PORSE educator Amber Blakesley has come full circle, back to a career she always knew she would have one day.
From her home in Hastings she shares with her partner and two small children, Amber runs her PORSE business, looking after one-year-old daughter Bodhi and two other children. It’s a complete change of environment for the 40 year-old, who only joined PORSE in July 2018.
For the past eight years Amber has been working in the wine industry in sales and marketing. “It was an extremely busy career, working in high level corporate roles. One of my jobs was as a national sales manager, which saw me travelling most days. My career was very important to me and I loved it, but a series of personal events changed my direction and saw me return to my first interest – children,” she explains.
When Amber was in her mid-20s, she was very keen on becoming a school teacher. “I’d always been interested in human development and I volunteered in schools. I even got accepted into Teachers College. But then my mother passed away, which changed the course of my life. I had already lost my father so it was a definite turning point.”
Amber’s mother had always encouraged her to travel, which she did, living in the UK and Europe for several years. It was while travelling in Italy that she fell in love with wine and when she returned to New Zealand, studied wine marketing. However, her love for teaching remained with her. “Sales and marketing involves teaching people about your product. With any customer, you need to find their language and the same goes for children. I always found myself teaching in some form. It was an undeniable drive within me.”
In 2017, Amber fell pregnant and six months later, was made redundant from her job. She says it was at that point that “everything changed”.
“I was devastated. I had a baby on the way and suddenly my career, income and security was whipped out from under me. When Bodhi was born I thought what am I going to do? I knew I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world. I worried about how I could work, manage the household and care for Bodhi.
“I looked at my little girl and thought how much I wanted her to have someone in her life who understood the importance and advantage of attachment and development in those early years. My mind started to drift back to being a teacher and I started to revisit my natural love for teaching and child development.”
Taking the next Step
A “light bulb moment” clarified Amber’s next step.
“I realised I could be an in-home educator and look after Bodhi and other children. I could offer parents exactly what I was hoping to find, a home away from home; a nurturing, loving environment. It was like a switch had been turned on.”
Amber is one of 1,100 PORSE educators who care for more than 3,000 families’ children. She chose PORSE after researching three providers to make sure the fit would be right.
“PORSE has a strong presence and I knew they’d been around for a long time. I interviewed three different providers and what sold me on PORSE was the support they give to both the educator and the children. They offer online qualification programmes including in-house webinars so I can upskill while I work. They were so professional and it felt like they were supporting me and the children with resources right from day one.”
For new educators, PORSE offers a $500 business start-up package that includes initial marketing collateral. As all PORSE in-home educators are self-employed contractors, it was essential to Amber that she understood how to run her own business.
“I wasn’t sure how hard setting up a business would be. But I needn’t have worried, it was easier than expected. The house was already warm and inviting – in fact a previous owner had run an in-home childcare business too! PORSE helped me with a lot of the administration and advice around taxation, charging rates and finances. They also take care of my payroll. With that support, I can concentrate on what I do best – care for children.”
Amber has just completed a six week course on early childhood development and will shortly begin studying for her NZ Certificate in Early Childhood Education (Level 4), a qualification PORSE has developed and offers free to educators.
“I’ve got the children settled into a routine so now I’ll have the time and space to study,” she says.
As well as looking after her own child, Amber has found it straightforward to attract new families to her business. “If you’ve got the right attitude, environment and are a bit proactive, it’s easy.”
The benefits of one-on-one connections formed during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are well documented. With lower ratio numbers in an in-home setting, there is more time available for each child, centred around their individual needs, giving both carer and child more quality time to connect on an authentic level.
Amber spends time outside of her home with the children going on walks or to the park, attending playgroups, music activities and other outings, many of which are organised by the PORSE programme tutors. It’s also a social opportunity for Amber and her children to connect with other educators and their pre-schoolers.
“Having a small group of children means we get to individualise learning. If a child is into something particular, like space or animals for example, we can tailor learning activities to that. It’s about the fit with the child, a more holistic approach. The impact of being home in the first three years and having a connection with a primary or secondary caregiver is essential for future development. I can be one of those important attachment figures for the children. PORSE is the closest thing to a child staying at home with their primary caregiver - the most natural, beneficial relationship for a child.”
Would she go back to her old job? Never, says Amber. “I’m fairly close to what I was earning in my other jobs and paying half the rate of tax. And I don’t have that pressure, the travel or the stress of getting myself and children out the door in the morning. Even with Bodhi taking one of my available spaces, I worked out that if I was back at work, I’d have to work full time with one or two of those days required just to pay for childcare.
Taking the leap and starting a new career as an in-home educator has been the best decision Amber says she’s ever made.
“I have the best of both worlds. I run my own business, I get to call the shots. Although PORSE helps us fill our spaces, they don’t dictate the hours that have to be worked. It’s the ultimate in flexibility. And PORSE is so supportive, on hand to help at any time. I’m available for Bodhi and also for my step-daughter Sophie, for when she comes home from school and during school holidays.
I’ve fulfilled my dream of a career with children and it’s working so well for me.”