Rites of Passage

Fun and Meaningful Family Celebrations!

Graduation and Rites of Passage

It’s June! In the school world, it’s time for commencement exercises, graduation gowns, tasseled mortarboards, diplomas and speeches.

It’s hard to escape the school calendar and its associated events. I am always surprised when homeschoolers follow the traditional school year, and even more miffed when they engage in the ritual of graduation (for each and every grade level) in June. We have shunned school, so why do we embrace this very schoolish tradition?

The idea that kids are automatically ready to advance to the next grade (or head out into the big, wide world) because the calendar says “June” is bizarre. Not once in my homeschool experience did the Graduation Fairy thump me or my kids over the head with her wand and proclaim they were ready to move on to the next “grade.” The kids simply moved on to a new or more challenging area of interest when they were ready. It didn’t matter if it was June, December, or March.

School graduation ceremonies are relatively meaningless. They reward students with a piece of paper for enduring a year or more of standardized curriculum.

Homeschooling provides the opportunity to celebrate your children’s real and meaningful achievements whenever they occur. Rather than march to the dim-witted strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” at the end of every academic school year, your family can custom-tailor rites of passage and celebrations that suit each unique occasion all year long. You don’t have to award your child a plastic trophy or a diploma once-a-year as a form of obligatory recognition, you can create something more heartfelt and memorable.

Get creative with gifts and parties meant to commemorate special events in your family’s homeschool life! Personalize the events to really acknowledge and appreciate the individual. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a keepsake album or scrapbook that contains pictures highlighting the endeavors of the individual being honored.
  • Our family created personalized bookmarks with a laminated mini-collage of pictures and mementos that represented what the person had achieved.
  • Create a “throne” for the honoree to sit on at the dinner table in recognition of an important day or event. Drape a chair in colorful fabric (a tablecloth or sheet will work). Set their place with special dishes, silverware, and a fancy crystal goblet.
  • One family I know made a special cape of dark blue velvet studded with silver sequined stars, that was placed upon the shoulders of any family member who deserved special recognition as they were gathered at the dinner table. The honoree shared their success, and each family member in turn noted one thing that the person did to achieve their goal.

You can make one-of-a-kind celebrations that will provide a lifetime of cherished memories. If you need some helpful ideas, get “The Book of New Family Traditions” by Meg Cox. It not only provides all kinds of inventive ways to commemorate traditional holidays, but it offers really unique, practical, fun and profound ways to make everything special from birthdays to bedtime. There are ideas for rituals surrounding sporting events, pets, vacations, family meetings and more to create memories that will last for years to come.

Keep the homefires burning,
~Diane Flynn Keith
Editor of Homefires & Author of Carschooling

7 comments to Rites of Passage

  • Mayra

    I was just talking to my daughter this morning about this very thing. She graduates this year. We have always had year round school. We will be having a graduation celebration for her at the end of July when her dual credit college classes end. These classes will put her at 18 transferable college credits. Attending this celebration along with our family will be another family which is very close to us with their public schooled kids and our Pastor. This is the only “graduation” she will have ever had and we had to talk her into it. No matter how we celebrate this milestone in her life she knows we are very proud of her. Now I only have 10 more years of homeschooling left, awww.

  • Thanks so much for this affirming and empowering article. I decided to graduate my daughter on her 16th birthday. My husband and I talked about presenting her with her diploma at her sweet 16 party, but decided that rather than have to deal with the negativity that other relatives would bring with the early homeschool diploma, we are going to save the graduation party for her college graduation. I am proud to say that she is enrolled in an online bachelor’s degree program as of today.

  • Diane–
    This is Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Traditions, and I was so pleased to see you recommend my book in your post. I know it is on your list of top books for homeschool parents as well.
    I am fascinated by stories about how HS families mark things like graduation in their own way. I’ve seen several major media stories about that this month.
    Anyway, I am contacting you to let you know that I am currently researching and writing an updated/expanded edition of The Book of New Family Traditions, which will be out next spring (the 2003 edition is sold out and now hard to find). I would love it if you can let your community of HS families know that I am actively seeking new rituals to include in the new edition! That includes rituals and celebrations for everyday and special occasions– like graduation, milestone birthdays, etc. If anyone wants to reach me, just write to meg@megcox.com.
    I will be sure to send you a review copy next year when the book comes out!
    thanks for your support, Meg Cox

  • I thought I’d share a lesson on Rituals and Rites of Passage for students working at the 5th-6th grade level, prepared by Jennie Rasband.


  • Renee Beck

    Our homeschooled daughter will attend college to become a teacher – with a different attitude toward school! Our celebration will be a “sending off” instead of a graduation party.

    (Just a comment: Pomp and Circumstance is actually good music. It may be used in a “dim-witted” way, but the music itself is worthy.Being the recipient of negative generalizations because of our choice of schooling, we try very hard not to perpetuate that attitude.)

    Thanks for all the research you do on our behalf.

  • Teresa Nelson

    We graduated our first two sons three years ago. We had a wonderful service where our Pastor gave them advice on serving God and doing His will in their lives, we (the parents) prayed over our sons and then we all went downstairs for a meal. We saw it as an opportunity to be witnesses to our friends and relatives. It was beautiful and I hope to do it again for my next two sons who will graduate in 2013. I do not agree with having to do everything the way public school does either. But the opportunity to draw our friends and relatives together to witness the way God has worked in our lives was irresistible.

  • Mama Owl

    I am a little surprised and miffed at your remarks! That is the beauty of homeschooling… tailoring to fit your needs and wants. Just because I choose to follow more “traditional” schooling methods, does not make me any less of a homeschooler. I am a personality type that likes definite guides and lines to follow and stay within. That means setting a day to start and a day to finish… taking a summer break… it keeps me accountable, or we would never get anything done… and gives us a needed break to spend with our “public schooling” friends. If year round or “unshcooling” is your way of doing school, then so be it. I won’t bash you for doing so, even though I don’t understand either one. Please have the courtesy to do the same.

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