How We Became A HomeStay Host Family

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Hosting international students and becoming a Homestay Canadian host family was one of the best experiences we have ever had.

Today, I’m sharing our experience as cash-paid hosts to international students with Red Leaf Canada.

homestay Canada
The benefits of becoming a homestay family

Host International Students For Cash and Experiences

We had such a fantastic student from Spain the first time that we went on to host seven other students before our son was born.

I hope to convey in this post how essential host families in Canada are and the benefits of becoming a homestay host family.

Although we started the experience for extra cash to add income to our monthly budget, it was far more than just financial gains for us.

As you will read below, we earned over $6000 cash from becoming a host family, which turned into much more.

Homestay around the world programs is a great way to get your child involved with different cultures, which allows them to immerse themselves in new experiences.

It begins as a homestay home and ends with a home sweet home, and I only say this because out of the eight international homestay students we hosted, almost all wanted to stay.

Moving to Canada from the UK

As an immigrant living in Canada, even visiting here from the UK was a bit of a culture shock from the Canadian accents to the fast pace of life in the big cities.

I’m a small village boy with few close friends, and when I landed in Canada at Toronto Pearson Airport in 2005, I was overwhelmed with joy and curiosity about life outside the arrival doors.

Living with a homestay family is the best way for these international students to get a taste of Canadian life, sort of what I did while dating my wife.

There was a point where I stayed in Canada for four months to look around, learn to drive on Canadian roads, and understand the culture.

It was well worth it, and I’d do it all over again if I could rather than just moving here straight from the UK, as that is a stressful enough process.

Fast forward to us buying our first home together as husband and wife who were looking for ways to earn extra income to help fund the renovations that we planned to do.

Red Leaf Canada Host Family

We fell into the Red Leaf Canada program after reading an ad on Kijiji for our city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

There was a company called Red Leaf looking for host families for international students from Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, and China.

We had no idea what the compensation would be like, but Mrs. CBB responded to the ad where she corresponded with someone from Red Leaf.

From there, it turned into a phone call which led to a home visit and then a trek to the police station to pick up our police criminal record check (PCRC) to present to Red Leaf.

Our First Homestay Student

Ta-da, we were now a Red Leaf Host Family with no kids and a dog awaiting the arrival of our first student, a 17-year-old girl from Spain.

Since we had two bedrooms upstairs, we picked the biggest one for her, which boasts a four-post bed 3 feet off the ground with luxury bedding.

The windows are wide-spread throughout the room, bringing in lots of light and empty dressers and a large closet for clothing and accessories.

Next to the bedroom is a full bathroom that the homestay student can use all to herself, which was great because there was no waiting for bathroom time.

The idea was to provide a luxury homestay experience for our students, so we made gift baskets from products we stockpiled using Canadian coupons.

The homestay students loved that idea; however, almost all the products they brought over ended up staying here because they needed the space for all the new stuff they bought.

They were smart about paying extra for luggage fees and even weighed their luggage before returning to the airport.

We bought a scale for this purpose since it benefits the students.

To be fair, we only hosted girls, which wasn’t by choice, it was just how it went for us, and girls like to take forever to get ready—just saying…ha!

Hosting Two Homestay Students At Once

Since we had two bedrooms, that allowed us to have two host students, but they must not speak the same international language.

This was because students must speak only English with other students and their homestay families.

To be transparent, we did not ever host two students at once, but we did overlap with two from Germany for one week only because of a missed flight.

That was an error on the student’s part, but the parents sorted it out with us without problems.

Each student we hosted would stay with us for at least one month, some only two weeks, depending on the Red Leaf program they participated in.

Red Leaf offers many international programs in Canada, from a mini-stay to a high school experience stay.

How To Combat Host Family Anxiety

I anticipated the arrival of our first student to the point where I understood how Mrs. CBB felt when she was awaiting my arrival in Canada.

You may want to show the students everything about Canada, from fast-food restaurants and local beaches to historic venues, along with a trip to Niagara Falls and downtown Toronto.

It can be overwhelming as a first-time host family because you don’t know what to expect even if you are given an agenda.

Some anxiety was hanging around our emotions, but it disappeared by the second day.

We found the Red Leaf program very enriching because we showed our international students the way of life in Canada and learning about their culture.

Once at our house, we let the homestay students tour the home and property, including their bedroom and bathroom.

The first night is challenging as the kids are exhausted from jet lag, so we just let them rest until the next day.

Showing Homestay Students Local Transit Operations

The hard part is usually that the next day, they are up and have to be ready for school pickup or to take the city bus to their destination.

Back when we did it, one of the provisions as a host family was to show them how to use the city bus.

Red Leaf gave them a one-month bus pass, and I would go with them a couple of times until they got the hang of it.

I was already a city bus rock star since I had to take it when I went back to school in Canada.

