Finding super host families for home stay students is key for a successful home stay program. Here are the top things that the best host families do.
1. Act like a family. This may sound obvious, but you really want families who act like a family. They eat dinner together around a table (not in front of the television and not all at different times). They engage in conversation. They may not always agree, but they do listen to one another. They spend evenings and weekends together and understand the value of “family time”.
2. Know that safety and security come first. A good host family understands that it is their responsibility to keep the student they’re hosting safe and secure. This means that they set reasonable rules to help keep the student safe. This may include things like a curfew, checking in with a host parent during late excursions with friends and advice on safety in the local area such as avoiding certain areas of town. An ideal host family understands that having and following safety rules is a good thing.
3. Include the student in family life. The ideal host family thinks of their home stay student as part of the family. They include the student in dinner conversations, family outings and activities. The ideal host family never lets on that they’re being paid to host a student. Instead, they see their role as both giving and receiving. In addition to the fee they receive to billet the student, they also receive a tremendous opportunity to learn about another culture, as well as the chance to learn how to hose international guests. In turn, they give their student the opportunity to experience life as part of their own family, offering a safe place to live, support, encouragement, opportunities to learn new things in the informal setting of the family unit.
4. Know when not to include the home stay student. This may sound counter-intuitive but one difference between a good host family and a great host family is that great host families know when not to include the home stay student. They understand that while they want to make the host student feel like part of the family, they also keep in mind they they are still a guest. All families have their ups and downs. Great host families don’t burden their home stay students with things like obligatory visits to the hospital to see a terminally ill grand parent. They also avoid having heated arguments in front of the home stay student. Ideal host families shield their home stay student from distressing experiences, understanding that the student is experiencing his or her own stress from culture shock, missing their own family back home and stress from school. While it is normal for family members to disagree from time to time, the best host families understand that “domestic drama” does not make for a pleasant home stay experience.
5. Know how to have good wholesome fun. Families who do activities together such as play board games, enjoy sports, go for walks and have family gatherings such as dinners and birthday parties are ideal. Together, these create long-lasting happy and warm memories. Your best home stay families strike a balance between work (including school work), responsibilities around the house and time to relax and have some fun together as as a family. These families understand that spending time together doing fun activities creates opportunities for sharing, laughter and positive bonding. And that in the end, happy memories are the best souvenir the student can take with them when they leave.
Sample Host Family Application http://wp.me/pNAh3-fv
How to Find the Perfect Host Family http://wp.me/pNAh3-61
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.