Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wife Swap

We've just watched Wife Swap - the home education one.

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.


Blogger Louise said...

I missed that! The programme disturbs me because the kids have no say really if they want to take part and IMO they suffer the most. It really shouldn't be allowed. If the adults want to swap then fine but the kids should be sent to Disneyland for a week or somewhere else they would like to go!

10:38 pm, April 22, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

"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,"

Aww that is awful. I didn't see it but to me it is a terrible upset for children and I do wonder why anyone does it, apart from the chance to be on the T.V? I did have a snigger tho over the idea of anyone trying to get any of my children into school for fortnight. They would have no chance whatsoever!

11:00 pm, April 22, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I see it's being discussed on the TES message board
"Surely the situation will be investigated now that it has been aired on television for all to see?"

11:24 pm, April 22, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

And Carlotta has blogged an excellent and sensible respose to the programme. A nice balance to my totally emotional one!

11:29 pm, April 22, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

That programme is so awful. I didn't see this one but I have seen it before - with little children confused and missing their mum. I too can't understand why anyone would take part in it. I have to say that I was hoping against hope that they didn't get any home ed families to take part. It is trash TV edited to show the participants in any way that will 'entertain'.

11:36 pm, April 22, 2007  
Blogger these boots said...

The home ed Mum is on an elist I'm on, and she was really, really unhappy with the way the programme was edited. :-(

No surprise, though, really, is it?

5:13 am, April 23, 2007  
Blogger Sarah said...

I agree with your conclusion, Gill. We sat and watched it too, because of the home ed link.

I think the home ed topic was played down in the end, because of the way the swap dissolved. It would have been far more of an issue had the girl stayed at school for a week, and the parents therefore forced to really justify it. As it was, because things went wrong in that side of the swap, it was never really explored, I think.

I dunno - I have done a tv programme on home ed with my kids (don't know if you ever saw it, Gill?!), but I would never do Wifeswap, I just couldn't do it to my kids. And I worried enough about the editting of our programme which was supposed to be an interested look at home ed, it really is no surprise to me that the home ed wifeswap family were disappointed.

In addition, I think it sometimes *is* hard for a child to articulate their own feelings about things, and therefore they come across as being easy to manipulate. And some children really do just want to please the adults around them, for whatever reason, with the same end result.

7:28 am, April 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't see this program (because we don't watch TV), but reading what you have put makes me remember that it is this type of program that made me switch off in the first place!


8:03 am, April 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

uvregI've answered the threads on the TES message boards now and on 'mumsnet'
I too have no idea why any parent would put their young children through this-but my teenagers think we should have a go! They know they are easily able to articulate their feelings, and as they are older and autonomously educated they are experienced in this ;oD

They really fancied the holiday swap programme though, that used to be on. They thought we'd get treated to some posh holiday and in return we could take the other family to our favourite family holiday-HesFes!!
ROFLMAO at the thought!

9:47 am, April 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmmm here's a non-HEing blogger's view of the programme.

2:48 pm, April 23, 2007  
Anonymous Lucy said...

I think they get quite a bit of money for going on. We keep being approached :( I especially hate it when the children are really young and have no understanding as to why mummy has vanished and been replaced with a stranger. A stranger chosen to have some opposing views/lifestyle choices to your familys. Ugh - didn't see it as I knew it would annoy me...

3:18 pm, April 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

They haven't approached me personally - could be because I'm not a wife! Also they couldn't afford the £billions it'd cost to even begin to persuade me to do that.

3:29 pm, April 23, 2007  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

didn't watch it as I rant at such things. thanks for the links.
I think that it just wouldn't be for me - it would be so easy to give a terrible swap, my children are too young etc etc. I'm not sure why anyone does it really - but I guess if there is a good amount of money, then that's porb it.

10:08 pm, April 23, 2007  
Blogger Ren said...

We were asked to be on the show also, after an article appeared in People magazine about unschooling on our family.

They pay quite a nice lump sum for being on the show. In the end, we realized that the stress on our family (even though the kids wanted to do it) and the potential for a disaster with our local community's reaction wasn't worth any amount of money. Thank goodness!

6:43 pm, April 27, 2007  
Blogger Deb said...

I said, five minutes before it started, that I wasn't watching it because it would only wind me up.

And then I watched it LOL

I was also relieved; I thought it could have been so much worse wrt its coverage of HE. The "aftermath" show was interesting though; I'm assuming from some of your comments that you didn't see it. The HE dad explained that he'd not wanted to go out *that night* because he'd done a full day at work and been up since 5.30 a.m., and that he was taking the following three days off work, so would be more up for a night out then. I felt he could have explained that better at the time (though maybe he did, edited for tv and all that), but I did feel that Tori was manipulating the situation into that fight - all that "are you going to hit me on camera?" etc - it was pretty obvious that's what she wanted. And someone who runs a bar is bound to have certain skills in dealing with belligerence and conflict, so I think she knew exactly what she was doing.

I thought the HE daughter came across brilliantly: positive, bright, interested, willing to go along with things and with fantastic social skills. Her mum did say in the show afterwards that she had left, in the "manual", information and instructions about other projects they were to work on, but Tori didn't do any of it (and then she said there wasn't enough educational stuff...)

I tried to think about how this show would have come across to anyone who knew nothing about HE; I doubt if it would change anyone's mind, but I also think the HE family came across much more positively than the other one.

9:37 pm, May 03, 2007  

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