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!
Absolutely! 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?
We 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.
We 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.
For 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.
What a fantastic experience you’re giving your girls! I can’t imagine hosting a child with pet issues – T has already bonded with our younger dog and the cat. The older dog is still being coy. Food issues with a 4 and 6 year old would be a nightmare so it’s great that Noriko doesn’t have any. You may want to discuss with her whether or not she has difficulty with dairy and consider phasing it into you meals. Asian diets often have little or no dairy. Cannot wait to read about your experiences – Noriko is lucky to have such a wonderful family to join.
That is a good suggestion about the dairy. We can be flexible with food likes and dislikes, we just can’t cater to extreme allergies or preferences at this point. I think it is great that you are able to do vegetarian meals for your student!
Allergies are so tough, as are any vegetarian/vegan diets in a house of omnivores. Our student, T, is used to living with omnivores so while we’ll eat veg when we eat together we’ll still enjoy our position at the top of the food chain when we’re out or on our own.