After that, our homestay students were fine on the bus and, within days, independent from getting ready, making meals, and starting their day.

It was challenging because of the language barriers we all experienced. Although, with Google Translate and the students having some basic speaking of English, it wasn’t bad at all.

Cooking With Our Homestay Students

One fascinating thing we learned from our Spanish students was that they eat their most enormous meals at breakfast and lunch, followed by a small snack at dinner.

In Canada, they were shocked at how we do the opposite, which meant that the homestay students from Spain weren’t as hungry come dinner time.

Now, the homestay students from Japan, China, and Germany were far different as they loved to eat any time of the day.

The homestay students often cook something special from their culture for us, and we’d do the same.


Do you remember our Spanish Potato Tortilla?

That was from a Spanish student who told us it was a tradition in Spain, so we all made it together.

One of our students would send photos of all the meals we prepared, and she was just so in love with Canada and our way of life.

Seeing the smiles and excitement on our homestay student’s faces was fascinating.

Oh, and we even had one of our students help us to make our first-ever batch of homemade crab apple jelly.

Our tree was filled with crab apples that year, and our German student wanted to help pick them and make the jam, so we did it.

I gave her a jar to take home to her family so she could show them what she had done.

Role Of The Canadian Homestay Hosts

how we became a homestay host family for international students in Canada
Homestay Students Red Leaf Canada

Part of the homestay accommodation also meant that we treated the students as our kids.

We would get a chuckle when the kids would talk to their parents and call us their host mom or host dad, but in essence, that’s what we were for a month.

Our role as a Canadian host family was to provide three meals a day, a bedroom, bathroom and to integrate the homestay student into our way of life.

Ideally, you will want to take them shopping, on excursions, and do what your family does regularly, like grocery shopping.

A fun outing was visiting the grocery shopping so they could see what we had in our Canadian Grocery Stores.

That might seem dull if you live in Canada, but our homestay students, love it.

One of our girls was fascinated with bagels, cream cheese, and bags of Christie chocolate chip cookies.

Another was a must-have food product, Nutella type of girl.

We also allowed them to pick out treats they wanted for breakfast and lunch, which they enjoyed doing.

At home, the homestay students prepared their breakfast and lunch with the foods we bought, and we provided dinner.

Eating Out With Our Homestay Students

Sometimes we eat at fast food restaurants such as Tim Horton’s.

They all heard about our famous Canadian coffee and donuts because they devoured them.

I can understand because I did the same as my parents did. We’re big Boston Cream Donut fans in our British family.

Almost all of our homestay students wanted to hang out with the other international students at the mall or downtown after school.

To do so, it was mandatory that they had to call us for permission to say they weren’t coming home for dinner.

We were okay with that, and it was allowed by Red Leaf Canada, but they had to abide by the curfew set out by Red Leaf and the family.

If we had to go out to find them or alert Red Leaf that they did not show up on time, there were consequences for the students.

Not once did we have any problems with any of our students.

Homestay Students Education and Exploration of Canada

Throughout the month, the students would travel to Niagara Falls, Toronto, and even Wonderland.

During the week, they would learn English and study at our local University, college, or high school in the area.

At the end of the month, there would be a gathering with all homestay students and Canadian host families.

We would host a big pot-luck picnic and a concert by the kids with lots of food and desserts.

Every one of our homestay students presented us with gifts of gratitude from their home country, and sometimes even upon departure, they would gift us something.

They didn’t have to do this, but they were so overwhelmed by our help and generosity as a host family that they said they wanted to do it.

Friends For Life

With each homestay student, we learned more about becoming a better host family so we’d be prepared for the next one.

Not one of our end reviews by the students was terrible, and we still communicate with all our homestay students via Facebook.

Recently, our first homestay student, who was 17, became a doctor, and we couldn’t be more proud of her journey.

We told all of our students that if they ever came back to Ontario, they were welcome to stay at our house, and they reciprocated the offer if we went to their country.

Becoming a Red Leaf host in Canada started as a way of earning extra money but ended with us building new relationships and experiences that would last a lifetime.

We haven’t hosted a student in 4 years but plan to once our son is a bit older so he can be part of the process with us.

I highly recommend becoming a host family. If you’ve considered it and haven’t but are thinking about it now, give it a shot.

What is Red Leaf Canada?

Since all we know is Red Leaf Canada, we thought we’d share what we know about their hosting platform.

Keep in mind that other programs and companies in Canada host international students and are looking for host families besides Red Leaf.

Red Leaf was born in 1986 with a clear goal: meet the needs of those seeking language training and life-altering experiences both in Canada and in Spain.

For that reason, Red Leaf has always had offices both in Madrid and Greater Toronto Area. Our office in China has now joined this joint venture.

Red Leaf has been a proud member of Languages Canada since its foundation in 2008 and a proud member of ASEPROCE since 1997.

