As homeschooling families, we have the opportunity daily to nurture Godly character in our children, both by example and via instruction. Gratefulness is a character quality that is pleasing to God. We know this because throughout His Word, in both the Old and New Testaments, He tells us to be thankful people, to give thanks, in verses such as these:
• “Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.” (1 Chronicles 16:8)
• “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
• “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High.” (Psalm 92:1)
Gratefulness is a demonstration of humility, which God commands us to seek. (See Zephaniah 2:3, 1 Peter 5:5, Matthew 18:4, James 4:6, Micah 6:8, and 2 Chronicles 7:14.) As we express gratitude, we acknowledge the benefits we have received from others, whether those are tangible benefits such as food and clothing or intangible ones such as prayer support. To give thanks is to remove the focus from myself and deliberately to honor others, to highly esteem them and thus encourage them. These are choices that please our heavenly Father and bless others. (See 1 Timothy 2:1, Hebrews 3:13, 2 Corinthians 9:7, and Jude 3.)
Although the possibilities are unlimited, here are a few ways that you could learn about giving thanks in your school.
The Word of God is the best starting point for any subject, and it certainly is the best starting point for this study!
• Teach your students how to use a Strong’s Concordance. Identify and list all of the verses that use these words: thanks, thankfulness, thankful, grateful, gratitude, and thanksgiving. Together, look up these verses and read them out loud. Based on what you learn from these verses, compose an excellent definition of gratefulness.
• Identify, list, read, and discuss accounts in the Bible in which individuals or groups of people expressed their gratitude. How, why, when, and where did they express their gratitude? How can you apply in your life the wisdom gained through observation of their examples? Is it acceptable for individuals to express gratitude in different ways? Discuss your answers.
• Younger students: Memorize a short Psalm of thanksgiving. Think up simple hand motions that would illustrate the message to carry out as the Psalm is quoted to others.
• Older students: Select a favorite Psalm and do a thorough word study of the main verbs used in that Psalm, recording the Hebrew words and their definitions. How can he/she personally apply what has been learned through the study of that Psalm—this week?
• When did Jesus give thanks? Locate all of the verses in the Bible that record accounts of situations in which the Lord Jesus gave thanks. Design a poster that includes the passage reference, a simple description of the thanksgiving Jesus expressed, and an appropriate illustration.
• The Old Testament records several accounts of situations in which Godly leaders spoke words of repentance, thanksgiving, praise, and worship to God. Read and study these passages with the goals of (1) learning how to better express praise and thanksgiving to God yourself, (2) gaining wisdom, and (3) gaining knowledge about Godly individuals, especially Godly leaders who demonstrated the character quality of gratefulness with their words and actions.
• http://www.sundayschoolsources.com/classmat/thankfulworksheet.htm—A simple worksheet “Be Ye Thankful” in which the student is provided with fill-in-the-blank Scripture verses that answer the following questions: Who gives thanks? When? Why? How? By whose authority? For what? What else is it called?
• http://www.sundayschoolsources.com/classmat/im_thankful_for.htm—A printable worksheet for younger children, in which they match a drawing to a phrase that describes something to be thankful for
• Several websites provide instruction about how to write a psalm of praise or thanksgiving, including these: www.provenmen.org/framework/index.php?page=how-to-write-a-psalm(for older students and adults) http://web.archive.org/web/20081202105402/http://www.jim-street.com/node/73, and www.harvestime.org/Psalms/WriteYourOwnPsalm.pdf.
History and Geography
• Learn why, how, when, and by whom the Statue of Liberty was created and presented to the United States. How is this statue a symbol of gratefulness?
• Visit www.waymarking.com/ and review the entries listed in the category titled “Gifts From Other Countries.” Find out which of these gifts were expressions of gratitude from one country to another. Do further research about these gifts and the countries in which they are located.
• Learn about various cultural expressions of gratitude and the history behind those expressions. For example, in many countries bowing symbolizes honor and gratitude. How did the tradition of bowing get started? When a person bows, is it always an expression of gratitude?
• Thanksgiving Day—The United States is not the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving Day. Find out which other countries have designated a special day of thanksgiving, why, and what traditions are carried out on that holiday.
• From the library, gather books, CDs, and videos that introduce your children to the reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the United States. There are numerous websites and resources that can provide you with educational, fun activities to learn about Thanksgiving. Here are just a few: www.dltkholidays.com/thanksgiving/index.html, www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/thanksgiving, and www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/thanksgiving/.
