Once upon a time a Canadian family decided to go on a one year sabbatical in hopes to find a new life in Europe that centered around the idea of spending more time together. They searched Europe looking for viable business opportunities. They looked in different countries to find the right combination of tourism and culture and eventually settled in the village of Capestang.
We are 2 1/2 years into our French adventure. Le Petit Platane started six months after we bought our house. The B&B was supposed to be our income earner after a renovation adding rooms with toilets and offering breakfast for nightly stays and a kitchenette to our completely separate private apartment off our home. Although we managed to fill our beds for the first two seasons we ran them, it was a lot of work to juggle part time jobs with my home based business. I needed to find work that made enough money to keep me home with the kids year round and combine our existing businesses into one.
Alfonz still toured for different domains, and took our guests on fun excursions. I still had my ESL classes for the local kids twice a week. Then the idea became to combine all of these different passions to make one big job.
As many people might remember late last year I got very sick and needed to go to hospital. During the first six week recovery period, I met a family through our French lessons and found out about a local Homestay family that hosts Parisian children. Through them I got information on the set up of the business structure and format. It was at a point in my recovery that I was feeling low and when the idea came to me to inquire directly with the company to become a host family too, I got very excited at the prospect.
Homestay gives people an opportunity to live with a family from another culture, practice a second or new language or simply be a tourist. This form of study abroad proves to give children and adults an intensive learning experience while feeling at home. The homestay family embrace their guests and merge them into their everyday life.
It wasn’t an easy process. It took many applications, Skype interviews, three letters of reference and three letters of recommendation including one from our new mayor and one from a mother of one of the children in my English class. I felt I needed to take the TEFL/TESOL training course to feel confident in teaching teenagers and to make my own lesson plans. Up until then I had kept my classes to ten-years-old and under and gave free one hour conversation classes to parents that kept me talking in French and them in English for the last two years. Eventually schedules changed and the adult class dwindled to only a handful and I decided to free up my time from that and choir to take the TESOL online training course.
I started the intensive 160 hour Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English to Students of Other Languages course during the time our friend Pierre POLARD was running for mayor and I was one of the members on his campaign list. I went from six weeks in bed with no energy to hitting the ground running and making up for lost time. I was determined to fit it all in. Two-hour French lessons twice a week, choir in the afternoons on Mondays, meetings for the campaign in the evenings and weekends, writing for the BBB Midi magazine and lastly studying. Not to mention cooking and cleaning for my family of four.
From January until March election related meetings got crazy busy and I couldn’t physically fit in all my obligations. I then made the hard decision to drop choir. Our French lessons went to the back burner as well. Eventually our S.T.E.F.I. they lost their funding and that was dropped as well. I had the time to finish the course and I contacted the owner of the homestay business to let her know how determined we were to qualify for the position.
A surprise, the owner of the business flew down to meet us and hired us on the spot. She was lovely and I knew our family could easily work with her. She encouraged us, motivated us and took the time to answer all our question. English for Success program was a good match for our family and we signed up.
We rearranged the house to accommodate four students in our already existing B&B. Daniel’s bunk bed made its way to the apartment downstairs and is now able to accommodate a homestay family of three. The pull out double bed made its way to Angelina’s room and lastly Angelina’s double bed went to Daniel’s room better to fit his long lanky preteen growth spurts. We modified the kitchen in Le Petit Platane, we bought three new bikes and lastly we purchased a seven-passenger Opel Zaphira to take the students from the airport or train station and cart them around the Languedoc. We were set.
I managed to finish my TESOL accreditation with a 90% average just before Easter weekend, giving me enough time to make lesson plans for our first guests. Overzealous, I prepared 30 lesson plans for intermediate level and brushed up on my execution. I prepared meal plans for our first guests with different preferences. I catered our tours this week with Easter and the weather in mind. I felt ready.
Our schedule goes something like this. The students arrive on Sunday late afternoon and we settle them in before a nice dinner and talk about what they want to do during the week for activities in the surrounding areas. The next five days are virtually identical; 9:00 breakfast, 10:00-12:00 English lessons, 12:00-13:30 lunch then our daily activity. We take them on an excursion to; Carcassonne Castle, river rafting, lakes, beaches, bike riding, hiking, skiing or whatever activity they pick from our very long list.
In the evenings while I make dinner we have an English lesson refresher. Then we eat dinner and hang out like a big family. We can take a late swim, go for a walk, play Wii, watch a movie, Karaoke or play board games but the key is that it is all in English.
We realize the amount of work involved and I know it is not for everyone. I love kids and having the opportunity to spend time with French kids and learn more about the country we live in, makes me very happy.
It is a fabulous learning experience for my children as well and they keep up their English levels while living in France. The opportunity for us to really learn our new area makes me believe this is the perfect choice for our family.
An interesting point is that France has three rotating vacation schedules that extend our rental season from 16 weeks to 28 weeks in one year. Our season is now much longer than before but we also have less time for travel. It is all about balance.
I believe that if you pursue your interests everything will fall into place. It took sometime to find a good fit. Only time will tell if I’m right. Nevertheless Alfonz and I are officially hosting and we are looking forward to spending even more time together. Our new business combines all our existing businesses into one family business. Hamori homestay family gives a daily dose of English to French students.