What About Prom? Alternative Ideas for Homeschool Socials

whataboutpromHave you ever noticed that even the most intelligent seeming humans are capable of asking homeschooled teens extremely annoying questions about homeschooling? Commonly heard amongst those that homeschool are the following questions:

  • What about socialization?
  • Do you like it?
  • Is it legal?
  • What will happen if they miss the prom?

Society tells us that if your child doesn’t go to school they will miss out.  In high school, non-homeschoolers ponder the questions concerning prom, games, dances and other activities.

In the community in which I lived when we first began our homeschool journey, the annual winter ball was all the rage. I was intrigued by this concept and when we moved to Northern California, I wanted this experience for my own children and their friends. I thereby recently planned the first of what I hope will be an annual event.

Not Just Teens

Reminiscent of an old school ballroom dance or barn dance (typically involving traditional dancing and period music), a homeschool winter ball is a family affair. It is not just a teen dance. This is appealing to many homeschool families.

Homeschool winter balls provide an opportunity for families to connect with one another – particularly the dads who might otherwise not be able to attend homeschool activities and functions.

Another key difference between prom and a homeschool ball are the historic, period appropriate dances. The style and dances of course change each year according to the selected theme.

Historic Dances

  • Virginia Reel
  • Grand March
  • Polka
  • Jitterbug
  • Foxtrot
  • Swing
  • Hand Jive
  • Cha Cha
  • amongst others

How to Plan a Winter Ball

1. Select a Theme

As it was our first year (and I was initially undertaking this endeavor on my own), I chose a theme that would be relatively easy in regards to costumes and decorations – a 50s themed dance or Sock Hop.

2. Secure a Venue

I then reached out to another homeschool family who are pastors at a local church to confirm a venue. A venue is the biggest obstacle. As I wasn’t sure how many families would participate and thereby how much money I could expect to generate, I didn’t want to worry about a substantial rental fee.

3. Spread the Word

With a date and venue secured, I then created a flyer and tickets. I printed these and distributed them to our local charter schools and co-op leaders. I also began to spread the word via our Facebook & Yahoo groups – setting up an event page so parents could reach out to one another and find answers to frequently asked questions.

SockHop4. Seek Out Volunteers

I requested parent volunteers to help coordinate decorations, food, games, and prizes. A parent stepped up to chair each area of need. To assure we were all on the same page – I also planned a couple of planning meetings in advance of the social. This helped to keep everyone apprised of progress and what areas were needing additional support.

I would have loved to have dance instructors to help teach us period dances but I wasn’t able to make this part of my vision come to fruition this first year. Instead, we relied upon what we had learned via YouTube.

5. Costumes

I encouraged everyone to come dressed in period attire or clothing reminiscent of the 1950s. This was a relatively easy feat. There were many pink poodle skirts and boys with t-shirts and jeans. It was so much fun to see how individual personalities were revealed (my daughter went with a sailing themed “poodle” skirt).

6. Decorate

The planning team and volunteers arrived at the church early to decorate and get everything set up. The DJ met us there to assure the equipment was ready.

7. Celebrate Your Success

Everything came together easily and those who attended loved the decorations (45s purchased at a second hand store for just a few dollars were randomly adhered to the walls and strung from a garland) and the ’58 Corvette photo prop. Ticket sales (just $20 per family) even enabled us to hire a DJ!

The Sock Hop was a smashing success! We are already planning ahead for 2016.

Future Theme Ideas

  • Steampunk
  • Roaring 20s
  • Masquerade Ball
  • Under the Sea
  • Alice and Wonderland
  • Arabian Nights
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Civil War
  • Renaissance

In the years to come, I will put together a Winter Ball Planning committee and hand down the task of planning to the upcoming teens. It will be up to these young adults to plan the theme, select a venue, and coordinate activities and food. This will allow them the opportunity to be involved in the same type of experiences other high school students enjoy.

Are We Too Busy?

I have come to believe that my generation is just too busy.  Our children are rushed from one activity to another with hardly the time to breathe between.  Some time ago, I came across a post or link on Facebook (I honestly can not recall) that discussed the glorification of busy. I wish I could find that post now, but The ‘Busy’ Trap is another great article that touches on the same topic.  Ooohh .. the words in these posts hit me like a ton of bricks.  It feels like everywhere someone is ‘bragging’ about how busy they are .. rattling off their to-do list with pride.  I admit, I have been guilty of this myself but I have made a conscious effort to combat this tendancy.

When I’ve encouraged friends to join the Sons of Norway lodge or invited them to join us on our Roots & Shoots outings, the common response is we are just too busy.  When I have tried to make plans with family to get together for holidays or even just because, there is always something else that keeps them away (if they have kids, it is frequently sports or school).

When did busy become synonymous with value?  Are we too busy to connect with others and to make a commitment to community and family?  I fear we have lost our balance.

are we too busyAvoiding commitment

Most Sons of Norway lodges celebrate the holiday season with an annual Jultrefest. This past weekend, my family and I drove to Central Oregon to visit friends and to attend Fjeldheim Lodge’s annual dinner.  So many people wish to attend the dinner at Fjeldheim that for the past several years, they serve three consecutive dinners (80+ people each night) – complete with a Santa Lucia procession, singing of carols in Norwegian and English, recitals by the children, and a visit from Santa.  It is a beautiful evening and a highlight of our holiday season.  It is no wonder that so many people attend.

