On the day before the special date, we made the dinner reservations and got her a corsage. And then . . . it began to snow! January storms in Wisconsin can be nasty, but we decided to take a chance and make the trip anyway, though the drive took quite a while longer.

As it turned out, that snowstorm was part of what made the evening so very special!  The fact that the restaurant was almost deserted made it seem like our own private place, and as we sat near the huge windows and watched the snow falling on the softly lit landscape outside, we were blessed by the pianist who played—just for us, it seemed.  He didn’t know us and didn’t know that our daughter is also a pianist, but as we enjoyed a fantastic meal he gave us the gift of a musical “history” of her life.  He played many of the pieces that had filled our home with joy over the years.  Classical waltzes and preludes, selections from theater shows that both of our children had been involved in, and even family favorites like “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof”!  We were so blessed by the music. It was something we never could have planned, but we know it was a gift from the Lord for her special night.

Later that year, she personally cranked 8 six-quart batches of homemade ice cream (a Thompson family tradition) and cooked to feed about 90 guests who came to congratulate her at the open house we held in our yard!  Both events are special times to remember, and I know that she does not feel “deprived” of a traditional cap and gown ceremony, but has wonderful memories of family and friends gathering to commemorate her accomplishments.

When I think back on these kinds of special events in the life of our family, I am reminded of several passages in the Old Testament where the Lord instructed the Israelites to raise up “standing stones” as reminders of His help. One of these is in I Samuel 7, where we read that after a victory over the Philistines, “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” (Have you ever sung “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy grace I’m come” and wondered what an Ebenezer is?)  God tells the people to place markers in their lives at significant events. They provide “memorials” that give us the opportunity to remember and retell the story of God’s hand in that event.

By “marking” the high school commencement of our homeschoolers, we are not only affirming their accomplishments and giving them a sense of closure, but we also give them an “Ebenezer” in their lives, something to look at and say “Hitherto hath the Lord helped me.” It can be done publicly in a ceremony, it can be done privately through a presentation of the diploma, and it can even be done with the graduation announcement! For the inside of his graduation announcement, our son chose an etching of a clipper ship on the high seas, and selected this favorite verse from Psalm 139: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”  I wrote a verse for the inside that said “We celebrate the blessing of our home school journey by announcing the High School Graduation of our son. We thank God for the privilege it has been to invest in his life and education. Karl will be attending the [name of school] in Minnesota this fall, and we ask for your prayers for him as he begins this new season of his life.”  I thought it was interesting that the mother of one of my son’s public-schooled friends (whom I had never met) came up to me and told me that the announcement made her cry!

Just as homeschooling is more than academics, a homeschool “graduation” can signify more than just the completion of a course of study.  We can use this as a time to affirm our children’s passage into adult life. The diploma I wrote for our son contained these words: “. . . has not only mastered a body of knowledge pursuant to a High School education, but has also demonstrated Godly wisdom and personal maturity based upon faith in Jesus Christ . . .”  The knowledge gained through study was only part of his education; we wanted to recognize the Godly person our son had become through faith.  Certainly, we can use the traditional forms associated with graduation, such as the diploma and the announcement, to give a testimony of what God has done in our children’s lives through home schooling.