Gaming with kids

Hello Parents and Educators,

We were asked about using tabletop RPG’s as an educational tool while integrating real life history and geography.

Baby Dragon with Cubie from Alina Pete and a glowing d20.

It’s a massive question and I could write an entire book about it, but here’s what I answered:


This is the Eric half of JenEric, I write the RPG stuff and most of the stories. My wife is the one who did the homeschooling but she felt this was a bit beyond her.

Thank you so much for that question. That is a great question and will depend a lot on your kids and your preferred style of play.

First I’d (selfishly) recommend using Oneshot – The Simplest RPG. It’s just the rules, they are very simple and you’ll be able to use them for almost any scenario.

As for the educational part, I’d recommend you make a list of things you want the kids to learn about and build around those goals. If you’re planning on different historical locations, you should break them down. I find it helps to break down each location/time and then list the characters, places, important events, and reason for the characters to be there.

If you’re jumping around in history and geography, you need to either make a series of small adventures or try maybe make it time travel related. With the time travel, the kids can get attached to a character that they’ll see grow and experience,

Another good way to keep it fun and keep them interested is to have a fun villain. I’m a big fan of cartoonish villains for kids, but you know your kids best.

Hook them into a story and they won’t even notice they’re learning.

As much fun as movies, tv, and books are; be careful not to use them too much as research. A good place to start is WIkipedia, each article has sources and those sources usually have a lot more information and further reading.

I hope this helps,
Eric Desmarais

Anyone have further advice for gaming with children in an educational manner?

Stay safe and be kind,


Education, knowledge, and skill

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Something about watching my wife homeschool our passionately headstrong daughter has made me think about education as a whole and what we value.

I think there’s something that we forget about in later grades with kids, and that’s the importance of practice and repetition.

I understand that our entire education system is meant to fill the kid’s head with as much knowledge as possible as quickly as possible in order to send them to the next step. Tests are meant to measure if the kid is doing well enough, and originally if they weren’t, they’d have to do the class again. (I don’t think they do that anymore.)

It’s a system that favours “clever” children. Those that can do something quick and efficiently the first time. Unfortunately, it’s also a system that in the end fails those same kids. Because they didn’t need help, they never learned study skills like time management, note taking, or prioritization.

The Awkward Yeti comic Motivation to Learn

It could be that I’m slowly turning into the “old artsy hippy”, but I think we need to start prioritizing doing something properly over doing it right. The current education system pushes kids to be smart or first in their class and not to be good or deeply know their subject.

One of my favourite teachers in high school taught me a valuable lesson when I asked her a ridiculous and precocious question in chemistry class. She said something I’d never heard a teacher say before, “I don’t know. I’ll look into it and get back to you.” She did and honestly I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember that statement and it has shaped a lot of my thinking since.

No knowledge I learned in school, no fact I had to memorize, no test I’ve ever taken, has been as important as the ability to research something. Boss wants a special pivot table in Excel, give me some time to look it up. I need to figure something out for a book, look it up.

So many of the abilities I use for my various jobs and projects, I learned from struggling in university or work, not from being clever in high school.

You don’t get better at something by constantly struggling to regurgitate what your teacher says. You get better by practice and repetition.

It’s also important to understand that our system favours a certain demographic of people. Not just post secondary education, but also the lower grades. Minorities and lower income families have a massive disadvantage in the way our education is set up.

I was extremely lucky overall, but there were advantages that I didn’t get because I was from a low income home. I didn’t get to do the more expensive sports or activities, I didn’t have the option of music, I didn’t have the newest tech, I didn’t have access to paid tutors, and I had to work through my university (3-4 jobs 30+ hours a week). I was, however, the only child in the house, I had a large extended family I could to for help, I had an excellent high school, I was clever, and I was a white male.

Basically, I think the push for the best grades leads kids to rely on natural cleverness or memory, and doesn’t lead to people who understand how to manage their lives or how to work to make or learn something with depth.

Repetition, practice, research, time management, and being able to admit when you don’t know something are skills that we need to pass on. Also critical thinking and detecting bullshit.

Be safe and be kind,


Blush: Sex Ed Consultation in Ontario

Hello parents and educators!

Protest sign from a rally in Toronto July 19, 2018. Image from

Were you aware that Ontario has started their consultation of parents? I wasn’t. The first part (the open consultation) closes on December 15, 2018. Here is information from their website:

We’re consulting with parents across the province to address concerns and get feedback in several areas of the education system.
Feedback from these consultations will help shape decisions in the following areas:

  1. Improving student performance in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  2. Preparing students with needed job skills, such as skilled trades and coding
  3. Improving provincial standardized testing
  4. Ensuring students graduate with important life skills, including financial literacy
  5. Managing the use of technology in classrooms, such as cell phones
  6. Building a new age-appropriate Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes subjects like mental health, sexual health education and the legalization of cannabis
  7. Developing the first-ever Parents’ Bill of Rights

The online survey will be “coming soon”. I’ll be sure to write another post about that when it happens.

