Host Parents FAQ's
1. What are the responsibilities involved in being a homestay parent? What am I expected to provide?
The student is not a tenant. The expectation is that they will be on an equal footing with your own family, receiving the same privileges and subject to the same rules. While the homestay parent acts “in loco parentis”, the International Principal is the custodian of the student and holds authority for them.
You are expected to provide what you would make available to your own family:
- Private bedroom (bed, closet, study desk with lamp)
- Three wholesome meals a day and snacks as required
- Hot water and facilities for bathing
- Laundry (you can ask the student to do his/her own laundry using the washer and dryer in your house if you wish)
- Emotional support if the student is suffering from homesickness, difficulties at school, etc
- Academic support e.g. help with homework, communication with teachers, attendance at parent-teacher-student interviews, etc.
- Access to the common living areas of the house
- Interaction with the family members and participation in family activities
- Whenever possible, family and student should eat supper together and use the time for quality conversation.
2. How long does a student stay?
The majority of students come for one or two semesters – i.e. September–January, February-June OR September–June. Some students return for another school year and some stay several years and graduate.
3. What kinds of things should the student pay for?
- School supplies and school fees
- Personal toiletries
- All students are expected to provide their own cell phones. Alternatively, students can use telephone cards to make long distance calls. Do not allow a student to run up a bill on your account
- Medicines of all kinds
- Dental work (check Medical Coverage – some emergency procedures are covered)
- Haircuts and other personal services
- Personal entertainment and expenses
- Costs associated with participation in school-sponsored activities e.g. graduation ceremonies, school dances, extra-curricular sports, school trips, etc. Stamps, stationary, books, magazines, CDs, posters, etc.
- Costs related to renewal of student visas, travel home, etc.
4. Are the students registered for medical insurance? How and with whom?
Students are set up with insurance upon their arrival to Canada. This is done through the International Education Department. Host families and students will receive their insurance cards at the host family orientation in early September and/or February (for term 2 students).
5. What type of food should I serve?
Canadian food can be a problem for international students at first.
Eating times, table manners, utensils, methods of serving and presenting food may also be different. Many students are used to and prefer a hot breakfast and a hot lunch. Canadians eat dinner considerably earlier than many countries – some countries have their main meal at lunchtime. Many students may be completely unfamiliar with any form of food preparation.
Take your student food shopping with you, especially to the ethnic food section, and ask your student what he/she would like. Rice (or noodles) is an important part of the Asian diet; rice and beans of the Latin American diet. Have your student select the type of rice. Minute Rice or Uncle Bens is nothing like the rice with which your student is familiar. Give your student a tour of your kitchen, naming food items in the cupboards and refrigerator. Encourage your student to prepare a favourite dish for your family. Discuss with your student who prepares breakfast and lunch (sometimes the family does; sometimes the student does. If the latter, you as a homestay parent must provide the ingredients.)
6. What must be in place before the arrival of my student? Do I need a Criminal Record Check?
- Homestay Application - done on-line
- Photographs – uploaded in the application – up to 6 including:
1 x the outside of the house, 1-2 of the main living area, 1 x the student's bedroom, and 2-3 of the family.
These will be forwarded to your student and their family so they have a sense of where they will be staying.
- Criminal Record Check – specifically a VULNERABLE SECTOR CHECK – must be completed by each homestay parent and anyone else living in the home of 18 years or older.
- Homestay Agreement – Completed, signed and returned upon acceptance of a student.
- Homeowner Insurance Company – informed.
7. How do I get paid the homestay fee?
Fees are paid on the first of the month directly to the host families from the School Board Office. No security deposit is collected.
A month is calculated from the date of the student's arrival - e.g. If the student arrives August 26 and leaves on or before January or June 26, then no extra payments are involved. If the student stays after 26th of the month, then the homestay should collect for each additional day directly from the student at a per diem cost as per the Homestay Agreement – Page 6, Remuneration.
