You’re determined to not become “those” parents—the ones that lose themselves (and their whole identity) once a bouncing baby comes lovingly bumbling into their lives. We all know the type. They’re great people, they’re great guides and mentors for their children, but let’s be honest… they’re a tad, well, boring.
Not you. You’re COOL parents. You hang out at breweries in the afternoon. Your kid reads books like “A is for Activism,” “Rad Women Worldwide,” or “I Am Malala.” You think there’s no better teacher than the world itself, and are determined to have your little ones speaking multiple languages before the age of five.
The traveling lifestyle doesn’t have to be retired once you have children, and one way to sustain this lifestyle is through teaching abroad. You can absolutely teach abroad with your kids. In fact, they’ll be better for it—not to mention it has a way of bonding a family like few other things in life. To all the future moms and dads considering packing up their lives (and their kids) to move abroad in pursuit of the life of an ESL teacher, this one is for you.
1. Since you’re supporting more than just yourself, consider working in a country with higher ESL teacher salaries.
First things first: a TEFL job will be more suitable for your financial prospects than a TEFL internship. Stick to countries East Asia or the Middle East to really thrive with a stable income as an ESL teacher. Avoid locations like Spain, Latin America, and Africa where your wages will provide less opportunities for savings (even for individuals).
2. Don’t come abroad if you’re having financial troubles.
Now is probably not the time to throw caution to the wind or do a “traditional” rain dance for free money. As well as a high salary, you’ll need to be more financially secure than your average TEFLer. That means having at least 3-6 months of salary tucked away as your “in case of emergency” fund. If you really want to be a total financial superstar, you’ll also have a healthy “things and expenses we forgot to plan for” fund—because they’re inevitable when you move abroad.
In summary: You can’t afford money troubles abroad as a family.
3. Steer clear of job opportunities that provide accommodation as part of the salary package.
It might seem like an excellent perk at first glance, but it really isn’t a great option for TEFLers heading abroad with their kids in tow. Oftentimes, “included housing” means you’ll be living with other teachers–not great for a family who needs a bit more space and independence.
Aim for jobs offering housing assistance rather than provision. You need to choose accommodation carefully to suit your family needs.
4. If you thought coordinating visas was complex before, get ready.
Truth be told, visa paperwork will be even more complicated when you’re teaching English abroad with your family. It’s not impossible, but you shouldn’t expect the process to be smooth… or quick. Prepare PLENTY of time in advance of your TEFL adventure.
5. Consider your children’s unique needs based on their age.
Are your children of school age? How do you plan to school them? If you’re a homeschooler (#madrespect), recognize that certain materials or equipment might not be readily available abroad—meaning you’ll have to forego the badass science project, bring your own supplies from home, or find local alternatives that are still educational.
If your children are younger, you’ll have to take a couple of other steps. Medicines might be hard to come by, for instance. And, you’ll need to carefully plan an appropriate childcare budget. Which leads us to our next point…
6. Some TEFL jobs require you to work odd hours.
Your teaching role needs to fit well with available childcare options. Some TEFL teachers are expected to do early morning or evening lessons for private school or language school students, and weekends are sometimes contracted too. Look carefully for a job to suit your family commitments.
7. Some TEFL destinations require immunizations.
Most parents are comfortable handing their own medical preparation for travel, but are you willing to do the same for your young children? Some folks aren’t so keen to have their kids inoculated, which could create limitations in the destinations suitable for your family to teach and work abroad. Research what vaccines are needed for your family’s preferred teaching destination and determine if the shots and immunizations are worth it.
8. You might have a bit of a harder time finding a job.
Unfortunately—and this is changing—some schools or programs are not equipped for working with international families instead of individuals. Most of the time, this comes down to simple experience: If they haven’t done it before, it can be a scary new prospect (particularly when young children are involved). However, teaching positions are evolving and more schools are keen to obtain top talent no matter the package, be it couples, families, etc. So don’t lose hope!
That being said, TEFL job rejections aren’t uncommon—even for those flying solo. You’re in the minority as a family on a TEFL adventure so be proactive but don’t give up, and don’t take rejection personally.
9. You can’t take your support groups with you.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could take ALL of your favorite people and loved ones into joining you on this grand TEFL adventure? In a perfect world, your support group and network would tag along with you, but sadly, this isn’t usually the case. You’ll have to do the work to create new social circles for yourself and your family. Starting fresh is the perfect time to do this, and rest easy knowing that there are large expat networks that already exist in most places. Prepare for creating a new support network by researching social groups and reaching out to expat communities already living in the area.
10. Test the waters with a quick vaca.
There’s only so much insight a YouTube video, Netflix binge, or books about a given destination can give a person who has never visited. If you can afford a holiday to this destination in advance, why not splurge on a quick getaway from the whole gang first? There’s no better way to “test out” a potential destination to move to than to visit it and experience with your own first.
11. The secret sauce to a successful TEFL transition? TIME.
Time is your friend. A great friend! Plan to prepare at least six months in advance of your ideal departure for teaching abroad. This will give the chance to make considered decisions, plan way in advance, research the best job that suits your family, and to be realistic about what your life abroad will entail (not just the fun, romantic stuff, but the inevitable tough stuff, too).
You’re ready to teach abroad as a family!
The road to a sweet international life with your kids might not be a smooth one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely worth the extra effort. Be ultra-cool, improve your prospects for the “Parents of the Year” Award, show your kids the world, and grow in new and exciting ways when you teach abroad as a family.