Just because you have children doesn’t mean you have to forsake your dream of teaching abroad. With some knowledge and planning, the opportunity to learn, grow and make a global difference is open to your dependents too!
If you have a spouse/partner who wants to teach as well, why not both consider getting a job? Teaching abroad can be a cultural and educational experience for your whole family. You’ll have a few extra things to consider that solo teachers won’t, but the experience will be well worth it. Here are some things you need to know before moving your children across the globe:
If your children are too young for school, give some thought to who will take care of them while you’re teaching. Hiring a nanny to come to your home is an available option in most countries. Talk to your coworkers and friends when it’s time to look for one, but be aware that language barriers can and do exist. A language barrier can actually be a benefit as your children will have the chance to quickly learn the local language from his/her caregiver. Another option is to ask the hiring staff at your new school what other families in your situation have done in the past and get their suggestions.
Daycare may also be possible either at the school where you are teaching or at an outside centre. During the hiring process, ask the Director or Principal what options are available and what the associated costs are. Many families put their children in childcare that is offered in the local language, giving them the opportunity to learn the language quickly. There will be an adjustment period for both you and your children, so if it is possible to arrive early to give your children time to go to daycare for half days, try to arrange this.
If your children are school age, consider the options for their education. If you’re a qualified teacher in your home country, you’re qualified to teach at an international school where most benefit packages include free tuition for your dependents. At government schools or language institutions, you’ll need to consider other options such as homeschooling, online education, or enrolment in the school where you’ll be working. Again, ask the hiring staff at your new school what other families in your situation have done in the past and get their suggestions.
3. Language Barriers
Children younger than five years of age pick up the local language very quickly just by playing outside with other kids in the neighbourhood. If you have teenagers, ask them how they feel about learning a new language. This will help you decide if language is an issue and whether or not you’ll need to consider language lessons as part of your travel plans. This is an especially important issue to work through if you’re planning to enroll them in a public school where only the local language is spoken.
“Kids will be kids” is true not just in Canada and the United States, but in other countries as well. The same holds true for bullying. If your children are enrolled in a local school, they could be the only foreign students there. This means they’ll look and behave differently from what local children are accustomed to. Bullying could arise, so talk with your kids before you go about the risks and develop a plan of action with them that they can follow if the situation does develop.
5. Living Arrangements
If your accommodation is provided by your new school, make sure you prepare them in advance so they’ll provide you with a large enough space for your family. If your new school doesn’t provide accommodation, do some research on the local arrangements nearby and on the status of public transportation.
6. Leisure Activities
Remember to give some thought to what your kids will do in their spare time in a culture that will no doubt be quite different from their own. Will they want to take Taekwondo lessons, learn to play the guitar or focus on learning the language? How will they handle being unable to participate in their favourite sports and hobbies from home when they’re abroad?
Be aware it can take some time for your children to make friends and settle in. You don’t want boredom to cast a negative shadow on this exciting new global experience, so speak with them about how they’ll want to fill their downtime. Urge them to do their own research on things they can do in the new country, and encourage them to look at the venture as an opportunity to grow in unexpected ways and have a unique, life-changing experience!
Some countries pay well enough to comfortably care for you and your family, but other countries’ salaries may make saving for unexpected expenses or supporting children more difficult. Take some time to weigh your potential salary against the local cost of living and other financial situations before you go.
Are You Ready to Make the Move?
Living abroad (especially when you have children) can have its challenges, but as Robert Frost said, “The hardest things in life are the ones worth doing.” It is highly unlikely that the experience will be one any of your family members regrets; just remember to allow ample time for preparation. In the end, it will be so worthwhile to sit back and watch your children grow and explore the world in ways they never could have at home.