I was quite dreading it actually, because I'd seen a warning that the home educated girl apparently treated her horse badly, which we thought might be used, along with the rest of the programme, as an anti-home ed tirade, but the incident with the horse was played down and not, luckily, made a big thing of.
I hardly ever watch this programme, but have seen it before, so I do know how it works. Just in case you don't know, the deal is that the mothers from each of two (usually contrasting) families have to swap places for two weeks. For the first week they live the way the host family normally lives and for the second week, the swapped wife gets to draw up her own rules for the host family, which they then agree to abide by.
One of the issues for me is... why? I can't really understand why anyone would put themselves up for this voluntarily, especially with young-ish children. The families involved are putting themselves up to be judged by the viewing public and by each other and I really struggle to understand the motives for wanting to be involved in the first place. They invariably hate the whole experience and collapse back into their partners' arms sobbing with anguish at the end of the two weeks - so why volunteer for it in the first place?
Anyway, that aside, tonight's programme was a lot better than I'd expected. Tori, the non-HEing wife, runs a strip club with her husband in Brighton and has a 15 year-old daughter, and Paula stays at home with her husband and young daughter, who is about 8 I think. I really liked the two mums, and the strip club dad was great too. I could definitely relate to Paula the home-ed mum: she was calm, relaxed and contented and she gamely went along with the programme's format, even agreeing to do a bar-top dance at the club. The strip club husband obviously made a great effort to help her feel comfortable. When rule change time came in the strip-club house, it was no surprise to hear that Paula had decreed the couple should make more time for their daughter, which they did, and the daughter seemed really pleased. For the strip-club daughter, the programme was a good thing I think.
The concept of home education in the other family wasn't portrayed too badly I don't think, although I did cringe at the kitchen-table hour-a-day worksheets. Still, some people do home ed in that way, so it's valid. A totally autonomous family would have been more of a shock to the viewing public! But on the other hand, the home-educated daughter didn't display the interest in learning and in life that autonomous students tend to have, so they obviously didn't show home ed at its best. However, I know the programme makers have been after a home ed family for ages - we weren't exactly queueing up for the job! So they wouldn't have had a lot of choice.
But in home ed house, it was the husband's stubborn, boorish attitude that let them down: he wouldn't play the game! It looked like the strip club lady was really trying to get along with them - she certainly got along well with the home educated daughter although she didn't like the idea of her being out of school. The husband there seemed set against her right from the beginning. When rule change time came around, she unsurprisingly put the little girl into school and the little girl had a good time. She arranged a night out with the husband and he refused to go. They had a row, Tori hit him and moved into a hotel for the rest of the week.
There was obviously a LOT going on that wasn't shown and it's difficult to work out exactly what happened from the clips we did get to see, but sadly the outstanding point seemed to be the little girl's confusion. She was very keen to go to school, but Tori had spent all of the first week hyping her up about it. Her dad was very anti-school and the only reason he was shown to give was the school bullying the little girl had suffered two years before the filming, before she was deregistered. She wasn't shown to be going anywhere or doing anything other than being with her parents and looking after her horses and she admitted to feeling bored and lonely at home. They filmed her on the first day at school and she did seem happy there, but the school would presumably be making a special effort to make sure she was, and the programme makers would be sure to only show the good bits.
I wondered whether the timing of the argument was significant. Home ed dad obviously really did not like the fact that his daughter had enjoyed school so much. This was the only reason I could think of for his adamant refusal to go out in the evening. He seemed to be spoiling for a fight with strip-club mum, to which she sadly succumbed and then moved out, which put a stop to the school experiment.
On school day two, Tori had already left for the hotel and it was snowing. The little home-educated girl burst into tears, saying she wanted to stay home to play in the snow, but her dad hugged her and said, "No. I know you don't want to go to school, but we did agree to play the game so you have to go," although it transpired that he didn't make her go for the rest of the week. A week wouldn't have been long enough for the little girl to decide whether she really did want to go back to school anyway but the two days she did just seemed to totally confuse her.
I really felt for the home ed daughter. She had her feelings manipulated quite ruthlessly by everyone involved and the whole thing was an absolute roller-coaster for her. She seemed ok at home in her normal home ed routine - not greatly stimulated but happy enough, then along came Wife Swap and Tori, Mummy disappears and she's got Tori trying to convince her that school is great for week one and her dad obviously being against the idea. The child herself just wanted to please the adults. She didn't seem to know what she actually wanted to do. This really worried me. She went along with school in the same way she'd gone along with home ed - just because the prevailing influence wanted her to. Then as soon as Tori left it was like flipping a coin - she was off the idea of school again, as if by magic.
I don't think the programme will have succeeded in changing anyone's ideas about home ed, school or strip clubs. What it did seem to do was to highlight the perils of manipulating children's emotions to suit adult agendas. That's how I saw it, anyway.