This lesson is ©Copyright 2004, 2008, 2010 by Cindy Downes. All rights reserved. Permission is given to homeschooling parents to use this unit free of charge in their own homeschool only. This unit may not be reprinted in any other form, for any other purpose (commercial or otherwise) without permission from Cindy Downes. Contact Cindy by email.

Download a PDF version of this Unit HERE.

Step 1: From page 79 of The Checklist, Early American Settlements.

Select the topics that relate to this unit and are appropriate for your child. This will be the basis for the unit. Keep it short so that it can be done in two - six weeks. For example, I would choose:


1620, Plymouth Colony Founded

1631, First Thanksgiving


William Bradford


Miles Standish

John Alden


Mayflower Compact




Step 2. Select resources on the Internet for teaching the unit.

There are so many free ones! Do a google search for each of the names and terms above or, if you are a member, use The Checklist Assistant. Here are a few that I found:

Mayflower Compact.

The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony (older students)

The First Thanksgiving.

Mayflower History - Includes primary sources and passenger list.

A photo of Plymouth Rock.

William Bradford biography.

Miles Standish biography.

Squanto Biography.

John Alden biography.

You are the Historian. Online learning about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians.

Clothing of Pilgrims.

Pilgrim for Kids from Plimoth Plantation.

Thanksgiving history from (online video).

Turkeys in Thanksgiving.

Poetry: The Courtship of Miles Standish by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Thanksgiving Story and Bible Verses.

First Thanksgiving Proclamation (primary document); Thanksgiving Proclamation by George Washington. Audio version of George Washington giving the proclamation. Abraham Lincoln Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Facts & Features - Thanksgiving Statistics from Census Bureau.

Step 3. Select books for teaching the unit.

The hard part is selecting the right ones. Select them based on the needs of your family - Christian based, the time you have allowed for the unit, and reading levels of your children. Use one for a family read aloud and assign others to your children according to their abilities and interests. Purchase or borrow from the library. If you are a member of How to Homeschool Today, use The Checklist Assistant. Here are some that I discovered:

If You Sailed on the Mayflower by: Ann McGovern. Imagine being a Pilgrim on the Mayflower, anxiously awaiting arrival in a new land. This book answers a variety of questions about Pilgrim life--both on the ship and on shore.

The Mayflower Adventure, American Adventure Series #1 by: Colleen Reece. John and Sarah have lived in Holland all of their lives. But not anymore. Their parents, along with many other friends, have decided to move to America, the New World. While they know that God will travel with them, there are many things the Smythes and their friends don't know. One of their ships will start to sink. Fierce Atlantic storms will batter the Mayflower, threatening to tear her apart. Many people will get sick, and some won't live to see their new home. How will John and Sarah survive the voyage?

Almost Home: A Story Based on the Life of Mayflower's Mary Chilton by Wendy Lawton. Almost Home is the story of the Pilgrims' journey to America, based on the life of Mary Chilton, an actual passenger on the Mayflower! The Story shows God's providence and provision on their journey.

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness. When Bartholemew, Remember, and Mary Allerton and their parents first step down from the Mayflower after sixty days at sea, they never dream that life in the New World will be so hard. Many in their Plymouth colony won't make it through the winter, and the colony's first harvest is possible only with the help of two friends, Samoset and Squanto. Richly detailed paintings show how the pilgrims lived after landing at Plymouth, through the dark winter and into the busy days of spring, summer, and fall. Culminating with the excitement of the original Thanksgiving feast, Three Young Pilgrims makes history come alive. 

Dear America: A Journey to the New World; The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620 by Kathryn Lasky. A 12-year-old pilgrim girl makes the exciting yet dangerous journey on the Mayflower, filling her diary with thoughts about new friends, contact with Native Americans at Plymouth Colony, and the sickness that leaves her motherless. Historical fiction for ages 8 to 12. 

Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley. Join the Time-Traveling Twins as they sit down to an enormous THREE-DAY feast, complete with puddings, pompions, pottages, and, of course, turkeys. Meet Squanto and the other Native Americans. Help with the harvest. Find out what it was really like to be a Pilgrim.

Mary of Plymouth by James Otis. Discover the joys and hardships the Pilgrims faced in the New World all as seen through the observant eyes of a young girl. Little Mary and the Pilgrims come to an America today's children would not recognize. Desolate and cold, there are no homes, no churches, no stores, no crops, no livestock. How did the Pilgrims build homes in the bitter cold of a New England winter? What did they eat? How did they construct a fireplace with no bricks? What did they use to make candles and eating utensils? What about services...Indians...table foods? 