8. How are the students matched to the families? Is there any choice involved?
The Homestay Co-Ordinator reviews the student’s application and determines what their characteristics, e.g. – athletic and outdoorsy; a homebody; allergic to or afraid of animals; musical; do they come from a large family... etc.The Homestay Co-Ordinator then finds a family with similar interests and experiences. The Homestay Co-Ordinator speaks with the family and allows them time to read over the student's application which includes a description of their family, personal interests and hopes for their stay. This may be very informative or a minimal character sketch. If you agree to the placement, your family information and photos are sent to the student and their family for their review.
This is not an exact science and sometimes the match is not quite right and a student may need to be moved. This is not to be viewed as a criticism of either the homestay family or the student.
9. Can we have more than one student?
We have found that for many students and homestay families having two international students works really well. We do not place students together if they have the same first language. If a student or a homestay family wishes to be with or have two international students we try to accommodate, according to availability of student intake and suitability of family-student match.
10. How can I prepare for the arrival of my student?
- Homestays are encouraged to be in touch with the student and their family by email or Skype prior to their arrival.
- Make sure the student's room is completely ready for their arrival
- Review routines established in your household. Think about how you will explain these to your student (laundry, computer and telephone usage and timing; shared chores; homework times; meal preparation; where the snacks are and if there is anything off limits to student use)
- Consider what basic rules are most important to you (tidying up after kitchen use, cleaning, staying in touch etc) and how you will explain them to the student.
- Discuss with all members of your household the expectations and the challenges of forming a cross-cultural friendship, language barriers, and so on. Cover ways in which you can make your student feel comfortable and, if necessary, assist them with language development and understanding.
- Learn all you can about your student’s country and culture, and the kind of environment from which your student comes. Take some books out from the library about your student’s country. Undertake some internet research, find your student's town on the map, inform yourself about customs etc. Maybe check out their local cuisine and try a few recipes! Use this information as a basis of conversation to break the initial ice. You could suggest to your student before he/she arrives, that they bring with them a few favourite recipes to try together.
11. What should I do during the first few days?
- Keep your student busy but also give some time alone. Remember he/she will be jet-lagged and possibly in culture shock.
- Ensure the student Skype’s, emails or phones home soon after arrival so the parents know he/she has arrived safely. If you can, speak to the parents yourself saying how pleased you are to have their son/daughter with you.
- Introduce your student to family, friends and neighbours. Write down names to help him/her remember.
- Make sure your student has an ID card with your name, address and telephone number on it, and tell him/her to carry it at all times. Make sure they have the International Department and Homestay Coordinator's cards in their wallet.
- Take the time to learn the correct pronunciation of your student’s name.
- Teach your student how to use the phone, what your phone number is and emergency numbers
- Help your student arrange for a cell phone if he/she did not bring one with them. Help them get a plan set up – check in the student's Welcome Package for special deals with service providers. Do not have any plan attached to your own.
- Go with your student to open a bank account. Stress not to carry large amounts of money or leave it at home. Show your student how to use his/her ATM card and stress the importance of keeping the PIN number secret.
- Show girls where they can buy personal supplies.
- Go over school information with your student.
- When the student arrives, you are expected to review the Participation Guidelines with them, sign it and return. This is a good time to discuss program and house rules. Establish clearly your expectations, discuss curfew times, negotiate “lights out/computers or handhelds off” practices etc. Depending on the English comprehension level, you may want to go over the document again a few weeks later. You may wish to conduct a review anyway to discuss how things are working for both you and the student or whether any of the practices you've established could use some 'tweaking'.
- Discuss schedules for breakfast, showering, school, supper, etc.
- Show your student the route to and from school, or where to get on/off the bus.
- Have a timetable for public transportation. Explain the services. Bear in mind your student may never have traveled by public transport. If necessary, be prepared to take a trip with them around town to show them protocol and routes.
- Visit some local points of interest.
- Establish a pattern of daily conversation. Have your student help make a list of conversation topics to get through the first few weeks.
- Relax and make the student feel comfortable.
12. What involvement do I have with the school?
Encourage the timely completion of homework and check on progress. Attend meetings and parent /teacher conferences when needed. Showing an interest in your student’s progress contributes positively to his/her Canadian education experience.
Maintain contact with your student's teachers through email and be familiar with each teacher's website.
