January 22, 2016
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I am a leader in Cullman, Alabama, and we usually have a graduation ceremony for our graduates. We have anywhere from 10 to 15 graduating each year. What are some of the things other homeschool coverings are doing for a group graduation? In the past, we have had a special singer, a pastor to speak, and a DVD of the graduates’ pictures. I call up the graduate and hand the diploma to the parents to give to their student. It has worked that way for years, but what are other homeschool coverings doing? Any info would help. Thank you!—Kim
Kim, you asked, and the readers of Growing & Connecting answered! HSLDA received responses from a variety of groups, from regional support groups to umbrella schools to state organizations. While everyone’s graduations contained the same basic elements (listed below), there were many unique touches (more on those at the end of this article).
Reading about the special ways each group honors its graduates reminded us of why we love homeschooling! Pam, a leader in New York, said it best: “These graduations were a lot of work, but when many worked together, they were easier. Always, the event was appreciated by the homeschooling families and showed the uniqueness of each student in a way mass graduations can’t.”
Traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional: “We have considered using other music, but grandparents can be most persuasive!” wrote Pam. Richard’s California group has each year’s class of seniors create a banner. During the processional, underclassmen carry the previous years’ banners, with the senior banner last. The banners are displayed onstage during the ceremony.
Speech(es): In some groups, the families choose a special speaker to give a commencement address. Other groups hand over the mike to their seniors, giving either all of them the opportunity to make a speech, or a select few (such as one male and one female senior).
Talent sharing: Graduates are often given the opportunity to share their talents—whether music, poetry recitation, or a gymnastics routine. Talents can be shared individually or in groups. Sylvia says that talent sharing is interwoven with the diploma ceremony: “All talent is limited to three minutes or less. I introduce four to five students, and then we have a talent/speech, before I introduce the next group. It breaks it up nicely.” She recommends vetting the talents ahead of time: “Anyone who wants to perform/speak must give me the music with words or a copy of their speech for approval before the day of graduation practice, which is usually about two to three weeks before graduation.”
Diploma ceremony: Because parents are integral to their homeschooled children’s education, many graduations incorporate parents into the diploma ceremony. A group leader might announce each graduate, describe the graduate’s accomplishments and plans, share any other important information (such as the graduate’s favorite Bible verse), and present the diploma. The graduate is handed a rose to give to his or her parents while leaving the stage. Or, each graduate’s parents present the diploma themselves, taking a few moments to speak to the audience or share a special message with their child.
Prayer: Many groups invite all the parents and seniors to the front for prayer, either as a group or by families.
Audiovisual presentation: Video or PowerPoint presentations of photographs from each graduate’s childhood and young adulthood are very popular. The presentations might be set to music chosen by each graduate, or recorded speeches by the students and their parents. Richard says, “We produce two brief videos. The first is of the seniors as they appeared on stage at our previous June celebrations, beginning with 6th grade. It is amazing to see how they grow and change. The other uses still photos of the seniors from infancy through the present. We also film a brief message from each senior to their parents. The parents see the messages for the first time at the celebration. It can be very touching.”
Announcement of the “class of 20XX” and recessional: Students shift their tassels, throw their caps in the air, and march back down the aisle in a traditional (or not so traditional) recessional. One group’s graduates have danced down the aisle to the “Linus and Lucy” Peanuts theme!
Reception: Receptions may consist of finger foods and cake or a pot-luck party. Some groups decorate the lobby of the graduation and reception venue with student artwork, or give each graduate a table and display board to decorate with meaningful items.
After party: Marie says that her California group has a limo pick up its seniors from the reception at 10:30 p.m. and take them out for burgers and broomball!
So much for the basics. In addition, many leaders shared with us some especially unique approaches to graduation. Barbara describes how her group’s juniors host each graduation: “They always make a helium balloon archway that the graduates walk through as they ascend the stage to their seats and pass under as they exit. The balloons used are the class colors for that particular class. The junior class also runs last-minute ‘go-fer’ errands, hands out programs, organizes the setup of the reception and clean-up, serves the cake and punch, takes pictures, and does anything else to help the day run without a hitch.”
Barbara adds, “Prior to the actual ceremony, there is a Junior-Senior Banquet with speeches, roasts, drama, and whatever the senior class would like to accent about the individuals graduating. The graduates, junior class, parents, and families of the graduates and juniors are invited to attend. Both classes work to raise the funds for the banquet. If all the costs are not covered, then there is a small per-person charge. Both classes also work to pull together a yearbook for the graduating class. We have found that because of the juniors working together the year prior, they have a better idea of what they would like to do at their own graduation. Also, it pulls the students together into a more cohesive group, which makes them a class of friends graduating together.”
Raissa’s Catholic homeschooling group orients its graduations around a liturgy: “The mass is held in a different church each year, depending on the group of seniors we have graduating. The readers, musicians, cantors, and choir are made up of the homeschool students. We invite the many pastors, priests, and deacons who are involved with our churches to concelebrate the mass with us. The priests give a blessing to each 12th-grade graduate and pray over the 8th-grade graduates as they are headed into their high school years.” The mass is followed by a diploma ceremony.
Some groups combine the high school graduation with a promotion ceremony for all their other grades. This can be a logistical challenge, but Marie from California says: “We have used the same formula for about 15 years. It typically goes from 7:00 to 9:00. It is a well-oiled process, and we have a one-hour rehearsal each year, so if the kids have been in for any length of time, they know the process.” Here is how the ceremony is organized:
- All children are seated in the rows of their grade or choir.
- 8th- and 12th-graders enter to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
- The youngest choir performs, and then the K through 2nd-graders are promoted by grade. Another choir performs, and the 3rd- through 7th-graders are promoted.
- 8th-graders walk individually across stage to receive certificates. Parents join them onstage for a group prayer.
- Teen choir performs, followed by promotion of 9th- through 11th-graders.
- Senior graduation ceremony is held.
Richard’s California group follows this schedule:
- Each student is called by name and given a certificate of promotion, along with a mention of noteworthy accomplishments.
- Senior graduation ceremony is held.
- Younger grades may perform a song. There are also video presentations.
- Near the end of the evening, parents of seniors are invited onstage where their students give them flowers.