Graduation is a milestone for teenagers. A phase of life is over, and a new one begins. It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Graduation is the perfect time to celebrate the past and new beginnings.
How can you have a stress-free homeschool graduation?
I’m glad you asked.
Choose the How
How does your teen want to handle graduation?
Does he want to join a group of teens or have a personal ceremony on his own?
Some families like to have a quiet family celebration while others graduate with a co-op or support group. My oldest daughter graduated with FPEA, our state homeschool organization, along with hundreds of homeschool graduates across the state.
Does your homeschool grad want a simple ceremony at a park in jeans and a t-shirt or a formal ceremony dressed in a suit and tie?
All these questions should be discussed early on in the summer before or beginning of senior year. However, don’t panic if you’re just thinking about it.
Choose the Venue for Graduation Ceremony
Where will the graduation ceremony take place?
Our homeschool co-op does graduations at our church in the sanctuary. However, I’ve attended homeschool graduations in a park and at the beach.
Will you need to rent a facility?
Add the rental fee to your graduation budget.
Choose the Venue for Graduation Party
We always celebrate graduation with a party afterward. Our teens all graduated with a small group of homeschooled teens with a reception afterward. Then, later we had a private party at our house for friends and family.
How about you? What works for your family?
Where will the graduation party take place?
Will it be right after the ceremony or will it be a separate event?
This year, we have only 3 graduates, and they are very close friends so they will have a graduation ceremony at our church followed by an old English country dance/party.
If you have to rent a venue for a party, add the rental fee to your graduation budget.
Make Your Guest List
Who does your teen want to be at the graduation and/or graduation party?
Make a guest list together and give plenty of notice to out-of-town guests like grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
It’s a nice idea to get a senior photo for your graduate. I took my oldest daughter to a professional photographer for her senior photos, and they turned out beautifully.
For the other children, I bartered with friends and family members who were skilled photographers to take their photos.
In fact, my daughter Shine takes senior photos now for homeschooling families. They pay her but not as much as they would pay a professional photographer.
Add the photographer fee to your graduation budget.
A graduation announcement is a nice way to invite folks to the graduation and commemorate the graduate.
You can find templates at Walgreens®, Sam’s®, and other photo developing places. Just follow directions and print as many copies as you need. If you are handy with technology, you can create your own with PhotoShop®.
Graduation announcements can be sent 2-4 weeks before the ceremony but can still be sent out after the ceremony for up to 8 weeks.
Add the graduation announcement cost to your graduation budget.
Plan the Menu
Food is very important to teenagers and their guests!
Some teens will leave the planning to you, and others will want their favorite foods. Discuss the menu early on.
When we have a group graduation, each family brings hearty appetizers/sandwiches—enough to feed themselves and all their guests. Then we chip in for drinks and cake.
For creative menu planning ideas, read my blog post 8 Unique Graduation Party Menus.
Add the cost of party food to your graduation budget.
Diplomas, Gowns, & More
We always did the full show with a fancy diploma in a leather cover, gown, hat, and tassel. You can order all these things online and get a group rate if you are graduating with your co-op.
We make our diplomas on our computers and print them on heavier, nicer paper.
Just a reminder, if you are wondering about high school credits and courses, here are some blog posts to help!
What Every Homeschooling Mom Needs to Know about High School Credits
The Easiest Way to Design a 5-Year Plan to Homeschool High School
How I Design Our Homeschool High School Courses
Add the cost of diploma, cover, gown, hat, and tassel to your graduation budget.
Plan the Itinerary for the Ceremony
There are no rules for your ceremony. You can be creative and make it unique.
Here is our graduation itinerary:
- Play slideshow of graduates while guests are arriving
- Processional of graduates
- Open in prayer
- Worship (1-2 songs)
- Short charge to graduates
- Graduate talent or speech (song, skit, monologue, etc.)
- Each graduate goes on stage with parents where dad gives charge and presents diploma, and mom moves tassel. Parents pray over teen.
- Presentation of graduates/throw their caps
Making It Special
We let our teens choose a special verse and a motto for their graduation. We also choose colors. Our favorite is blue with another color because blue is so pretty and easy to decorate with. Graduation colors make it easier to decorate for the ceremony and the party.
You also may want to create a graduation program with photos and the itinerary.
Our teens have each created a special table display with photos and mementos of their homeschool adventure.
Plan the Itinerary for the Party
Now it’s time to plan the party. You can structure your time with games/activities or simply provide a buffet of food and let guests mingle.
We are usually so tired that we do the latter.
Here is a sample itinerary:
- Greet guests as they arrive
- Ice breaker
- Prayer/Serve food
- Game #1
- Game #2
- Graduate opens gifts
Don’t forget to invite your guests in enough time that they can plan to be there. Some guests may have to travel, others get babysitting, or just clear their calendars.
I encourage you to have guests RSVP or let you know if they are coming or not. That makes it easier to buy enough food.
Reminder texts are often helpful, too. “See you tomorrow at the graduation.”
I like to create an event page on Facebook to keep the event fresh in everyone’s mind.
Make the Food
Many times you can shop and prepare some of the food ahead of time. The freezer is your friend!
I do as much as I can in preparation and decorating the day before.
If you chose graduation colors, you can start with a color scheme. If not, use your teen’s favorite colors.
Fun Decorating Ideas:
- Graduation theme on cake
- Graduation stuffed animal
- Homemade poster
- Photos of graduate progressing through life
- Tablecloth and matching tableware in graduation colors
- Graduation banners/streamers/balloons
Add the cost of decorations to your graduation budget.
Yes, many of the things I talked about cost money. However, you can do many things to lower the cost like having guests bring food or borrowing a graduation gown.
Here are things you will want to budget for if you include them in your graduation celebration:
- Graduation Venue Rental
- Senior Photos
- Graduation Announcement
- Diploma Cover
- Graduation Program
- Food for Graduation Party
- Decorations for Graduation Party
I put money aside each month during my children’s junior year so that I have money for the graduation expenses. There always seem to be more than I plan for!
Graduation is a special time in your teenager’s life. The more you plan ahead and budget ahead for this big day, the smoother it will be.
I cannot stress enough the need to talk with your teen and plan everything together.
Don’t forget to take lots of photos so you can remember this special day for years to come!
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling,
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Unlocking the Mystery of Homeschooling High School, Who Dun It? Murder Mystery Literature & Writing 1-credit high school English course, American Literature & Research 1-credit high school English course, Economics, Finances, & Business 1-credit high school economics course, and HIS Story of the 20th Century, conversational history textbook for upper grades. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blog at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her podcast at Finish Well Podcast.