I recently was able to check out a copy of "Frontier House" from our local library. For those of you who are not aware, this was a reality-type show that PBS produced for five months in 2001. You can read more about it via wikipedia here, but the main premise is that 3 families of different backgrounds take a stab at re-creating a homestead during the year 1883. They participate in a wagon train (only 2 days long) to get to Frontier Valley in gorgeous Montana, and then they must establish a homestead and prepare enough supplies to get them through a Montana winter. At the end of it all, their efforts are graded as to whether or not they were likely to have survived.
This was a fascinating (and I'll admit, addicting) show! I learned so much about the homesteaders' life via these six episodes. These are the nitty gritty comparisons you don't get to see while reading Laura Ingalls books. The families all get in touch with their survival skills, work ethic, and food chain during this time, and it's especially intriguing to see the transformation of the 21st century children and teenagers.
As much as I loved this show, and plan to show it to my children as part of our pioneering study, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it without some disclaimers. I am afraid that even PBS puts in their fair share of reality show drama. While a lot of it is fueled by the drive to survive in these tough circumstances, they do focus a lot of time on in-fighting and the demise of one of the marriages. It's really quite sad, and while it's not filmed in an uber-trashy format, I just don't feel comfortable with my younger children having to vicariously go through that tragedy. Also, there are a couple of scenes where the adults and women address adult issues (mainly contraception practices and menstruation) that are interesting for grown adutls, but are not age appropriate for young ones.
SO, with all that, you will find, below,my episode-by-episode review that I recently shared with my friends. While I do feel that this is a very valuable teaching tool that should not be overlooked, I want to give you a heads' up before diving in. With all viewing material, the best practice is for parents to watch it first as much as possible, but I am all too aware that there are times that you don't have that allowance and often just pop the disc in and hope for the best. In that case, be sure to read my review below :)
Episode 1: Great intro and shows all their training for the project. The only sketchy part is when you see all the adults sitting around the table with a dark background. They will be discussing contraceptive practices of the era. It's interesting, but you may want to watch that on your own...Also, when you see all the ladies sitting around in a cabin, they will be discussing the sanitary practices for menstruation...
Episode 2: So interesting. Teaches about the wagon trains and the dangers of.
Episode 3 and 4: While the wedding is sweet, and it's neat to see the groom and his dad getting the cabin ready for the bride, it's full of in-fighting and drama with the other families. I will probably just skip these episodes or skip to the wedding part. It's too bad because these episodes are also full of the day-to-day living practices of the era. Unfortunately it just gets kind of catty and snarky.
Episode 5: Super neat! It's all about the kids and how they establish the one-room schoolhouse. Definite 'must-watch' with the family!
Episode 6: The wrap-up. They have a harvest fare, and get ready for winter. They are graded on if they would've survived. Then it shows them after leaving 2 months later, and how they feel about the 21st century after having lived on the frontier. It's kind of sad that one marriage does end up separating, so I don't know if you'd want to show them the last family's review (the Glenn family). However, it is really neat to see the children's changed perspectives in regards to material posessions and work.
Blessings to you and your homestead!
Hillary At Home