Truman’s Aunt Farm
Last week we had fun with Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan. It’s the story of a little boy who hopes to get ants for an ant farm for his birthday but ends up getting aunts instead. It’s a cute story that easily lends itself to several lessons. Ian especially liked it because a friend gave us an ant farm a while back, though our ants haven’t built any spectacular tunnels. (I think it was older and the gel had hardened a little too much for the ants to dig easily.) Still, our children have all enjoyed getting to observe the ants up close.
We expanded on the activities in the Five in a Row (Vol. 3) manual a bit. The most obvious lesson to go along with this book is teaching homophones, words that sound alike but have different meanings. (The manual refers to them as homonyms, but I was taught that homonyms are also spelled the same, whereas homophones are spelled differently. In trying to verify which term was correct, I looked both words up in several dictionaries. Some agreed with my memory. Others said either term could describe words spelled differently. I chose to go with what I was taught.)
I introduced this concept before we even read the book for the first time, pointing out the spelling of “ant” and “aunt” so that Ian could understand the mix-up and why it made the story funny. Afterword I went through a homophone worksheet with him, helping him choose the correct word for each situation. Since we are just starting to work on spelling, it was a good introduction to the idea that two different spelling combinations can be used to make the same sounds. Later that day we also watched several videos on YouTube that featured the idea of homophones: a segment from Between the Lions, “homophone monkey,” and a clip from VeggieTales. As a follow up on another day we read The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne. (Other fun books that feature wordplay with homophones/homonyms are A Chocolate Moose for Dinner by Fred Gwynne, Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones by Gene Barretta, and How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? by Brian P. Cleary.)
I decided this was also a good time to introduce letter writing. I told Ian that Truman wrote to his aunt, but he could write to anyone he chose. He immediately decided to write to his cousins. I gave him a basic “form” to copy for writing a friendly letter and then let him write the body of it on his own. His mind started thinking faster than he could write down the words, so he left out several letters. I just wrote in the complete words above so his cousins would be able to read it, and then we put it in an envelope, addressed it together, put on a stamp and got it off in the mail.
This tied in with the lesson from the manual about stamps. I chose to expand on that by showing the boys our family’s stamp collections. (Both my husband and I were philatelists in our younger days.) I’d forgotten how fascinating it could be looking through the pages of old stamps. This hobby taught me so much about history as a child. I wasn’t sure the boys would appreciate them yet, but they really enjoyed looking at the variety of stamps, especially several that were over a hundred years old.
Finally we had fun singing “The Ants Go Marching.” (I thought it was funny that Ian recognized the song as being a spoof on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.” I remember thinking it was the other way around when I was a kid.) There are several videos of the song on YouTube, but here was my favorite. If we row this book again when my other kids are older, I think it would be fun to have the whole family help illustrate the song substituting “aunts” in the lyrics but that seemed overly ambitious this time around.
Another fun week with Five in a Row!