Friday, 27 December 2013

Detours and Distractions.

Part of the beauty of Picture Book Explorers is that they can lead your family on to learning adventures of your own. As the guides take you on a journey around Britain, your child may choose to delve further into the different subject areas being explored and you may choose to take a little detour together.

 At first, this may seem like a distraction from the guide that you have just paid £2 for, and you may feel that you want to stay on track to get the exploration finished in a week. If this is the case, you will still be able to follow his lead albeit not immediately, after all, journeys very often need some preparation; the buying of provisions and equipment may be necessary. Sometimes you may have other plans which mean that you can't take that detour right now, today. Or perhaps you have chosen that particular Picture Book Explorer because it ties in with a visit or holiday. Whatever the reason, if you can't follow their lead immediately, make a note of your children's questions, encourage them to keep their eyes and ears open for answers, tell them of the necessary preparations and take the journey next week.

Sometimes, you will be able to let your child lead you and you can follow where his piqued curiosity takes you. Remember, you will still have the Picture Book Explorer saved and you can return to the route it suggests after your little detour.

How do you take learning detours with your child? Where do you go for the answers to his questions?

These days, it can seem as if all you have to do to find an answer to any question is to 'google' it, which can bring with it its own set of concerns - accuracy and safety coming to mind immediately. Of course, safety can be maintained as much as possible by overseeing your child's use of the internet and by the installation of parental control software. I would never recommend letting a child loose to browse the internet without some sort of safeguard being in place.

Personally, I love the way the internet is my own personal copy of a giant encyclopedia in my pocket. I use it regularly for research when writing a Picture Book Explorer guide, but I know that I don't have to rely on any single website for the answers to my questions. Consequently, I want my children to be able to use their own judgement, to question what they read online and to know that Wikipedia isn't the only source of information out there.

I'm knocking on a bit now and I can remember learning how to use the old filing systems in libraries, maybe you know the ones, lots of little cards in a set of little drawers? Like most adults, I learnt how to use an encyclopedia and dictionary as standard from a very early age and I sometimes wonder how many children still learn how to do this.

Bearing all that in mind, as well as giving them access to modern gadgetry, I encourage my children to use books as a research tool. Some of their favourites are an old set of children's encyclopedias which may not be much good for researching modern technology, but a cat will always be a cat and Cornwall will always be at the southwest corner of England. The information is given in small chunks and there are usually illustrations, making it easy enough for my children to take what information they want, to fill in mini-books, draw a picture or write a few sentences for inclusion in their logbooks. Most importantly, they are learning how to find information in a book, how to use a contents list, an index and how to look up references.

One important visit we make before we begin an exploration is to our local library where they learn how to find the books they need. We choose a selection of non-fiction and fiction books to go-along with our topic. Some of them will have a definite and obvious connection to the topic, such as a history or geography book about the region, or they may have a very loose connection i.e. when exploring The Mousehole Catmy Boy chose a whole bunch of picture books about cats - just for fun :)

But books and the internet are not the only way to learn new information. We regularly visit museums and art galleries, or try and visit the county in which the story is set. We were lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in Edinburgh which gave us the opportunity to visit Greyfriars Kirk and see the statue of Greyfriars Bobby for ourselves. It proved to be a chance for my children to remember what they had learnt, a chance to impart some of their learning to other members of the family and also a chance to build on their own knowledge of Edinburgh and its famous canine resident.

We haven't managed to get to Northumberland yet, but we have visited the textiles section in our local museum to see how wool has had a massive impact on our area - not something that is mentioned in Picture Book Explorer - Floss but something that is important to our family heritage.

And while we have been re-exploring The Mousehole Cat to coincide with Christmas, we went on a mini-detour via Cornish myths and legends. Some information was gleaned online but the Cornish Tales we read were enjoyed much more.

While I try and include enough information in each Picture Book Explorer guide to be able to complete the suggested activities, I am fully aware that I will never be able to answer every possible question or fulfill every child's curiosity. Hopefully, what is included will rouse your child's interest and promote further research and learning. I would love to hear how your family undertakes research to add to your children's learning adventures :)

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