Going International with Children

True international schools are culturally diverse with a rainbow of nationalities represented. Eating sushi at a Japanese friend’s house, hearing Norwegian spoken between classmates, participating in cultural fairs or having Indian mothers paint henna designs on your kids’ hands is just a sampling of a “normal” childhood overseas.

If you’ve already lived internationally, you know daily living can be much easier than back home. Hiring a nanny, housekeeper or cook is an enormous benefit to any parent. When you get home from work, there is no cooking, cleaning, or laundry responsibilities — hooray! More time can be devoted to family. There are many delightful benefits to going international with children, not the least of which is watching your children become world citizens.

Of course, not every location is Shangri-La. There are important factors to consider when choosing a school & host country with your children in tow. Here are some points to take into consideration:

• Does the job allow a lifestyle that emphasizes family time?
• Are there medical & dental facilities that meet my family’s needs?
• Is there an acceptable level of stability & safety?
• Is trustworthy childcare available? Are English-speaking nannies affordable?
• Does the school’s benefit package include dependents’ tuition, insurance, & flights?
• Do the school’s programs meet my child’s needs?
• Is the school ‘family-friendly’, supporting teachers when family needs arise?
• Is the school population diverse? Will my child make friends & be accepted?

Whether you’re a single mom/dad or a couple, moving overseas with children of any age can pose extensive benefits. ISR invites you to visit the Going International with Children Blog & share personal experiences, ask questions & most of all, keep each other informed.

48 Responses to Going International with Children

  1. mabel says:

    From Indonesia:
    I am not registered with ISR but I enjoy reading its articles. I am single mother of an adoptive son and this is my second job abroad with him but I worked in Kuwait, Dubai, Turkey and South Korea before I adopted him. My previous jobs offered good packages for families, specially the one in Busan, South Korea (ASK, AAG Dubai, IICS, ISB South Korea -it has changed its name-)

    After I adopted my son, my first job abroad was in Singapore and it is not a friendly place for a single parent if school does not offer tuition for your kids. Public education there might be good only if you spend 2,000 U$ per month paying after school tutors.

    In addition baby sitters and/or maids charge 15/20 SGD per hour or you have to contract a full time one from Philippines and she must live in your house. You are responsible for her always. Her salary would be 1,000 U$ per month. I would not live there again and I do not suggest Singapore for single parents.

    I am currently in Surabaya, Indonesia, working at Sekolah Ciputra. It is a friendly school for teachers with very young kids and the city is safe, clean and not too crowded but without much to do and without many expats. There are 3 international schools here; as much as I know they all offer good housing, health insurance and airfare for dependents.

    • Carol Driskell says:

      I am a single mom, with experience in the U.S. teaching struggling students and I have recently completed my Master’s in Education. I also have a young adult son with Autism. Does anyone have experience teaching abroad as a single mom with a special needs family member? Carol

  2. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I started as international teacher and have had two kids along the way. We love being an international family and getting the chance to travel around as we go. We now have an 8 year old and a 3 year old, and together we have lived in four different countries with the eldest and two with the youngest. Our 8 year old is now starting to have a say in where we go and how long we stay. I think it’s important to consider that at one point, they aren’t going to want to go with you.

    It’s important to ask for a fair tuition deal (no less than 75% tuition paid and only if that remaining 25% is equal to less than 10% of your salary, and try to also get matriculation fees, transport, lunch, supplies, etc) and have it written into your contract in black and white so you can hire a local lawyer if you have a negative experience with shiesty employers. Make sure everything is written down and if you don’t speak the local language have a translator take a look at it with the english version you’ve signed to make sure they match.

    Most schools will pay for flights for your family at the start and end of the contract as well as housing and tuition. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lot. If your qualifications and experience are strong they’ll bring you on board no matter the additional costs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sign up with Search Associates – that will help a lot. It does cost money, but it was worth it for us. Depending on where you want to go really… Because you will have just graduated, your choices are fairly limited. It doesn’t hurt to apply directly to the school. I would sign up with some kind of recruiting agency, or at least have a chat to them to get the ball rolling.

  4. Amanda says:

    Also any suggestions on good countries or schools can be emailed directly to me as well amandasal04@gmail.com, thank you!