• Ask one or more of your younger children to create a “Box of Blessings.” Either you or their older siblings can assist them in decorating a shoebox or small cardboard box that has a lid. Cut a slot in the lid. Invite family members to contribute to the box daily by briefly describing things they are thankful for. You may read these entries aloud daily, weekly, or on Thanksgiving Day. You could easily use a “Jar of Blessings,” which might be more appealing, since everyone could then observe how the pile of blessings in the jar grows!
• Use Psalms of thanksgiving from the Bible as copywork with which to practice excellent handwriting.
• Collect your five favorite quotes about gratitude. Display them on an attractive poster. This could be an individual assignment, or it could be a fun family project, with each family member contributing his or her favorite quote to the poster/display. Here are a few sample quotes; there are many to choose from.
“Thou hast given so much to me. . . . Give me one thing more—a grateful heart.”
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
—G. K. Chesterton
“Oh, that I could dedicate my all to God. This is all the return I can make Him.”
• Use your best handwriting to copy the definitions of gratitude, thanksgiving, and thankfulness, as found in the 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (www.1828.mshaffer.com).
• As a family, learn how to say “thank you” in at least five different languages, including sign language. Get a book from the library that provides this information, or check out these websites for assistance: www.etailersdigest.com/greetings/saythanks.htm, http://web.archive.org/web/20110723114654/http://users.elite.net/runner/jennifers/thankyou.htm, and www.wikihow.com/Say-Thanks-in-Different-Languages.
• Take a class to learn how to make your own cards. Many scrapbooking shops and libraries offer such classes, and usually the only cost involved is the cost of the materials used. Make a thank-you card for someone who is not expecting to receive it!
• Sponsor a card-making party at your house. Invite an adult who loves to make cards (and who loves children too) to come to your home to share her knowledge with young card-makers.
• Learn about the elements of a letter (heading, salutation, body, closing signature). Check out this creative, free resource, titled “Letter Generator,” for use by your younger students: www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/student-interactives/letter-generator-30005.html. Ask each of your students to write a letter to a neighbor, friend, or relative, expressing his or her gratitude for that person’s friendship or example of excellent character. Encourage each child to describe a specific instance in which he or she was blessed and encouraged by this person.
• Practice expressing gratitude by saying “thank you” politely, promptly, clearly, and sincerely whenever you receive anything from anyone. Practice making eye contact with the person to whom you express thanks.
• Ask each student to name or list ten things he or she is thankful for. Lead your children in prayers of gratitude for those things.
• Many songs that teach the importance of saying “thank you” are available. Find some at your local library, or purchase your own copies at your favorite children’s bookstore. Learn them and sing them together regularly.
• Many worship songs talk about thankfulness. Choose one as your family theme song to sing before meals or times of family worship.
• Organize a presentation day in which your children either recite a Scripture, sing, or play a piece of music related to a theme of thankfulness.
Arts and Crafts
• Make a “gratefulness wreath” to present to someone your family appreciates, such as your mail carrier, Scout leader, pastor, or even your favorite cashier at the grocery store! To make the wreath, trace around the hands of each child, using a different color of construction paper or colored tagboard for each pair of hands. The children may decorate and/or write their names on their handprints and then cut them out. Cut out a cardboard circle that is approximately 1 inch wide and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Randomly glue or staple the cut-out handprints onto the cardboard circle.
Staple a piece of looped ribbon to the back of the wreath, with the loop extending well beyond the edge of the handprints that are glued to the cardboard backing. The wreath can be hung on the wall or a door knob. Commission an older student to create an attractive thank-you card to present along with the gratefulness wreath. Ask every family member to sign the card.
• Using the letters in the words THANK YOU or GRATEFULNESS, create a unique thank-you card for someone. For example, you might work together to make this large, poster-size thank-you card for your neighbors:
The very best neighbors in the world!
Hospitality and happiness!
And for getting our mail when we go out of town.
Nice to have neighbors we trust and enjoy!
Knowing you is the best part of living here!
Sooooooooooo glad you’re our neighbors!
Thank you for getting our mail
and watering our plants while we were on vacation.
We appreciate you!
The Sandusky Family
Donna and her husband Timus have been blessed with the privilege of educating both of their children at home (1983-1999), depending daily on God’s grace for wisdom and strength. They take great delight in encouraging families who are currently enjoying that adventure!
Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, Fall 2011. Visit The Old Schoolhouse® at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com to view a full-length sample copy of the magazine especially for homeschoolers. Click the graphic of the moving computer monitor on the left. Email the Publisher at Publisher@TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.