Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin
Are you planning a homeschool graduation for a student? If you are, first I want to say, Congratulations! Whether you homeschooled for a few years or many, it is a huge accomplishment to graduate from high school. Below are three types of homeschool graduations.
When I decided to homeschool my oldest son who was 5 in 2007, graduation was a distant target that I rarely considered. I mean, if I’m honest, I was drowning in my copy of “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” He wasn’t that excited about reading and nothing about this felt easy. Fast forward 12 years and I watched friend after friend graduate out their students. I had a pile of mental notes on graduating my Senior. But taking it from ideas to completion was another thing entirely.
Most of us default to our past education, at least in part, to help us navigate our own children’s educational experiences. Whether we are helping them learn to read…teaching them to drive or planning graduation, we use our experience for context. But let’s face it, most of us didn’t graduate as homeschooler’s ourselves….so we are wondering what this can look like for our child.
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It Can Be a Challenge to Graduate a Homeschooler
And I’ll be honest, the reason I’m writing this is I’ve known a LOT of homeschoolers….and graduating out Seniors can be hard to navigate…and not intuitive for everyone. Nothing is more exciting to me than celebrating big milestones with my friends.
But I started to see a pattern. Some people knew how to finish homeschooling…they knew how to graduate their children and they created an uplifting finale to their school years. But others ended their homeschooling days quietly in a completely anti-climatic finish that did not recognize the student’s hard work…or the effort of the parents. And since I’m nosy, I asked some why they chose that finish.
Some Homeschoolers Do Not Have a Graduation
When I talked to different families I know, some chose not to have a graduation for their homeschooled student. That wouldn’t be my choice but some do go that route.
Some of the reasons included:
- The high school years were rough and the parents were just done.
- The students did not want a graduation
- The parents did not know how to do a graduation.
- The parents decided to graduate their student mid-year and the timing for a graduation didn’t seem right.
Of course a graduation is not required. All that is required is meeting your state’s requirements for graduation.
But if you are reading this…chances are you DO WANT TO HAVE a graduation!
And since I just graduated out my second child (Praise the LORD!!), I want to share with you what I learned to get me to this place.
How do you graduate high school if you’re homeschooled?
When we were close to the high school years, I started really thinking about what was required to graduate. Thankfully we were part of a homeschool support group and one of the moms a few years ahead of me put together a comprehensive presentation on what was required to graduate in Ohio. Of course, I could look it up myself, but there was something so reassuring about having someone explain the path in regular “mom” language.
She broke down the big goal into manageable small steps that made that process really doable. She answered my many questions….or at the very least, helped me identify what questions I should be asking.
As far as the nuts and bolts of graduating…most homeschool parents look at our state’s graduation requirements. Over the course of the high school years, we provide the required courses to our teens and check of the boxes needed to graduate. Each state is different though.
Some require that your final transcript be accompanied by documentation from your local schools. Others might require that you be registered with an umbrella school. In any case…the requirements vary a bit from state to state. That is outside the scope of this article.
While navigating the legal requirements may seem initially overwhelming, it is the actual graduation ceremony that is unique for homeschoolers to navigate. Unlike graduation from a public or private school, there is not really a graduating class, valedictorian, or commencement speech in your homeschooled class of one. So what does this look like?
3 Types of Homeschool Graduations
For homeschool graduation ceremonies, there are basically 3 types of graduations. And of course, some families may opt to do more than one.
1. Individual Homeschool Graduation
Some families will choose to have an individual graduation for their child. This can be a really special way to celebrate and honor your graduate with a group of family and friends. In order to have this kind of graduation, families will pick a date, time, and place to have a party with a ceremony and food. This could be part of a bigger graduation party or it could be a separate smaller event itself.
When thinking about your private graduation, consider including these elements in the ceremony portion:
- Father’s Speech about the Graduate
- Mother Speech about Graduate
- Student Speech
- Any other important person who wants to say a few words
- Any other special elements that represent your student…artwork, awards they have received or music they enjoy.
