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Beyond a doubt, one of the most touching occasions I have ever had the privilege to attend is our local homeschool co-op's graduation ceremony.
While there are certainly pros and cons to joining a co-op or local support group, being able to coordinate and celebrate the capstone of your homeschool efforts with a group of like-minded families ranks up there as a major "pro."
You can get as simple or as elaborate as you'd like, but what always gets my tear ducts spilling over is the short (2-3 min) "talk" that each parent (or at least the one who is least likely to break down in tears) gives their son or daughter once they're all up at the podium.
I mean, how do you send off the son with whom you've conquered a learning "challenge" together? Or the daughter who had to work through serious self-doubt and self-criticism despite her obvious (to you, at least) artistic brilliance? All those years of trying and tossing out math curricula...figuring out learning styles...discovering how to motivate them (and yourself) during the inevitable times of discouragement...celebrating successes and milestones as they (also inevitably) occurred?
Gah! I'm crying as I even write this stuff! Pass me the tissues, please.
'Cause my third child is graduating in a few short weeks...
But since the graduation planning experience is fresh in my mind, let me outline for you what we've done, and hopefully motivate you to do something similar when you're in the same boat as I.
Homeschool Graduation Prep - 9 months out
We usually put out a call to our members when we start back to school in the fall. Many times, we'll have a family or two join our group at that time, just so they can be a part of the festivities! These early meetings are actually fun, as we get to know each other a little better and discuss our dreams and plans.
- Decide on the location - We usually try to use a church that one of the graduating students attends. The venue will definitely depend on how many students you have and what your budget is.
- Decide on the date - It's never too early to get the date on the calendar!
- Decide on the menu for fellowship after the ceremony - Will you have cheese and crackers or heavy hors d'oeuervs or something else? Will there be a cake or punch? Getting everyone on the same page here will help everyone agree on a budget.
- Start thinking about who will deliver the commencement address - It's also never too early to get on their calendar, so talk about it together and start asking around.
- What colors will the graduates wear? Or will everyone do their own thing? Neither one is right or wrong; what's important is that everyone is in agreement.
- Create an action plan - Decide who will do what, if necessary, until the next meeting. Decide on when and where you will meet next. Follow up with an email to all participants summarizing all the decisions made, and what's in the works.
Homeschool Graduation Prep - 6 months out
Time flies, and before you know it, a few months have passed and there are not many more to go! This is a great time to start talking about the actual ceremony and what you want to see happen. By this time, the venue, date, speaker, and menu are decided, so it's time to start ironing things out for the program (if you're having one). But there are other things to talk about at this meeting.
- Decide on the ceremony. Will you have entrance/exit music? Will you have a slideshow or show pictures of the graduates? How will handing over the diplomas be handled?
- Decide on the program. Will you have one? Who will do it? Look into how much will it cost. A great way to save money while still having a stylish program is to buy a ream of linen paper (or another style or color you like) and print it yourself.
- Has everyone ordered their caps and gowns? What about diplomas? Graduation announcements and/or invitations ordered?
- Will there be special photo ops for the Seniors? Will there be any group shots taken in advance? Or is everyone on their own? Add dates to the calendar!
- Finalize any menu and budget decisions remaining, who will handle the money and how payment/s will be handled. (This year, with a class of 14, each graduate paid ~$100 which covered our venue (and staff clean up after we were finished), a small honorarium for our speaker, and light refreshments afterward. Our Association provides a cake for the occasion each year.)
Homeschool Graduation Prep - 1 month out
This is when the rubber meets the road and it's down to the wire! If you're having a reception afterward, this is the time to enlist help for serving and clean up. Tie up any loose ends from the action steps you've established and check-in with families of the graduates to see if anyone needs anything. Also:
- Schedule graduation rehearsal, if you think you'll need it. (We have a class of 14 this year so we'll be rehearsing both an entrance and exit, as well as run through our program.)
- Schedule and/or make sure someone will be shopping for the menu and is willing to oversee the refreshments after the ceremony.
Short on time?
If the concept of a "ceremony" is a new one and you're short on time, be creative! Perhaps your church will allow you to do a short recognition of graduates after or during a Sunday service; email special friends and family and do a weekend celebration at home with a short toast when you confer the diploma; plan a fancy dinner at home or the graduate's favorite restaurant and make a special presentation at dessert...
Consider this: for as long as you've homeschooled, you've focused on an individualized approach that best suits your child. As you celebrate this capstone event in their education, why wouldn't you want to continue to keep that attitude?
Once you've arrived at "zero hour", there's not much left to do but enjoy the day. No wait, there IS an action step. Make sure you've got at least a tissue or two tucked away, and thoroughly stay in the moment!
Enjoy the occasion...you've ALL earned it!
Got a high schooler at home?
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