My Name is America: The Journal of Jasper Pierce, A Pilgrim Boy, 1620 by Ann Rinaldi. Caught in the tides of history, 14-year-old indentured servant Jasper is adventure-bound when he sets sail on board the Mayflower! Based on solid research, this fictional first-person account reveals the day-to-day hardships real people like Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins, John Alden, Edward Winslow, and Governor Bradford faced as they struggled to survive in the New World. A compelling read for ages 9 to 12. ISBN: 0590510789

The Mayflower Secret, Trailblazer Series #26 (William Bradford) by Dave & Neta Jackson. Thirteen year old Elizabeth Tilley, an orphan, and life in the new colony. Recommended for ages 8 to 12. 

The Pilgrims at Plymouth by Lucille Recht Penner. Life on the Mayflower was harsh. When the Pilgrims reached America, things got even worse. More than half the Pilgrims died the first winter. Luckily, the Pilgrims made friends with the Indians who lived nearby. Thanks to the Indians, the Pilgrims set up the first successful American colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The Legend of Squanto - audiodrama on CD, Learn how God miraculously equipped Squanto, a captive of European slave traders, to change the course of U.S. history. 

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas. Your 4- to 8-year-olds will be amazed to discover that the real hero of the first Thanksgiving was not English or Indian---but God. 

Don't Know Much About the Pilgrims by Kenneth Davis. ISBN 0060286091.

Daily LIfe in the Pilgrim Colony, 1636 by Paul Erickson. 

Step 4. Select hands-on activities, art projects, crafts, recipes and games to make the unit fun for your kinesthetic and visual learners.

Do one or two a day during the unit. Here are a few activity books and several websites that will help:

Easy Make & Learn Projects: Plymouth And The Mayflower by Donald M. Silver, Patricia J. Wynne. Students will make a Peek-Inside Mayflower to learn about the Pilgrim's voyage to the new world. Each reproducible model comes complete with background information, easy how-to's, step-by-step lessons, journal-writing prompts, and extension activies. Grades 1-3, ISBN 0439152771.

Colonial Days: Discover the Past with Fun Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes. Projects include making a sundial, measuring the height of a tree, dying yarn, and dipping candles. Most activities can be accomplished without adult help; those that require assistance are clearly labeled. Native American crafts include making a drum, drumstick, headband, bead necklace, snow goggles, and snow snake and playing a stick-toss game. ISBN 0471161683.

Thanksgiving Games (computer) and more games (active).

Thanksgiving activities from ABC Teach.

Coloring page.

Pilgrim Voyage & Mayflower Replica Craft from Enchanted Learning. Gr. 1-6

Thanksgiving Crafts from Enchanged Learning. Gr. K-6.

Thanksgiving Recipes from Homeschool Kids.

Step 5: Integrate music into the unit for your auditory learners.

Music for Thanksgiving: 101Kidz; Holiday Spot; and Cyberhymnal.

Step 6: Watch a video for family night. Always good for your visual learners. Check your library or rent.

A Journey to the New World, Plymouth, 1920, Dear America Series. VHS.

Mouse on the Mayflower, Thanksgiving tale begins with the ship Mayflower being caught up in a big storm. A churchmouse named William tells the story from a mouses viewpoint. VHS.

William Bradford: The First Thanksgiving Animated Hero Classics Series (1995), VHS

Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. VHS.

Step 7: Assign worksheets, composition projects, and give quizzes to your Read/Write learners and to help other learners develop read/write skills.

Do one or two a day. You may have to develop them yourself or search the Internet for freebies.

Pilgrim & Thanksgiving Booklet by Cindy Downes (pdf documents)

Pilgrim Worksheet #1

Pilgrim Worksheet #2

Pilgrim Worksheet #3

Pilgrim Worksheet #4

Pilgrim Worksheet #5

Pilgrim Worksheet #6

Mayflower Quiz from Enchanted Learning: Gr. 1-6

Life in Plymouth Colony, History Pockets. Cut, color and paste. Gr 1-3. 

Thanksgiving printables from Teacher Vision. Lots of stuff here!

Bible Verse Thanksgiving Puzzle.

Venn Diagram - Create a Venn Diagram showing the difference between your life and that of the pilgrims.

For information on scheduling, see Sample Schedule.

Be sure to enter these topics on your copy of The Checklist.