Sept 4, 2020. OTTAWA – Harmony House, Eastern Ontario’s only second-stage domestic violence shelter, has stepped up to help abused women find an additional place of safety for their children; a homeschool pod.
The shelter spent the last weeks of August preparing to welcome its youngest residents to a remote learning schoolroom. “We emptied out the boardroom and transformed it into a classroom, complete with computers, supplies and a private teacher,” explains Ray Eskritt, Executive Director of Harmony House. The organization had hired online tutors in the spring to assist students when schools were shut down due to COVID, but decided an in-person teacher was needed for the long-term. Michelle Inglis, an Early Childhood Educator, was chosen to lead the pod and assist children in their remote learning. She will be available to the residents from 9AM- 3:30PM, Monday through Friday to help children with homework questions, use of new technology and to assist families through a new learning environment.
Many families are nervous about sending children back to school, and the residents at Harmony House are no different. There is a reasonable concern that the schools will experience disruption; there will be times when the children will need to be sent home from school for quarantine. This kind of sudden change can cause huge issues for children who are already struggling with major upheavals and safety concerns in their day-to-day family life. “We wanted to give the families peace of mind,” explains Eskritt. “With the Homeschool Pod, the families know that their kids are safe and their education will not be interrupted. It’s something they can rely on in a very unpredictable time.”
“All of the families are living in a social bubble at the shelter, so the kids can be together without much cause for concern,” says Eskritt. “And that’s important, because right now, those kids need every bit of positive social interaction, love and support they can get. They need to be allowed to just be kids.”