i'm not a big fan of reality shows, really. sure, i watched a couple seasons of The Real World. mostly because of the locations. i lived in seattle, so of course i watched the seattle RW. i definitely never liked the mean spirited ones. voting people off and such. boooo. no thanks.
not until Trading Spaces came along was i ever really intrigued by reality tv. (unless What Not To Wear counts.) and then i fell for The Amazing Race. which i love. i love the competition and i love the locations. the drama is secondary. (yes, i'm loving the All-Star Race that's currently going on and yes, i'm very happy that rob and ambah are out of it. they give boston a bad name.)
hubby and i just watched on DVD the best thing i have ever seen in the reality genre. it's called Frontier House. have you seen it? it's the PBS's answer to reality tv. and it's fascinating. the basic outline is that they take 3 modern families (from 5,000 applicants) and plop them in 1883 in the Montana territory. they are given "lessons" on how things work in those days. the clothing, the cooking/baking, livestock care (and slaughtering), building, gardening. the basics of homesteading, really. then they are taken via horse drawn wagons to their new home. for 5 months they have to survive. they have to barter. they have to ration. they have to make a homestead function.
they are given *somewhat* fictitious back-story that is based on their own lives. this comes into play most importantly when they are shown their new home. the career of the homesteader in "real life" sort of determines what they get when they show up. one family has a fully finished cabin, one is part done and one (the smallest family--a father and son) have nothing. NO-THING. they have to build a home from scratch. right down to picking the site.
there's a lot to be said about this show. but, since this is a parenting blog, i'm going to focus on the experience of the kids on the show and my experience as a mom watching it.
there were 2 teenage girls. at first they couldn't deal with the loss of make-up and material things. then a few months down the road as one is digging in the garden she talks about having a sense of purpose now and feeling like a better person.
they have no tv or video games. no malls. all they have is nature, the work of the homestead and wooden toys and playing cards. so, the families spend time together instead. and it's beautiful. yes, there's some typical reality show cattyness and us vs. them, but the show is not really about that.
the most striking aspect of the show for me is in the "character" of a boy. he must have been 8 or 10 years old. this kid was addicted to his Play Station before he came to Montana. eventually, he talks about how he loves it there because his dad has time to teach him things. to teach him to fish or to build a chicken coop. he gets to spend time with dad because dad's not off at work. at home he hardly saw him. this kid is thriving. he's alive in nature. feeling his sense of purpose. being helpful. not wasting away in front of the tube. he's contributing and he feels good about it. as do the teen girls.
the most poignant moment is at the end. we flash forward to 2 months after they leave Montana to return to the year 2001 (yes, they experience 9/11 while away in 1883). the kids talk about how boring it is. all they do is go to the mall. there's nothing to do. they are surrounded by so much "stuff" that they feel like there's nothing in it for them. this little boy talks about how much more fun and special it was to recieve small gifts while he was in Montana. his grandmother brought him a wooden checkers set and sling shots for his birthday and that was so meaningful because he didn't have any toy or game at his fingertip like he did at home. less is more to him and most kids, i think.
and they said at home it's lonely. isolated. more isolated than being off in the mountains with no outside contact. they are in a big house. and miss the closeness of the one room cabin. of family.
it's fascinating and a little sad.
for hubby and i. . . it made us feel like our choice to put bb in a waldorf school next year for pre-school was the right thing. a school where he'll learn to take care of chickens and goats, he'll make butter and bread, he'll tell stories with simple knit toys and build with wooden blocks and stumps. he'll be in a simple one room schoolhouse. he'll learn purposeful play and purposeful work.
it's pricey. it's "crunchy." and it's just right.
it's funny, this show has actually made us think about HOW we live and what we might change now that we're house shopping. rural sounds good.