Overview: Contributing writer Sara Dennis takes us step-by-step through the process of planning a homeschool graduation ceremony. This information will help you to make yours wonderful!
Do you have a senior in high school about to graduate? Then you might be thinking about planning a homeschool graduation ceremony. Keep reading! I’ve graduated four children from my homeschool, and here’s what I’ve learned.
5 Steps to Plan a Homeschool Graduation Ceremony
1) Decide on a big or small homeschool graduation ceremony.
The first step is to determine if you and your child want to host a large high school graduation ceremony or keep the event intimate with only a few guests.
If you’d like to host a large event, you may need to find and rent an outside location, but your teen may love being center stage in front of family and friends. Or they may want to share the ceremony with homeschool friends who are also graduating. Then you can corral other moms to help with the planning and preparation!
You can also host a small and intimate high school graduation ceremony. This has the advantage of being able to take place in your backyard or even in your living room. The event may not have as many people attending, but it may be exactly what your teen desires.
So before you move forward, ensure that you and your graduating teenager are on the same page about what type of an event to plan.
2) Decide on a date and location.
Once you know how large your homeschool graduation ceremony will be, it’s time to set a location, date, and time.
If you will need to rent a location, be sure to book the event several months in advance. June is a popular month for weddings and graduation ceremonies and parties, so many places will fill up quickly.
Be sure to send out invitations to your ceremony early enough so that people who must travel a long distance to attend will have the opportunity to make their arrangements.
3) Order the cap and gown and the diploma.
Don’t forget to order the cap, gown, and diploma ahead of time as well. These are items that can take several weeks to ship, so make sure you order them with plenty of time to arrive before the big day.
4) Plan the details of the ceremony itself.
Next, plan each detail of the sequence of events for your child’s homeschool high school graduation ceremony. Thankfully, the order of the ceremony is not complicated.
Graduations tend to begin with people gathering, sitting, and waiting for the big event to happen. Once it’s time, traditionally, Pomp and Circumstance is the music played while the students and teachers enter.
As it’s your high school graduation ceremony, you can include a full procession with music — let your teen(s) choose a different song if they want to — or simply walk into the area where the ceremony will take place.
Once everyone has processed into place, the speakers take turns at the podium to speak. At a traditional high school graduation, the school principal will speak, then a guest speaker, followed by a valedictory address.
In a homeschool setting, this could be both parents taking turns speaking, followed by the graduating senior. I have found that it’s always pleasant to have the graduating student(s) give a short address to the family and friends attending their graduation, if there aren't too many graduates to make that difficult with time constraints.
You could also have just one parent speak; another option is to invite a family friend or a mentor to speak as well. It’s your graduation ceremony, so you can plan the ceremony according to your needs and desires!
It's a good idea to keep the speeches simple and relatively short, no more than 5 or 10 minutes each. Here are some things to speak about:
- Begin each speech by focusing on the present. Thank everyone for attending the ceremony and then make an opening statement.
- Then speak of the past. You can talk about a few highlights throughout the years that show the type of adult your child is growing into becoming. Or perhaps you’d like to focus on some of your favorite moments that occurred while homeschooling your kid.
- Finish the speech by focusing on the future. Think about what you hope and dream your child’s future will be, and perhaps even give your child a challenge to live up to in the future.
- Make sure you include your child’s immediate plans, such as heading off to college, taking a gap year, or working. Family and friends are always interested to learn what is planned for the near future.
Everyone’s speech can follow a similar format or each person can plan a different talk to give to family and friends.
Consider adding photographs and/or videos to the speeches at your homeschool high school graduation ceremony. These images will bring life to the speeches, and your family and friends will love seeing pictures of your child throughout the years.
Presentation of the Diploma
The next event in the graduation ceremony is to present the diploma. One parent or both parents will stand and call the graduating senior forward.
The student takes the diploma, shakes hands with the presenter, and then sits back down.
At this point, there is one more address to be given: the farewell address. This can be short and to the point. You will want to thank everyone involved in educating your child and those who helped with the ceremony itself.
It’s a good idea to keep the farewell address less than 5 minutes in length.
Moving the Tassel and/or Throwing the Cap
After the farewell address, the person giving the farewell address can instruct the student(s) to move their tassels from hanging on the right side of the cap to the left side of the cap. This symbolizes their graduation from high school.
Another option is to have them move the tassel immediately after receiving their diploma.
Announce the graduating class — and then they can throw their caps if you have decided that will be fun!
Your homeschool high school graduation ceremony is finished, and it’s time for the participants to recess out of the area.
This will probably be done similarly to the procession into the ceremony. If you informally gathered for the procession, then feel free to recess informally as well. However, if you had a formal procession, you might want to formally recess out. You can include music or not as you desire.
5) Plan the reception.
The reception is another word for the after-party! It’s easiest to have the reception happen in the same place as the graduation ceremony so that people don’t need to drive to a new location.
You could have the ceremony in your living room and the reception as a barbeque in the backyard, for example.
You can turn on music, set out appetizers or dessert — or plan a formal meal.
Another option is to have guests bring a potluck dish in lieu of a gift for the graduate, if you like. But generally, if people will be bringing gifts, then plan to provide all of the food and drinks yourself. Then the reception is your way of thanking guests for coming to the ceremony and for their generosity to your teen.
Don't forget a graduation cake!
Decorations can be simple or complicated, whatever you want and are comfortable with. Often it's fun to have a table for each graduate, where they can have a display board for pictures and show off their favorite items such as awards or sports uniforms.
It’s not every day that your child graduates from high school. It’s an accomplishment for your child — and also for you! You've guided, nurtured, and cared for your child through most of the last two decades, after all.
More from Sara: The Secret to Schole in High School
So celebrate the accomplishment by inviting friends and family to a wonderful homeschool graduation ceremony!