Last June our oldest daughter, Victoria, graduated from high school after 13 years of homeschooling. It was quite an accomplishment for her—and for me! When Harold and I began our homeschooling journey, high school was not part of the equation. Planning a graduation ceremony was not on my radar screen! After lots of prayer and research, God gave us ideas that created the perfect night of fun and honor for Victoria.
Preparing for the Day
Choosing the Ceremony Just as each family homeschools differently, each homeschool family has several options for graduation. Since Victoria had not attended a homeschool co-op or umbrella school, she was not connected to a ceremony that was already planned. I talked with her about the possibility of graduating with other organizations such as the local support group or the state homeschool organization. She wasn’t interested in graduating with people she didn’t know so she chose to have an individual graduation ceremony.
Planning the Celebration Victoria and I talked about what she would like to have at the ceremony. We agreed that Victoria would play a piano piece that she had dreamed of playing since she was seven. We also talked about a guest speaker, but in the end we agreed that Harold, Victoria, and I would speak. Victoria acquiesced to my request for a PowerPoint presentation.
Choosing the Venue Since our graduation ceremony included a short piano recital, we needed a location with an acoustic piano. Our church no longer has a piano, but we were able to use another local church where Victoria had had piano recitals in the past.
Choosing Colors I purchased a black cap and gown (from homeschooldiploma.com) but allowed Victoria to choose the “class colors” for her tassel. She chose red and white. We kept the color theme for all the decorations and details of the celebration.
Announcements/Invitations Victoria wasn’t interested in formal announcements so we decided to make the announcement the invitation to the graduation ceremony. I wanted to include an up-to-date picture since many would be mailed to out-of-town friends. We came up with a compromise at studiodayspring.com. (There are other options at shutterfly.com, snapfish.com, and peartreegreetings.com.) She designed the black, red, and white invitations which included a picture taken by a friend. (Note: Most professional photographers require a release of copyright—and a fee—to use their work.) We were so pleased. We even found “Celebration” stamps from the post office--no extra cost, but a nice touch.
The Diploma I ordered a lovely personalized diploma and padded cover from homeschooldiploma.com. (Same company as the cap, gown, and tassel) They had several wording selections to choose from and we included one that included commendations for her character as well as her academics. We personalized the name of our school, her name, the date, and a favorite scripture. I was extremely pleased with the quality.
Preserving the Moment Knowing that everyone in our family would be quite busy, we asked one friend to take photographs and another friend to video tape. That freed us up to greet guests and enjoy the evening. Next time, I’m going to make a “shot list” of the pictures I want. We forgot to take a picture of our whole family at the ceremony. We did take one at home, but it wasn’t quite the same.
The Program Here is a sneak peek into the first graduation ceremony of the Moore family homeschool. It was a very relaxed atmosphere with lots of laughter. Some people said it felt like a big family sitting down together. The ceremony lasted a little less than an hour. In case you’re like me and you envision pictures of things, you might want to know that all four girls sat in the front row. There were two chairs on the platform for Harold and me to sit in during the ceremony.
Prelude: Our graduate chose a recording of one of her favorite songs by her favorite Christian recording artist. Welcome: (2 mins.) Harold greeted the guests with some warm remarks and prayer. He introduced Victoria and she walked to the piano. Senior Recital: (8 mins.) Victoria played one movement of a Beethoven sonata. After she finished her piece, she walked to the rear of the sanctuary and into the lobby where I helped her put on her cap and gown. Processional: (2 mins.) We used a recording of a short version of “Pomp and Circumstance.” I quickly walked down the side aisle as the music started and all eyes were on Victoria’s entrance. When Victoria arrived at the front, she greeted her sisters, her dad, and I with a kiss on the cheek and a long- stemmed red rose. It was a precious and emotional moment, especially for the sisters. Our Homeschooling Journey: (10 mins.) This was an opportunity for me to talk about homeschooling in general as well as our particular experience homeschooling. When we made the choice to homeschool kindergarten, I knew only 5 homeschool families—and the oldest child was in fourth grade. I never intended to homeschool through high school, but I told the story of how God had changed my heart of over the years. Most of all I wanted to encourage other families in how doable homeschooling is and how valuable it is to homeschool through high school. A Pictorial Transcript: (5 mins.) After twelve years of schooling, I had quite a collection of photos from field trips, recitals, and other family adventures. I assembled them together for a PowerPoint presentation set to music. Charge to the Graduate: (10 mins.) Harold used a scripture from 2 Timothy to encourage our graduate to continue in holy living. Reflections from the Valedictorian: (10 mins.) It has been a standing joke in our family that our girls will be valedictorians and so we listed her as such on the program (half sheet of white cardstock with the order of the ceremony). She talked about what homeschooling meant to her and thanked those who had been a part of her education—music teachers, leaders in the music ministry at church, and of course, her parents. Though many of the guests already knew, she concluded by mentioning her short-term and long-term goals for the future. Presentation of the Diploma: (5 mins.) I held the diploma while Harold read it aloud. After we presented it to her, she moved her tassel from the right side of her hat to the left side. The audience erupted in applause and cheers. Closing Prayer and Blessing: (5 mins.) Harold prayed a sweet prayer of blessing over Victoria. Recessional: Again, our graduate chose a meaningful song that reflected her hopes for the future.
The Reception I tried to keep everything very simple. We kept everything in the color theme of red, black, and white. Our only decorations were a dozen red roses and some helium balloons, but we did set a table of memorabilia with Victoria’s senior picture and a frame with a mat that her guests could sign. It hangs in her room today. Also on the table were samples of her school projects and a notebook portfolio of her graphic design work. We had a separate table with a basket for cards and gifts. Our menu included a beautifully decorated cake, pretzels, nuts and our graduate’s favorite snacks: black jelly beans and lemon heads. Our punch was a red lingonberry punch--again, one of the Victoria’s favorites.
Next Time… Unbelievably, we’re about to do this all over again! Our second daughter will graduate in June, 2011. We were so pleased with graduation, we’re not planning to change very much. (However, I am planning to start the working on the PowerPoint presentation much earlier!) We’re still planning a solo ceremony very much like the first one, but adapted to the interests and talents of our second daughter. We’ve chosen the venue, the colors, and a tentative invitation from an online source. We’ll use the same black cap and gown (This time we’ll remember the bobby pins and to wear the honor cord!) and we’ll order another diploma from the same site. One thing won’t be same…this time I’ll be prepared!