Recently I had the privilege of emceeing the Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association graduation ceremony. In addition to founding this support group 25 years ago, I served as president for 3 different terms, and also served in numerous other Board and leadership positions, including on the Graduation Committee for many years. I have continued to be a mentor and advisor for the past few years since my youngest graduated. Homeschooling my five children was the best and hardest thing I ever did, and I will always have a heart for homeschooling and for encouraging homeschool moms.
In North Carolina, homeschools are treated like private schools, with the freedom to design their own course of study, set their own graduation requirements, and issue their own diplomas. I have designed and printed the diplomas for our support group since my oldest son graduated in 2003, and this year, I printed diplomas for 39 graduates, representing 38 individual homeschools – Arrows Academy, Bell Christian Academy, Victory Academy, Living Water Academy, The Legacy School, Highest Call Academy, Vineyard Academy, Woodland Acres School, et. al. So our support group graduation ceremony this year was really the joint celebration of 38 different schools.
Not all seniors in our support group choose to participate in this ceremony. Some choose to be part of other celebrations organized by co-ops, churches, or families. Some probably make the choice not to do anything at all. Still, we generally have between 25 and 40 students participate each year, and the ceremony lasts 1 1/2 to 2 hours, with a short and simple reception following.
Our homeschool graduation ceremony is fairly simple. Students wear black caps and gowns, but choose the color of tassel and stole to represent their individual school. Some students also wear cords, either presented to them by an honor society or organization, or by their parents for achievement in a certain area. https://www.honorsgraduation.com/graduation-honor-cord-colors.htm
Homeschool graduation ceremonies are unique in that the focus is on the family as much as the student, and since we are a Christian homeschool association, our focus is also on the work that God has done. Just before the ceremony begins, we start with playing the song “All Glory Be to Christ”
Graduates enter the auditorium to the traditional graduation music, “Pomp & Circumstance”. The emcee speaks a word of welcome and opening prayer, and then one of our students sings the National Anthem. After a very brief explanation, we move right into the presentation of diplomas. This is the heart of the ceremony. Six or seven students at a time come up on stage with their parents, and as the emcee announces each name, the microphone is passed to the parent who will speak to their son or daughter as they present them with their diploma. For 2 minutes, the parents can speak words of congratulations, blessing, remembrance, commission, prayer, love and pride. It is heartfelt, meaningful, tearful. I wish every student in every school had this opportunity, to hear their parents say words that we rarely take the time to articulate. It is a privilege – a blessing that I hope none of them ever forget.
As each group leaves the stage and the next group comes forward, a slide show is played on the front screens, with pictures submitted by the parents of those students’ growing up years. There it is – these babies and youngsters who just yesterday were learning to talk and to read and to write paragraphs and to drive, now saying goodbye to this chapter of childhood and entering adulthood, with all the excitement and trepidation that growing up involves.
Once the presentation of diplomas is complete, the ceremony comes to a close. The graduates stand to face the audience and are instructed to turn their tassels as the audience claps their congratulations and approval, and then the graduates exit to an upbeat praise song that is chosen for that year.
That’s it. A proper celebration for marking a major milestone that many of us homeschool mamas fretted and worried over, wondering if it would ever happen and if our children would in fact be prepared for the world. But my closing words to the graduates this year was as follows, and it was for the moms and dads as well.
“Don’t doubt for a minute that you are prepared to go forward and to shine! God has been working in you for the past however many years to prepare you for JUST THIS TIME. What has been going on this past year, what is going on out there right now – is not a surprise to God! As homeschoolers, you have walked a different path. God CALLED you to that path. You have had to be independent, to be self-reliant, to think critically and outside-the-box. You might have faced ridicule! You’ve had to deal with isolation, doubts & uncertainty. You have had a unique education, that has prepared you for the unique tasks that God will give you. Go forward with courage and with confidence. And always remember that the love of your family and the love of God are strong anchors in a turbulent world. “
As a homeschool mom, the graduation ceremony was important to me, as a culmination of the years of effort, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears that went into raising and educating this child! It was important to me also that my child have this formal recognition and celebration, whether they thought they wanted it or not. Marking milestones is something that God instructs his people to do, as a way of remembering all that HE has done for us. Years down the road, I’m glad my children have this moment in time to look back on, hopefully with appreciation and gratitude, but as a milestone and reminder nonetheless.