  5. Amanda says:

    I am graduating next year and am a single mother of two kids, any suggestions on websites that I should start researching? I know this is something that I want to do but I don’t even know where to start.
    Are there any steps you all could provide that I should take to get the ball rolling? I know there are many recruiters out there but I do I apply directly to the school? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Amanda

  6. Anonymous says:

    Having quite a few problems finding schools for 3 children, but I would say that fairs are probably a good way to go – then they get to meet you, realise that you are dedicated and that children won’t stand in your way. I know that there are quite a few schools that do take 3 children – Korea, Middle East, some African countries, Eastern Europe for example. Some countries in Asia, but I think housing becomes an issue here – Brunei probably will. I haven’t got any information back from a previous post…. Sorry I cannot help you more. I agree, a family can be more stable and great for a school, but often that is looked past when they see the 3 kids… Unfortunate really. Good luck.

    • Bel says:

      My husband and I have just signed on with a school in Prague, they will pay for 3 children’s tuition, relocation allowance, medical insurance for all 5 of us. No rent assistance but for a school in Europe I think it seems like a good package. They have lots of teaching couples with kids on staff so that seems like a good sign.

    • JB says:

      Did you ever receive a list of schools and /or countries that are family friendly? We have 4 young school aged children and are extremely interested in teaching international. My husband and I are both veteran teachers of 14 plus years, but I’m feeling a little deflated after reading all the post about schools not wanting hire teachers with more than 2 dependents. Any information would be fantastic.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As we approach recruiting season again, it would be great if we could pick this topic up again, if anyone is interested. As a teaching couple with 3 children, finding a school that will a) pay tuition etc for all 3 children b) a good environment – playing, housing, safe etc c) A good school for their education is vitally important, and this is really where we are starting with our search. Families offer so much to international schools, however we all know that not all schools believe this. If anyone has some more information I’d love to hear from you.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d like to find out about similar schools too. I’m also part of an experienced teaching couple and we also have 3 children. We are desperate to teach overseas but finding a good school in Asia which ‘happily’ caters for 3 children is proving difficult. If anyone knows of any schools which support families with 3+ children, could you please let us know.

  8. Richard Perrine says:

    There must be a reputable organization/company that helps people with dependents find teaching positions, right?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just been reading all your comments and my situation is similar. I’m currently looking for Int jobs for September and will be relocating with my wife, non-teacher, and 2 young kids (4yrs and 2yrs). I’d be very grateful if those with families could email me with further information regarding schools and countries suitable for a family? Many thanks!!! astrid.krediet@gmail.com

  10. WyGal says:

    We are going to the Netherlands but it is going to be expensive. They will not pay for housing and we were given pennies to relocate. My husband had to negotiate to get our return flights home. But it is a great location for family. When my husband is done there will have to get a job in the middle east with tons of $$, relocation and housing so we can make back what we spent in the NL. lol

  11. Anonymous says:

    I too would love some insider info. My kids will be 16 and 14 and are UK-based. Which schools offer IGCSEs etc?.Thanks veraamo@yahoo.co.uk

  12. Anonymous says:

    Just wonder if someone can send me some children-friendly countries/schools and any other suggestion. Next school year (not this September) I am planning to teach internationally for one year (is one year a problem?) and am taking along a non-teaching spouse and a 12-year old daughter. My wife would also like to get some kind of job while there. Thanks, gsurlan@rogers.com.

  13. We would also love insider information on schools in Europe that would be good for a family. We have two boys, ages 3 and 6.

    Thank you!

    nschreiber@integrity.com

  14. Katie says:

    We would LOVE some insider info on schools and/or countries that would be good matches for teaching with children. My husband teaches PE/Health and I am a counselor. We have twin boys who will be 5 by the time we’re ready to go. We are looking to save money, have great cultural/traveling experiences, in a safe, friendly place. We are easy going and not necessarily ‘fancy’ folks, so big houses, maids, etc. don’t interest us. However, we do want to save as much money as we can, while maintaining a quality lifestyle. Any tips would be greatly appreciated! ktzsoul@comcast.net Thanks!

  15. Anonymous says:

    We would LOVE some insider info of the best schools or countries to work in with children. I am a counselor, my husband teaches PE/Health, and we have twin sons who will be five by the time we would go. We are looking to save money, have great cultural/traveling experiences, and have the environment be safe and friendly. We’re not a fancy family needing a lot of ‘extras’ but would like a quality state of living. Any suggestions? So far, we’re thinking Switzerland or Thailand…Please feel free to email personally if you’d prefer: ktzsoul@comcast.net Thanks!

