Teaching Abroad with a Family: Not as Hard as it Sounds

by Published

There’s this common misconception that only single young’uns are allowed to teach English abroad. After all, they have all the energy and no responsibilities in the world so they’ll make awesome teachers, right? In most cases, this is a clear advantage but you shouldn’t think that you can’t teach abroad with your family.

Stylish mom and daughter

Raise a kiddo of the world when you teach abroad with your family.

In fact, if you want your kids to get a real education, you should grab the opportunity to take them on the road. When their friends are stuck in boring classes back home, they might get to learn outside or with other local and international kids in your chosen destination country. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they pick up the language (especially if they’re young) and they’ll definitely teach you a thing or two about your new home.

Teaching abroad with a family FAQs

Is it safe to drag my kids into this adventure?

Let’s get this out there. There will be naysayers, lots of them. They may question why you would want to uproot your kids from a safe and nurturing home environment to throw them out there in the big, wide world. Grandparents may get anxious that they won’t be able to see their grandkids as often anymore. These are all genuine concerns.

However, if you research teaching English abroad with a family well, you will take all these factors into consideration. First, you shouldn’t move to a country that physically unsafe for yourself, far less for your children. You should also choose a country that has reliable and high-quality education, child care, and health care. Second, you will be with your kids every step of the way so they’re unlikely to feel alone and afraid. Let them take the plunge while they’re still young. They may surprise you by taking to the new culture like a fish to water!

What if I have a non teaching spouse?

What about teaching abroad with a non teaching spouse? This is a tough but necessary question that has to be addressed. First, maybe you’re up for teaching overseas with a family but is your wife/husband/partner also on board? One of the worst things that can happen is that your “trailing spouse” can’t find jobs in your destination country and ends up feeling bored and depressed. 

Teaching abroad with a non teaching spouse can put an added stress on your relationship, in addition to the burden of moving to teach abroad with your family. It’s important to ensure that your spouse will be able to find employment in your chosen country, can work online, or is comfortable not working at all. Perhaps the school will allow your partner to work in a non-teaching  position, if you’re lucky. This conversation ideally should happen before you get there to avoid any nasty upsets and let downs. 

Family at lantern festival at sunset

Your family photos just got a whole lot cooler.

Can I actually make a decent living?

Depending on where you decide to teach abroad, you can actually make a pretty solid income. That, paired with relatively cheap costs of living (or perhaps bonus salary perks like free accommodations) can make teaching abroad a rather lucrative lifestyle.

If you want to make lots of money, look for work in East Asia, like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and China. If you have more advanced skills and accreditations (like masters degrees or previous work as an English teacher), you’ll make great money working in the Middle East in places like the UAE and Qatar. If money ain’t no thing (you’re here for adventure, right?!), then open yourself up to opportunities in Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

[6 Countries to Make SERIOUS Money Teaching Abroad]

Any other considerations I should make?

Here are some more things to consider before making the leap to teaching ESL abroad with your family.

If you and your partner are unmarried, this could cause some problems in some countries. Many countries are still quite traditional and will not allow spousal visa sponsorship for dependents who aren’t legally married. Be sure to look into this prior to making the decision to move abroad.

If you have young kids, you may want to teach for schools that have regular 8-4/9-5 schedules. Private language academies tend to pay better, but usually have more gruelling schedules that start in the afternoon, finish late at night, or bleed into weekends and holidays. This would mean that your kids don’t get to see Mommy and Daddy in the evening and could potentially cause a rift you don’t want that at all!

The perks of teaching abroad with your family

Thinking of teaching overseas with a family? Here are some of the good stuff you’ll enjoy!

1. You and your family get to learn a new language and culture.

One of the best perks of teaching abroad with a family is that you all get to immerse yourselves in a foreign language and culture, whether it’s French, Japanese, or Arabic. If you have young kids, you’ll soon realize how quickly they become bilingual because they’re soaking up new information around them constantly. You and your family will also get to sample cool cultural practices like learning to make kimchi or visiting a Hindu temple for the first time.