The weekend prior, we attended our local lodge Jultrefest.  Though only one night, there were over 90 people attending.  While these numbers may seem impressive, the lodge officers like myself know that it gives a false sense of involvement.  Look around the room and the faces are essentially strangers.  As children or grandchildren of members, this is the only lodge event they attend all year.   They do not see the value in joining the lodge themselves or they simply do not want to commit. It saddens me because the lodge is a wonderful place to connect generations – for the elders to share their knowledge and skills with our youth.  Yet lodges are closing all over the country as their memberships dwindle.

Are we too busy to commit?

Courtesies forgotten

The simple act of writing a thank you note is also a dying art.  I know I stereotype here – but it seems to me that few people in my generation take the time to write notes of gratitude and thereby teach their own children this grace.  We have attended many birthday parties over the years and have received a note of appreciation from the child only rarely.  When one was received – would you be surprised to know that it was a homeschool child? I’ve spoken with other adults ~ members of the lodge, my own parents, and in-laws ~ and they confirm they seldom receive thank you notes, even from their own grandchildren.

Are we too busy to express our appreciation?

I plan numerous enrichment opportunities for local homeschool families – art shows, living history presentations, science fairs, and nature walks.  In an effort to plan ahead and make the events as memorable as possible (I love to create buttons, clever programs, and certificates for the kids), I ask that the families RSVP at least two weeks in advance.  I receive so few that I have in fact cancelled events thinking no one was interested – only to receive a wave of calls lamenting my decision and begging me to reconsider.  There have even been times when my kids and  I show up only to discover we are the only ones.  This is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to the kids.

On the other hand, I have also been surprised by guests arriving when I was quite unprepared.  At a lodge dinner recently, a family I wasn’t expecting showed up, late no less.  In addition, it wasn’t the mother and son who came, but the father who I had previously never met (the mother arrived an hour or so later).  I was so thrown off, I didn’t know how to react.  As a result, my husband (who due to a work obligation was expected to arrive after dinner) was not able to sit with us when he arrived a short time later.

Technology today makes staying in contact with others so easy.  Why then is it so difficult to respond to invitations in a timely manner?  Are we too busy?

Are We Too Busy?Reaching out

Each year, our local lodge takes part in an annual multicultural faire at the local mall.  The event is coordinated by the county Sheriff’s office with booths throughout the mall representing the many cultural groups and organizations in the community as well as a stage for entertainers (dancers, musicians, and martial arts demonstrations). My daughter stayed with me at the faire all day – from 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.   My son volunteered from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  He went home with his father after the grand march.  On our drive home later that evening, I asked my daughter why she chose to stay with me.  Her reply was, “I wanted to stay because I wanted other kids to see that kids are part of Sons of Norway, too.  I thought that if they saw me having fun they would want to join, too.”

I love that she is so dedicated and so aware at such a young age, yet it saddens me.  How can we encourage today’s youth to get involved?  How can we show them the value of reaching out and connecting with others?

Are we too busy to get involved?

When we first moved to California, my son made repeated efforts to maintain a relationship with a boy he perceived to be a close friend.  He wrote letters, sent postcards, and even mailed a gift in a clever package.  Sadly, he never received a reply in acknowledgment. In time, he lost interest in writing knowing that his extension of friendship was not reciprocated.  Relatedly, we mail over 100 Christmas cards every year to friends and family.  We receive less than 20.

Are we too busy to reach out to others in friendship?

Growing apart

When I was growing up, I remember fondly family gatherings for birthdays, holidays, and any reason just to spend time with one another.  In the summer, we had annual family reunions whereby we got to meet and get to know the families of my parents’ cousins – our extended family.  My mother has 6 siblings and I thereby have many cousins .. most of whom now have children of their own.  Christmas and Thanksgiving were huge … my grandmother’s house was literally overflowing with loved ones.  My husband has similar stories to share of gatherings and traditions.

Today, the only contact I have with most of my cousins is on Facebook.  Reunions are rare and poorly attended – for many, as jobs take us away from the communities in which we grew up, it is just too far to travel.  Holiday gatherings with my parents and my brothers are short – we typically can find only a short window to meet for a meal at a restaurant; thereby there is little feeling of warmth and comfort.  This is due in part to distance – I live 6 hours away from my siblings.  Partly, due to circumstance – my parents divorced shortly before the birth of my eldest and we thereby haven’t really grown accustomed to the change.

I could write an entire post on this issue alone but much is personal.  I feel though that we have lost not only our sense of cultural identity and community, but also our sense of family.  I feel lonely.  I miss the closeness we had as a family growing up.  I miss gatherings with family to share in our successes and celebrate the children’s milestones. I miss my family.

Are we too busy to stay connected with friends and family?

What is important is balance

I realize that finding balance is difficult.  I certainly don’t have all the answers.  As a homeschool mom, we have to juggle our activities and make occasional accommodations in our schedule.  I make service learning and volunteering a major part of our curriculum.  When opportunities present themselves, we talk things over as a family and weigh our options. We have made sacrifices, passing on swim meets and formal lessons to connect with family and friends. As we strive for balance, I will keep reaching out but I can not do it alone.