Diplomas and Graduations: Do Homeschoolers Need Them?

The last few weeks I have been discussing the subject of homeschooling your child through high school and I ‘ve also offered my thoughts as to preparing your child for college.  Today I want to address whether or not as a homeschooler you need to issue your child a diploma and I will also explore the question of graduation ceremonies for homeschoolers.  While some of this post is certainly based on my personal opinion, it is an opinion born out of over 20 years of homeschooling.  I have learned a few surprising things – regarding diplomas especially – along the way (well, at least they were surprising to me) and I thought it might be helpful to you to share these insights.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I’m not only homeschooling two of my children at this time, but I’ve also graduated two children that I homeschooled through high school.  So I have faced the diploma and graduation questions more than once. 

Let me make clear that issuing a diploma and compiling a transcript are two very different things.  It is absolutely critical that you compile a professional-looking high school transcript for your child.  I recommend and use the “Transcript Pro” software program.

A diploma, on the other hand, may seem like a pointless exercise.  However, I have found that my children have needed copies of a high school diploma under certain circumstances.  Back when my daughter first graduated high school, I issued her a diploma “just in case.”  I had no idea if she would ever need it but it was not expensive to purchase a diploma so I figured, “Why not?”  The Home School Legal Defense Association has very nice-looking, and inexpensive, diplomas available for purchase.  You do not have to be a member to purchase these diplomas (though I do wholeheartedly recommend membership in this worthwhile organization!)

Issuing a diploma brings up the question of whether you should name your homeschool.  I have found that most parents do.  I don’t know if that was the case back when I started homeschooling in 1990 but it certainly seems to be the case today.  It took me many years to come up with a name I liked for our homeschool.  Several years ago I finally dubbed it the “S.A.S. Preparatory School.”  “S.A.S.” stands for “Spiritual, Academic, Social.”  It represents the goals I have in homeschooling my children.

So, where it concerns the question of issuing a diploma, I have to say, “Yes.”  You never know when your child may need it and the cost and trouble are negligible.

On the other hand, I have mixed feelings about graduations.  My two oldest children did participate in our state’s graduation ceremony.  The state of Florida has a vibrant homeschooling community and our annual statewide convention is hands-down one of the best in the country.  Each year at the convention they hold a graduation ceremony that not only pulls in high school grads from across the state but from across the country as well.  If you’re going to be graduating a child in the next few years you may want to look into participating in this ceremony.

As I said, my oldest two children did participate in the statewide graduation.  I did it as much for me as for them!  I had put a lot into homeschooling these kids and I wanted to celebrate their achievement and mine.

Next spring I will graduate my third child from high school.  I have to admit I am feeling a lot more ambivalent about attending a graduation ceremony.  Part of the reason is that next summer is my mother’s family’s tri-annual reunion on the beach which will require an expenditure of time and money just a couple of weeks after my son’s graduation ceremony would take place.  I just don’t see us pulling it off.

On the other hand, a couple of years ago a group of moms started putting together a local graduation ceremony which I’m sure is very nice but I know if I participated in it, or rather had my son participate in it, I would be expected to work, i.e. I would have to be on a committee and cook food and prepare some kind of display to honor my son and frankly…I’m getting old and lazy!  Hey, I’ll be turning fifty this year and as far as I’m concerned that gives me the right to pass on certain “obligations.”

My son’s feelings are that he wants to participate in the state homeschool graduation ceremony because it takes place at a way cool hotel in Orlando.  And I have to admit that the Gaylord Palms is a rockin’ hotel.  Additionally, the rates available during the homeschool convention are amazing.  But all that being said, I still don’t think we’re going to be able to swing it financially or time-wise.

So at this point I still haven’t decided what we are going to do.  Homeschool graduations can be a fantastic way to commemorate this milestone for your child and you.  However, it does usually mean a certain amount of work and/or expense. 

I may just throw a party for my son or give him a nice gift or promise him a little trip later in the summer if we can swing it. 

Bottom line when it comes to graduation ceremonies is you need to do what works for your family.  Participating in a graduation ceremony might be nice if grandparents or other relatives can attend.  It is certainly one of those typical milestones that children are expected to experience.  But mandatory it is not.  My perspective at this point in my life is that if the fun factor (for me) doesn’t outweigh the work factor, it probably ain’t happening.

I’d really love it if my readers would share what they have done to celebrate this important milestone in their child’s life.  Who knows maybe your ideas will help me decide what to do for my son!  Please share in the comments!

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  • Jessy Gaffen

    I was reading about this JUST this afternoon, taking notes! LOL My son is 12 and going into 7th grader, but he will be starting high school next year. (I could’ve started this year, but I decided to wait one more year and let him chose some fun stuff to study this year simply based solely on HIS interests.) My plan is to issue our own transcript or the Defense League and have a family/friend graduation party, but I have time! LOL Thanks for sharing!

    • Anonymous

      It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job!  Congratulations!

      A graduation party can be a great option too.  Something I have considered as well.

      I wish you and your son all the best in the next few years.  They go by fast!

  • I was recently talking to a friend about graduation ceremonies. Her oldest two had their grad ceremony at a big convention with many other homeschoolers from all over the province. It was quite expensive so extended family wasn’t able to come. For their third grad they decided to do something at home. They threw a party with friends and relatives and everybody loved the celebration.
    I think that the big gathering can seem very impersonal where the smaller gathering was all about the one graduating. It was personal and everyone who was close to the family was able to attend.
    When it comes time for my children to graduate, their input will be important, but I think we’ll go with the local party.

    • Anonymous

      We homeschoolers tend to be somewhat individualistic and so we choose different curriculum and different tools to educate our children.  I think it’s the same with the subject of graduations.  It really just depends on what we’re looking for.

      In my daughter’s case she ended up making at least one close friend through going to the state-wide graduation.  For my son that wasn’t the case though he enjoyed the weekend.  One of the best things about it was that the hotel was absolutely amazing and we got it at a huge discount because it was during the state convention (so we made a family vacation of it).  Also, in our case it actually allowed us to have the grandparents there because the graduation was much closer to where they live than to where we live.   It worked out for us to have quite a few family members attend actually.  And I was able to take advantage of the exhibit hall to shop for curriculum at the convention. 

      So the state-wide graduation was actually convenient in many ways.  It’s just that next year I will have a family reunion shortly after the graduation is taking place and I don’t think we’ll be able to afford two trips. 

      I appreciate your input!  I’m guessing that I won’t make any definite decision until it gets much closer to that date.  In any case I think that there are lots of wonderful options when it comes to celebrating this important milestone.