  16. There are so many things to consider when choosing a school!

  17. Christina says:

    For all parents considering a one-year international experience with children in a private school (but not an international school per se) in Turkey, please get the commitments from the school in writing; and when things begin to seem fishy and/or feel awkward, press immediately (within the first 1-2 weeks of the school year; get things on a firm, solid, good schedule immediately). And, go to the top, the director, you don’t have time to monkey around. Our son did an amazing job navigating his school in western Turkey; but the school did not live up to its promises and compromised our year abroad, what should have been a very rewarding experience for all. While I am very frustrated by the school, my hope is that this post will alert parents to look beyond the packaging, even if it looks and sounds perfect. And, do get things in writing. We did and it paid off to some extent. In other ways we just had to let go and do extra work at home. I have tremendous respect for my son for navigating (with a smile on his face and very few tears) a system that was certainly difficult for him (and us).

  18. kylie says:

    Hi Beck
    Please send me a copy of the email requested by the last person, Dee. We are wanting the same information. We have two children aged 3 and 6.
    Email pasalichelliott@hotmail.com. Thanks!!!!

  19. Nomad says:

    Several posts have already touched on the positives of overseas living. We have a young child who was born overseas where we are currently teaching. Our hope is to continue to teach in international schools.

    Finding a school that is truly diverse is critically important to me. I have been at schools that were international or American in name only, and I have witnessed children struggle to fit in when 90%+ of the population is local. Finding a school that fits your philosophy of education/life is also important. Opportunities for extracurricular activities, service learning, athletics, fine arts, etc. are critical as well as benefits like flights home for dependents, free tuition for your child(ren), good medical care and coverage.

    While not important to everyone, savings potential is important to me. At the same time, I have seen teachers leave for schools with better packages, but who find that the grass was not greener. Money is not everything, and it’s hard to find the ‘perfect’ school that offers the awesome package, great learning environment for your child, professional satisfaction, etc. There are trade-offs whereever you choose to go. You have read countless times on ISR – Do your research and create a shortlist of schools where you would be willing to go. You, of course, need to be a bit flexible, but I have found that my choices have narrowed over the years. It’s not all about me anymore. My child’s education and happiness is at stake.

    • beck says:

      I agree. For my dissertation I interviewed hundreds of TCKs from all over the world. A running theme from them (other than being unable to give a straight answer to the question “where are you from?”) was that a ‘good’ school was one where they made friends and felt welcome. Those schools were distinct in having a large population of other TCKs from anywhere in the world. The most miserable schools for them were the ones with large local populations and an unfamiliar host language spoken as the first language in cafeterias and on playgrounds. They often sited feeling more marginalized, depressed, anxious and outright bullied in such settings. With that said, every TCK is different-some more resilient than others-often within the same families.
      Another disturbing trend was that teachers kids and other TCKs were the least likely to be diagnosed with a learning need and/or behavioral needs that had effected their academic progress. Moving around the world is not conducive to pinpointing support that might make all of the difference. Too many times the stress of moving an settling in, the differences in curriculum, standards and expectations leave our kids’ welfare at the bottom of the priority list. In those cases there was a lot of regret, guilt and frustration on the part of parents and kids.

      • Martin Kupferman says:

        Hi Beck–I appreciated your post citing your dissertation on TCK’s. I was interested in your comment about learning disabilities.

        We have a 16 year old who has learning disabilities and we want to learn about high schools abroad where they’re good with these kinds of teens. Are there any resources you know of for researching this?

        Thanks for any help.

        Martin

        • beck says:

          There are some schools that flat out state that teachers with kids who have any kind of learning differences or needs need not apply. This can be the danger of having an existing IEP and assuming that it will be addressed in a competent manner. Many of those schools insist that they are keeping a ” high standard of education” when in reality the teachers merely do not have a strong background in differentiated learning. The longer some teachers have been overseas I have seen them hide behind the old fashioned instructional/traditional insistence that kids who learn differently are not capable of achieving great things when they have multiple strategies/assessments in their corners. Don’t be fooled. The best practice schools can manage a highly competitive IB or AP HS program and maintain high expectations for kids with learning disabilities.

