Homestay Guidelines

Homestay Families

A homestay program is not intended to serve as a method for homeowners to find paying boarders or get help with household chores, but is a means of facilitating cross-cultural exchange while ensuring that homestay families have their costs covered and that students experience what it is like to be a member of a Canadian household. Under the best of circumstances, students will be considered as a temporary member of the family. Homestay families assume certain responsibilities and, in return, benefit from the experience of hosting students from other countries. Homestay families must offer a safe, comfortable, and friendly environment where students feel welcome and cultural exchange can take place.

A. Offering a Welcoming, Family Environment

Treat students with kindness and tolerance, respecting their rights, privacy, and culture, including religious and political beliefs.

  1. Insofar as possible, treat students as part of the family and give them the opportunity to share in family life and converse regularly with family members.
  2. Encourage students to feel at home and view themselves as a member of the family rather than paying guests.
  3. Share the common living areas of the house with students (e.g. kitchen, dining room, living room).
  4. Spend sufficient time with students in order to develop positive relationships.
  5. Include students in regular family activities and cover the cost where appropriate, such as meals in a restaurant or a going to a movie. Families may invite students to religious activities and meetings, but they should also honour their right to decline an invitation without fear of being treated differently as a result.
  6. Acknowledge the uniqueness of each student and their varying abilities, especially in relation to their age. Avoid making comparisons between past or present students.
  7. Provide a stable family environment. If there are unresolved tensions between members of the family, it is not the right time to host a student.

B. Cultural Respect and Sharing

Be respectful of and acknowledge the importance of culture, customs, language and beliefs in the life of a student and show a willingness to accommodate appropriately for these within the family’s life.

  1. Allow students to continue cultural practices without criticism.
  2. Show sincere interest in and encourage students to share their culture.
  3. Explain Canadian culture in an open way but avoid suggesting that Canadian cultural practices are better than those to which students are accustomed.
  4. Do not force religious beliefs upon students.
  5. Be accommodating of students’ religious requirements.

C. Communication

Develop positive relationships with students based on mutual trust and open communication.

  1. Maintain daily communication with students in order to keep channels of communication open and to encourage them to learn more about Canadian culture, lifestyle, activities and family life.
  2. Remember that most problems come from communication and language gaps. Politely discuss these problems in order to achieve mutual understanding.
  3. Be patient and remember that the students are new to this culture and language. It is not easy for them to avoid saying or doing something that might be misunderstood or may cause offence.
  4. It is important to respect students’ need for privacy and allow them space to be alone but it is also important that they not feel isolated.

D. Language Support

  1. Have the ability to communicate with relative ease in the language in which the students’ studies are being conducted (i.e. English or French as the case may be). This language should be the main medium for communication within the household.
  2. Converse regularly with students in order to support their language development and integration into the family.
  3. Provide effective support with language practice without criticism.

E. Promoting Student Well-Being and Success

Provide a safe environment which will offer students positive experiences of living as a member of a Canadian family.

  1. Show due concern for the welfare, safety and security of students.
  2. Assist, support and nurture where needed or requested.
  3. Set clear, reasonable and age-appropriate rules for students and ensure they are clearly understood. Provide rules in writing where possible.
  4. Be sensitive to the emotional well-being of students, some of whom may be homesick, unwell or have difficulty communicating concerns and, therefore, isolate themselves from the family.
  5. Offer help, guidance, support, empathy and encouragement with studies and engaging in positive study habits.
  6. Support and assist students in adapting to the Manitoba academic environment and encourage their participation in balanced leisure activities.

F. Physical Standards

  1. Provide the physical conditions in which it is possible for students to carry on their studies successfully:
    • a clean, tidy home within reasonable distance of the educational institution and near public transport routes
    • a private, clean and warm bedroom
    • good healthy food as outlined in Health Canada’s Food Guide
    • laundry facilities
  2. Host no more than three international students in total at any time unless by special arrangement with the students and the educational institution or homestay agency (students should not be of the same linguistic background).
  3. Keep the home in a proper state of cleanliness and repair.
  4. The room offered to the student must be a designated room within the family living environment with a minimum area of six (6) square metres and must comply with building and fire codes.
  5. Makeshift rooms including garages, storage areas, portioned areas, and the like are not acceptable.
  6. The room must meet safety, comfort, cleanliness, and privacy considerations.
  7. Only provide single room accommodation. A student is not to share a room with another student or with a member of the family, unless specifically requested or approved by the student’s parents and the educational institution.
  8. The room should be equipped with:
    • adequate heating, lighting and ventilation
    • a closable door
    • a window with curtains or blinds. The window should be of sufficient size and accessibility that it can be used as a fire escape.
    • at a minimum, a comfortable standard-sized single bed (mattresses on the floor are not acceptable)
    • adequate linens, duvet, blankets and two pillows per bed
    • a desk or table with a chair and a study lamp; a suitable study area may be provided elsewhere in the home
    • a chest of drawers or shelf space for clothes
    • a closet or wardrobe
    • a mirror
    • a night table and lamp
  9. Provide a change of towels and bed linen preferably each week.