2. You get to travel as a family. (!)

Teaching English abroad with a family usually means you all get the chance to explore an entire country on weekends, holidays, and other free time. Instead of going back home for the holidays, why not experience Christmas in Singapore at least once or walk Spain’s El Camino together? If you can save cash, you can even explore other countries beyond your base country. For instance, if you teach in China, you all can fly to Thailand just for the weekend!

3. You won’t feel lonely.

One of the obvious perks of teaching abroad with a family is that they are there with you every step of the way. They will experience more or less the same things you do like culture shock or a language barrier. Teaching ESL abroad with your family is awesome because you always have someone to talk to when you get back from classes. You can vent with your spouse or relax with your kids. Lots of single teachers don’t have that and end drinking themselves silly and then feeling down afterward.

[Get Matched with Family-Friendly Teaching Jobs Abroad →

4. You will get closer.

When you leave your home turf, you and your family may find that you crave one another’s company, especially if you live in a country that doesn’t speak your native language or share your native culture. You’ll find that you have to rely on one another more, particularly your spouse, when you need to get stuff done like going to the supermarket or taking the kids to the doctor. Things that you probably took for granted in your home country suddenly become important here like sitting down together for family meals, going on outings together, and just being there for one another when the going gets tough. 

Potential pitfalls to look out for

It’s isn’t all rainbows and unicorns when it comes to teaching ESL abroad with your family. Let’s get a heads up on some things you may find challenging.

1. You and your kids might get homesick.

Maybe in the first few weeks everything seems exciting, fresh, and new. Then a couple months in, your kids start pestering you for Coco Pops that don’t exist in your new supermarket or your husband starts moaning that he can’t understand what the store clerk says at the corner store. Maybe you start feeling it’s a bad idea. Just breathe and take stock. Appreciate the good and try to minimize the bad. If you’ve already committed to teach abroad with your family, have a real go at it. 

2. Your kids might not be able to go to school or worse.

Some countries, like in the Middle East, have very strict rules about education. For instance, foreigners aren’t allowed to go to local schools and must attend international schools instead. These schools are fantastic but cost more than a pretty penny so you’ll have to factor this in your monthly budget. If you’re teaching abroad with a non teaching spouse, you may be lucky is he or she volunteers to homeschool your kids. Some countries may even allow your kid to enroll in the local school but beware they could get discouraged if they don’t have a command of the native language.

3. It might not be sustainable in the long term.

Sure, teaching jobs abroad with family in tow sound fun for a year or two but can you do them for your entire life? Will your family allow this? What if you want to stay in your destination country and your kids and spouse want to go back home? Maybe your spouse is tired of sitting around all day and wants to return to her old job and friends. Maybe you have older kids who would prefer to go to school in their home country to sit important exams. You have to bear all of these things in mind when making the decision about teaching English abroad with a family.

[The Inside Scoop on Teaching English Abroad in Your 30s]

Mom and daughter tramping in Central Plateau, Australia

Family time just got a whole lot more adventurous when teaching ESL abroad with your family.

Six steps to make it happen for YOUR family

If you follow these six steps, you’ll be well on your way to teaching overseas with a family without a lot of hiccups!