          It makes it tough to find a good match, but it is well worth the search on the front end because the consequences of having a poor match of schools can be devastating for the child. The state department uses some wonderful consultants through Families in Global Transitions. They are familiar with strong international academic support programs. You want to scour websites and read philosophies carefully. You need to ask extensive questions of existing staff because often those schools have experienced a turnover in academic support services. Listen for that attitude of “all kids can learn and our job is to have have high expectations for them.” With the right environment, the small class sizes can be miraculous. In the wrong setting, when you add the transition stress and often the language differences, as well as your own adjustment and starting new jobs, settling in, and the dynamic of living in a fish bowl with your colleagues, it is hard to be the parent advocate the kids deserve. However, with that said..the researches also say that the kind of lifestyle that opens up a kid’s mind and stretches their understanding of the world can also open up brain neurons they never knew they had–as for a list of resources–not sure there is one available for teachers as opposed to state dept. but I would be willing to dig around and come up with one. (not sure I can post it here though?)

          • beck says:

            Real Post Reports: Tales from a Small Planet is a website for families overseas. It has a new section on International School Reports where there are recent details included about Learning Support and Gifted and Talented programs. The benefit of the information is that it is up to date. The downside is that there are not enough schools posted about by and for parents. It is free to join, and has some additional interesting info on living in different countries. As I said, good place to start..

            • Martin Kupferman says:

              Beck–thanks very much for your caring and thoughtful replies. I will look at Real Post and think about your points.

    • dee says:

      Hi,

      I very much agree with all your points. I don’t suppose you would email me with your short list of schools that you have found to fit your requirements? My husband and I have two kids 10 and 3 yrs old and want to make sure it’s a good fit and worth while financially. my email is darlene62876@yahoo.com

    • granny says:

      I am a gran of 2 small children living abroad with their parents. They have been there for over 2 years now. When they left the youngest was just about to start school and the oldest was in his second year. The oldest was very mixed up! He had been constantly chucked out of class because of bad behaviour and had become difficult and even violent. Before he left I spent some time with him and taught him to read. As you can guess I was worried how he would react when he arrived in Africa. However, he has metamorphosed into a keen and well behaved pupil. The school knew his history and were well prepared. He loved everything about it.

  20. Rebecca says:

    Hi It would be good if people could disclose the schools/areas where they are currently? Is anyone in UAE? Does anyone know any family-friendly schools there? Our kids are 5 and 2 and we could really do with some advice about the best schools. I have been contacted by IAT but after reading the review I think I better hold out for something better but as I have no international school experience would it be better to get some, even at a not-so-great school?

    Any advice appreciated.

    • isumc10 says:

      Rebecca–they can’t post school names because of liability issues. I’d judge by the review, and ask them for the contact names of all their teachers, then YOU choose whom to contact with your questions.

      • Anonymous says:

        DAA is pretty good with kids. Now getting pregnant was problematic though. Tuition is covered, few extra costs. Make sure you pick your own housing with the stipend and get a villa instead of condo

    • Anonymous says:

      The American School of Dubai and ACS Abu Dhabi might fit your needs. Both are non profit and packages are strong. Each have a number of faculty families as well.

  21. John says:

    I am in the second international school that accepts children, and this one actually embraces them! I realize that at my age (60), with two kids (10 and 15), and a dependent non-teaching wife, I am at the bottom of the food chain as far as teaching positions are concerned. If I could stay here till retirement, I would. My sons love the new and different cultures that they encounter and are definitely “third culture” kids. Safety, motivated student peers and travel make our lives preferable (at least to us at the moment)to being in my home country.

    It’s not for everyone, but for those with a sense of adventure, you can get in the right place and give your kids a rich and memorable Internationally-minded experience.

    • Marjo says:

      Hi John,

      Would that be possible to have the name of your school? I am in the same position (trailing spouse, 50 y.o., 2 MS kids…) and heading for the job fair in Hong Kong mid-January.

      MarJo

  22. Anonymous says:

    We are just finishing up first year overseas with 2 elementary aged kids. Overall, the experience has been a positive one for the whole family but there have been challenges. “Fitting in” socially has been the biggest obstacle as we are at a school with 90% host country nationals. Also, being school ehere the language of instruction is in English, it has been difficult for our children to pick up the local language. Since there are so few kids at the school who aren’t already fluent in the local language, the courses offered to our children are a bit of an afterthought.

    While I believe that the administration of our school had the best of intentions when hiring us and disclosing relocations costs, benefits, etc. there were many hidden expenses that we didn’t anticipate and we ended up dipping deeply into our savings at the beginning of the year. Make sure you ask about fees for uniforms, extracurricular activities, school supplies, parent association fees, inscription/registration fees (which are considered separate from tuition here), placement testing fees, etc. as these added up to thousands of dollars the first few months here.