- A slideshow
- Awarding of the Diploma
Your graduation ceremony for your student doesn’t have to be lengthy but if you have taken the time to gather family and friends, consider putting together a 20 or 30-minute presentation that honors the accomplishments of your student. If that amount of time seems difficult to fill, I would encourage you to use Powerpoint to make a slideshow of your student. It is a great way to fill time and show your student’s accomplishments.
2. Co-op Homeschool Graduation
Many homeschoolers participate in homeschool co-ops or other groups that organize homeschool graduations. This was how we graduated out our son in 2020 and our daughter in 2021. Our homeschool co-op holds an annual Recognition Night and Graduation for members of our group. We have a program for the evening that includes group musical performances, individual music performances, and awards being given. At the end of this, we usually have had 3 or 4 students graduate from high school.
In our case, parents are given 10 minutes that they can use however they want to graduate their child. In that 10 minutes, here are the elements families usually choose from to include:
- Father Speech about Graduate
- Mother’s Speech about Graduate
- Student’s Speech
- A slideshow
- Awarding of the Diploma
- (separate from the presentation) A Senior table with work, pictures, awards of the graduate.
I would say, most families use 3 or 4 of these elements. Having only 10 minutes limits the elements naturally. What your family uses really depends on your personality. Sometimes only one parent speak…but usually both. Slideshows were the norm for years but were impossible during our 2020 COVID-19 outdoor graduation. Sometimes students speak but not all of the time. None of these elements are set in stone.
Again, the key here is to get excited about using your 10 minutes to celebrate your student. As homeschool parents, we sometimes get stuck because we are graduating a child that is far from perfect…has lots of growing up to do and may be driving us crazy. But I want to encourage you to use your minutes to focus on how they have grown, what they have overcome and what they are excited about in the future. Leave the current drama for another day and say only good things.
In our graduation, parents and students all wore casual clothing in the graduation. This could easily be modified to have caps and gowns but we have never used them.
3. Independent or State Homeschool Group Graduation
What if a family wants to graduate their student as part of a more traditional ceremony but doesn’t belong to a co-op. Or what if the family belongs to a co-op but really wants a ceremony that is like the one they had growing up…a full cap and gown experience. Maybe their co-op doesn’t do traditional graduations. What are the options for the family that doesn’t want to do a private graduation and doesn’t have a co-op graduation? The third option available to homeschool families is what I will call an Independent Graduation.
Many states have statewide homeschool organizations that educate and support homeschool families. One way they support families is by offering a homeschool graduation option to members and sometimes to non-members. I include a link here to the CHEO organization here in Ohio.
On their page, they outline how families can participate in their graduation. The requirements usually include a fee, dress requirements and other expectations. Usually, it is held at a university which provides a nice backdrop for photos.
In these ceremonies, the elements of a traditional graduation ceremony are present. They include:
- Special Music
- Opening Remarks
- Special Speakers
- Conferring of Diplomas
- Presentation of the Class
These graduations are a great opportunity to celebrate your homeschooled student in a traditional ceremony. While they have a fee involved, it is usually inexpensive compared to a private ceremony. It also has the benefit of not requiring the parents to prepare a presentation but still offers a great way to celebrate the completion of high school.
Whether you choose to use a private, co-op or independent homeschool graduation for your student is a matter of personal preference. Any of them provides a unique and exciting way to celebrate. When I talk to parents who are unsure about how to graduate out their student…I want to be the voice of reassurance. There is no right way….and it IS WORTH DOING!
I want my kids to know that even though celebrations are a lot of work…or cost money, they are worth doing because they demonstrate what we as a family value. We value our children…hard work…education…overcoming…dreams…goals and so much more. If you graduated a teen, I would love to hear how you did it or how you plan to do it!
Congratulations to your new graduate and to you for finishing this huge accomplishment well!