October 30, 2018
Graduation, Organization and Overcoming a Hurricane
Putting together a graduation ceremony can be an overwhelming task. Add to that overwhelming task a devastating hurricane - enter Harvey, destroying the homes of many graduating seniors and you have the setting of our 2018 HEART Graduation. Through our faith in God and the organizational skills of former grad parents, our graduation was a joyous celebration.
Even though those in charge of our graduation committee lost their homes to flooding, they decided to persevere in their leadership roles with the help of others, including myself. We held to our October 15th graduation registration date. Registering senior families must sign a document reaffirming their consent to honor our organization's mission statement, agree to volunteer in some capacity with the ceremony and reception, and to pay a $150 fee. This fee covers the ceremony expenses, the reception, as well as the cap, gown and diploma.
As part of the planning process the grad parents and seniors meet briefly each month to divide task responsibilities. Individuals and committees are given monthly tasks outlined in a BIG BINDER. This resource tool was compiled by one of our veteran parents from nearly 20 years of HEART graduations. This invaluable resource was rescued from three feet of water following Hurricane Harvey! Responsibilities and committees range from programs to decorations, and facility set up and clean up. This BIG BINDER provides details such as securing a venue, replacing matching tablecloths to choose a guest speaker for this special occasion.
Our ceremony, which is held at a local church, is unique in its celebration of the student and the parents. Our guests watch a pre-ceremony slide show compiled by one of our volunteer parents featuring 3-4 pictures of each senior. The seniors file in to "Pomp and Circumstance" as other graduates might do. Different graduates are assigned to lead the invocation, sing the national anthem, etc. A speaker addresses the graduates with a word of encouragement. At this point our ceremony becomes as unique as the homeschooling students and families themselves. As each name is called, the graduate and parents take the stage. A video/audio presentation is shown highlighting the years of childhood pictures, family moments, and activities of the student. Each student is given a 60 second time slot to produce his or her own presentation. A favorite song plays in the background or the parents might choose to do a voice-over recording with an encouraging message for their student. These videos showcase the individuality of each student. For time management it is critical that the 60 second time slot for each participant be closely monitored. Following the video, the student hands a rose to her mom. The dad proudly hands the diploma to his child. Mom then turns the tassel on her graduates cap. Tears and hugs abound as the audience celebrates the accomplishment of high school with this family. The graduate and her family move across the stage to be met by a waiting photographer, who captures the moment. This year our celebration consisted of 50 graduates!
A reception in the fellowship hall follows the ceremony. The seniors set up large round tables in the fellowship hall of the church to display pictures and momentos of their high school years. Instruments, basketball jerseys and artwork are proudly displayed for guests. Light refreshments are served as guests can move from table to table visiting with the graduates. Undergraduate students and parents host and assist with clean up so graduate families may enjoy the day without distraction.
Homeschooling my two daughters has been one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors I have ever undertaken. I am thankful for those who have gone on this journey before me. Without their wisdom and the BIG BINDER, this year of Harvey would have made planning graduation truly overwhelming.
Nancy Byrd lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started homeschooling her girls as preschoolers and has recently graduated her older daughter. Nancy is an active member of her homeschool organization and has served in various roles over the past fourteen years, including president. In addition to homeschooling her younger daughter, she currently tutors English and teaches knitting and crochet classes at her local homeschool co-op.