All members of these two associations share the common goal of promoting quality and professionalism on multicultural experiences and safe-keeping students’ interests, defending core values such as high-quality, flexibility, teamwork, open communication and preparation for the future.

Types of Red Leaf Programs in Canada

More than 30,000 juniors and adults have already taken part in one of our specially designed programs.

Red Leaf supports talent development and understands that being fluent in more than one language is of utmost importance for everyone who wants to have his or her best chance at success in a global world.

We offer learning opportunities for everybody, starting with summer or mini-stay programs for the youngest to immersion and volunteering experiences for the adults.

All our programs use ESL or FSL as a tool to develop many other personal skills. Language training is no longer the one and only goal!

Red Leaf Canada

Homestay Opportunities

  • Academic Year Program – For students wishing to integrate into Canadian school life fully
  • High School Experience Short Stay – For students wanting to get a taste of Canadian high school life.
  • Mini Stay – For school groups wishing to experience Canadian school life. Ideal for bilingual schools!
  • Mini Rez – For school groups wishing to experience Canadian school life while sharing residence life and activities. Ideal for bilingual schools
  • Mini Mansion – For school groups wishing to experience Canadian school life while sharing residence life and activities. Ideal for bilingual schools
  • Ace Program – Suited to school groups looking for fun and meaningful experiential learning.
  • Cottage Life – A fun and intensive program designed for quick progression in English
  • 4 to 1 – Fun and intensive program that combines lessons and activities
  • English and Homestay Summer – An ideal first trip to Canada!
  • English and Residence – Live and learn English at one of Canada’s prestigious universities.
  • Total Immersion Summer – Ideal for teens wishing to experience authentic Canadian family life directly
  • Volunteering Program – An unforgettable cultural experience while learning English!

How To Become A Host Family In Canada

If you don’t mind sharing your house and knowledge about Canada, you may be the right fit for becoming a host family to international students.

YES, you get paid to be a host family anywhere from $500-900 a month, which is non-taxable money, so you don’t have to claim it.

How We Became A Homestay Host Family In Canada to 8 Students

The money you earn goes towards buying groceries and accommodations and paying for any extra activities you do as a family.

I can’t speak for every homestay program in Canada, but we went with Red Leaf Canada, which I will talk about today and highly recommend.

Once you apply online to become a Red Leaf host, a representative will arrange to visit your homestay house for a home visit and see if you are fit for their program.

They will want to see your spare room for the homestay student, bathroom, kitchen, and living space because they want to ensure it is clean, tidy, and host-friendly.

It also helps them to pair you with the right students, as some have allergies to pets, and some are vegetarian.

One of our students was vegetarian, so we committed to one month of eating her way.

We learned that we love protein but that it was fine to incorporate meatless meals into the meal plans.

Learning About Canadian Culture

Red Leaf will want to know what a typical day in your life is like to get a sense of whether your family would be a good fit to teach a student about Canadian culture.

They aren’t looking for people who want to earn fast cash and not care about the students. It’s important to understand how critical it is to have a host family participating.

Once you have your police record check verified and handed in, they either approve you as a host family or deny you.

There are always shortages of host families as students come throughout the year, not just during the summer.

Some students stay for the entire year and need a host family for the full duration.

Since our son was born, we’ve had about three phone calls where they were desperate for host families, but we have been unable to open our home quite yet.

Purpose Of Living With A Homestay Host Family

Living with a Canadian family is one of the best ways to get a true feel for Canadian life.  

It allows students to become a member of the family and the community, participating in daily activities while improving their English attending school, classes or at a Summer Camp.

As a Red Leaf host family you can give an international student this experience.  

It is a unique, enriching adventure, not just for your own family but also for the new son or daughter you take on for the duration.

You will create international ties and bonds that last a lifetime.

Your family will represent Canada on an international scale, sharing the beauty of your own home and give an insight into our amazing culture with an international student.

What’s more, the feeling is reciprocated – you’ll be able to learn from the student you host – about a whole new culture and lifestyle, completely different to your own.

As a Host Family, you’ll have the opportunity to become a part of this student’s life, providing him or her with a home away from home.  

With you as a family, he/she can see what it’s like to live as a true Canadian family and take part in an experience of a lifetime.

Red Leaf Canada- Become A Host

Overall Experience As A Canadian Homestay Host Family

Would we become a host family again?

Yes, and we plan on it once our son is ready to handle company next to his room and to share his bathroom.

You don’t have to have kids to become a host family, but having kids is equally as rewarding an experience for international students as yours.

I was not paid to write about our homestay experience, but I thought more people needed to know about this rewarding program.

Canadians must be open to other countries’ diversity and share what we offer in Canada.

Trust me; they are just as excited as I was the first time I landed in this country that I now call home.

We are wanderers of this earth, and now we have friends for life, something money can’t buy.

Discussion: Would you consider becoming a host family in Canada?

Share your experiences and thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading,


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