Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Truman's Aunt Farm

Most recently for FIAR, we rowed Truman's Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan.  Amazon says of it, "When Truman sends away for an ant farm and aunts begin arriving at his doorstep instead, he takes the situation in hand by creating a farm that trains aunts."  It was a cute book and Maggie loved the play on words ("aunts" versus "ants")!
The first thing we did in the study of this book was place our story disk.  Maggie picked an aunt (our Aunt Linda) and placed the story disk on our US map where Aunt Linda lives, Pensacola, Florida. 
Then, she wrote a letter to her Aunt Linda!  (In the book, Truman writes many letters to his Aunt Fran.)
(She decorated it with ants.)
 Later, we completed this copy work page from this book, found at
 We then talked about homophones (as there are two very important ones in this book, "aunt" and "ant") and used the printables at to better understand the same.  This first one worked like puzzle pieces.
The next one was a "cut and paste."  She enjoyed both.
 After our work with homophones, we talked about the art in this book, the use of color, the humor in the illustrations, and the techniques used in the faces.  Here, in our manual, you can see how the illustrator, G. Brian Karas, made the aunts' noses, eyes, cheeks, and mouths.
I challenged Maggie to do the same, using the techniques the illustrator used.
 Her finished product was great!
 So cute and so much like the book!
 For math, we talked about the cost of stamps, as there are a lot of letters and parcels that come and go in the story.  Then, using different coins, we figured different ways that we could use the coins to come up with 49 cents, the cost of one stamp.  (I got the idea for this at
 Maggie did well with this and came up with several ways!
Once this activity was done, I "sold" her a stamp to put on her letter to Aunt Linda and we mailed it.  Then, she put the rest of the coins in her piggy bank, but not before counting up what she had left!
Once our letter was mailed, we completed the story problems at  To make it fun, I let her use plastic ants as manipulatives.
 Great work, Mags!  You get an ant sticker!
After Math, it was time to study some ants!  To help us better understand ants, we read Arthur Dorros' Ant Cities.  (This is a GREAT read!)
Then, we watched the "Many Ants Make Light Work" episode on our The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! Wings and Things DVD.  (You can watch the same at!)
After that video, we watched the "Ants In Its Pants" episode from The Magic School Bus.
Here it is!
We also talked about their classification, as we had learned about this system earlier in the school year.  They are classified under:
Kingdom: Animalia;
Phylum: Arthropoda;
Class: Insects;
Order: Hymenoptera;
Suborder: Apocrita; and
Family: Formicidae.
We then watched this feeding ants video on YouTube.
Once the video was over (Maggie was so fascinated by it), I had her label the parts of an ant using the picture I found at
 She didn't even ask for help!
Next, we talked about the life cycle of the ant (which goes through complete metamorphosis), something we had just learned about extensively in our science curriculum.  We used our Insect Lore Ant Life Cycle Stages toy to discuss it.
For lunch, I decided to make an ant-friendly (and/or aunt-friendly) picnic, like the one I saw at  To prepare, we made the ant hill cake we found at  Maggie picked this new flavor of frosting (Chocolate Cherry) for our cake.
Once our sheet cake was baked, we covered it in frosting, piling some in one area to serve as our ant hill.
We then covered our cake in crushed cookie crumbs to give it a sandy appearance.
Using a skewer, we poked a hole in the top of our ant hill.
Then, we added our plastic ants, putting our large ant (our "queen") in the center of the hole.
Our cake!
 Maggie kept saying the queen was hollering out of the hole at her workers, "Don't come back empty-handed!"  [snicker]
 Once our cake was done, I set up our "picnic."  I added all the foods that Truman fed his aunts in the story ...
 ... rice pudding ...
 ... jelly sandwiches ...
 ... and little hot dogs.
 And our cake looked so good atop our picnic tablecloth!
 Maggie was tickled!
 We had to be careful to count our ants so we didn't swallow any!
 Once our lunch was done, we made an "ant picnic," putting some leftovers on a plate for our outside friends.
 We left this outside on a rock to attract some six-legged guests.  (We'll be checking on this periodically.)
 And, of course, how could we not include an ant farm in there somewhere?!  Here is Maggie, helping her Daddy add our ants (that came in the mail, like Truman's aunts)!
Harvester ants!
Every kid should have an ant farm!
They got right to work!
It was another great row!  Next, we'll be reading The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco!


  1. You make me want to row this book right away! (We don't have volume three yet.) I love every one of your ideas for this unit....and Emma would have loved them too!! Are your ants still going strong? We have ladybugs going in ladybug land right now. ;-). Your picnic looks wonderful, and Maggie is like my Ems....quite the talented artist!!!

    1. Thanks, Brooke! The ants are sturdy! I was surprised! They came out of the mail looking rough but perked up after some water and rest. Thank you for always checking in with us! :)

  2. This was one of our favorite rows! We will probably do it again in the Spring. Looks like you guys had a lot of fun!

    1. We did! Maggie loves when we talk insects! Thank you for checking in! :)