Tree of Life Learning



by "Mom" (Barb Shelton)


Our son, Tory William Shelton, graduated on August 31, 1998. Yes, a rather odd time of year to be graduating, but we wanted our older daughter, Sharnessa, who was just arriving back home from having worked as a nanny in New York the past year, to be able to participate. Starting time?  6:05p.m. – Seattle Mariners time – a little early to accommodate the need of a few "key guests" to get to other meetings.  (Our choice of days was limited.)


The number of Graduates was low – only one student, Tory, but it lacked nothing in tradition, "specialness," and elegance! Of course, it would be on the hottest day of the year in a non-air-conditioned room!  ...  I opened the event with: "You probably think that those gold "98's" positioned around the room represent the year Tory is graduating, right? ... Well, they are actually thermostats, and I see they are working quite well!"


Purple, grey, and black balloons and streamers bedecked the room and helped welcome the Graduate as he walked up the aisle to "Pomp and Circumstance" wearing a black cap and gown, with a tassel of purple, grey and black – the "homeschool colors" we chose fifteen years ago!  [thus the particular colors of this page!]  


Tory sat in a chair on one side of the stage facing the audience and whomever was at the microphone. Dave ("Dad") opened the ceremony with comments about our years of homeschooling with the Grad, followed by Mom’s comments of a similar nature.



We then had a candle ceremony called "Grandparents' Legacy" where Dave and I shared what each of our parents had given us that we want to pass along to our son. All four parents came up on the stage, and we gave them each a candle, in a color that represented unique "legacies" that each one had given to Dave and me that we wanted passed on to Tory...


As I gave my Dad a green candle, I told him it reminded me not only of his love of the woods, but also of his lifelong love of learning and his continual growth...


I gave my Mom a pink candle not only because it's her (and my!) favorite color, but also because pink represents the warm unconditional love that she has so given her family all these years, as well as her organizational skills...


Dave gave his Dad a blue candle representing his loyalty and faithfulness to his family – something Dave could always count on...  (This was barely coming out through his – Dave's – tears.)


And he gave yellow candle to his mom representing the sunshine of her love for her family, and the beautiful yellow roses she grows in her garden.


Then Dave and I, together, lit Tory's orange candle – for his favorite orange shorts and his "golden" heart – as we shared with him the "legacy" we’ve received from our parents. (sniff)


Sharnessa's part was to sing two songs that Tory had chosen: "Refiner's Fire" and "Make Me Like You Lord" which she sang with Chuck Tilton, Tory's youth minister (and Sharnessa’s choir and ensemble teacher – the one class she took at a Christian school), with whom Tory is now working in the youth ministry.


I had asked a few people to share just a bit about Tory – anything they wanted to commend him on, encourage him for his future, "personally impart" to him, what they saw in him that they wanted to bless...  These included his former basketball coach, Clint VanFleet; Grandma Shelton; Ruth Nelson, a woman who has been a "prayer warrior" for Tory for many years, and two "men friends" – Dave Coons (who introduced himself as a "Tory Wanna-be" saying "I want to be just like Tory when I grow up." (He’s 40, and a successful periodontist!), and Pete Ouellette who gave him a "personal  impartation" from his heart.


We then opened it up for people to come and share, (which we had "fore-warned" about in the invitation) and several came forward with words of advice and encouragement, humorous anecdotes and memories, and words of praise – some of which were sweet blessings to Mom and Dad as well.


After this, Tory responded from his heart, and then presented Mom with roses and Dad with a gift – through tears.  (Like father like son!)  A friend commented to me: "It was so wonderful and encouraging to see Tory thank his parents for homeschooling him and for raising him the way you did.  The tears he displayed throughout the graduation also added to the specialness of it all."


And then... the Awarding of the Diploma, the traditional handshake, and hugs –  but these were between Grad, Dad, and Mom.


After that Tory’s three pastors made a fun but meaningful presentation of several "Tools for the Graduate to carry Into Life" – the "prop basis" for which was a set of toy tools.  With love, humor, and sound advice, they each shared several basic analogies between "tools" and "life" and "walking with God."  I don't remember the specific tools they had or used, but here are several ideas:


        hammer – for securing his foundation


        level – to help set and keep his heart aligned straight with the "level" of Jesus


        sawto help him "accurately divide the word of truth"


        plumb lineto keep his heart aligned with God and walking uprightly


        sandpaper – for smoothing down rough edges of his heart or personality


        metal file for "iron sharpening iron"


        pruning shearsfor God to prune us


        nailsto remind him of the cross and the price Jesus paid for us


        screwdriverto securely fasten God's values to our character



So THAT ought to get you started! ;-)


We then had Tory come down in front and invited any guests who wanted to, to come and gather around Tory and pray (into the microphone so all could hear) for him. (And it’s all on video!)


A display table in the back of the room held several notebooks, awards and mementos of Tory's years of homeschooling...



(That's his Mariners baseball lamp in the middle, directly

in front of which is his mini basketball hoop.) 


The notebooks included his High School Notebook (containing the class plans for all of his classes), his "Basketball Notebook," his Washington State History & Government Notebook, and his "Lab Science Survey Notebook..." His senior portrait portfolio sat on the table along with his baseball lamp, his favorite lunch box, his baby book, and all his trophies and awards for basketball and soccer. It was a sentimental representation of his life and homeschooling years – which happen to be one and the same!  (Sorry the picture's a little grainy; we had poor light in the room, but at least you get an idea of the layout.)


A "Congratulations Graduate 98" cake (in our school colors, of course) was bordered by napkins and plates (in our school colors, of course) on the cake table; and an array of hors d’oeuvres, salads and fresh fruit were beautifully arranged on a long table by a dear friend of the family, having also been made by her. A savory ending to an evening of sweet memories that we will savor forever!



These 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:


To Article Chart  / To Main Lobby


To Tory's Page  /  To High School Helps Page


To Sharnessa's Graduation Page


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