Too often parents get caught up with guilt, worry and blame.
“Older people like us worry about the future of the country and I’ve just spent weeks with a stack of eight to 13 year olds and I can tell you the country’s in great shape,” she says.
“These kids are kind, caring, astute and I’m having the time of my life,” she says.
The most important thing she wants parents to know is this: “You’re doing a great job”.
Chrissie is speaking about the filming of Channel Ten’s new show, The Great Australian Spelling Bee, which features 52 of Australia’s pre-teen super spellers tackling words like rhinoceros, pseudonym and manoeuvre.
Having seen a preview I agree. These little kids are not only smart but they support each other to a level I haven’t seen before. Rather than be competitive the kids encourage each other and even get upset if they win at the cost of their friend’s advancement in the competition. The whole show is uplifting… and made me a tad insecure considering these kids can rattle off words that send me diving for spellcheck.
As “Backstage Supermum” Chrissie says the whole process has been “life affirming”.
“It’s a brand new format so we had no idea how kids or parents would react,” she says. “We were surprised and impressed with the characters of these kids. It made me realise it’s all happening at school. Aussie parents should be applauded.”
Chrissie studied linguistics at university, and as a self-described spelling nerd surely she gets annoyed when people misspell her name. Chrissy? Chrissi? Krissie? Swann?
“Yeah I do,” she laughs. “And it happens all the time. I never say anything about it. But it’s just like a little a bit of sand in my eye.”
“The other thing is I can’t even deal with kids using text speak like ‘d8’ for ‘date’. If I run out room on a tweet and have to abbreviate I’ll just delete the whole tweet,” she says.
Or ‘mispell’ the word misspell? I put her to the test and quizzed her on a few words the kids had to spell.
“P-R-I-V-E-L-E-G-E,” she says. Wrong! “Oh I put an extra ‘e’ in didn’t I? God this is so hard!” she grimaced.
“Oh god it’s really hard. Is it one ‘s’ or two? I want to say two but I think it’s one. M-I-S-P-E-L-L.” Wrong.
“How appropriate? You know what, most people are better when they write. So I’m going to write it on my hand. E-M-B-A-R-R-A-S-S-M-E-N-T,” She says. Correct!
“Hooray. Boy that’s hard for me so imagine what it’s like for an eight year old! So impressive and standing up their by themselves. I could never have done what they are doing.”
So will she be doing flashcards with her kids Leo, Kit and Peggy?
“They are still too young. And I don’t think I’ll be tough on them. To be honest I think you’re born with the ability to spell. It’s like a visual processing mechanism that’s hard wired into your brain. But Leo is six and he’s showing all the signs of being a great speller,” she says.
Having survived the jungles of Africa with I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (she says it took a couple of weeks to return to smelling like normal) and just come back after being stranded in Bali (she says not exactly an ordeal just a bit more expensive than expected) Chrissie says she has some other projects in the pipeline. “I’ve always been in work. I’ve never had an employment issue. I finished on the radio on December 5 and I was in Africa by January,” she says.
Her incredible chemistry with comedian Joel Creasey in the jungle has people gagging for them to do a show together. “We want that too. But it has to be right. We’re not going to rush it. There are all sorts of options. Some we haven’t fully interrogated yet.”
In the meantime you can catch her on, The Great Australian Spelling Bee, which premieres on Channel Ten on Monday, August 3 at 7.30pm.