    Nonetheless, we wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and hope the second year will not bring any more financial surprises. I would recommend that IRS add a section to their review on ‘friendly to teachers with children’ as this would be hugely helpful to families like ours.

    • Steve Tober says:

      I’ll ditto your recommendatio. Would be awesome to have a source of family friendly schools!

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, I m still single. But few of my friends are getting married said really enjoyed and many experiences that they had with the children. Thats why, even a bit more tiring to move from one country to another country. Thats great. I wish i could have that experince.

  23. Beenaround says:

    Going International with kids was probably the best thing we ever did as a family. The experiences our kids have had, the friendships they have formed and the things that they have done over the past dozen years are incredible. From skiing in the Alps,rafting in Australia, kayaking in Thailand or exploring castles in Spain we have memories that will last our kids a lifetime.

    However, its not always easy and you need to be prepared for those days when your child feels left out of the crowd or when one of them gets sick and good care isn’t necessarily around the corner. Grade 5 was filled with crying and sleepless nights for my daughter when a couple of girls took it upon themselves not to include her.

    It also gets hard when they start to leave home and all of a sudden you are half way around the world and Skype just isn’t cutting it anymore. Summer jobs, learning to drive, and starting university are other aspects of living overseas that you need to take into account.

    The best piece of advice I can give is to make sure you have a home base, whether its a cottage or a home in your native country. A place your kids can call home no matter if they are with you in Timbuktu or in first year university.

  24. 2xaround says:

    Something to really think about is accepting a position at a school where the director and board simply tolerate people with kids. I have no idea why this school hired us. We have been told not to visit with our kids during the school day, as this would be unfair to the other kids on campus who would like to see their parents during lunch. In addition we were lied to about free tuition for our two children and the school takes money out of each of our paychecks to cover 50% of our kids tuition. There is nothing we can do about it. When one of our children became and my husband had to take him to the doctor the school docked him a full day’s pay even though he only missed two classes.

    If we were here on our own we would have left one month into the school year, but we just didn’t want to yank our kids out of school. It seems the school director likes to hire couples with kids for this very reason….it keeps them on the job.

    We won’t be returning after summer vacation. We haven’t’ breathed a word of our plans to anyone. I’m certain there would be monumental retaliation efforts if the school found out. I’ll extend them the courtesy of sending them an email once safely home. I doubt they would do the same for me if the tables were reversed.

    Don’t just listen to these school directors. Ours has no business in education. I’m not sure what he is suited for but he is a good liar that’s for sure. He suckered us into accepting a job at this school. Be sure to read reviews on as many sites as you can find before you sign a contract. Get as much info as you can. My mistake was believing what I was being told but what appeared to be a nice person at the time.

    • wrldtrvlr123 says:

      Hi:

      Sorry to hear about your situation. Schools that do not honor agreements/contracts are bad enough but those that virtually hold teachers hostage through their children are reprehensible. I hope you name and shame that school either here or with a review.

    • altopwr says:

      If you can’t be specific about which school this is, can you list what country you’re in? My husband and I are about the accept positions at an international school and we do not want to be put into your position!

  25. Laura says:

    My husband and I decided to go international when our son was 10 months old. We moved to Thailand.
    It has been a phenomenal experience. Our nanny is amazing, affordable and speaks both English and Thai to our son. He now speaks both!Our housekeeper comes in twice a week and does everything. I haven’t cooked, cleaned, done laundry, well nothing for 10 months now!
    My son goes to the school’s pre-nursery free of charge. He enjoys medical benefits and free flights. We live on a boarding campus and all the students that live here play with him and take care of him with us.
    It truly is the best choice we ever made for our family.
    We miss home sometimes and we miss family. Both my husband and my family have visited this year. We skype on a regular basis… well I skype with my Mom everyday! We are going home for the summer.
    We were very open about what we needed in our interviews before coming overseas. I believe that you need to be. This school loves families and is very child-family orientated! We scored!

  26. Anonymous says:

    This is such an important topic for parents! Parents also have to take into consideration the needs of their children and whether or not a school can meet those needs. Some international schools in fabulous locations might not have the same resources as other schools. While there are wonderful and unique benefits, there can also be some rather unique issues that arise that might have never been a factor back home. A school head in Beijing did her doctoral research on this topic. You can find it on Amazon.

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