Questions & Answers…Preparing To Host A Student

First, I will say that it was not my idea to write a question/answer post but I thought it was an excellent idea from The Ann Arbor Exchange. The following questions come from them. This is their second year hosting a student so they included how their previous expectations actually worked with their first student and what changes they will be making with this year’s student. For this post though, I only have my current expectations to go on. Maybe after we have had our student for awhile I can revisit this to see if my expectations were reasonable.

So the idea behind these questions, is to evaluate your expectations before you choose a student. If you know the answers to these questions then when you receive student profiles you can compare common interests and look for red flags that might affect your family. This may help you avoid major conflicts throughout the time your student is a part of your family.

1. Is your family religious? How would you feel about hosting a student with a different religion? No religion? Can you commit to transporting a religious child to services if they are a regular attendee? Can you provide a quiet, distraction-free place for prayer if this is needed? If you are a non-religious family these questions are just as important!

144185625539529204_KGDI6yf4_cAbsolutely! While we don’t necessarily use the word religious to define ourselves, that is how most other people would define us. We are Christians. We go to a Baptist church. Our faith in God defines who we are and how we live our daily lives. We read our Bibles, we pray, we worship, we attend church services and activities throughout the week.

Although it would be easier to host a student with no religion, we would be okay with hosting a student with a different religion. We will ask our student to visit our church services and activities but we will not force her to come if she chooses not to. The youth group at our church will be very welcoming and would be a great way to meet friends since the majority of them go to the same high school. Also, there are 3-4 exchange student host families who attend our church and our hope is that they will be more comfortable here if they spend time with the other students and families.

 It would be difficult to transport a student to and from services of a different religion if they were during days/times that conflict with our schedules or own church services. If our student desires to attend services at another church or religious place, we would more than likely require that she makes transportation arrangements with someone whom we have met and who we are comfortable with driving her. If she chooses to pray privately, she will have her room to do so.

We have not brought up religion in our emails with Noriko but according to her profile she has no religion. We know from our experience living in Okinawa, Japan that Shintoism and Buddhism are the most common religions there and that one or both of them will probably have influenced her belief system whatever that may be.

2. Is your family active? Do you want a student who will be open to being active?

Shane is active. I am not. I do not think that this will be a problem for our family. If she is active, we will find avenues (like school or community sports) for her to be a part of.

3. Are you financially ready to provide three meals and snacks? Can you pay for school activities or will the student? How will you handle expenses? Will you work with the natural parents ahead of time to decide on the student’s allowance? Will the student give you cash? Or will you have them pay for an equivalent dollar amount of things?

We do not feel that adding one more person to feed will be that much of an added expense. We tend to cook enough to have left overs. Our girls are hit or miss as to whether they will eat a whole meal or not. And I try to save money by buying produce through a co-op and couponing (not extreme couponing) as I am able too. Our exchange organization requires that the student will have a $300.00 (or more) per month allowance. This money is for the student to pay for all school and extracurricular expenses. If she chooses to buy lunch at school, that will be her expense also. We personally will require her to have a cell phone and she will be responsible for paying the monthly bill. When the student arrives we will set up a savings account with a debit card at our local bank. We will also help the student budget her money so that she does not over spend and so that she plans ahead for larger expenses that she may have while here.

4. What are your family’s unspoken rules? Being aware of these is imperative – an exchange student will not simply intuit them.

The biggest one that I can think of is that Shane is military and his schedule is always changing. We as a family need to be respectful and understanding if he needs extra sleep, will leave for work extra early, will get home extra late, or will be away from home for days, weeks, or months.

Because we have never had a teenager live with us, there may be things that come to our attention along the way. I think we need to be somewhat flexible but if something starts to bother us (that wasn’t already mentioned as a “rule”) that we should explain it to the student tactfully.

5. What are your expectations for school? Chores? Technology? Dating? Social stuff? Curfew?

This question is a little hard for us since we have never had teenagers. So, I think there may be some learning on our part as to what is appropriate for our student. If something comes up that we are unsure of, we have several friends that we can go to for teen parenting advice 🙂 But here are some initial thoughts…

Our exchange organization requires that students maintain a C or higher in all classes. I feel that this is reasonable but will highly encourage Noriko to do her very best to get A’s and B’s. If she brings home C’s I will more than likely be talking to the teachers and arranging tutoring.

