Homestay is when students spend time studying at a school abroad but rather than live on campus or in a hostel, stay with a local host family where – it is hoped – they will learn more English.
Homestays are most popular in English speaking countries: the UK, US, Australia and so on and many schools offer options to their students to stay with local families while they’re attending lessons. One estimate suggests that one third of foreign students in the US are staying with families to help with their English.
And the kind of students taking up homestay places vary massively; there is simply no typical homestay student (or guest, if you like) with all ages, races, nationalities and so on.
This article looks at homestays from the point of view of TEFL teachers. As a teacher, is homestay tutoring for you?
Homestay (or host) families come in all shapes and sizes: “traditional” families (mother + father + 2.5 kids); single-parent families; couples; retirees and so on. Occasionally there are single people hosting a student as well but these tend to be females hosting another female. So regardless of your personal circumstances the chances are you will be able to offer homestay.
At one end of the spectrum, some homestays will offer accommodation, half-board, and company in the evening. At the other end, others will offer full-board and bring the guest into the bosom of the family and involve them in free-time outings, activities with the family and so on. Again, how far you want to go is up to you.
As for prices, homestay families charge varying amounts depending where they are located and what they offer. A homestay in the center of New York, for example, will charge much more than a homestay in some remote farmhouse in the middle of Wisconsin. Likewise you can charge extra if you do an airport pickup and take the guest on excursions. You can even charge extra if you can offer a private bathroom for the guest.
Being a TEFL teacher you’ll be able to give (depending on what the guest signed up for) between 10 – 30 hours of tuition per week. Obviously the more hours you give, the more you will charge. As you can imagine, these are essentially just like private lessons.
So with so many variables it’s not really possible to give a good idea of how much you will get paid for hosting a guest. Instead you should check out some of the homestay agencies in your area and they will be able to give you figures for local circumstances.
But as a very rough guide, in Australia you could expect to start at around $800 AUD per month; in the UK about £500 per month; in the US around $700 per month.
Qualifications for Homestay Tutors
It’s not normally possible to offer homestay and lessons unless you have at least a TEFL certificate (e.g. the ICAL TEFL Certificate). Some organizations will also look for:
- a degree (often, but not always)
- TEFL experience
- family home
- excellent accommodation for the homestay student
- police check
At this point it must be said that some (many?) agencies will also look at your family circumstances. A heterosexual couple with kids vs a gay couple… you can see where this is going.
Pros & Cons of Hosting
- extra income
- a chance to learn about other cultures
- less official paperwork as lessons are essentially private lessons
- if you get a boring guest it can be very tiresome
- you just may not get on with the guest
- sometimes it’s nice to be alone in your house!
There can also be cultural clashes depending on where the guest comes from. Points of contention include:
- smoking and/or drinking – what’s wrong with smoking in my bedroom?
- pets in the house – surely it’s unclean to have a dog in the kitchen?
- arrangements – why do I need to tell you that I decided not to come home to eat the meal you’ve spent ages preparing?
- gender roles – men doing the washing up?!
Homestay for TEFL Teachers
On the other side of the coin, there are also homestay arrangements where TEFL teachers stay in foreign countries and offer English lessons in exchange for board and lodging. You may spend, for example, 15 hours per week teaching the children of a family and in exchange stay and eat with the family in Italy or some other country.
There are a number of companies online which arrange this kind of deal but they can charge quite a lot for this service, well over $1500 USD (€1187, £954) just to arrange the hosting.
Private English Lessons – how to get them and teach them