I graduated my first homeschooler last year! It was a brand new chapter in my life – I had now successfully homeschooled one child from start to finish, and we had all survived! In fact, we better than survived! Blake received an academic scholarship to a private university, he maintained a 4.0 his Freshman year, and he was invited to be a part of several elite groups on campus. I wish I could say it was all me, but I know better. It was actually me just following God’s leading on how our homeschool should operate, and letting Him do the hard stuff!
And once that hard stuff had been accomplished, we all wanted to celebrate! But how?
We had recently moved and weren’t a part of any co-ops, nor was Blake interested in “graduating” with people he didn’t know. All of our family was in another state, so it didn’t seem right to ask all of them to travel to a ceremony down here. And then, there was the whole, “mom’s having a baby” thing. I didn’t feel like putting together a huge shin-dig, but this was my baby boy graduating! What was the “right” thing to do?
In the end, we went with casual because it fit our style better than something formal, but before I tell you about Blake’s graduation, let me give you a few ways to help you choose between formal and casual, and also how you can make your child’s homeschool graduation memorable no matter what you choose.
Why have a formal homeschool graduation?
*You are a part of a homeschool group that has a formal ceremony.
*Your child likes the pomp and circumstance a formal ceremony and celebration offers.
*Your child has struggled through school, and you want to reward their efforts in a public way.
*You enjoyed the ceremony of your high school graduation, and would like them to have a similar experience.
*Family and friends will be greatly disappointed if there isn’t a formal ceremony. (although, I have an answer to this later on…)
Why have a casual homeschool graduation?
*You are not a part of a homeschool group with a formal ceremony.
*You child sees such things as falderal and excess.
*You don’t have any family nearby.
*Your family is laid back and a formal ceremony wouldn’t be your “style.”
*You don’t have the budget/energy/time for a formal affair.
I’m sure you see your child and/or your family in one or the other. Probably without even looking at the lists, you know which your child would prefer and which your family would prefer, but no matter what option you choose – formal or casual – you should find a way to make it memorable for everyone involved.
NOTE: I tend to lean toward making it about your child, and not about the expectations of others. You want this moment to be memorable for your child more than anyone else, so keep that in mind as you plan.
How to Make Graduation Memorable.
*Send real invitations. I know in this day and age, Facebook invites and email invites are all the rage, but invitees remember better when they have a paper invitation in their hands. They also need to know where to send a gift if they feel inclined.
*Invite family, friends, and anyone who was instrumental in your child’s life (mentors, tutors, people your child has worked with and for, etc.). This is your chance to thank them, and their chance to celebrate your child’s accomplishments.
*Get a special outfit for your son or daughter. A new pair of slacks or a dress or even a new pair of shoes (because that’s all that shows beneath the formal gown!) are a nice touch.
*Throw an after-graduation reception. Check with your local church about using the reception hall or even have it in your backyard! You can have the traditional cake and punch or choose finger foods and desserts your teen loves. Having a reception gives people a more leisurely chance to congratulate your child.
*Have photos or scrapbooks available that show your child throughout his or her homeschool years.
*If your child is comfortable with it, have them address those attending with a few words of thanks, what it took to graduate, and his or her future plans. This keeps him or her from needing to answer these questions a million times during the reception.
*Have a guestbook, a table for gifts and a basket for cards.
*Choose decorations that reflect your child’s achievement and personality. You don’t have to choose “school colors” so you can really live it up here!
*Remember to send thank you cards. It’s rare these days to even get a thank you for wedding gifts, so your child will really stand out if they send a thank you in the mail.
What did Blake’s Graduation look like?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we chose to do a casual graduation for various reasons. Blake is a very casual person, and he has told me repeatedly that the graduation party he had was very much “him.” That’s a success in my book!
So, here’s what we did…
We chose to celebrate his achievements in the town we consider our “home town” since we have moved so much. All of Blake’s grandparents are near there, so they did not have to travel out of town for the event.
We had it at my mom’s church in the fellowship hall which had a kitchen attached and plenty of room for tables and chairs. Bonus was the nursery nearby!
We bought graduation invitations from Walmart and Blake sent out about 50 to family and friends. I think we had about 30-40 people in attendance.
My mom took Blake shopping at a party supply store for plates, napkins and various graduation decor. He chose a blue theme because that’s his favorite color, and he chose to keep it super simple.
The grandparents and our family divided up the workload of buying food, decorating, and cleaning up. My mom chose to pay for quite a bit of the reception as part of her gift to Blake.
We had a cake and individual ice cream cups. We had shrimp cocktail, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, deli meat and cheese, caramel corn, and some other things I can’t remember right now. These were things Blake wanted and could easily feed a crowd.
We had a table for food, a table for gifts, a basket for cards and money, but I don’t think we had a guest book. We had scrapbooks from Blake’s childhood out on the tables, which proved to be a hit as people sitting at the tables tried to find themselves in the books. We also had a slide show going at the back of the room with photos from Blake’s school years.
We played a game of Blake Trivia. This was my favorite part! I put together a sheet of trivia that we handed out to people as they came in. It had questions on it with little known facts about Blake, and people tried to guess which answers were correct. I tried not to embarrass him…too much.
Blake spent a lot of time moving from table to table talking to everyone there. He did make a brief announcement at the beginning about his plans and thanked everyone for coming.
All in all, everyone had a good time, and it truly was a celebration of Blake. That’s really what this is all about – a time to celebrate an awesome achievement. If nothing else, mama, this is your moment to breathe and thank the Lord for His provision throughout this journey! You made it! Congratulations!
I’d love to hear from those of you who chose a formal graduation! Leave your experience in the comments section!