Have you ever seen the TV show “Wife Swap?” Admit it, you have. It is a form of ethnography in its own somewhat demented way. But it is also a very specific, network-endorsed statement about class and character of society.

It seems that it is fairly often the case that one of the families, and the families are always contrasted in many different ways, home schools.

At lease one homeschooling proponent claims that the show “stacks the shelf (sic)” against homeschoolers, making them appear less mainstream than homeschoolers really are.

As a homeschooler, I really feel that I have had enough of this inequitable display. While I agree that the homeschooling families they choose to profile are waaaayyy off center, one must realize that it is the homeschooling families they (Wife Swap producers choose to profile.)

Meanwhile, the other family seems a lot closer to mainstream of daily life, as they seem to choose families that are generally a bit more driven in one way or another than normal families.

Tonight’s show for example, featured a homeschooling family with six kids living in a tree house. …

[source]

She might have a point. But it is also true that by their very nature (typically) homeschoolers are not measurable or systematically observable. They don’t want to be measured or observed, which may be one reason the homeshool to begin with. However, this really should disallow them from making claims that appear to be based on measurement and observation (i.e., data) about what homescholers are all about. It often feels very cultish to me.

Comments

  1. #1 Virgil Samms
    January 6, 2008

    Uh, which demographic is it that television portrays accurately, without stereotyping?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2008

    Well, I think all the characters in Cheers were pretty accurate…

  3. #3 Chris hanson
    January 6, 2008

    Assuming that the person who was interviewed in the source there isn’t crazy, how does she know that she is the norm and not the exception? Do the homeschoolers get together and have little homeschool conventions, science fairs, etc.?

    It seems to me that they are less “cultish” than isolated. If that’s the case I don’t see how s/he can claim that the networks are picking cases outside of the norm because, frankly, s/he has no way of knowing what the norm is…

    Also, I think that the networks are doing the right thing by showing a family living in a tree. I think that if they are going to expose us to creepy people, the creepy people might as well be awesome!

  4. #4 Anne Gilbert
    January 6, 2008

    FWIW, my experiences, such as they are, with homeschooling parents is, that they homeschool for a variety of reasons. Some may not want to be “observed”, but others simply think they can do a better job — at least in the short run — for kids who, for whatever reasons, don’t fit into a public school system very well.
    Anne G

  5. #5 Laura Derrick
    January 6, 2008

    Do the homeschoolers get together and have little homeschool conventions, science fairs, etc.?

    Not just little dinky ones, but ones with tens of thousands of attendees, too. Here are just a few.

    It seems to me that they are less “cultish” than isolated.

    Isolated? Hardly. Perhaps you didn’t know about homeschooling organizations, either? Here’s a partial listing of groups in my state, just for example.

    Most of us actually live in neighborhoods and participate in everyday community life, too. And lots of us are hardly ever home during the day because we’re out participating in activities and hanging out with our friends instead.

  6. #6 HP
    January 6, 2008

    Admit it, you have.

    Teh-leh-viz-yun? What is this “television” of which you speak, Earthman? Your ways are strange to us.

  7. #7 the real cmf
    January 8, 2008

    a *normal* homeschool family? Oxymoron…

  8. #8 den
    January 9, 2008

    Some may not want to be “observed”, but others simply think they can do a better job — at least in the short run — for kids who, for whatever reasons, don’t fit into a public school system very well.

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