Starting a family and having children doesn’t mean you have to give up on your prior dreams of teaching English abroad. The opportunities to learn, grow and make a global difference are open to your whole family, though each family member will have a different experience.
Teaching abroad can be a cultural and educational experience for the entire family and there's absolutely no reason why you should think you can't teach abroad with a family. You will, of course, have a few extra things to consider that solo teachers don't, but don't let that stop you. Here's everything you need to know before teaching abroad with your family -- including how to make it a smooth transition for everyone.
Why Teach Abroad With Your Family
As you'll soon read, there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when teaching abroad with a family. You might wonder: is it worth it?
Here are some of the reasons that teaching abroad with a family can be a great choice for your family (with the right perparation!).
1. It's Probably More Affordable
Although this may not be the case in all popular teach abroad destinations, it’s certainly true for many. For example, the cost of living in Taiwan, especially outside of Taipei, is incredibly reasonable -- as are the salary expectations for ESL teachers in Taiwan.
Keep in mind, however, that every country and every school offers different salaries and benefits. Before committing to a teach abroad destination, it's important to research the salaries, benefits, and overall cost and quality of living so you can pick the job and destination that’s right for you and your family. For example, most schools in Asia pay enough for one person to live comfortably. Some also provide accommodations -- but only for single teachers. Even so, many of those schools are willing to give housing allowances and assistance for teachers who need something bigger for their families. In other teach abroad destinations, like jobs for teaching in the Middle East benefits for you to bring your entire family are commonplace.
2. You Will Have Opportunities to Travel
It's no secret that teaching jobs anywhere mean great vacation time due to school/class schedules; there is no exception with teaching jobs abroad. All schools give their employees a certain amount of vacation days and personal leave. You can also expect national holidays off, depending on the country you're teaching in.
Every school is different in the amount of vacation time they give their employees, but you can still expect some pretty good time off and use that time to travel around with your family. You can explore your new home country, or journey internationally to explore the new region you're living in.
Another great thing about teaching English abroad with a family is that you can invite other members of your family from your home country to visit!
3. You Become a Tighter Family Unit
You should be confident of your reasons to make this big life change with your family. Are you doing it to make a better life for your family? Are you doing it for an immersive cultural experience?
You also need to make sure this is something your whole family wants to do. Include your children in the discussion by having them think about what they can learn by living in another country. Ask your children what kind of activities they would like to pursue in the new country.
Since you'll be far away from your families, your family will become very self-sufficient. Furthermore, living abroad empowers you as a family to face language barriers, culture shock, new ideas, and lifestyle changes together, and you can adapt in ways that work for you and your family -- especially since what might be the norm in your host country may not correlate easily with your own values and preferences for raising a family.
These are just a few of the reasons that teaching abroad might be right for your family. There are many more you'll likely experience first-hand once you're there, too!
How to Introduce Your Family to a New Language & Culture
Out of all our reasons for teaching English abroad with a family, the opportunity to immerse your whole family in a foreign culture and language is one of the most valuable. It’s such a great experience to share with your family -- especially children, who soak up new words and cultural tidbits like a sponge just by being around them.
Even if you do make an effort to have a globally aware family at home, it still doesn't compare to learning the language and culture in your daily activities, through your co-workers and new community abroad, and classes.
If language and cultural immersion are one of your priorities, ask your co-workers if there are any language classes or tutors they would recommend once you've settled in. You can also network on online forums or sites; here on Go Overseas, there are loads of language learning resources to get you started.
6 (Other) Things to Consider Before Teaching Abroad with Your Family
If you're feeling sold on the idea of teaching abroad, here are a few other considerations to keep in mind as you plan this big transition.
If your children are too young for school, you’ll want to consider who will take care of them while you’re teaching. In most countries, you can hire an affordable nanny to come to your home while you’re away.
Seek advice from coworkers and friends when it comes time to finding one, but be aware that language barriers will likely exist. On the other hand, this language barrier could work as a benefit as young children will have the opportunity to quickly learn the local language from his/her caregiver.
If your child is of school age, you’ll want to think through the various options for education.
If you’re a qualified teacher in your home country, you're fit to teach at an international school where most benefits packages will include free tuition for your dependents. If you’re planning to teach at a government school or a language institution, you’ll have to consider other options such as homeschool and online courses, or simply enrolling them at the school where you’ll work. Ask the hiring staff what others in your situation have done in the past, and seek their suggestions.
3. Language Barriers
If your children are younger than five, they’ll probably pick up the local language quite quickly just by playing outside with the neighbor kids. If they’re much older, say, teenagers, you’ll want to question if this will be an issue. Ask them about their interest in learning the language and decide if language lessons are a necessary component to your travels. This will be a primary issue especially if you plan to enroll them in a public institution where only the local language is spoken.
4. Living Arrangements
In countries where housing is provided by the institution, they’ll likely work with you to accommodate a larger than normal space for your family. Nevertheless, it's important to prepare your family -- especially children -- to understand how they may not have as much space to themselves as they have previously had.
If the school doesn’t provide accommodation, you’ll want to do lots of research on the local arrangements nearby, and public transportation within the city.
5. Leisure activities
It’s important to consider how your children will spend their free time in a culture vastly different from their own. Do they want to take up Tai Kwon Do lessons, learn to play the guitar, focus on learning the language? Will they put up a fight if they're unable to keep up with their favorite sports and hobbies abroad?
It will likely take time for them to make friends and settle in, and you don’t want boredom to interfere with the experience in a negative light. Speak with them about how they want to fill their downtime, and urge them to do their own research on things to do in the country. Encourage them to look at this as an opportunity to grow in unexpected ways, and potentially have an incredible, life-changing experience.
6. Money & Finances
Some countries like South Korea or China might pay well enough to comfortably care for you and your family, but salaries in other places, such as Europe and South America make saving for unexpected expenses or supporting children much more difficult. Make sure you weigh your potential salary against the local cost of living and other financial situations before you go.
Ready to Teach Abroad with Your Family?
As a traveler, you know living in another country can be difficult. As a parent, you know moving your children abroad will be even more so! In the end, it will be worth it to watch your children grow and explore the world in ways they could never have back home, and you'll be able to continue your teaching career abroad, helping other students gain language skills, too.
This article is a consolidated version of two previous articles, contributed by Jessica Hill & Whitney Zahar. They were originally published in 2014, and this version was updated in 2018.