G. Meals

Meals should be nutritious and well-balanced; homestay families and students are expected to eat the majority of their meals together.

  1. Offer three sustaining meals, or the food needed to prepare them, each day, seven days a week as well as appropriate snacks at other times as required.
  2. Homestay families will be informed in advance of any food allergies or dietary restrictions students may have.
  3. Be open to students’ reasonable expressions of food preferences and eating times.
  4. While eating Canadian-style meals is part of the cross-cultural experience, students will appreciate the chance to eat more familiar foods from time to time.

H. Other Services

  1. Provide ready and private access to toilet facilities.
  2. Acquaint students with the proper use of toilet, bath and shower facilities.
  3. Allow access to bath and shower facilities on a daily basis. Limits on shower or bathing time should be reasonable and in keeping with those expected of all other members of the family.
  4. Allow the full use of the household’s common rooms and living areas.
  5. Launder a reasonable amount of clothing on a weekly basis for students under 16. Allow older students access (after appropriate instructions) to a washing machine, laundry supplies and ironing and drying facilities.
  6. Provide access to the use of television, telephone, computer and Internet facilities as mutually agreed between family and student. Assist with additional connections if appropriate, and negotiate proper use within the home. In most cases, do not sign cell phone contracts on behalf of students.
  7. Agree to a policy on charges for long distance telephone calls and Internet use.
  8. The homestay fee should cover the majority of ‘indirect’ expenses and thus homestay families should avoid adding additional charges (e.g. laundry services).
    Provide older students with their own front door key and alarm codes.

I. Arrival and Orientation

  1. Normally a member of the homestay family is expected to receive students at the airport and accompany them home. Homestay families should also assist students with their departure.
  2. Homestay families will be advised of arrival and departure dates and times, as well as flight numbers as soon as possible.
  3. An adult family member should be available to remain with students on their first day.
  4. Introduce students to all members of the homestay family including pets when they arrive at the home.
  5. Provide an initial orientation to the home when students arrive, but conduct a full orientation later when they are sufficiently rested to take in the details.
  6. Conduct a full household orientation as soon as possible. Explain applicable rules and privileges, meals times and practices, telephone and computer protocols, rules regarding smoking, alcohol, guests visiting, curfews, household tasks and bathroom conduct.
  7. Depending upon the age and language abilities of the student, it may be appropriate to provide this information in written as well as oral form.
  8. Include information on household safety and security with attention to possible risks and dangers such as fire or medical emergencies.
  9. Give the student a general orientation to the local area and community facilities available, such as the public transport system.
  10. Provide students with a list of all contact information for adult family members including home, cell and work phone numbers and email addresses.

J. Transportation

The transportation needs of students will depend on their ages and the home’s distance from the educational institution. Every effort will be made to place students within a reasonable distance from the institution based on their age and physical needs.

  1. In most cases, students under 13 years of age should either be walked or driven to school or have access to school-sponsored transportation.
  2. Unless otherwise indicated by school division policy, students between 13 and 17 years of age may walk on their own to school if the distance is reasonable (generally less than .6 kilometres) and the route is safe. Alternatively, they may be given clear and specific instructions on taking public transportation when school-sponsored transportation is not available. Have a member of the homestay family accompany students the first time they take public transportation to the school and then provide a timetable and exact locations of bus stops for other journeys.

K. Insurance, Landlord’s Consent, Health and Safety

All homestay families must carry current household insurance including appropriate liability coverage with no restriction on using the home for homestay accommodation.  If the home is rented, the landlord’s permission is required. All documents must be provided to the educational institution or homestay agency and be current at the initial interview.
Homestay families must take adequate measures to ensure the safety and security of students during their stay.

