Many questions arise when a family considers sending a child on a Network program or hosting a visiting student. Some of these questions can be answered generally, however, your best source of specific information is the Network school advisor at your home school.
Q: How long will the exchange last?
A: This depends on the school program the student is attending. Exchanges usually last between one and four weeks. It would be unusual for a student to come to your home more than a day or two before his/her program begins or to stay on after it ends. Both the home and host schools are aware of the travel schedule and expect the student to abide by it.
Q: What am I expected to provide for a visiting student?
A: A visiting Network student should have his/her own bed, meals with the family, and should be treated like a family member as much as possible. If you have a child of the same sex, it is fine for the student to share a room with him or her. Visiting students should not share rooms with students of the opposite sex, nor with adults.
It is not up to you to provide transportation to and from the host school or the program site, though this may happen if you and the Network advisor agree to it. Network students are old enough to use available public transportation in most situations.
Q: What am I expected to pay for?
A: The student’s family is normally expected to cover the costs of travel to and from the host school and some spending money for their son or daughter. The home school advisor who arranges the exchange can help estimate these costs. The host family covers meals eaten in the host home. If the program involves meals taken outside the host home, the student should be prepared to pay for them.
Q: To what extent am I expected to entertain the Network student during free time?
A: Network students are not on vacation and should not expect you to act as a tour guide. Any outings which you or family members would enjoy taking, however, could enhance the student’s experience. This does not mean that the student must be invited every time family members go somewhere special. The student often has some places in mind to visit on his/her own, such as colleges in the area. Most Network students will have contact with the host school and therefore will be able to make new friends independently.
Q: What should I do if the Network student living in my home becomes ill or has an accident?
A: Host parents should consult the student’s parents directly if a health problem arises. They will be grateful to you for calling them. In case of a health emergency, you should first secure necessary medical aid for the student in the emergency room of your local hospital. You should notify the host school advisor and either he/she or you should call the parents. If you have further questions about emergency health procedures, discuss them with the host school advisor before the student arrives.
All Network student parents sign a form which certifies that they are in good health and have no medical conditions which should inhibit them from participating. If a student normally takes some prescription drug, he/she should carry a supply to the host community.
Q: Should the host and home families communicate directly?
A: Yes, and as early as possible. The host school gives the home school your name, address, and phone number, which is then passed on to the student’s family. A brief letter or phone call before the student leaves can reassure all parties concerned and give the parents a chance to explain special circumstances. If you establish some adult communication right at the start, the entire home stay can work out more smoothly.
Q: What kinds of rules and procedures are Network students expected to follow?
A: Network students should follow the same procedures as members of your family. If you expect your teenager to be home for dinner or to call you to ask permission to visit a friend after school, then you should ask the visitor to do likewise. Be sure to go over these procedures with the Network student so that he/she knows what to expect. Before they leave home, students sign a contract, which emphasizes cooperation with members of the host community.
Q: Am I obligated to take a Network student if I have sent my son or daughter on an exchange?
A: No, but it would be extremely helpful to your school if you could. Some student exchanges require you to agree to take a student into your home before allowing you to send your son or daughter. The Network schools realize that not all families are well-suited to hosting a student and therefore do not require it. Please remember, though, that without host families the Network cannot function. If you cannot host a student, you can help the advisor by identifying one or more other families who are interested.
Q: What should I do if the exchange doesn’t seem to be working out?
A: As in all other things, you must use your good judgment. If the problem is small and you and the host student can work it out, fine. Before a small problem becomes a difficult one, however, it is best to consult the host school advisor. The advisor is responsible for the exchange and wants to know how things are going. The advisor’s advice can be helpful in straightening out whatever misunderstanding exists. Do not hesitate to let him/her know your concerns.