Feature Article –Small Beginnings by Marlin Detweiler

Educational Helps by Laurie Detweiler

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November 2005

Feature Article


Small Beginnings


Like many things in history a little event can become a national holiday. The Plymouth settlers are routinely credited for the first Thanksgiving, yet there are only two known quotes of the event, and they are so short that they are included in their entirety below:


From Edward Winslow:


Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.[1]

And from William Bradford:

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwelling against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.[2]

The celebration of Thanksgiving is something that virtually all of us celebrate—Christian and non-Christian alike. The origination of it is clearly and historically undeniable. Yet some try. Gary Demar of American Vision writes:


Some particular examples of the bias against religion are significant. One social studies book has thirty pages on the Pilgrims, including the first Thanksgiving. But there is not one word (or image) that referred to religion as even a part of the Pilgrims’ life. One mother whose son is in a class using this book wrote me to say that he came home and told her that “Thanksgiving was when the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians.” The mother called the principal of this suburban New York City school to point out that Thanksgiving was when the Pilgrims thanked God. The principal responded by saying “that was her opinion”—the schools could only teach what was in the books.”[3]


Oh, boy.


Thankfully, that’s the best the world has to offer in their attempt to remove the Triune God from history and removing thanking God from Thanksgiving. Now I’m not naïve. I am well aware that many in America fail to or refuse to thank God for His goodness at the bountiful table of a Thanksgiving Feast. Yet everyone understands that Thanksgiving was giving thanks to God in its origin. Well, OK, there’s one exception somewhere in New York.


But what about this idea that a small, seemingly common event in 1621 in Plymouth becoming a national phenomenon—a national holiday?


Well . . . here’s the point. Do you have holiday memories from your own childhood that you treasure? Below you will read of my wife’s childhood memories. I have my own fond memories, and our children will have theirs. They are not identical, but the memories of my wife and my memories inform the traditions that will become the memories of our children. These memories are not just warm, fuzzy thoughts of friends and family. They are not just sappy Thomas Kincade pictures in our minds. They are visible, clear demonstrations of the covenant faithfulness of the God we worship.


You may not have been raised in a faithful Christian home, but I suspect your children are. Someday they will enjoy the blessing of fond memories of turkey and dressing (i.e., stuffing, filling or any number of other terms used for this mundane phenomenon). They will look back at these moments in their upbringing and praise God with gratitude for His goodness. They will pass their memories on to their children.


So, we encourage you to establish rituals and traditions packed with meaning and articulated frequently for the understanding of even the littlest ones. Then maybe, someday some tiny little thing like a celebration or a commitment to inculcate Christian thinking in even the most mundane and ordinary will, like the first Thanksgiving, sweep the world. Now that’s a Christian education that makes a difference.


Marlin Detweiler


Educational Helps


Thanksgiving is a time that causes us to reflect on the goodness God has bestowed upon us. It is also a time of fun and fellowship, where family and friends gather together. It is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about social etiquette and how we can love our neighbor by making them comfortable in our home. I still have fond memories of Thanksgiving and helping my mother cook and ready the bountiful table for guests. As a young child I would make the table decorations, making turkeys out of coconuts, (after all, I grew up in the tropics) and ships out of milk cartons. I never understood how my feeble attempt at decorating somehow looked so wonderful on the table, but I now see how my mother added my “attempts” in with lovely flowers and greens, to making an atmosphere fit for a king. I am so thankful that I had a mother and father who taught me how to be a gracious hostess and realized that this was part of teaching me to love those that God brought across my path. Whenever I use my grandmother’s tablecloths, it brings back fond memories of these times. If you do not presently have table linens, start out by buying one white cloth; this way you can add decorations to it for all the seasons. Some of you may be setting your table in a formal way with china and crystal and others may be having an informal buffet, but whatever you do, do it with creativity and an excitement that your children will glean.


We have created a Thanksgiving Projects file that includes a card you can use to teach your children how to correctly set a table. Click here to go to the page where you can download it. You may ask, “Why does this matter?” Learning to set a table and how to use utensils properly causes us to be more comfortable and to create an environment where your guests are comfortable. Even young children will be able to follow directions if they have a picture to follow as they prepare. If you do not have all the pieces of silverware, use what you have and follow it as closely as possible. It is important to realize that boys need to learn this as well as girls—we want them both to be comfortable in all situations. This may be the most practical way we learn to love our neighbors as ourselves.


Laurie Detweiler


Free Offers

Free Thanksgiving Primer [PC2] with November Order
You may have a free Thanksgiving Primer published by Plimouth Plantation (item #440-010) with any order exceeding $75.00 in November. All you need do is ask when placing your order. Or, if you place your order on our web site, simply
enter item number PROMO11 on the Express Order page and click Add to Order. Here is the description from our catalog, “A complete guide to recreating the first Thanksgiving for your family or school. Watch out for the ‘seethed fish.’ Delight in a prune tart.” Not only does it include detailed recipes but also games for children, primary source information on the first Thanksgiving and historic context.



Q.  Between regular spelling lists, Bible and history cards and Latin, my children (2nd and 3rd grade) are overwhelmed with all of the words to learn to spell. Do I require my children to memorize and spell all words they use from the cards correctly on their tests? If so, do you have any recommendations of how to accomplish this memorization in addition to everything else?

A.  We do not require grammar school children to memorize all the vocabulary on the history and Bible cards, but rather choose which are the most important. For instance, when studying Pharaoh Tutankhamen, we would require them to spell Pharaoh Tutankhamen correctly. Also, they should be responsible to know the spellings of major cities they are studying and books of the Bible. Other misspelled words we mark incorrect on tests or worksheets in order for the student to realize they did not spell them correctly, but we do not reduce their grade for this. It is generally good to note an error was made. It is not always good to deduct from their grade for the error. Another general rule is, the older they are the more words they must be responsible for. In a substantial sense the godly raising of children (and educating them) is taking them from being totally dependent to being totally independent.


Q.  How should children be made to do corrections?  If there is a grammar error, I have been making them recopy the sentence.  If it is a spelling error, I have been having them write out the correct spelling five times. Is this sufficient?

A.  It depends on the child. For some children, they need the repetition of rewriting each word five to ten times, for others they can see the correction once and not make the mistake again. For grammar errors it maybe helpful to have them rewrite the sentence, but in the learning process it would not be unusual for a child to have a small mistake in the majority of sentences. In that instance, many times it is the same error repeating itself over and over again. We would not have the child redo five sentences, only one, or you get so bogged down in redo’s that you never get anything else accomplished. Knowing the student—his motivation, learning style, strengths and weaknesses is crucial to providing a wise solution.



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[1] Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation: D.B. Heath, ed. Applewood Books, Cambridge, 1986. p. 82


[2] William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation. Samuel Eliot Morison, ed. New York: Knopf, 1952. p. 90



 [PC1]Needs a link.

 [PC2]I’d like to have the cover image inserted (on an angle), if possible. Check with Ned. Also, would it help to have the item number in this paragraph?