Finding the right work-life balance


Achieve work-life balance while maximising time with your children. Having spent 12 years working in childcare centres, Lucy Dowthwaite (pictured with her daughter Henae) wanted to dedicate more time to her own young children, Kingston, now six and Henae, four, while doing what she loves.

So, last year, after recognising the benefits of working from home, the registered early childhood teacher joined PORSE as an in-home educator.

“The hours I was working meant I missed out on a lot with my own son and daughter - I wasn’t with them in the school holidays and I couldn’t be involved with their after school activities.

“I didn’t want to change careers because I absolutely love children. With PORSE I am still able to teach and educate, with more flexibility.”

The rise of in-home education and care began during what is often referred to as ‘the decade of the brain’ in the 1990s when more science became available around early brain development and the critical importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life.  Research shows that children thrive when they feel secure and connected to their caregiver, in a loving and nurturing home environment. 

A child’s brain does most of its development in the first three years, which happens at the astonishing rate of about 700 new connections every second. That development is influenced by what’s happening in the child’s environment – be it sensory, cognitive, motor or emotional – firing neurones and making them stronger. And for optimal development to occur, children need to feel safe and loved. If they are stressed, children aren’t confident exploring and testing the environment and their bodies and instead withdraw into themselves as a form of self-preservation.

Since starting as an educator in Ashburton, Lucy has seen first-hand the difference an in-home learning environment makes and the effect it has on developing happy, healthy, settled children.

“The transition is a lot smoother. The babies are quite happy to leave mum for the day. It’s really nice that their parents can come into my home, drop off their children and feel comfortable, it’s very relaxed.

“I have found there are no behavioural problems at home. I think the smaller groups really help, they get a lot more attention as one of four than they would as one of a much larger group.”

The freedom to adapt her schedule depending on the day and children’s moods and interests was another bonus. There’s also plenty of time to make meaningful connections with each child.

“I think one of the real benefits is being able to get down on the ground with the children, spend time with them and build those relationships in a relaxed, quiet environment where they are all settled.

The PORSE philosophy uses play to observe a child’s interest; using this information to support and extend their learning, with educators recording their learning journey for parents to follow through daily journaling.

Because the learning is child-led, educators create a unique and strong bond with each child, which parents can see. Children are encouraged to explore their environments at their own pace and on their own schedule.

“Everything fits around them, it doesn’t matter if they want morning tea then story time, or the other way around.”

Dedicating an area of her home to her PORSE children and rotating teaching resources depending on the age group and developmental milestones means children in her care can learn and grow at a level appropriate for their own development.

Lucy is quick to pick up on individual play habits and cater to those needs.

“You really get to know them, so you quickly learn which child likes to build with blocks and which favours felts and collage."

But it’s not just the children that benefit from the relationship that forms. For educators, it provides a level of job satisfaction that is hard to beat.

IMAGE/Lucy Dowthwaite 

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