We do not really have set chores. Shane and I do what needs to be done as needed. We take turns when we can but more often than not, I take care of indoor chores and he takes care of outdoor chores. I asked Noriko what chores she likes to do and she said she likes to do dishes and vacuuming. It will be easy to set up a schedule for her to help with each of these. As well as, general care of her room and bathroom. We will probably have her help with watching the girls on occasion.

Our exchange organization has limits of 1 hour per week of communication with student’s home family and friends (phone or Skype). They feel that the more a student is interacting with home, the harder it is for them to adjust to being here. Their limit for internet (email, facebook, etc.) is 2 hours per week with the exception of school related internet usage (studying, research, etc.).

We will meet all friends and dates before Noriko spends any significant time outside of school with them. We will encourage her to invite her friends to our house and we will be open and honest with her about any concerns we may have about someone. We will not allow her to ride with friends unless we have met them and feel comfortable with them driving. We will also have an open policy with her. If she feels at all uncomfortable, she can call us and we will come get her. She can use us as an excuse to get out of an activity or date by saying she needs to be with us at that time.

We will have a 9:00 curfew on school nights, a 11:00 curfew on weekends, and a 12:00 curfew on special occasions (like prom). Exceptions may be made if Noriko specifically asks ahead of time (for instance, she is going to a movie and it will get out later than curfew).

6. If you have other children in the house how do they feel about hosting?

Our girls are ages 6 and 4 years old. We honestly did not consult them before deciding to have a student. In fact, we avoided talking to them about it until we knew for sure that our application was accepted and that we would be getting Noriko. After we were approved, we talked to them about it and told them that it would be like having a big sister while she was here. It took a few times of talking about it before they really understood that she was coming for more than just a short vacation. Now they both seem to be excited about having Noriko here!

7. Do you have pets? Have you honestly assessed their behavior? Have you shared any pertinent information about them with your student? What are the pet-related expectations for your student?

0ES1We have a black cat named Hashi (Japanese word for chopsticks) who is about 3  years old. He doesn’t like a lot of commotion or attention and usually hides away in our room throughout the day. He tends to explore during the night. It is not unusual for him to come out to the living room while guests are here (as long as it is somewhat quiet and calm) but if anyone moves in his direction he usually retreats back to the bedroom. He tolerates me the most out of anyone in the family. He will be okay with a student once he gets to know her.

0ES2We also have a black dog named Bear (lab mix) who is around 9 months old. He is all puppy. Very hyper and loves attention. He likes to play bite (but won’t intentionally hurt someone) and he chews anything he can get his teeth on (toys, brushes, headbands, bowls, cups, etc). We keep him locked up in his kennel at night and when we are not at home. We also make a habit of closing bedroom doors or putting up a baby gate so that he cannot get into them.

One of our requirements was that there be no animal allergies. I really liked everything about a Brazil girl’s profile until it said she was allergic to cats. This is something that we just cannot work around. Noriko’s profile said that she has a cat and loves pets. She said as much when we had the opportunity to Skype with her this past weekend. She was surprised that Bear was an indoor dog though.

8. How long will your student be with you before school starts? How will you handle the downtime?

Noriko will be with us for 5 days before school starts. There really will not be much downtime. We will allow her to sleep and rest for a couple of days but we also have to go to a school appointment to get her registered and make her class schedule. We will most likely need to do some shopping. And we will be spending a lot of time discussing rules and expectations, answering questions, and generally getting her settled and preparing for school to start.

9. Do you have any dietary restrictions? Does the student? Is everyone comfortable with this?

We do not have any dietary restrictions. According to Noriko’s profile, she does not either. We looked at several student profiles and a couple of them were vegetarians or vegans. Initially, I wanted to say that it wouldn’t be a problem. After thinking about it, though, I realized that with young children it would be almost impossible to cater to a dietary need or preference. Maybe when our girls are older (or out of the house) it would not be an issue but for now my girls need to be the priority when it comes to food preparation. I need to be able to prepare what I know they will eat. We do eat a wide variety of foods but having to eliminate whole food groups because of an allergy or preference just is not practical for us at this time.

