I stand in the back of a ballroom filled to the brim with families and friends—my eyes tearing and my heart overflowing. I’m sure I also look stressed and tired, and it’s very likely that my shoes are in a corner somewhere. By 7:00 pm, I will be ready to drop, but it’s my favorite day of the year.
I have had the extreme privilege to coordinate NCHE’s graduation ceremonies for the last several years. I took on the role because I like to organize events and create hospitable experiences for people. I still enjoy those aspects, but I love graduations for so many reasons that I could never have predicted.
Graduations are always occasions to celebrate, but somehow homeschool graduations are extra special. It’s truly a success of the whole family and often a success that stems from great sacrifice, immense trials, and celebrating even the tiniest of victories. I have the honor to help all of these families celebrate each spring. One of the most inspiring things about the NCHE graduation is the opportunity to create a sense of community amongst hundreds of individual families all coming together in a common goal.
To celebrate that achievement, and indeed, to celebrate the family, we have the parents present the diploma to the graduate on stage. The graduates will also hand a rose to their mom. These moments get me every single time. It’s less than one minute per family, but the memory it makes and the journey it represents is long lasting.
I have a unique look into these families; each situation is different. The Lord has opened the door to many conversations and opportunities to minister in small ways to these folks.
Our team has been able to make accommodations for physical and developmental needs, tricky family dynamics, and we have sometimes had to ask for grace in mistakes. One of the very best memories of those grace moments happened when I had missed that a graduate’s parent needed a wheelchair lift. I was so upset and felt that I had ruined their day. Our fantastic emcee and my dear friend came up with a solution on the spot. Another dad literally offered to carry that dad onto the stage. They had never met before, but I believe their families ended up having dinner together after the ceremony. That is the community that God wants to build. I was shown grace in a way that went so far beyond the forgiveness I needed. I saw sacrifice, humility and love. That is why NCHE graduation is so special to me.
We have several volunteers who return every year and always want the same role. Two wonderful veteran homeschoolers love to hand the diplomas to the parents just before they are presented. They love having a moment to congratulate them for the dedication taken to get there, because they have lived it. Another mom really loves standing on the grads’ side of the stage and making sure they get a rose for their mom, because she loves telling those young adults how proud she is of their success—and she means it. Several friends and my older children dedicate their entire Saturday to the set up and logistics needed to make this day as wonderful and smooth as possible because they are part of your community, and they care about your family. And finally, a dear friend always serves as our parent escort leading parents through so the ceremony runs smoothly. Without all of these people, plus our terrific speakers and emcees, my job would be much harder, and the day would be much less personal— yet another blessing.
The ways that being a graduation coordinator has blessed me are innumerable. The greatest blessing to me has undoubtedly been the opportunity to pray for each individual young person as they are launched into the world with all that we, as parents, have instilled into and prayed over them.
The first year I was in this role, I was getting very frustrated over the logistics. I had begun to feel bitter about too many email replies asking questions that had been answered in the email they were responding to. I had ceased to see His image bearers and was only seeing data. The Holy Spirit (not so) gently nudged me to stop, write each graduate’s name on an index card and pray for them all. Since that day, I have made this tradition a part of my preparation. It has helped me to remember the community I so love helping to create. I am grateful for the opportunity to know our homeschool community better in this way.
Many of you reading this issue will have students participating in the ceremony. This year, for the third time, my husband and I will also have a graduate. Because we have experienced this before, we understand the wish for the perfect day and want to make this ceremony as personal as possible. That’s not always easy when the group is large, but please know that we share this goal for you—for each and every family. We look so forward to sharing this day with you, both as parents of a graduate, and as the folks who are honored to serve you in this way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this special day with us.
Briggs Greenwood enjoys connecting with other mommas in her role as NCHE marketing director and especially in her day-to-day life. She lives and loves with Kevin at home in Durham. They have four sons (three homeschool graduates and one still learning at home, plus one wonderful daughter-in-love). She has seen and tried almost every conceivable homeschooling option in her eighteen-year journey and can’t wait to see what else the Lord has in store.
Did a member of your homeschool graduate with the class of 2020? Encourage younger families when you share your favorite reflections below.