Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Mother’s Day is a special day around the globe as we recognise those extraordinary mothers who make a significant contribution to our lives.
This Mother’s Day we decided to sit down with Amanda Alleyne, a young single mother who is passionate about education and is making her mark as a teacher, entrepreneur and mom.
At 31 years of age, Amanda, who is Erdiston trained, is focused on her son and the success of her two business ventures – Pickney Busy Box and Mummy Escape Time. Her commitment to shaping young minds is evidenced by her work at Wills Primary School and her recent partnership with Sagicor to bring an online camp to children in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown. In this month’s special feature she shares with us a bit of her journey as a teacher, an entrepreneur and a mother and she also offers some advice for parents hoping to survive COVID-19 the best way they can.
THE Q & A EXCLUSIVE
Q: Why did you decide to get into education?
A: From very young, interacting with children has always been my niche so I’ve always been geared toward that teacher/caregiver role. My grandmother was a teacher at St. Michael’s School and we were very close so from early it was instilled in me and I think it’s in my genetics. When I was doing my Bachelor’s in Sociology, I was undecided about my career path and my grandmother said to me, ‘Amanda, what do you do right now that doesn’t take anything off your back that doesn’t make you feel like you’re working?’ The answer was teaching; it was very much an “aha” moment.
Q: How did your journey into entrepreneurship begin?
A: I’ve always been an entrepreneur, doing different things but never in my field and it took a while for me to get that big idea. Also, I found a teaching salary wasn’t enough to meet the high cost of living that we have nowadays. Honestly, it took me failing 10 or 15 times to come up with this concept. I was stumbling a bit and trying to find my feet, so I took a break, gave it some thought and the idea for Pickney Busy Box came to me. I launched it in November 2019 but it really picked up with the advent of COVID-19. Parents started to panic and were looking for educational activities for their children and after that, my product got more awareness and really took off.
Q: So tell me, what exactly is a Pickney Busy Box?
A: A Pickney Busy Box is simply an educational tool filled with materials to engage your child’s fine motor, gross motor, science, mathematical, language and basically any skill you would want your child to learn on the Ministry of Education’s curriculum. It caters to children age 18 months to 11 plus. It’s basically just a fun interactive way of learning. As a teacher, I’ve found that kids learn better through play so you find that they soak up most of the information if you have it in-game form. Children learn by doing and playing.
Q: So tell us a bit about your other business venture - Mummy Escape Time (M.E. Time).
A: Right now, Mummy Escape Time or simply M.E. Time is a safe space where mums can feel comfortable and just escape. For my first event, we had a girls’ movie night and we talked about everything under the sun. M.E. Time is a space where you can say what you’re dealing with and not feel alone. Mums can share their pain and troubles and even get advice. Sometimes we go on hikes and persons will often reach out to talk about everyday things. It’s a bit on the backburner at the moment but I’m looking forward to pushing it more in the future.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
A: I would have to say, my grandmother, my mother and my sister Anne-Marie who is also my best friend – they have all impacted my life at different stages. My grandmother really influenced my life in terms of the person I am today but I’m exactly like my mother. She was a single mum and I remember seeing her work extremely hard and I think that’s where I got my work ethic. The person I confide in most is my sister. She’s my sounding board; she’s my person.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
A: Right now I’m trying to get Pickney Busy Box to go online, for the parent who doesn’t want an actual box. It would be like a virtual school, similar to the website Teachers Pay Teachers where you can find everything you would need for your children like worksheets and printables.
THE ADVICE CORNER
As a creative person and educator, Amanda gives advice to parents battling life at home during this COVID-19 lockdown period in the following areas:
a) Fun activities for kids who are at home in this lockdown
Advice: "Do things that your kids like and that you like as well. My son and I do meditation and workouts. He also likes rock painting, scientific activities, even baking and cooking, because he likes measuring stuff. There are so many activities you can try - it could be dyeing shirts, playing cards, dyeing rice and making 3D pictures out of it, making up stories together, painting, colouring or reading to each other - it’s all about quality time. On a whole, kids just want your attention so if you’re doing things with them more often then they’re content."
b) Homeschooling and Working at home
Advice: "Kids thrive on structure so if you don’t have structure you’re going to find it more difficult to keep your child focused and engaged. In a school environment, we have a timetable and kids may not want it, but they need it. My son always has a schedule, even if it’s the weekend or vacation time. In the beginning, it was very difficult, but I find that having a timetable and a reward system helps a lot. His rewards could be a dollar, an ice cream, a Lego set; it depends. In some cases he will have to work consistently to achieve his reward, so for example, if from Monday to Friday he did all his chores, by the end of the week he would get a treat. So my advice is to get a timetable and stick to it."
c) Parents who are facing anxiety and pressure while managing work, homeschooling and running a household
Advice: "It comes down to structure again but I find someone has to give or take and in most cases it’s the parent. Generally, I would say deal with the child first and then do your work. However, depending on the demands of your job, if you find you’re a morning person you may have to sacrifice and get up at 4 a.m. so you can push ahead your work and then focus on your child and school. You can also make bedtime earlier so that you have time for yourself later in the night. It all depends on what a person’s schedule looks like but it’s all geared towards time management. Find a schedule that works for you and your child and stick to it."
AMANDA’S PARENT TALE
Amanda shared with us a special “Parent Tale” that made a mark and shaped her unique parenting journey. "When I became a mom at 22 years old it lit a fire in my behind that couldn’t be extinguished. I wasn’t scared to be a mum but the reality came when I held him and realised that this child is mine completely. I understood clearly that I couldn’t pass him off; I couldn’t say I’m coming back. From that moment, I operated as if I was living on an island by myself. I know I have people; I know I have my family, but I’ve always operated like I was the sole person taking care of him.
I think knowing that I had to provide for him and his future lit a fire in me that I can’t really explain. I know that I always have to find a way and that’s how I’ve gotten where I am today." If you want to learn more about Amanda’s ventures check out Pickney Enterprises on Facebook and Pickney Busy Box (@pickneybusybox) and Mummy Escape Time (@mummyescapetime) on Instagram.