It’s a daily routine for Tommi D. Her children, Hunter and Riley (seen above), park themselves at small desks on opposite sides of the living room – a sofa separating them – as they prepare to enter their online classrooms. As the two kids Zoom into their teacher’s vision, Tommi parks herself in the hallway of their small apartment. She’ll sit there for half of each day.
“It’s the only way I can be available to them while not being a distraction,” she says. “I could go into the bedroom, but then I couldn’t supervise or come if they need me. If I were in the living room or kitchen, their attention would be drawn away from their school work. It’s the only solution right now.”
Tommi and her husband, Mike, are in the process of completing their sweat equity hours while their home is being constructed at Nevada County Habitat’s Park Place build. Both agree that until construction is completed – and until the COVID-19 Pandemic passes and the kids can return to school – they just have to make the best out of a difficult situation. “I just never realized how hard this would be,” Tommi says. “I have gained so much respect for teachers!”
The homeschooling challenge has been a little different for Martine and Mike, owners of a Habitat home in the Heritage Oaks neighborhood. Their son, Ethan, has special needs. “Ethan is learning to study online. It was difficult at first, but when he saw his regular teacher and some friendly faces on Zoom and Skype, it became much easier and he took to it quickly after that.”
While the homeschooling challenge has been difficult for families in which one of the parents can stay home with the children during school hours, the difficulties of turning a home into a classroom are especially magnified for single mothers.
When the Pandemic and subsequent closure of school campuses occurred, Nicole was forced to cut back her hours at work from full-time on-site to working just two hours per day from her Heritage Oaks home.
“Even though I’m an employee for an essential business, when it came to getting childcare slots with licensed daycares, I was at the bottom of the list.“ Nicole says that the children of healthcare workers and other first-responders took precedence in being allocated slots with local childcare providers. “In order to find a provider I literally had to change schools.
Once changing schools, Nicole was able place her children with a licensed provider. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. Her youngest child has special needs, and the provider was unable to provide the level of service he needed. “So we were back to square one,” she says.
“Beyond the childcare issue, homeschooling has gone pretty well so far.” Nicole says. “A little resistance at first, but they’ve gotten the hang of it. The biggest challenge so far? Common Core math! They’ve changed all of the terminology since I was in school. Thank God for Google!”
Of the 37 homeowners who own Habitat homes, 23 are single mothers. While many of them have older children who have either graduated from school or who are currently in high school and can take responsibility for themselves, the challenges parents with younger children have faced while working at the same time has been daunting.
Some have family that live in the community and can rely on relatives to provide support. Others, like Nicole, whose family either lives out of the area or work full-time jobs, must find creative solutions. “I work two hours a day from home,” she says. “That can only last so long. But I have faith a solution will come.”
While circumstances are different and challenging for each Habitat family, they all agree on one thing: “We are so grateful for our Habitat home. We can’t imagine having to do this without it!”
And, for Tommi, she can’t wait for her home to be completed sometime during the spring in 2021. “We’re managing,” she says. “But, barely. I cannot wait for my kids to have a desk in their own rooms! That thought fuels my hope.”