Hi Go Overseas!
My husband and I have been looking into teaching abroad, but we have a four year old son. We're wondering if it's possible to teach abroad as a family. If so, which countries would be best for us to look into? I've read that some companies will arrange housing and flights for their teachers and I'm not sure how that works for teachers with families. What's your advice?
- Confused with kids
In recent years, social media has become flooded with the idea of living life in your twenties before you settle down, buy a house, have kids, and can never travel or leave home again. While some of us may follow this path (including myself), life doesn't always work like that. The adventure isn't over when you have kids, and for some families like mine growing up, travel doesn't really come into the picture until after your kids are born.
Having children should never hold you back from traveling and pursuing your dreams, and many countries and schools agree.
So to answer your question: yes, it is entirely possible to teach abroad with kids.
However, when you're teaching with kids, some countries are a bit more family-friendly than others.
However, if you're planning on moving your family abroad there are many things to keep in mind. Some destinations are better than others for teaching with a family, and certain countries have significantly better benefits.
Countries to Consider for Teaching Abroad
With teaching abroad positions scattered around the globe, it's hard to know where to begin. However, when you're teaching with kids, some countries are a bit more family-friendly than others.
Firstly, you can rule out any country with a low salary. While you may make enough money to support yourself, teacher salaries in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, and most of South America are not enough to cover both you and your child. Due to salary alone, you can narrow your country choices down to countries in East Asia and the Middle East.
In my opinion, the best countries for teaching English with a family are the UAE and China, followed by Saudi Arabia. Taiwan is another good option.
While South Korea and Japan are very popular teaching destinations, they might not be as suitable for families, especially if you have school-aged children. While programs like JET and EPIK allow dependents, they don't let participants choose where they will be placed. If you have school-aged children, this could be tough and you will very likely be looking at sending your kids to a local school.
If you decide to work for a training academy instead, you'll be working mostly nights and weekends and you'll miss out on quality time with your family -- unless, of course, you have young children and prefer this schedule.
Teach abroad with kids in China
The ESL industry in China is booming, as more and more Chinese families and businesses press for English education. The market in China is much less saturated than Japan and South Korea, giving teachers a lot of options. Let's just say the demand far outweighs the supply!
I've been living in China for about three years now, and I know of many families that have relocated. There are incredible international schools in many of China's cities, nannies or "ayi"s in China are extremely affordable, and many jobs will provide larger apartments for families and couples.
For certified teachers, there are a plethora of jobs at international schools where you can teach English language classes or other subjects in English. These schools will often let your kids attend for free or at a discounted rate.
To top it all off, Chinese is an extremely in-demand language. Give your kids a leg up in life and teach them Chinese at a young age!
If you're interested, you can look for recruiters and teaching jobs in China.
Teach abroad with kids in the UAE
If you have prior teaching experience, the UAE may be the best place to teach abroad with a family. Teacher salaries in the UAE tend to be high paying and come with full benefits for both ESL teachers and their families. Additionally, many schools have 2-3 year contracts with yearly bonuses.
An added benefit that also draws many ESL teachers to UAE is the fact that most teaching jobs provide multi-room apartments and a stipend for children's private schools. Because of these provisions, many teachers are able to save a large portion of their salary.
Teaching jobs in the UAE also typically include health insurance and a housing allowance as well as education and visa support for dependents, flights to your home country for summer break, and contract completion bonus of one month's salary per year worked.
If you're interested, you can look for recruiters and teaching jobs in the UAE.
Teach abroad with kids in Saudi Arabia
Teachers in Saudi Arabia receive most of the benefits of those who teach in the UAE. Schools will typically provide housing for teachers, although accommodations can range anywhere from spacious, furnished apartments to shared dorm rooms at hostel-style boarding houses. Make sure that your housing arrangement is clearly spelled out in your contract prior to accepting an offer, in order to avoid getting stuck in a housing situation that you're not comfortable with.
That said, if you find a good position, your school in Saudi Arabia will most likely provide full benefits for you and your family.
The culture is also something you'll need to be aware of if you take your kids to Saudi Arabia. Living in Saudi Arabia with children can be a great educational experience on tolerance and inclusiveness. However, older children may have a harder time adjusting to Saudi Arabia than in the UAE.
If you're interested, you can look for recruiters and teaching jobs in the Saudi Arabia.
Other Factors to Consider
Before you move your entire family to another country, here are some other factors to consider. Moving abroad can be a big leap for everyone, so it is especially important to know what you're getting yourself into if you plan to bring a family along.
1. Salary and benefits
While I already mentioned that East Asia and the Middle East tend to have the best teacher salaries, your salary and benefits may vary depending on the country. You can find jobs teaching English in China that pay anywhere from $800 to $4,500 USD a month depending on your experience.
Is your "free apartment" a studio in the teachers building on campus, or will your school provide you a two-bedroom flat? These are all questions you need to ask.
Learn more about teacher salaries with our salary guides:
2. Where will your kids study?
Are you kids in school? Some countries will allow young children to go to public school in the local language but in other places, this is not allowed. Attending public school may not be possible for other reasons like the language barrier. If a child is in middle school, it's pretty improbable that he or she can just catch onto the language having never learned it before.
You'll need to do research on not only the quality of schools in your area, but also the cost. For example, one mom teaching in UAE didn't have her child's education covered by her employer, and it was a major expense.
She explains that expat children in the UAE are not allowed to attend public schools, and must attend private institutions whose tuition ranges from $4,000 - $10,000 USD per year. While some schools offer a 5-10% discount for siblings, this is still a major expense.
3. Your work schedule
Some countries have more demanding schedules than others, and different schools demand different types of hours. If you have kids, my suggestion is to get a job at a public or private school rather than at an English training academy. This way you'll be able to work during the day, and have your evenings and weekends free for your children.
4. Health insurance
Does your company provide health insurance for you, and can it be extended to your children? If you need to purchase insurance for your child, how much will this cost? It might not be the first thing on your mind, but it can be a deal-breaker. Keep your kids safe and make sure they're insured for the entirety of their stay abroad.
5. Visas and legal issues
While some countries like China are lax about working on an official visa, you'll need to be working legally if you want to take your children along. Can your school provide a dependency visa for your children? Do you need to purchase this yourself?
If you are a single parent, be sure to obtain written permission from the other parent or at least speak with an attorney before taking your child abroad. It is very important to be sure you're not breaking any divorce or settlement agreements so that you don't run into any legal issues while you're abroad.
6. What will your partner do?
If you are married or in a committed relationship, what is your partner's plan? Does he or she want to teach abroad with you? In that case, you'll need to communicate with the school and see if both of you can take on a position. You can also work in a city that will allow you to teach at different schools nearby one another.
Does your partner have a non-education related job? You'll need to find a position that will give you control in where you work so that your partner can also get to his or her job.
If you and your partner are unmarried, this may pose a problem in some countries, especially if you are trying to file for a spousal visa. Be sure to chat with your school and see if this is an issue.
What Are You Waiting For?
While teaching abroad with children isn't quite as easy as teaching abroad solo, it's far from impossible. I'm a firm believer that living abroad is an incredible experience for children. Your kids will soak up the local language while becoming more accepting and open-minded. To be frank, teaching abroad is probably one of the best things you can do for your kids!Photo Credit: Tim Snell, Jens Oliver Meiert, You Yi, CharlesFred, Gregory Sujkowski, Alfredo Hernandez, Pham Thi Dieu Linh, Giannis Choulakis, and Creative Stall.