Monday 10 November 2008

Bringing Your Kids When You Teach Abroad

Updated 17 December 2012

There are lots of advantages of bringing your family with you when you teach abroad. Your children will learn the language, culture, customs, and broaden their perspectives. However, there are practical matters to take into consideration before planning the big move. 30 days to move abroad is a great resource to help you make the big move. ISR has a good article about Family Friendly Schools and Dave's ESL Cafe has some good advice about supporting a family abroad.

Teaching Jobs: Money, Perks, and Benefits Most teaching jobs pay enough for you to live off of while teaching English abroad but you will have to carefully consider which country you're going to go to if you're going to bring your family. What's the best country to teach English in? It'll be much easier if you choose a country where salaries are high and then you can supplement your income with private classes or perhaps working overtime.

Supplement your teaching salary has some more ideas on how to make extra money. If you're a licensed teacher you should be able to get a job teaching at an international school. Fulbright and Georgetown offer teaching fellowships and exchanges which also offer good benefits. If your partner works it'll be easier to make ends meet.

In general the countries that pay the most are Hong Kong, Korea, the Middle East, and Taiwan. That being said, if you can land a good TEFL job in China you might be able to live better there because of the low cost of living. You’ll also need to consider medical insurance, pension, maternity leave, bonuses, sick pay, professional development, housing allowance, shipping allowance, and flight allowance when relocating with a family. Some employers cover part or all of your medical expenses and they might make contributions towards your pension.  

Giving Birth Abroad
Don't think that just because your child is born abroad they will automatically get citizenship from that country. Most countries have jus sanguinis laws means that citizenship is passed down through descent. There are only a few countries that have jus soli (meaning that citizenship is based on being born there) rules. There are 30 out of 194 countries and hopefully these countries will become jus sanguinis because having jus soli laws mean that many people abuse them. Many of these 30 countries, such as the UK and Canada have exceptions, such as having to live there legally for a couple years there in order for the baby to get citizenship as well. Unfortunately, the US doesn't do this, which leads to mothers flying halfway across the world just to pop out a baby and get US citizenship and hope that the baby will later sponsor them once they become 18. You can find some good info about US and Canadian citizenship info at this link about babies born in Peru. Your 

Children's Education Education is a big concern for parents overseas. Finding books and toys can be harder than if you're at home. Some places have toy lending libraries. Here's an example of some in the US. Some parents want their kids to learn the local language. Age is an important factor as to whether they will become fluent or not. Read how age affects language learning for more info. There are many choices for schooling: international schools, local schools, homeschooling, or a combination. If you have a special ed child, try reading Going International with Special Needs Children.

International Schools: Although there are plenty of international schools fees are usually out of reach for many English teachers. However, if you can get a job at an international school you might be able to get free or discounted rates for your children to study there.  

Local Schools: If international schools are beyond your reach, don’t worry there are plenty of great local schools out there. Just be sure to ask around for recommendations and visit the school a couple of times before enrolling your child there. Keep in mind that if your child doesn’t speak the local language he or she will need time to adjust. Remember the older the child the more difficult it is to adjust.  

Homeschooling: Another option would be to homeschool but that would mean one parent would have to stay home. Unschooling is becoming a possiblity as well. Take a look at Family on Bikes and Homeschooling on the Road. Make sure that the homeschooling programme is valid and recognised by your home country. Read what Zen Habits says what kids aren't learning in schools. A good book is, "And what about College?: How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions to the Best Colleges and Universities."

Here are some recommended resources.
Combination:You could try a combination of traditional schooling and homeschooling. That way your child could integrate more into the society, as well as learn the language and make friends, and you could still educate your child. Take a look at what Maya Frost did in her book, The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education. All her children graduated from university at age 19 or 20. You could also look into study abroad in high school. Rotary International has lots of good, affordable programmes. You might also try reading College Without High School: A Teenager's Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College by Blake Boles.

US Taxes: You might be able to take a deduction or get a credit depending on your situation. Try looking at Form 8812 and Publication 972 (child tax) as well as Form 2441 and Publication 503 (Childcare).  

Where to Live Abroad With Your Family
Some schools will get you housing, but it might not be big enough for your family. Ask your employer about housing for your family or if they give a housing allowance of some sort. All countries can be good for raising kids, but some may be easier than others. Many people like countries in Asia and Africa for their vastly different lifestyle. Others prefer the Middle East for the amenities. Still others prefer Europe or South America. No matter where you go, you're bound to encounter some difficulties as well as adventures.  

Visas For Your Family
Once you get a visa it should be no problem for you to get dependent visas for your children. Ask your school about visas before you go and it’s always better to have the visa in your passport before you arrive. Be wary of those schools that want you to enter on a tourist visa or a work visa and say that they will get you a work visa after you arrive. If you're going to teach in the Middle East ask if your children will be able to come with you at the same time. Taking your children to different parts of the world is one of the perks of teaching abroad with kids. Soul Travelers 3 and Thorn Tree Forum have more advice about travelling with kids.

This article has been published in the Turkish University Press.



  1. You didn't mention Vietnam in this Post. Do you have any specific information about how 'dependent child (teenager)' friendly Vietnam is? Thank you.

  2. If your child is a teenager, you'll have to consider schooling. International schools are very expensive and without knowledge of Vietnamese, it would be difficult for them to go to local schools. If you plan on homeschooling, it could work. Asia in general is pretty child friendly, so if you go with a plan you should be ok.


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