  • Step #1. Get TEFL certified! This is especially crucial if you’ve never taught before. Nothing’s worse than standing like a deer in headlights at the front of the classroom when you first meet your students. TEFL courses usually take four weeks or so so get cracking before it’s too late! You can choose to do a course in your home country, online, or if you’re really adventurous, in your destination country before you start your job. Start saving for the latter if you intend on taking that route!
  • Step #2. Choose a destination regarding teaching jobs abroad with family. Of course, where you can legally teach is important because it can limit your choices. You will also find that certain countries are more welcoming of families such as China and the UAE. These locations are also better because they usually provide great perks like high salaries, flights for you and our dependents, health insurance for you and your family, and subsidized accommodation. Avoid countries where ESL salaries are too low to support a family like most countries in South America.
  • Step #3. Research jobs carefully. Find out whether the company will help with moving and visa costs for your dependents. If job offers sound too good to be true, be wary. Ask the right questions, especially about whether you have the right qualifications and whether the salary and other benefits can adequately support your family. Better yet, talk to people who live in the country/area you want to teach in and who actually work or have worked for that particular school or company. You don’t want to commit to teaching English abroad with a family unless you have all the facts first!
  • Step #4. Start saving as soon as you can. It’s incredibly expensive for one person to move overseas so it’s often double/triple/four times  if you plan on teaching ESL abroad with your family. How much you need to save will depend on several factors like the size of your family, the age of your kids, whether your spouse or kids have any special health/dietary requirements, whether you will be home schooling or enrolling the kids in a local or international school, whether your spouse will be able to work, whether you have to pay for your dependents’ flights and visas, whether you have to furnish your apartment and pay a deposit and other set up costs, and more! 
  • Step #5. Get prepared. Once you’ve got an offer and done your TEFL, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. If you don’t already have them, start applying for or renewing passports for you and your family. Depending on your home country, this could take between two weeks and more so get the ball rolling pronto! Start deciding about what you’re going to do with your house or apartment: Are you going to sell it, sublet it? What about all your stuff? P.S. You can have a huge garage sale to make more cash to help with your startup overseas!
  • Step #6. Start packing! Pack everything you’ll need for your life overseas and try to keep things minimalist. Remember it’s not just you who’s traveling. It’s you and your entire family! Set ground rules on how much luggage you can take without having to pay extra baggage fees. Ship bulky stuff like winter gear ahead if you can. When you’re done, spend time learning essential phrases in the language of your destination country. Also don’t forget to relax with friends and family and have a nice send-off!
Photo of two siblings hiking together

No matter how old your kids are, exposing them to new cultures early on will only benefit them.

Bonus: Here’s an interview with a guy that’s doing it!

Matt’s from Iowa, U.S.A. and he’s recently taken the plunge of teaching English abroad with a family. He and his family moved to Prague earlier this year where he did his TEFL certificate in the first four weeks. His wife is home-schooling the kids for now (it’s allowed in Prague) because they moved during the middle of the Czech Republic’s school year and couldn’t afford international schools. They’ve already connected with a couple of families there who are doing something similar and are thinking of putting the kids in part-time Czech classes soon.   

Matt, his wife, and three kids (ages nine, six, and three), are slowly but surely adjusting to living in Europe and teaching overseas with a family. In fact, Matt’s adapting a whole new career after working in sales with a construction company for 13 years. However for him, teaching abroad with a non teaching spouse and a family has been really great. 

[Preparing to Teach English Abroad: 13 Things You Need to Know]

“I get to come home to them everyday and share my experiences from the day.  We get to discover interesting and curious things together in Prague and plan our future trips around Europe.” He also mentions the need to balance work and family: “I am trying to put in the time to teach well, but I also want to be around to support them too.”

Another one of the challenges of teaching abroad in Prague is that it doesn’t pay very well at the outset, so Matt recommends having a large nest egg to start because the expenses related to feeding and entertaining a family do pile up. Lastly, Matt advises those who find teaching jobs abroad with family in tow to get out there and do things even though it can seem difficult or uncomfortable. He says: “We have all learned so much by making mistakes and taking journeys into the unknown on a daily basis. The kids are more brave and bonded together in only a short time.”

We think you should consider teaching abroad with your family!

Although it is a challenge to just move overseas to teach abroad with your family, don’t let this deter you from taking the leap. Just prepare for lots of housekeeping tasks and saving to make the landing as soft and easy as possible. However, if you do decide on teaching jobs abroad with family, the benefits are endless and you'll all have super awesome travel adventures to share with the grandparents, friends, and family back home. 

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