How Host Families Can Help Build Student Independence | Dear Angela

“Dear Angela: I host two young men, and one of them doesn’t know how to cook anything! I am going on vacation and needing respite care, and we have to find some place for him to go where the mom or dad can make him meals, which is quite a big issue when both parents are working. I wish there was a class that we could teach these boys how to take care of themselves. They’re going to college next year, and I am very worried about him eating right.” – Concerned about Cooking

Dear Concerned about Cooking,
Thank you for your letter expressing the concern of many host parents: how can hosts help build student independence. We know host families of seniors may feel a special amount of responsibility in helping their students be ready for success. Functioning independently at college includes everything from doing laundry, cooking healthy meals, and navigating the grocery store to knowing their network of support when they leave the host’s home and their high school experience.

Cambridge Network has a collection of resources to support hosts in increasing student independence. Here are some ideas, including links to previously posted Cambridge Network articles:

  • Cooking: Dedicate one session per week for working with students in the kitchen. Many students attended boarding schools as young students and have lived with hosts throughout high school. Hosts can facilitate student development by dedicating some time together with students for:
    • Kitchen Safety: work with students on knife skills; review the importance of ventilation, using timers, so a hot stove is not forgotten; teach students about managing gas and electrical issues; model safe food preparation and clean-up.
    • Recipes: See previously posted recipes shared through Homestay Happenings and available on our blog. Students love recipes from home and feel comforted and proud to be able to prepare a recipe for hosts and friends independently. Ask the student about their favorite dishes, reach out to natural parents for recipes, working together with student on this selection of recipes, shopping with student, working on measurement and use of kitchen tools, and sharing tips for recipe success offer great opportunities to communicate and interact with your student while also fostering their independence.
  • Laundry: Most hosts introduce instructions for using washing machines and dryers as soon as students arrive in the host’s home. If you have not done so but have been generously helping students with laundry, please do make time to provide your student with hands-on laundry training, including:
    • Use of laundry machine (reading dials, understanding settings)
    • Basic ironing skills
    • Basic sorting guidelines
    • Minimizing water use/environmental considerations
    • Proper care of different fabrics
    • Respectful use of shared machines
  • Cambridge-UP: Encourage your student to attend Cambridge-UP courses, a series of soft skills development courses provided to every student for free each week. Over the past year, topics have included cultural awareness, managing physical health, making friends, time management, stress skills, and various research and writing skills. Four levels of courses are being fine-tuned for the 2019-2020 school year, including a unique curriculum for seniors about building independence and being prepared to start college. For details on your student’s class assignment and log-in information, please contact your local Student Development Manager (SDM).

Also, please keep your local SDM updated on any respite care needs. He/she will help make the arrangements for your student’s short-term stay with another Cambridge approved host.

We hope these ideas will help you and our many other dedicated hosts who are working with students to build independence and prepare them well for college! We wish you well as you continue to support student independence, so they are well-prepared for the challenges ahead!

For any program related or immediate issues, please continue to contact your Student Development Manager.

Be on the lookout for our more Dear Angela articles on our Homestay Blog! Please send your hosting questions to Angela’s Mailbox ([email protected]). If you’re interested in hosting an international student, please fill out an inquiry form!

All the best,


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