10. What are your expectations around travel? Holidays? Family time?

We want to travel to visit our families in Iowa and Delaware while Noriko is here. Right now we do not know if we will have the finances to be able to take these long distance trips or not. Our plan is to start saving for them now and hope that we are able to do them. I feel that if we can help Noriko see other parts of our country, it would be a great experience for her. If we make it to Delaware, I will most definitely take her to Washington DC for a day and possibly New York City as well. For most travel (long distance or not), we will require that she pays her portion of the trip. If we fly, she will have to pay for her plane ticket. If we go to a museum or amusement park, she will pay for her entrance tickets.

375547_2593634049248_1506571575_32756780_628022001_nFor holidays, we will celebrate them the way we usually do. Most holidays that we celebrate have a Christian theme or history (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.) and we will make it sure she knows the purpose and/or history behind each holiday. Our church is planning to do a Passover dinner next spring which will also give her a the experience of a Jewish holiday. The only major American holiday that we don’t really celebrate is Halloween. We tend to participate in whatever our church does for this holiday (harvest parties, trunk or treat) but we have only been attending our church since February so I don’t know what they do. I also plan to ask Noriko about her holiday traditions and would like to incorporate them into ours while she is here.

Most of the time family time is spent at home at meals and watching tv or movies together. I am a stay at home mom who homeschools, so family time (at least with the girls and I) is usually not an issue. When Shane is away for an extended period of time or due to long hours at work, the girls may start to be clingy and start to act out (attitudes, tantrums, etc.). When I notice this happening, I usually suggest that we go out to eat as a family so that we don’t have the distractions of being at home. We also try to go out as a family to the pool or park to spend time together. We will treat Noriko as a daughter and a part of the family. We want her to feel we are her family away from home.

How would you answer these questions? Can you think of any others that may be helpful?

Other Host Families Online!

I never thought to try to find other exchange student host families blogging about their experiences but they found me! Being able to read about other host families will be an awesome way to compare experiences, get advice, trouble shoot any issues, and best of all get some great ideas for how to interact with our students!

I added the following these Blogs to my side bar so you all have easy access to their links if you are interested!

The Ann Arbor Exchange

wttnl (Welcome to the Netherlands)

By Alysa Posted in Life

First Year Of Gardening

The title says it all. I have never had a garden. I have always liked the idea of it but I never pursued the hobby. Due to several friends having a garden and enjoying fresh produce, I decided that I wanted to attempt the project. So here is the story my amateur gardening process.

119I enjoy having indoor plants and I generally keep plants that survive my stupidity of forgetting to water. I even transported several of my plants all the way from North Dakota to New Mexico during freezing temperatures and most of them survived! They are now thriving in our new home.

Step One: As soon as we moved into our home in December, I bought an outdoor garbage can with a lid and had Shane drill holes all over it. This was the start of my composting attempt. We put some dirt and all of the kitchen scraps we saved over the course of several months. I turned it frequently and kept it from being too dry or too moist.

Step Two: Shane bought lumber from Lowes, stained it, and built me a garden box.

Step Three: Although my compost was not completely ready, I decided to dump the majority of my compost into the bottom of my garden box. We added several bags of gardening soil and raked through to mix the compost and the soil. Then we added a couple bags of gardening soil over the top. This filled the box about 1/2 way.

Step Four: I went to Walmart and bought a seed pod starter kit and several packs of seeds including: tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, green beans, and broccoli. They started growing quickly and after several weeks I planted them in the garden box.

113The plants started doing very well but while they were still trying to get established, my dog ran through the garden and kicked up most of the plants. This pretty much destroyed the garden.

Step Five: A couple of the green beans, peppers, and broccoli plants were ok. So I carefully removed all of the destroyed plants and raked through the soil. I also planted some pumpkins! Several of the plants still died off but I had a few plants that were really getting established! I decided to keep the few good ones that I had and hope for the best. I had a friend (who has a large garden) come over and see how my garden was doing. She pointed to three plants and said that they were tomatoes. These were in places that I had NOT planted tomatoes! So we assumed that they were coming from my compost!