13. What kind of rules should I have for the student?
It is helpful to both student and family to create your own set of house rules
Your student is expected to follow whatever rules you have for other members of the household, age appropriate. Discuss your rules early and often, making sure your student understands the rules and the reasons for the rules. Establish reasonable consequences for breaking the rules – remember, they are children/teenagers. Rules in their country of origin may be very different with greater accessibility to nightclubs or bars etc. Students may find some rules here quite archaic and restricted. They may feel a 'double standard' is in effect in regards to drugs and alcohol, but program rules are extremely stringent regarding any violation of law.
Some guidelines and policies are as follows:
- Students must let you know where they are at all times
- Students are prohibited from using alcohol and/or drugs, and engaging in sexual activity
- Students are expected to have some light chores or assist with some duties in the home
- Students must ask ahead of time if they need rides to special events, have friends stay overnight, etc.
- Students must not be left alone overnight; adult supervision in the home must be arranged if you are away
- Students must attend school every day unless they are ill; homestay parents must inform the school if the student is ill
- Immigration Canada does not permit students to hold jobs while in Canada
14. My student and some friends want to stay overnight in a hotel (or my apartment in the city) – is this acceptable?
Absolutely not – unless the student is supervised by the host parent, or a responsible adult of at least 25 years of age who is known to and approved by the host family. “Sleepovers” of any kind are subject to the rules as stated in the Homestay Agreement
15. Can my student miss school to go skiing if their natural parents approve?
16. What should I do if my student flagrantly disobeys the house rules?
Contact the Homestay Co-Ordinator. The situation will be reviewed carefully with the homestay family and student. A plan of action will be enacted in writing. If the student continues to disregard certain rules, he/she could be placed on probation – the final step before possibly being sent home.
17. What do I do if, despite everything I've tried, the student does not fit in well with our household?
This happens very seldom, but it does happen. We encourage you to let the Homestay Co-Ordinator know as soon as you can if you are having difficulties. If after reviewing the situation it is felt the difficulties cannot be resolved, we will move the student.
18. What about family holidays?
We encourage families to include their student on family excursions and holidays wherever possible. If this is not possible, we suggest private arrangements be made with a friend of the family or a family with a friend of your international student. Please let the Homestay Co-ordinator and the school know of these arrangements.
19. We go over the border quite frequently – can the student come with us?
Contact the International Department well ahead of the time you plan to go. Students from countries that are not part of the Visa Waiver Program with the US, may require a visa. If you are flying, an ESTA form must be filled out – information can be found at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.
20. My student wants to stay after their school term has ended – is this okay?
No, this is not permitted. The student must leave at the end of their term (unless the natural parents are coming to pick up the student within a day or two).
21. What activities are planned by the School District?
The International Department has an Activities Co-ordinator who organizes activities or trips to enhance the students' “Canadian experience” - eg TreeTops Adventures, Fright Nights at the PNE, a Canucks game, kayaking, whale watching etc.
Homestay families are encouraged to take their students on excursions that expose them to Canadian culture and compliment their (and the family's interests) – e.g. The Aquarium, Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Anthropology (many students want to see totem poles), trips to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, local museums, riding around the seawall, shopping & a meal in Chinatown, Little India, Little Italy, Granville Island, Metrotown, etc.
22. Am I expected to drive the student everywhere?
Take as a rule of thumb the question “what would I do if this was my own child?”. Unfortunately for us as good parents, sometimes the answer is not convenient to ourselves, but we make a decision based on the healthy and safe upbringing of our children. This would apply to your student. Safety and well-being is paramount.
Help your student to attend activities – as with most children, the busier and more engaged they are in meaningful activity, the less likely to fall into troubles.
23. What's the difference between the Homestay Agreement and the Participation Guidelines?
The Homestay Agreeement is a document laying out expectations for the Homestay Family. It is sent to a family when they have agreed to accept a student to their home. It is completed, signed & returned to the Homestay Coordinator's assistants.
The Participation Guidelines is a document laying out expectations for the students during their term with the program. It is signed by the student, their natural family and their agent in their home country. It is then reviewed by the homestay family with the student, and signed again by the student with the homestay.
The two documents are separate, but complimentary.