I live two minutes away from the local elementary school. We drive by it to go almost anywhere: grocery shopping, library, dance class. Often the latest school event is displayed on the sign. I confess that I often became envious about all the neat things the elementary kids were doing that my homeschool kids couldn’t be a part of. I wondered what opportunities my kids were missing out on. An end-of-the-year educational achievement fair or celebration of learning fills a gap for homeschool students by offering families an opportunity to honor their students’ accomplishments.
Benefits of a Year-End Homeschool Achievement Celebration
School fairs and other events can be stressful for the organizing adults. Making the event a success and motivating the students to put forth their best effort takes a lot of work. Why is it worth a homeschool parent’s already limited time and energy?
One benefit is that an end-of-the-year event offers a concrete deadline that will keep both parents and students motivated to finish the year strong. Having an event like this on the calendar provides some accountability.
In addition, a year-end celebration provides something for kids to strive for, an opportunity to show what they have been learning, display what they are passionate about, and be challenged by trying something new. Homeschool kids need these opportunities to shine publicly.
Because a homeschool achievement fair can include the entire family, participation can range from preschoolers up through high schoolers, giving kids the chance to practice encouragement, patience, empathy and etiquette. It’s precious to see multiple ages and grade levels applauding each other’s accomplishments.
Finally, such an event provides a way for the local homeschool community to gather together and fellowship. Families can connect with other who have similar interests or challenges. I loved getting to reconnect with other moms that I didn’t see much during the school year because we were all so busy. Parents and kids both get to see what other families were doing and get inspiration for the coming year.
What to Showcase
Your end-of-the-year celebration should not require any extra school effort. Students should plan to highlight what they did for school, either through a display or a performance. Children can pick a task or project that they enjoyed completing, such as a fun activity or science experiment, lap-books, timelines, or a book collection.
My preschooler chose 5 of her favorite picture books and displayed them on a short table with a hand-written foam sign.
My first grader used her U.S. History materials to create a display of her favorite states, giving a brief oral presentation explaining what she did to study each state.
My fifth grader worked together with her homeschool Science Club to review their study of anatomy. They made a life-size outline of a human body on butcher paper and illustrated different organs and systems.
Homeschool kids are notoriously creative. Here are some other ways we celebrated over the years:
An Irish step dancing performance
A medieval castle display
A Lego club robot
An origami demonstration
Musical performances of all sorts
A historical survey of ancient Mediterranean cultures written by a 4th grader
A Redwall expert and his book collections
Displays featuring pets and their care including rabbits, zebra finches and guinea pigs
Kindergarteners showing off their newly developed phonics prowess
A beautiful quilt display by a talented young artisan
Planning the Event
First you’ll need to determine your agenda. Our event consisted of three parts: student displays, student performances, and a potluck dinner and dessert to follow. Create a basic outline of the flow of your event.
Next, set a date and time. We used the church sanctuary for performances and the church fellowship hall for the meal. We held our event in May when many families were finishing up their traditional school year and had a significant body of work to choose from.
Recruit volunteers. At a minimum, you’ll want to have someone in charge of communication, someone to coordinate the potluck, set up and clean up volunteers, and a host or emcee.
Have the communications person send out regular reminders and instructions via email or social media. We sent out one message per week during the planning phase and one message a day during the final week leading up to the event itself. It’s important to make a reminder or post on the day of the event as well.
The potluck coordinator will need to facilitate sign-ups for food, purchase supplies, and set up the food tables.
The set up team can be responsible for placing the display tables ahead of time. We used a combination of round and long tables from the church as well as small tables and chairs from home. The clean up crew will need to restore the facility to order, ideally leaving the place better than you found it. You can ask participating families to stay and help clean up afterward as well, but it’s nice to have a few dedicated volunteers planned for in advance.
An emcee will provide structure for your event, introduce performances, and keep the event moving. A short time of prayer for your homeschool community is a lovely way to wrap up the event.
Our year-end homeschool fair was something our family looked forward to year after year. I hope our experience provides you with some encouragement and inspiration for holding your own homeschool celebration.