The third part is the telephone town hall. Dates and registration details TBA.

As my daughter is not yet school-age, I’m worried that they won’t take my feedback seriously. I don’t like that they asked the question about the age of the child at all. The sex ed curriculum affects us all.

We’re relying on you, parents of school-age children. Help shape our future!

If you’re enjoying the Blush blogs, consider learning more with Blush: The Card Game from Renaissance Press.

Blush: Teen Vogue and Anal Sex

In case you weren’t aware, Teen Vogue has been stepping up on it’s hard-hitting, serious, and factual articles (seeing as the press, both print and video, is having difficulty with some of those concepts).

Teen Vogue

One of the things that Teen Vogue has started doing is de-stigmatizing and de-sensationalizing sex. They are doing this through education, something that I think is fantastic. Not to point fingers at specific magazines, but for the most part, they sensationalize (for the lack of a better word) heterosexual sex. Knowing how to “please a man” isn’t the sort of sexual education I would like for my daughter to experience.

Which is why I think Teen Vogue is doing a great job of providing educational articles.

Despite what some parents might think, teens have access to a lot of sexual content. Not all porn has to be paid for, and both video and photos are available through the internet. Literotica is also relatively easy to get access to.

To be clear: I have zero problem with the above. My problem is when teens ONLY have access to the above.

Porn and literotica are not usually the most educational of sources (there are exceptions, I’m sure). They go for flashy, titillating, and evocative. They don’t mention the mundane, like protection, safety, lubrication, stretching, or even the emotions that come through being intimate with another person.

So to have an accessible magazine write educational articles about sex is a really good thing, in my opinion.

Here is Teen Vogue’s most recent article about Anal Sex. It’s causing a lot of controversy among certain groups. Apparently they think that reading an article about how to have anal sex properly might give teens the idea to actually do it. Sure, it might. But I bet they probably already had the idea before they read it…and now they know how to do it safely.

I’ve read mysteries where they describe how the murderer killed someone and where their mistake was so that they ended up getting caught. It doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and kill. (I promise you, I will not kill anyone.) On a less serious note, I’ve also read a lot of articles on how to make cute kids crafts. I’m really not sure I’ll ever do them.

In other words, just because you’ve read something, doesn’t mean you’re going to do it!

Another reason why I think it’s a really good idea to have articles like this is because the sexual education that teens are getting (especially in the US) is abstinence only. This means that they have no idea how to protect themselves, or even safely have sex. Combine that with the outdated patriarchal idea of vaginal virginity, and you get kids who will try anything and everything but PiV intercourse. Cue crude but hilarious (and very much Not Safe For Work) Garfunkel and Oates video The Loophole.

If you’re enjoying the Blush blogs, consider learning more with Blush: The Card Game from Renaissance Press.

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Don't dread "the talk." Blush makes it fun, and approachable... no matter what the questions are. Please help make this sexual health trivia game happen by backing our kickstarter!
Don’t dread “the talk.” Blush makes it fun, and approachable… no matter what the questions are.
Please help make this sexual health trivia game happen by backing our kickstarter!


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Jen, of JenEric Designs is the author of Blush and is working with the awesome publisher Renaissance Press to make Blush a success. Learn more about the game on the Kickstarter or on Blush: A Card Game.

Sex Ed

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

It seems there’s a little bit of hubbub going on about the new Sexual Education curriculum in Ontario.

The opponents say that it’ll corrupt or hurt the innocence of children.

Those who are for it say that it’ll help educate children about sex and sexual culture. This should lead to more respectful human beings, lower pregnancy rates, and less STIs.

Read it yourself and see what you think: 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum (Elementary)


If you’d rather have a summery check out these articles:

If you want to read an article about the opposition you can go here: Campaign Life Coalition: Ontario’s Radical Sex Ed Curriculum *Warning: This is an Anti-Abortion group*

I’m not sure what is causing this craziness but I’ve read the curriculum and it looks great. I think this is a great step in the right direction.

I wonder if there would be as much hate towards this change if the Premier wasn’t homosexual.

If you think this is a good cause feel free to join this event on Facebook.

If you feel strongly that children need to be educated by more than porn and misinformation than you should contact your MPP and show your support for the new curriculum.

If you want to learn more about your own sexuality check out Sexplanations on Youtube:

How do you feel about Ontario’s new Sex Ed curriculum?