Get Ready for Graduation! - The North County Moms

Graduation season is here!

As we know, graduation is a tradition that marks the transition from one phase of life to the beginning of another. For many parents, these ceremonies inspire images of high school and college graduations, with parties, dinners, gifts and well wishes. But graduation isn’t limited to those two important commemorations, and families usually create their own traditions when celebrating their kids’ graduations from one school to the next.

Kindergarten, elementary and middle school students also experience similar milestones. Graduation from early academic education is a significant life marker for the children and parents participating in them. They, like high school and college, of course, should be celebrated! And if you use your imagination, there are unique ways to honor these upwardly-mobile class of kids!

SPIE Growth 

As we know, social, physical, intellectual and emotional growth (what I call, “SPIE” growth) occur the minute a child leaves the womb. As the NIH notes, that process continues throughout each stage of childhood development. The graduation ceremony acknowledges the individual’s growth. It serves as a motivator to reach for the next rung on the academic ladder that spans well into the late teenage and early adult years.  

Graduation ceremonies of importance

Let’s take a bird’s-eye view of graduation ceremonies beginning with those precious moments just beyond toddlerhood through the first blush of young adulthood. These ceremonies include those that mark the successful completion of:

  • Kindergarten
  • Elementary school
  • Middle school
  • High school
  • College

Kindergarten promotion

When your child graduates kindergarten, it becomes crystal clear that toddlerhood is a thing of the past.  It’s a bittersweet moment for sure, but one to be cherished. Kindergarten “promotion” ceremonies, as they are sometimes called, are usually brief. These youngest elementary advancers may find it hard to sit still for too long, so short and sweet is a plus! 

Some children may wear caps and gowns offered by their schools, however, many are simply encouraged to dress in their step-above-daily-schoolwear finest.  Usually, teachers or principals hand children certificates of promotion as a symbolic gesture of their students’ academic step forward. 

Your child’s graduation from kindergarten is a special milestone. They have learned to become a bit more independent, with a mastery of skills that may have seemed a mental leap of faith at the start of preschool.

By the time you’re securing a jumpy-house rental for the backyard party to celebrate your five or six-year-old’s big accomplishment, here’s what your hard-at-work-child has learned to do:

  • Memorize 26 upper-and-lowercase letters of the English alphabet
  • Sound out letters accurately
  • Read nearly three-dozen sight words
  • Listen attentively (to stories and direct instruction)
  • Recognize, count and write up to 100
  • Add and subtract simple numbers
  • Identify shapes
  • Understand concepts of time
  • Appreciate science and social studies basics
  • Hone friendship skills (like sharing and conversing)
  • Work as a team

Ways to celebrate your graduating kindergartener

Here are some fun ways to celebrate your child’s  kindergarten promotion:

  • Have a graduation gathering or party with classmates (and don’t forget the cake!) –
    • Invite families to bring pictures of their children, from birth to present
    • Have a “Reminisce & Reveal” moment:
      • Each grad presents his/her baby pictures (or encourage guests to bring pre-made posters)
      • Then, grads reveal their hopes for success in elementary school
  • Plan a day trip to a local attraction or amusement park
  • Make a photo album or scrapbook with your kinder grad: 
    • To commemorate the occasion
    • To create placeholder pages and sections for:
      • Elementary promotion
      • Middle school promotion
      • High school graduation
      • College graduation
  • Give your child meaningful gifts from their first six years:
    • A special gift in honor of each year
    • Photos that reflect each age
    • “Memory artifacts” (souvenirs from trips; tickets to plays, etc.)
  • Donate out-grown “baby” toys to a local charity; then visit a toy store or bookstore to let your kinder grad select something fitting first-grade interests
  • Enroll your child in a summer class or camp related to a new interest
  • Take your child out for a special dinner or treat that highlights an aspect of their past

For many kids, kindergarten graduation is their first taste of pomp and circumstance. It’s also a time for parents to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment as they see their child marching up on stage or across a blacktop to receive recognition!

Elementary school graduation (or promotion)

Moving toward elementary school graduation, or “promotion,” is another big moment! Whichever word fits, these 5th or 6th graders are quite a bit older — more than a handful of years beyond the images recalled from their kindergarten ceremonies. Now, they have a lot more SPIE growth to celebrate!

Those personal milestones, alone, call for a graduation ceremony with a bit more formality and purpose. This graduation is an opportunity to salute the successful navigation of a childhood transition: once the youngest, trying to make a shot in the upper grades’ basketball net, to the oldest, finding themselves leaving their posts as the big kids on the playground. In a few months, they’ll return to their youngest-grade status at a new school!

Primary school graduates can expect to wear caps and gowns. Principals, teachers and, often a student or two, give speeches. The school may dole out awards for academic achievements, like perfect attendance and physical fitness. Principals or P.E. teachers customarily present some graduating students with the Presidential Physical Fitness Award at this graduation event.

What subjects do kids master by sixth grade?