11On July 3rd, our area of New Mexico got a major hail storm. From a distance, it looked like it had snowed. Our yard was covered in hail and cold water. My plants took a beating and I did not think that they would survive. The following week, I had my friend come and check the garden again (Her garden was not hit by the hail!). She said that some of the plants looked like they would make it. So I did not remove any of them in hopes that would come back.

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We are now in the beginning of August and my garden is looking well! All of the plants shredded by hail came back except for the green beans. The pumpkin plants which were shredded the most are now overtaking the garden and look beautiful every morning with the orange blossoms! A few days ago, I moved the longer pumpkin vines so they run over the edge of the garden box and into the grass. I can see one pumpkin starting to grow! Several more compost tomato plants popped up to the point that I had to remove the smaller ones so that they didn’t overrun the garden. There are a few green tomatoes starting to grow and it looks like they are cherry tomatoes! I also planted several cantaloupe seeds in an area that didn’t have any established plants. They popped up very quickly and I have been thinning them out every few days so that hopefully we will get 2-3 really good plants out of the cluster.

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I am really pleased with my garden so far! I cannot wait until I can start harvesting vegetables!

Pre-Arrival Package

I want our Japanese exchange student, Noriko, to feel as welcome as possible when she comes to the USA. I am in the process of organizing her room so she is comfortable in our home. I am also putting together a Welcome Basket with items that hopefully will make her feel special. (Maybe that will be a future blog post once I finish it!)

We have been communicating with Noriko by email on almost a daily basis but I wanted to also send her a small package in the mail. It isn’t much but hopefully it will help her feel more connected to us and the USA before she comes.

03Noriko’s will celebrate her 17th birthday this month before she arrives to the US. So I included a birthday card with a short message and a couple of family photos.

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I also wrote a letter to Noriko’s parents in an effort to hopefully make them more comfortable with having their daughter spending the year with us.

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I found and printed out several pages and made a little book for her.

1. Welcome (to our) Home.

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2. Map of USA with New Mexico, Iowa, and Delaware outlined.

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3. Map of New Mexico with town where we live circled.

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084. Maps and state information of New Mexico, Iowa, and Delaware. I have included Iowa and Delaware because I am praying that we will have the finances available to go see our families while Noriko is with us. It would be a good experience for her to see other parts of our beautiful country. And if we visit Delaware, we may be able to take road trips to Washington DC and New York City!

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Overall, I hope that this will give Noriko and her family a better idea of where she will be staying and possibly visiting. I truly want her to be happy while she is with our family!

Independent Uniter?

Some people grew up being inspired by sports, music, and/or movie stars. While I had my favorites in each of those categories, I could care less if I ever got to meet them. The person outside of my everyday reality that I looked up to was Dr. Ben Carson.

giftedhandsbookAt some point when I was in middle school, my mom gave me a copy of his book:

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
By Ben Carson, M.D., with Cecil Murphey / Zondervan

When I read it, I soaked up the stories in awe of a man with an amazing life story. After that I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. More specifically, a Neurosurgeon. My goals changed over the years from Neurosurgeon to Cardiologist to General Surgeon. Finally at some point in high school I set my course to be a Nurse. All the while, remembering Dr. Carson’s testimony of being able to do whatever it is I set my mind to do with my education.

I have always admired him because of his love for God. Throughout his book he shares many situations where he relied on God to get him through the day, or the night, or the week, etc. He is most most well-known as a pioneer in his field for separating twins joined at the back of the head. He gives God all the credit for success of that long procedure.

His story has become an inspiration to even more people since a “Gifted Hands” movie was made staring Cuba Gooding Jr. in 2009.

Recently, Dr. Carson caused a stir with the speech that he gave at the National Prayer Breakfast.

He also works to bring all people together on common ground instead of focusing on racial differences. 999150_10153067404745494_723939026_n

Due to the announcement of Dr. Carson’s retirement, people are now wondering if he will be pursuing a political career. Although many of his statements resonate with the conservative community, he associates himself the Independent Party. Personally, I would vote for him if he decides to go this direction.

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Photo found here.