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A Class of One - Planning the Graduation

  • Linda Joyce Heaner Contributing Writer
  • Published Jan 12, 2005
A Class of One - Planning the Graduation

As home educators, we tailor our children's studies to match their abilities, learning styles, and passions. We find satisfaction in providing a 'one-of-a-kind' education for our children as we help them discover the gifts and interests God has placed within them. As your young adult reaches the brink of completing his high school home education, consider having an individual graduation ceremony to celebrate him.

Think about it. What other time in his life offers this public opportunity to reflect on his character and commit his future into God's hands? What other event during his life gathers the community of family and friends, who have helped him mature into a young adult, to celebrate his uniqueness? What other time in his life provides this opportunity for him to be publicly affirmed and blessed by those whose lives he has already touched?

The concept of an individual graduation ceremony may be totally new to you. Our family has held two of these celebrations and I'm eager to help you catch the vision of this powerful event. As a family, talk about the meaning of graduation, both looking back and looking ahead. Discuss how this graduation ceremony might impact the graduate, you as parents, your family, those attending, and how it can honor God. Are you still with me? Great! Let's explore the practical side. It's easy to get started and it's fun!

Enjoy the planning process

Since this is your son or daughter's graduation celebration, it needs to convey his/her tastes and preferences. Have him design an invitation that reflects his personality. Enlist family members to help address and stamp envelopes. Together gather pictures, projects, scrapbooks, awards, and memorabilia to display that tell about his life. Family members can take a creative role here. When my daughter Rachel graduated, her brother Jonathan made a poster of cartoon illustrations about her life. She made a collage of special pictures from her scrapbooks. When my son Tim graduated, he displayed tools from various jobs he'd had. These preparations fill the weeks before graduation with wonderful memories and 'remember when' conversations.

Choose a location

Where would your son or daughter like to have this celebration? Would they like to have it in a church, at home, in a park? We have our ceremonies at church for three reasons. We want the ceremony within the context of a worship service. It allows the graduate (and family) to invite as many people as they'd like. It's easy to have a cake and punch reception at the church immediately after the graduation. Tim's ceremony was at the church where our homeschool support group met. Since he really like basketball, after his ceremony and reception, Tim and friends played basketball in the church gym. Rachel's graduation was at a church where she participated in a teen girls Bible study.

Plan the service together

What songs will be sung at the service? Let the graduate choose. Tim asked his grandfather to sing and his grandmother to play the piano. When Rachel graduated, she and Jonathan sang a duet. Through the years they'd spent hours singing together at home, so it was natural to include their singing in her ceremony. Your child could choose songs from a CD to be played as she processes and recesses. One family had the band their son played in lead worship during his ceremony. The options are unlimited.

What Bible verses have been especially meaningful to the graduate? Include them in the service. Let him choose a person who has influenced him to give a brief message. Do you want people to speak about the graduate? If so, ask them in advance to say a few words. Or you can announce it at the beginning of the service. How will you pray for the graduate? For Tim, we asked several people (in advance) to come forward, lay their hands on him, and pray for him. At Rachel's ceremony, Tim and Jonathan prayed a blessing over her.

Are you beginning to grasp how every part of the ceremony can reflect that specific child? It's exciting to watch the flavor of the celebration unfold. Key ingredients for the service include music, songs, Scripture, words from parents, words from the graduate, message, reflections about the graduate, giving of the diploma, and prayers. Arrange, add, or subtract any way you like.

Plan the reception together

What kind of cake or punch does she want? Does she want a color theme? Rachel chose purple for decorations and her graduation gown. Tim chose green and blue. Friends help us decorate the room in advance (balloons, streamers, tablecloths, displays of pictures, etc), according to directions from the graduate. We serve cake, punch, and candy at our receptions right after the ceremony. Actually, we ask friends to serve. That gives the graduate and her parents time to talk with guests. After the church reception, a small group of family and close friends come to our home for supper.

When Rachel graduated in 2003, we faced a huge challenge. Her graduation date (planned six months in advance so relatives could get good airfares) and our moving date (determined only weeks before) were the same date! God is full of unexpected surprises! How did we do it and enjoy both events? We prayed and we asked people to help. They came out in swarms. The moving crew burst into action early that morning, so we were completely moved by 10:30 a.m. Then we transitioned to a joyful, honoring graduation ceremony. Various friends took care of all reception details. A couple hosted Rachel's post graduation supper at their home. God gave us great grace for that memorable day. The whole celebration was extra sweet because of all who gladly joined in to help us.

Bask in the moment

Graduation is a proud moment for every parent. It's a heart-stirring time for home educating parents. I have been overwhelmed at Tim and Rachel's graduation ceremonies. The years invested in their lives passed before my eyes during their services. I saw and heard how my children had blessed the lives of others of all ages. At each ceremony, my heart overflowed with gratefulness to God—for the gift of my child, the privilege of being his parent, the blessings of our homeschool in his life, and the joy of publicly celebrating his uniqueness.

Still undecided? Think it's too hard to do? Pause. Take a deep breath. As a home educator, you've organized curriculum for years. You've developed unit studies. You've prepared things that are much more complicated. An individual graduation ceremony gives you one last opportunity to work together with your son or daughter to plan an event that will stand out in their memory forever. Treasure this unique opportunity to celebrate the graduate.

Linda Joyce Heaner is actively planning with her son Jonathan for his graduation in June. She welcomes your questions, comments, and ideas about individual graduation ceremonies. Contact her at