There is nothing quite as moving as an intimate homeschool graduation ceremony. Hearing a parent address their graduate in front of peers is one of the most endearing parts of homeschooling through high school. But putting on a graduation can be daunting. The following ten simple steps have been used and proven to be a success.
Step One: Location for Meetings
Obtain a location for monthly graduation meetings, preferably a church or someone’s home. Ideally, have two separate (yet close in proximity) areas for the meeting, one for parents and one for the seniors.
Step Two: Date and Venue
Choose a date and an available graduation venue. Questions to ask about the venue:
- How large is the space for the ceremony?
- How large is the space for the reception?
- What type of music does the facility allow?
- Is there a technical crew to video the ceremony, operate sound and lighting equipment, and oversee a photo montage?
- What is the total cost including facility rental, set up/break down, basic cleanup, technical crew, etc.?
- What clean-up responsibilities are expected of your group?
Step Three: Designate Adult Roles
Designate the adult planning roles as follows:
The Graduation Director leads the meetings, creates the agenda, oversees the parents and the Senior Director, directs the graduation, emails reminders to parents, and acts as a venue liaison. The Director does not plan the ceremony; the parents do. The Director is there to keep everyone on task.
The Senior Director oversees the graduates. The Senior Director’s most important job is to guide the seniors in making their graduation decisions.
Parent roles include one parent from each family to be in charge of a specific area of the ceremony. At each meeting, parents will report on what they researched and will create a file for each position to keep each year so others can see what was done previously.
The Cap and Gown Coordinator compiles pricing information, color samples, and measurements, and then orders caps, gowns, tassels, cords, and stoles.
The Decoration Coordinator gathers ideas to present to parents, staying within budget.
The Gift Coordinator gathers ideas for presents for the graduates and orders them. Gifts could be mugs, pens, Bibles, etc. (optional).
The Photo Montage Creator creates a picture show of each senior given by the parents/seniors. Setting a limit for the number of pictures is recommended. The last picture could be the senior’s cap and gown or other graduation picture.
The Program Creator designs a program containing seniors’ bios, names of families, the speaker, pianist, emcee, and other elements of the ceremony. Several designs can be presented to the group before ordering.
The Reception Food Coordinator (preferably two parents) will gather food ideas and present them to the group.
The Secretary takes the minutes at each meeting and sends them out to participating families.
The Treasurer is a trustworthy and accountable parent that receives money and keeps a spreadsheet of monies received and spent, working within a budget.
The Reception Coordinator will lead in the preparation, serving, and clean-up of the reception food on graduation day and will work closely with the Graduation Director and the Reception Food Coordinator(s). Ideally, this person should NOT be someone in the ceremony. Parents need to enjoy the ceremony and reception, and they cannot do this if they are helping.
Graduation Servers will serve food. This job requires a firm commitment, because if people cancel, you’ll be short on servers. Give them the date, and ask them to truly commit.
The Emcee helps the entire graduation to run smoothly, following the program. He or she must have the ability to speak clearly into a microphone, have a strong yet gentle voice, and remain on stage throughout the entire ceremony. Be sure to give an emcee script to the tech crew, and go over family name pronunciations with the emcee.
Ushers help with seating. Consider contacting the Civil Air Patrol or local scouts.
Parking Attendants help parents and guests with parking. Civil Air Patrol or a scout crew can also help.
Step Four: Designate Senior Roles
Designate the seniors’ roles and responsibilities. Their roles include:
- Senior to give the invocation.
- Senior to introduce the guest speaker.
- Senior Social Coordinator plans and coordinates socials until graduation day. The benefit of socials is that the teens and their families will get to know each other. This is a wonderful way to graduate with your “class.”
- Senior Photographer takes pictures at senior socials and meetings (optional).
- Senior to give a speech to their peers (similar to valedictorian speech).
- Determine special performance(s) for ceremony. Each senior should consider if they would like to perform a special song (vocal or instrumental), dance, etc. during the graduation ceremony. Auditions can be held.
- Collecting items from their life, education, journeys, and achievements for their display table. Display tables can be six- to eight-foot tables shared between two seniors. Be creative. Look for items from birth on up.
- Voting on cap and gown colors if a color is not already set by your group. Stole or no stole? Be sure seniors write their name in their cap for identification if throwing them in the air at graduation.
- Voting on a class Bible verse and who will recite it at the ceremony. Each senior brings one Bible verse, reference, and translation to be voted on. It can be included in the program and photo montage and read by a senior during the graduation ceremony. Each senior can also decide on an individual life verse or quote to be used in the program and/or their photo montage.
- Senior writes bio to be used on the program and picks a song to be played for their pictures that are displayed in their montage (music to be approved by the Graduation Director).
Step Five: Advertise!
Send out graduation information to different homeschool websites/e-loops, email, and Facebook. Advertise before meetings and determine a cutoff date for families to join.
Step Six: Determine a Budget
History is a wonderful predictor of future costs. A full-scale graduation costs our group anywhere from $150-$250 per senior, depending mainly on the cost of the venue. However, all things can be simplified. The budget is planned with the treasurer who will receive monthly payments from parents.
Step Seven: Determine Group Communication
It is important to be clear in all communications with participating families to avoid disputes or miscommunication. Determine the best way for your group to communicate regarding meetings, socials, questions, etc. Email or a Facebook page can help in sharing information. Important items should be given to the Graduation Director to include in the monthly meeting.
Step Eight: Pre-Ceremony Parent Preparations
Parents help order invitations and/or announcements that include the address of the venue. Tell guests to arrive twenty minutes before the ceremony.
Order or create the graduate’s diploma. You can create a free diploma by googling ‘free homeschool diploma’ or order online from HSLDA or another reputable company.
Write a short, three- to five-minute speech to address your graduate before presenting their diploma during graduation. This is the most precious and intimate part of the day! Put some thought into it. If you have a larger graduating class, you may have to limit the time for these presentations.
Step Nine: Voting
From experience, it is best to have written votes only at meetings. Once a vote is taken, it stands. Items to be voted on:
- Location and date of ceremony
- Reception food
- Cap, gown, and stoles
- Achievement cord colors (these cords indicate special achievements of honor)
- Photographer for senior and cap and gown pictures
- A guest speaker that is encouraging and uplifting to the graduates
- An Emcee—one of the most important components of graduation day
- A pianist who can play fifteen to twenty minutes before the ceremony, able to play Pomp and Circumstance, Grand March and while guests are leaving
- Senior gift (optional)
- Programs: vote on the choices picked by the parent in charge of this job
- The use of Civil Air Patrol or Scouts as ushers and/or parking attendants
- Guest count—based on space allowed at venue
- Decorations (Decorations, serving pieces, and tablecloths can be reused from year to year)
- Thank you monetary amounts for speaker, emcee, and pianist and possibly meeting facility
Step Ten: Breathe!
Remember this is a special, albeit bittersweet, time as our children graduate. May God Bless you abundantly as you plan your graduation!
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