  1. Assist students in accessing any necessary non-urgent medical services by referring them to the homestay family’s general practitioner or other medical professionals as appropriate, by making appointments and by accompanying them if necessary.
  2. Homestay families should always alert the homestay coordinator if their student is ill or has an ongoing medical condition.
  3. In the event of a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately and then notify the homestay coordinator who will contact the parents or emergency contact as required.
  4. Homes must be fitted with working smoke alarms and students must be able to exit the house from their room in the case of an emergency which renders other exits unsafe.
  5. Provide evidence of gas safety for any gas appliances in the home.
  6. Ensure that hot tubs have a locked hard cover and swimming pools are locked. Students using a hot tub or swimming pool must be appropriately supervised at all times based on their age and level of maturity.
  7. Explain the use of electrical appliances in the Canadian context. For example, many countries do not have power points in bathrooms and thus students may not be aware of the dangers of electrical appliances and water.
  8. Purchase adequate insurance to cover any liability, in the event that students should suffer an accident or injury during their stay.
  9. Ensure that household insurance covers accidental damage to property, and remains valid while students are lodged in the home.
  10. Students are advised to insure their own valuables and personal possessions, but it would be helpful for homestay families to provide them with a secure place for storage of important items, such as passports or flight tickets.
  11. Students should not be required by their homestay family to vacate their room at any point during the homestay period, unless in an emergency situation.
  12. Provide information about the Canadian culture of owning family pets and guidance for safe handling of animals.
  13. In rural accommodations, provide information about potential hazards outside the home including equipment, chemicals, firearms, wildlife and livestock.

L. Supervision

1.Know the general whereabouts of students at all times.
2.Provide out of school hours supervision and care for students to ensure ongoing welfare. An adult should be at home 5 – 7 evening per week. Students 12 years of age and under should only be left in the care of a babysitter that is trained and of an appropriate age.
3.Set reasonable curfews for students in accordance with their age and the needs of the homestay family.
4.Students must have written permission from their parents and must provide relevant contact details to the homestay family if they wish, and are allowed by their program, to stay away from their homestay overnight or have extended travel plans. Students must be accompanied by an adult when travelling.

M. Liaison with Educational Institution or Homestay Agency

In general, homestay families are asked to liaise with the educational institution or homestay agency regarding any concerns or difficulties. Whenever possible, contact should occur during regular working hours.

  1. Maintain a close liaison with the homestay coordinator so as to be in a position to help resolve any problems that students may encounter during their stay.
  2. Notify the homestay coordinator of any changes of circumstances in the household, e.g. family member turning 18 years of age or returning to live at home or new animal purchased.
  3. Contact the homestay coordinator immediately if there are any concerns regarding students’ academic progress, health or welfare or regarding any serious incidents, for example, a serious illness or change in students’ health, a serious accident involving students, abuse or the danger of abuse of students or any other occurrence which may affect the health or safety of students.
  4. The homestay coordinator should be notified immediately of any problems between students and homestay families. If necessary, request mediation by the coordinator.
  5. Receive a copy of school reports and attend school interviews if requested by students’ parents.
  6. Ensure the educational institution holds up-to-date contact and emergency contact details for the homestay family and students.
  7. Establish and maintain appropriate communication with students’ teachers. Contact the homestay coordinator if any concerns arise.

N. Maintaining High Standards

  1. Adhere to these policies.
  2. Allow the educational institution or homestay agency access to the home for periodic inspections as requested by the educational institution or homestay agency.
  3. Attend homestay family orientation and training sessions and networking events whenever possible.
  4. Cooperate readily with any evaluation processes related to participation in the homestay program.
  5. Maintain confidentiality in all matters related to students in the homestay program including oral or written information received directly or indirectly. Direct all concerns or issues to the homestay coordinator.

O. Managing Grievances and Moving Students

  1. If a concern or issue arises with a student, first attempt to discuss the matter directly and diplomatically. If the issue remains unresolved following discussion, raise the matter with the homestay coordinator.
  2. Once a homestay placement has been made, homestay families are expected to make every reasonable effort to fulfil their obligations. In the event of problems, homestay families are expected to cooperate to resolve them quickly and efficiently.
  3. Should a homestay family be forced to break off the arrangement due to a change in personal circumstances, the educational institution or homestay agency will transfer students to a new homestay placement as quickly as possible.
  4. Homestay families can request that students be moved. The homestay families must discuss this with the educational institution or homestay agency first and an agreement must be reached between all three parties before any action is taken.
  5. Should a student have a valid reason for wanting to leave the homestay placement and the problem cannot be resolved satisfactorily between the student, the homestay family and the educational institution or agency, the educational institution or homestay agency should endeavour to transfer the student to a new homestay placement within at least two weeks of being notified.
  6. Contact the homestay coordinator within 48 hours when a student may have caused damage to the home or facilities in the home.

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I can’t explain how thankful I am for this experience in Canada.  These ten months have taught me so much.  I could be all day, naming every single person who made me smile, helped me, or just made this experience even more awesome.  Thank you to everyone!  You don’t know how happy I am you ...

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