So we’re clear on some of our kids’ academic mastery at this age, here’s a sampling of the acquired knowledge their certificate of completion signifies:

  • Reading fluency, with understanding —  analyzing written text
  • Basic writing skills including grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Technological skills for research and presentation purposes
  • Grasp of basic math concepts
  • Awareness and understanding of the scientific method in earth, physical and life sciences
  • History knowledge — 
    • Early civilizations up to and including the fall of the Roman Empire
    • Nomadic societies shift to agricultural societies
  • Social studies skills — 
    • Analyzing charts and graphs
    • Interpreting information and measurements
  • Some possess a familiarity with a foreign language
  • Cooperation know-how

Elementary graduation is a time to celebrate your child’s accomplishments and look ahead to the transitional period of middle school. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on how much your child has grown throughout first through sixth grades.

Ways to celebrate your graduating elementary schooler

Here are some fun ways to celebrate your child’s elementary school promotion:

  • Have a graduation party with other grad friends
    • Gift a “By the Time I Graduate Middle School” journal to each grad as a party favor
    • Instruct grads to make predictions about the ways they will change by middle school graduation
  • Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to a historic landmark
  • Give your child a special gift like a book, a mobile phone or a digital tablet
  • Take pictures
    • Hire a photographer 
    • Take your own pictures then create a photo album or scrapbook to commemorate the occasion
    • If a mobile phone is gifted, suggest your grad take selfies to include in their BTIG journal
  • Give your child the gift of a practical skill, class or camp, for example:
    • Junior lifeguard camp
    • CPR training
    • Computer skills or coding classes
    • Cooking lessons
    • Art camp
  • Take your child out for a special dinner or treat related to a culture learned about in school

Middle school graduation

By the time children reach middle school graduation (8th or 9th grade), they are well on the way to becoming full-fledged teenagers. This graduation is also an opportunity to celebrate the successful navigation of academic growth that served as a bridge from primary to secondary education. 

As middle school graduation rolls around, your child may be one of the taller people in the room. Growth spurts during this time can be astounding as puberty sets in. 


Along with the expected speeches, the school or school district will distribute awards in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) languages arts, foreign language, academic and musical achievements, sports and physical fitness. 


These are often longer ceremonies, especially in public school systems, as middle school populations are larger – with more kids walking across the stage – than in occasions previously attended in elementary school. 

In warmer climates, these outdoor events can sizzle as sunshine beats down in the late spring and early summer months. Graduates and spectators should be prepared with sunscreen and umbrellas. Often middle school ceremonies take place on the school’s track or field, so be prepared to bring blankets and collapsible chairs for comfortable seating.

What math skills have kids acquired by ninth grade?

  • Solving equations and inequalities
  • Plotting and graphing
  • Manipulating algebraic expressions
  • Working with roots and rational numbers
  • Using geometry and trigonometry
  • Understanding basic concepts of statistics and probability

What science skills have kids acquired by ninth grade?

  • Mastering the scientific method
  • Having a strong understanding of basic chemistry and physics concepts
  • Being able to use computers for research and data analysis

What language arts skills have kids acquired by ninth grade?

  • Achieving proficiency in written and oral communication skills
  • Reading and comprehending complex texts
  • Writing clearly and coherently
  • Conducting research using multiple sources
  • Exposure to public speaking (mainly in a classroom setting)

What history and social studies knowledge have kids acquired by ninth grade?

  • Understanding major political systems
  • Appreciation of different cultures and religions
  • Grasp of essential historical events

If children took a foreign language, what skills will they have acquired by ninth grade?

  • Understanding of grammar and vocabulary
  • Conjugation of regular and irregular verbs
  • Ability to hold simple conversations
  • Introduction to the culture and history of the studied language
Here are some fun ways to celebrate your preteen or teenager’s middle school graduation:
  • Host a graduation party with family and friends
    • Ask kids and parents to offer positive observations about how their grads have changed/developed/grown
  • Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to a historic landmark studied, e.g., a California mission; an interesting destination, e.g., Catalina Island; or take a surprise trip to one of our many CA amusement parks.
  • Take pictures and make a photo album or scrapbook to commemorate the occasion
  • Give your child a special gift –
    • Book about a beloved hobby, activity or sport 
    • Concert tickets
    • Equipment related to their sport of interest –
  • Reserve a table at your child’s favorite restaurant and invite friends and family
  • Purchase supplies or a give a gift card:
    • To decorate the grad’s new high school locker in the fall
    • To purchase a sought-after item requested (but not received) earlier in the year

Wrapping up graduation from primary and intermediate education

Graduating from kindergarten, elementary or middle school is a major accomplishment! These achievements may not receive the same attention as high school or college ceremonies, but they’re, nevertheless, important in the lives of kids and their families. Celebrate each commemoration with fanfare!

As a parent who’s experienced two intermediate and one high school graduation (with another elementary school promotion fast approaching), it was important for me to link memories of my sons’ pasts in ways that highlight their SPIE development. 

