I am a big fan of “interactive” lessons; mostly so I could make things, play, and learn along with my children. So, I have a favorite Thanksgiving lesson to share with everyone.
The American Thanksgiving story is full of myths and at the urging of my wife’s mother (a noted historian and rabble-rouser), I began to read first-hand accounts. These brought to life the hard decisions and difficult conditions the pilgrims encountered. And it raised the question: “would we have made the same choices?”
The pilgrims were persecuted by their own people and government because they wanted to freely worship according to Scripture. Many had lost their businesses, their homes, and their possessions and chose to flee to Holland to start over or wait for changes back home. Being in a foreign land, their children were becoming more Dutch and less English. A brave and untried idea came to mind: enter into a business arrangement that would allow them to move to America where they could start over as English and with freedom. Now really think about this … this was untried and very risky. Would you have signed up for this?
Two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower, were procured. The Speedwell became unseaworthy and had to turn back. Only the Mayflower remained. And, the business deal had some changes made in the last minute to keep it profitable: more people, who were not pilgrims, were added. Are you still in?
So, to make this real, stand in the middle of your house and consider this: the Mayflower had about 1,500 usable square feet for the passengers. This will be a little smaller than most of your houses. Imagine inviting 50 of your closest church or homeschool friends over. And then as a surprise, 50 more people show up at your door that you don't know (and may not even like). Let them in to join you. Now, lock the doors, clog up the toilet, open 4 small windows and stay inside your house for all of September and October. During October, half of the folks in your crowded and smelly house start to puke due to sea-sickness. Then to add some drama, a baby is born, yes, in your house, with everyone there.
Finally, you arrive at land. So everyone gets to go outside and stand in the yard for a little while one day and walk around. Then, everyone has to go back inside for all of November and December while a few of the men go into the backyard to look around. During this time, some of your friends are going to die and another baby will be born. Remember, this is all still inside your house.
On Christmas Day, you decide to move into the backyard and start building huts. Now everyone count off 1,2. Now have all the 2’s lie down on the ground; they died during the hard winter. The 1’s made it through the hard winter, planted crops and were able to have a time of thanksgiving next fall. The good news: this created a new nation with a new form of government that we all enjoy today.
Would I have the courage to do the same thing today? I don’t know; the risk and cost were great without knowing what the end would be. I often compare the homeschool movement to the “pioneers” or “pilgrims” who took risks and went against “conventional wisdom” to search for a place with more freedom and opportunity. Maybe we are like that. It takes conviction, courage, and community to do what we do. So, I encourage all of you to find a first-hand account of the Pilgrims' story this year and read up – and be encouraged that you stand with these brave people.
Homeschooling along with you all, Paul Rose.