Comparing…

Now that the craziness of the last month has died down, we are picking back up with normal life!

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching the boys and I are spending time studying about the first Thanksgiving.  It seems like every year I pick up something new.  That’s the fun part about learning.  It never ends.  I’m thankful for the excuse to dive in and discover more with the kids!

This week we have been reading about what life was like on the Mayflower. The boys have also both been learning about Noah’s Ark. So today we grabbed our trusty tape measure (and what boy does not like one of those?) and set out to get an idea of the length and width of these two ships. (Mayflower 95ft x 27ft, Ark 450ft x 50ft)

Xander and Keegan both had fun making markings every 100 ft.
We set up cones to mark the dimentions of both ships.

And of course pretended that the cones were guns and shot at minivans driving by…  (they did not get this from me, they did not get this from me. :sigh:)
At dinner that night, Xander excitedly told his dad about what we did. He now has an idea of just how small the Mayflower was for the number of people and supplies aboard and how BIG the ark was. It is not the cutesy little boat with animals spilling over that is often depicted in children’s illustrations.

Next up: Mayflower day. We will be spending time getting a small taste of what life on the Mayflower was like. Stay tuned for an update and a list of some of our favorite books on the pilgrims!

Countdown!

I love countdowns. It really helps the boys get a grasp on the concept of time. …or at least help them while away the time until they get to do __ thing!
So when I saw this over at Make and Takes, I knew it was the perfect countdown for our trip back to St. Louis for Thanksgiving.

Each day we discuss what it means to be thankful and write down something that we are thankful for. When all of the feathers have been so written on, we get to hop on that plane to go see Mima and Pa!
I’m going back and forth on letting him creatively come up with things that he is thankful for (playing football inside) and teaching him about all of the wonderful things we can thank God for (food, our home, brothers, etc…). It’s been a fun balancing act!