Sharnessa's Graduation




Tree of Life Learning




by "Mom"


Barb Shelton



On the cover of Sharnessa's graduation invitation we put the verse: 


"For we are His workmanship,

created in Christ Jesus for good works

which God prepared beforehand, that

we should walk in them."


This verse has been foundational for our homeschooling experience as we believe "true education" is much more about becoming and walking in what God created and designed us to be than it is about mere "academics" or "school at home."  "Education" is all about cooperating with God to prepare for His purposes.


On the back of the invitation we put this motto that Sharnessa made up:


"Dance in the rain"



This saying is very fitting for Sharnessa, partly because of her love of dance, and partly because this is so true of her spirit. She is always full of joy and has a wonderful way of seeing the bright side of life, even in the midst of difficult, challenging, or painful times. 
We created the invitations on our computer, and printed them on sky blue parchment cardstock, with matching envelopes.  Every bit as lovely as anything purchased.


Sharnessa's homeschooling experience was based here at home ~ all the way from kindergarten up through graduation.  So she graduated from "Tree of Life High School" ~ the name we gave our homeschool high school  However, her graduation ceremony was with W.H.O. (Washington Homeschool Organization) up in Tacoma, Washington, 1 hours north of us.  For this reason, only a few people could attend it, and that included five of her friends, all four of her grandparents, and of course Dave, her brother Tory, sister Carlianne, and myself, "Mom." 
The whole event was very well organized and put together by the W.H.O. Graduation Committee.  Sharnessa didn't know a soul who would be there, but, being "Miss Social Butterfly," this didn't daunt her in the least. She just drove up there by herself for the "day before graduation" events and made several new friends!  (As if she needed more!
W.H.O. hosted a wonderful "Grads' Night Out" the night before, with a lovely dinner and program at the Seattle Space Needle and then, later on, a horse-drawn carriage ride in Downtown Seattle! 


The ceremony itself was well organized and full of variety.  The grads wore caps and gowns: the girls in white; the guys in red.  They showed a well-done professional video of the pre-graduation festivities.  A few of the grads presented various musical talents, and did a good job. 


Our whole family, including grandparents, went up onto the stage to present her diploma to her. (See picture at right.  Click on this picture to go to the Graduation page at the W.H.O. website.)


Afterwards there was a lovely reception in a beautifully decorated room, with cake and snacks.
Although everything was as lovely and well-done as it could possibly have been, I want to share my perspective as a homeschool Mom...  I felt a sense of disappointment in our daughter's graduation not being smaller and more personal.  This was not in any way the fault of W.H.O.!  They went above and beyond any of our expectations for putting on a beautiful, memorable "gala affair."  NO detail was left unattended to!  But, because there were 92 graduates, there simply was not any way that the event could have been "intimate" ~ as individual as one might hope a homeschool graduation would be. 


The talent presentations were excellent, but there was nothing from or that represented Sharnessa It was fun for Sharnessa, as it should have been, but I think that something more intimate would have been even more memorable for Sharnessa too, as she has done much through her years of homeschooling, and at least singing a song would have been very appropriate.  But there were probably 50 other great singers in the group as well, and only three performance slots.    


Each Grad was given twenty seconds to share.   Oh my!  Thirteen years of homeschooling compressed into just twenty seconds!?!  What a feat!!!  (What a JOKE, is more like it!

But with so many graduates, it obviously couldn't have been any other way!  In fact, if you do some quick math, the twenty-seconds-per-grad part alone was over 1 hours!  But that was still disappointing for me personally, as the mom.  Again, my disappointment was NOT in W.H.O.!  Just in what it "couldn't be" because of the large number of grads who participated.  Of course, the wonderful side of that was what a wonderful and BIG representation of homeschooling these 92 students were!!! 


W.H.O. let each of the families determine how we wanted to work our student's coming up on the stage, so we invited our parents Dave's and mine to go up on the stage with us.  And they did!  Dave took flowers, which he gave to Sharnessa up there.  A WHO representative handed her diploma to me, and then Dave and I together presented it to her.  This was all happening while the twenty-second "encapsulation" of her homeschool years was being read by someone at the microphone.  A very nice way to do it!!!


All in all, it was a wonderful experience!  Many wonderful people worked hard to make it so!







One other little side note... that I didn't want IN the above write-up:  The keynote speaker gave a well-prepared and well-presented keynote address.  Not being a Christian, her message was along the "believe in yourself" vein.  She did a very good job, but for how interwoven God has been in our homeschooling experience; with Him being the foundation and the purpose, it felt like something was missing to not have God at the heart of the keynote address.  We have actually taught our children to not  "believe in themselves" as "self" will fail, and that "self" has no power, direction, or purpose apart from God.  This is perhaps a subtle difference to some, but huge to us.  We realize that W.H.O. is serving the needs of many homeschoolers, in many different walks of life, and that not all of them are Christians.  So we understand that this is why this element of "God" was not a top priority in choosing a keynote speaker.  But since probably 95% of homeschoolers are doing it largely for spiritual priorities, it was sad, at least to me (and I'm the one writing this article ) that the desire of "the few" who do not embrace God as a priority overruled the desire of "the many" who do under the banner of being "fair."  However, there were other aspects of the ceremony that did bring God in to the picture, for which we were thankful and very blessed.





And a final

note from Mom...


I hate to sound negative, (above) but my hope in sharing ALL the angles of our experience is that families and grads will seriously consider "the whole picture" as they plan their own homeschool graduations.   I'm glad it's a good memory for Sharnessa; it just could have been "soooo much more" had we done our own private ceremony, with "just her" or a few friends" ~ considering the richness of her life, her experiences, and her heart.  But no matter what style the graduation might take, we were (and still are!) tremendously proud of her! ~ and tremendously blessed by the people of W.H.O. for all they did to make it special!





Photos were scanned by

Andy's Photo Services

(my 12-year-old nephew!)



I got the bar with lavender flowers at:



...and the plaid background at:


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