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Gun and War Games and Homeschooling

© Beverley Paine

I spent the first ten years of my kids' lives trying to be anti-violent and then finally realised that my kids hate violence too. Just because they played 'wars' and 'gun games' didn't mean they had a violent streak. Over time, the more we homeschooled and had less and less to do with school socialised kids the more my children preferred cooperative games to competitive games, the more cooperative their play became, and so on. But they still liked playing violent games, like chasey games with pretend guns, using olives (from our trees) as bullets or bombs, etc.

They also made some pretty authentic looking weapons! And when computer games became a big thing in our lives they loved playing violent computer games. I didn't mind the dungeon and dragon type games - I grew up on fairy stories - but the commando games affected me quite a bit. I had to leave the room - sometimes because it was just too much for me - the blood and gore and mindless violence, but at other times it was at their request - they'd had enough of my whinging and tongue-clicking!

Playing gun and war games seemed to be more of a boy thing more than a girl thing. April preferred to spend her time reading about violent action... usually in sci-fi fantasy books as she grew into adolescence. But we all watched movies that had a quite a bit of violence in them. I found my children to be more robust when confronted with unpleasant behaviour from others, or with portrayals of real violence on the television or radio news. Were they desensitised? Perhaps, but as a result we could get right into talking about what we'd seen or heard. This promoted thinking skills.

One of the main things my children taught me about this subject was that they knew the difference between the world of pretend and the real world. Fiction was fiction and violence in fiction didn't bother them. I kept telling them that every time I saw a person shot on the screen, or in a game, I'd think that somewhere in the world it was really happening and that made me very sad and bugged me. They absorbed that, but they kept the difference uppermost in their minds. The problem was mine, not theirs.

An interesting thing happened one day that highlighted the fact that my children weren't 'numbed' by playing violent games or watching violent movies... We were in the pizza shop and the local policeman walked in - this was back in the days when they'd just begun wearing their guns so visibly. It freaked us out. None of us felt safe. We talked about it afterwards. This showed me that my children weren't emotionally desensitised to violence. The other thing that reassured me that playing and pretending to be violent - especially emulating the kind of fictionalised violence the children seemed to naturally want to play - never included domestic violence, though I have to admit that the teddy bears and dolls were often smacked and punished in the early years... Fictionalised portrayals of domestic violence, or cruelty to animals and children always distressed my children. I am glad to say they never witnessed real cruelty, though they did neglect the pets once and the consequences were a severe lesson the children didn't forget.

We live in a very violent world where too many people have little respect for themselves, their neighbours, and their environment. Trust is an endangered aspect in our lives. I find homeschooling builds trust - between family members first, and then with others, slowly but surely, by giving us the time to build respectful relationships. That time is the most precious thing homeschooling gives us.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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