High school graduation

High school graduation is a momentous occurrence in the life of any young person. It’s the culmination of more than 12 years of hard work and the end of obligatory education for American children after reaching the age of 18. Whether work or college is next, it’s ground zero of a new life chapter. It’s a time to celebrate impending independence!


Graduating with a high school diploma and the promise of embarking on the next chapter of their lives inspires many students to feel an intense sense of accomplishment on the big day. They have completed four years of hard work. They are ready to move on to the next phase in their lives.

But what exactly have they accomplished during those four years? By the time they don their cap and gown and walk to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, the average high school graduate will have acquired some pretty impressive math and science skills. Reading literature, writing essays and research papers, achieving foreign language proficiency and adaptive social skills – together – along with a handful of electives, have molded a well-rounded human!

What science skills have kids acquired by the end of 12th grade?

High school grads will have gained a thorough understanding of:

  • Basic, or even advanced (AP), chemistry
  • Ecosystems and the role humans play in preserving them 
  • Cellular biology, genetics and the human body
  • Basic skills in physics, including an understanding of energy, motion and waves.

What math skills have kids acquired by the end of 12th grade?

On the practical, and whimsical side, high school grads can calculate graduation rates, figure out how much debt they’ll be in after college graduation and even predict their likelihood of getting a job post-college. (Practical skills, indeed!)

However, fundamentally, students have achieved proficiency in elemental or advanced (AP) algebra, geometry, functions, statistic and probability and more.

What English language arts skills have kids acquired by the end of 12th grade?


Often buried in books, graduating high school students have read many literary texts and novels – often classics from decades or centuries ago, especially those who’ve completed AP or IB English. Most English students have also studied American historical documents. Writing essays, short stories, poetry and research papers have been their realities. 


Public speaking often becomes easier for grads after presenting their work in class settings in many subjects. The graduation audience usually gets a taste of this ease of oration during the  often-entertaining graduate speeches and presentations.

What social studies/history topics have kids explored by the end of 12th grade?


With three years of required history completed, high-school grads have studied, been tested on and written papers about American history and government, world cultures and religions, military conflicts, world wars, and more.


How much foreign language knowledge have kids acquired by the end of 12th grade?

Graduates are usually required to complete two-to-three years of a foreign language throughout high school.



High school – The wrap up

It’s a time-honored tradition that makes both the grad and parents feel a bit older. Graduation from high school can’t help but cause reflection, on both sides – kids and adults. The speed with which this life marker presents itself in our kids’ lives can seem remarkable despite the clear recollection of the end of each school year and the excitement of beginning another. As the mild shock of your child’s new life status begins to sink in, my advice to you is to cherish those memories but don’t get stuck in the past. 


Before you know it, summer will be over and you’ll be delivering your baby to college and leaving him or her in their new home-away-from-home — a college dormitory!  Even though I remembered what to expect (a sharp memory lets you recall those lifetime highlights of your own experience) but it’s hard to be completely prepared when it’s happening to your child – your baby.

College graduation

College enrollment has been on the decline in recent years. Many studies show that some college graduates are underemployed. Despite these realities, graduation remains a time of hope and possibility. It’s the expected next graduation for a majority of parents of graduating high school grads. 

For many students, college is the first time they’ll be away from home for an extended period of time. It’s a chance to explore who they are and what they want to do with their lives. It’s also an opportunity to learn new things, make new friends and create memories that will last a lifetime. 

Since college kids study a variety of subjects for a  myriad of majors, a standard breakdown of “lessons learned” for the college grad is pointless. However, here are a couple of realities to consider as your well-educated child reaches adulthood, post-college graduation:

So what’s next for these soon-to-be college graduates? 

For some, it’s off to graduate school where they’ll spend the next two, three or more, years pursuing an advanced degree. For others, it’s into the workforce where they’ll begin their careers or open and build a business. No matter what lies ahead, graduation is a time to celebrate all that these students have accomplished and all they will achieve in the future.

The wrap up

Graduation ceremonies are important rites of passage for children and their families. Inherently, the completion of high school and college are exceedingly important leaps toward the next levels of academic pursuit or independence.

What graduation traditions do you have in your family or community?

Share examples of your traditions by clicking the “Contact us” link below. We’d like to include them in a future article. And, if you’re a soon-to-be graduate, best of luck to you in all your future endeavors. We know you’ll do great things!


Moms and dads who have children graduating from kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school and college (although you don’t need the reminder) this is a time to be proud of your children’s achievements (and your support of them) through the years! You’ve successfully raised progressing or advanced learners and prepared them for the next phase of their existence. You all deserve a pat on the back and a hopeful, excited outlook toward the future!

Congratulations grads, moms and dads!


Get Ready for Graduation!

Written by Maria Felicia Kelley
@thenorthcountymoms | @1MariaFelicia 
The North County Moms

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