Hosting / Life Abroad / Life in the U.S.

True or False: Our kids are too young for hosting exchange students.

One of the most common assumptions people make about hosting an exchange student is that only families with teenagers at home have much to benefit. “Our kids are too young; it won’t be meaningful,” or “Isn’t it better to wait until the kids are in high school?” are often heard concerns. Tiffney, a host mom with three little ones of her own, respectively age 11, 7, and 1, shares her experience.

Tiffney’s family hosted Cassie from Denmark last year, and is hosting Emma from Norway this year. On the contrary to popular concern, Tiffney says that both years have been wonderful. Last year, in fact, she felt was so great, that she almost didn’t host again. She was worried the experience won’t ever be the same. In cheerful relief she shares, “Now I know of course that it is very possible to follow a great year with another awesome year, and maybe even a better year.”


The family and Emma enjoy a day out in Washington.

Tiffney says that Emma has bonded with the kids since day 1. “They are not just my kids; they are her sisters and brother. Emma has always treated them like it and loves them like a real sister.”


Emma and her 7-year-old host brother, Reece

Though it has only been four months since Emma’s arrival, her impact is seen in every corner of the house. Tiffney marvels that “[her] 1-year-old is singing songs in Norwegian.”

She has turned some of the most mundane daily routines into fun bonding time. “My 7-year-old son looks forward to Emma’s hugs every morning. Emma makes time every day to make herself available to the younger kids to sit, play, and snuggle with.”

“As the evening winds down, she and my 11-year-old Amelia sit at the table together and giggle while they paint. She really makes them feel special by making a point to spend time with them every single day.”

Catch a snippet of one of these paint dates in the clip below. It was a part of Emma’s “A Day in My Life” vlog submitted last month for the International Education Week Scavenger Hunt. Even in this short clip, the sisterly bond Tiffney speaks of is evident in their playful interaction.


It comes as no surprise that the children are also benefitting educationally from having a loving international sister. “We homeschool our kids,” Tiffney shares, “and it has really benefitted our school.” According to Tiffney, there is minimal schedule difference though Emma attends a public school. She says there is only to gain.

“I can now get Amelia interested in some of our reading books that take place in our students’ home countries,” Tiffney exclaims. “Hosting international exchange students has really helped our kids learn patience, acceptance, and appreciation for new cultures, experiences, and traditions.”

The youngest Sawyer is no exception. At age 1, perhaps she will be the quickest to develop “the bilingual brain.” In the precious capture Tiffney shares below, we see Emma reading Sawyer an English-Norwegian bilingual picture book.


Emma reads an English-Norwegian bilingual picture book to her youngest host sister, Sawyer.

“We are sad 2015 is almost over and it will soon be time for Emma to go home,” Tiffney sighs.” Every time Emma and I flip the calendar over a month, we look at each other with pouty faces. And I don’t even like the pouty face usually.”

To Tiffney, it is unimaginable that any family would not benefit from giving their children an international big sister/brother.

“Our family has grown by 2,” she says. “And our last two years were wonderful in different ways. Cassie, in fact, just called me up the other day to tell me that she is visiting from Denmark in February! She will get to meet Emma.” And it will be a New Year’s family reunion.

“We have had so much fun over the years. We have enjoyed being tourists in our own backyards and taking the time to notice things we took for granted before this experience. We will always have ‘our girls’ from Denmark and Norway, and they will always be the big sisters to our kids.”

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