Friday, May 18, 2007

Homeschoolers: Proms And Graduations

Homeschoolers are an independent lot. They do their best to cling to their originality and not get swept up in "what everyone else does". Many have even gone to great lengths not to "replicate school at home". Doing their "own thing" is one of the hallmarks of homeschoolers in general. So where does that leave us when we start talking about homeschool high school as we think about proms and graduations? Does it mean we have to abandon the notion of marking a milestone in our kids lives simply because we don't want to "replicate school at home"?

Over the years there has been much written about this subject in homeschool circles and even in the mainstream media. Even Miss Manners once had a piece about proper etiquette for homeschool graduations. (sorry I don't have a link)

When people think about homeschooling these are serious issues that come to mind: "Will my child miss having a prom? Will my child not get the benefit of enjoying a graduation ceremony? Will my child feel that somehow their teen life is lacking in not participating in school sponsored milestone marking events? Will my child feel like I am depriving them of these things?"

While Miss Manners wrote that only large formal graduation ceremonies done at a school are appropriate for marking these kinds of occasions, I think that we can safely say that is total nonsense. There is nothing wrong, whatsoever, in choosing to have a party and ceremony of your own design to mark a special occasion such as completion of homeschool high school. Additionally, homeschooling families are awfully capable of planning and executing delightful parties that would be the envy of any school prom. I have participated in both.

There are homeschool groups across CT (and indeed the nation) who have put together some wonderful prom parties (minus the sex, alcohol and drugs… thank you), where our kids have had a lovely evening and fond memories to cherish. Yes, just like any other party it takes planning and ingenuity and sometimes some "pull the sleeves up to the elbow" work, and it is wonderful to have parents and their teens work in concert to make it all come to fruition. One thing is clear, one does not need a school gymnasium to make it an official prom!

As for graduations, I can safely say that the graduations that we had for our sons were both wonderful. Home was the most natural place to have an event to mark the closure of home study before going off to the world of college, and even if they weren't leaving home it still would have been very appropriate. For both boys we planned an outdoor Bar-B-Que with family and friends and we made sure to take plenty of photos.

Here is an account of the party we threw for our first graduate, and oldest son. We chose and ordered a cap and gown from one of the many online suppliers, and we printed up a lovely diploma that was presented to him publicly. We played "Pomp and Circumstance" and presented a few short speeches that expressed our love and pride for our son's job well done.

Now, was this "replicating school at home?" I suppose one could argue yes, but because it was so personalized I could also solidly argue, no. I would like to share with you my husband's speech, which read as follows:
When we began homeschooling five years ago, we read in the homeschooling literature, and were told by homeschooling veterans that if we wanted to get free educational materials from publishers or other companies, we had to establish a school name and make up school stationery. They don’t deal with individuals. It took only a few hours of discussion amongst our family and Aron Academy Homeschool came into existence. Aron Academy has the ring of a small private school, yet the Homeschool at the end honestly tells others what we are all about. During this same discussion the children decided that if Judy was the head teacher, “Dad, you must be the principal.” It is in that capacity that I am up here today.

As I present this diploma to David, some of you may be thinking, “Aron Academy Homeschool is not accredited by anyone, that piece of paper doesn’t mean anything!”

I have to agree with you on the first point. Aron Academy Homeschool is not accredited by anyone. But I strongly disagree with you on the second point. This “piece of paper” is much more that a fancy document I produced on my computer. It represents the four years of hard work, study and dedication that it took David to reach this point so that he could have this graduation ceremony today.

Even if not one employer or college recognizes this “piece of paper” as a legitimate diploma, it doesn’t make one bit of difference because this diploma is priceless to those people who matter most. That is David, our graduating senior, we, his parents and teachers, and you, his family and friends.

Imagine two ceramic vases. They are both similar in size. They both hold water and flowers. They both look good on your table. The first vase was made in a factory along with hundreds of others. The second vase was carefully and painstakingly hand crafted. Which one do you think is more valuable? So, while Hall High School of West Hartford is issuing hundreds of diplomas this year, Aron Academy Homeschool is awarding only one.

David Aron, please come up and accept your high school diploma…
David received both an accredited diploma from American School, as well as a "home grown" diploma from us (which included more than the required coursework from American School). He framed them both and cherishes them both, along with the subsequent diploma that he received 4 years later from Boston University.

My advice to parents of graduating homeschooled teens is to not be shy about honoring your child and yourselves for a job well done. Mark the milestones and make some memories and don't worry about what anyone else thinks. You are not copying school, you are recognizing your child's accomplishments and you are celebrating life.

Note: The above graduation photo above is of Son #2 - Not Son #1 of whom I spoke.