Fall 2021/Christina Parker Brown and Denise Mayberry Herndon 
There is nothing quite as moving as an intimate homeschool graduation ceremony. Hearing a parent address the graduate in front of peers is one of the most endearing parts of homeschooling through high school. Although NCHE offers a state-wide graduation ceremony, many prefer a smaller, more intimate ceremony. But putting on a graduation can be daunting. These steps can break it into manageable pieces.

Since 1991, these step-by-step instructions have been used by ZOE Teen’s homeschool group in Charlotte for a May ceremony. Comprehensive details such as timelines, setup, checklists, seating charts, emcee scripts, agendas, job descriptions, month-by-month directions, information to give to the tech crew, and reception details are available to make your day easier. If interested, contact the authors at www.AKAHomeschoolMom.com. We hope that these ideas will inspire you to celebrate the journey of homeschooling and to celebrate your graduate. 

Step 1: Obtain a meeting location for monthly graduation meetings. Preferably pick 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 2: Obtain a location for the graduation venue and available dates.
Questions to ask:

  • How large is the space for the graduation ceremony?
  • How large is the space for the reception?
  • What type of music does the facility allow to be played in their facility?
  • Is there a technical crew to operate the sound equipment, photomontage, lighting, and videoing of the ceremony?
  • What is the total cost to use the facility, including set up/break down, basic clean-up, technical crew, etc.?
  • What clean-up responsibilities will the group be expected to complete?

Step 3: Designate the planning roles.

  • Graduation Director leads the meetings, creates agendas, 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 lead and keep them on task.
  • Senior Director oversees the graduates and receives instructions from the graduation director. 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 part of the ceremony. Ideally, create a file for each position to keep from year to year so each parent can see what was done in previous years.

Parent roles are as follows:

  • Cap and gown coordinator compiles pricing information, color samples, measurements and then orders cap, gowns, tassels, cords, and stoles.
  • Decoration coordinator gathers ideas to present to parents staying within budget.
  • Gift coordinator gathers ideas for small presents for the graduates and orders. (optional).
  • Photomontage creator creates a picture shows of the graduates.
  • Program creator compiles senior’s bios, names of families, speaker, pianist, emcee, etc., and other elements of the ceremony. Designs are chosen and presented to the group.
  • Reception food coordinator (preferably two parents) gathers food ideas for the reception and present them to the group.
  • Reception coordinator(s) leads the servers in the preparation, serving, and clean-up of the reception food and works closely with the graduation director and the reception food coordinator. Ideally, this role should not be someone in the graduation ceremony. Parents need to enjoy the ceremony and reception and they cannot do this if they are helping with the reception.
  • Secretary takes the minutes at each meeting and sends to participating families.
  • Treasurer receives money and keeps a spreadsheet of monies received and spent working. 

Other roles to fill:

  • Graduation servers are ideally others besides parents. This job requires a firm commitment.
  • The Emcee helps the entire graduation to run smoothly.
  • Ushers help with seating. Consider contacting the Civil Air Patrol or local scouts.
  • Parking lot attendants help parents and guests with parking. Civil Air Patrol or a homeschool scout crew can also help with this. 

Step 4: Senior Planning
Senior roles and decisions:

  • Senior to give the invocation
  • Senior to introduce the guest speaker
  • Senior social coordinator plans and coordinates socials. The benefit of having senior socials is that the teens will get to know each other and become friends. This provides a wonderful way to make friends before you 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 the ceremony. Auditions can be held.
  • Seniors create a display to share items from their lives, education, journeys, stories, accomplishments, achievements etc.
  • Vote on cap and gown colors if the color is not already set by your group. Stole or no stole? Be sure to have seniors write names in their hats before tossing their caps.
  • Vote on a class verse. Each senior brings one Bible verse, reference, and translation to be voted on as the class verse.
  • Decide who will recite class verse at the ceremony.
  • Each senior can decide on an individual life Bible verse or quote to be used on the program and/or their photomontage.
  • Each senior writes his senior bio to be used on the program.
  • Each senior picks a song(s) for his ten or more pictures to be displayed in the photomontage (the graduation director can approve music). 

Step 5: Advertise!
If you are opening the graduation up to the homeschool community or just announcing to your group, send out graduation information on different homeschool websites, email, and Facebook.

Step 6: Determine a Budget
Determine costs. A full-scale turnkey graduation costs our group anywhere from $150- $250 per senior depending mainly on the cost of the venue. The budget is planned with the treasurer. 

Step 7: Determine Group Communication
From experience, we know that 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. Email works well. A Facebook page may also help to share information with parents. 

Step 8: Parents’ things to do:

  • Order invitations and/or announcements that include the address of the venue. Tell guests to arrive 20 minutes before the ceremony begins.
  • Order or create the graduate’s diploma. You can create a free diploma by googling “free homeschool diploma” or order online from HSLDA or North Carolina Home Educators (NCHE).
  • Write a short 3-5 minute speech to address your graduate and present them their diploma during the graduation. This is the most precious and intimate part of the day!

Step 9: Voting
From experience, we know that it is best to have votes taken by written vote only at meetings. Once a vote is taken, it stands.

Items to be voted on:

  • Location of ceremony and date
  • Reception food
  • Cap, gown, and stoles
  • Achievement cord colors can be determined by parents or your homeschool group.
  • Photographer
  • Ceremony participants: guest speaker, emcee, pianist (plays 15 to 20 minutes before the ceremony)
  • Senior gift (optional)
  • Programs
  • Who will be used as ushers and parking attendants
  • Guest count based on space allowed
  • Decorations (if someone is willing to store decorations, serving pieces, and table cloths, you can reuse them from year to year)
  • Monetary amounts for speaker, emcee, and pianist and possibly meeting facility

Step 10: Breathe!
Remember, this is a special time, yet hard, as our children graduate, move on, and/or leave the nest. May God bless you abundantly as you plan your graduation!

Christina Parker Brown is a homeschool momma of three (two have graduated) and the author of AKAHomeschoolMom.com, Yard Sale Secrets for Buyers and Sellers, Alphabet Smash, and My Adventure Book. She loves pictures, is a hopeless logophile and always brakes for yard sales. Christina has homeschooled over twenty-one years and co-moderates the largest online Christian homeschool support group in Charlotte, CCHNET. Christina’s passion is to encourage others to intentionally connect faith, family, and fun.

Denise Mayberry Herndon and her husband, Andy, have been married thirty-seven years and graduated two girls through homeschooling. She served on the board of ZOE Teens for six years and directed an annual graduation for four years. She collects Kermit the Frogs memorabilia, smileys and crosses, is devoted to American Sign Language and has never met a stranger. She strives to please the Lord in all she does. Her favorite Bible verse is Joshua 1:9.