An article about a ‘first homeschool prom’ popped up in the news alerts. My homeschool-kneejerk reaction to ‘the prom question’ was a grumpy ‘so what?’ because what is the big deal? — homeschooled kids are able to dance as well as anyone, for crying out loud, and they don’t need a ‘prom’ to do it at. (and yes, that’s a preposition at the end) My inner curmudgeon also groused about how, if homeschooling becomes indistinguishable from schooling in its external trappings, the powers-that-be could declare homeschooling culturally indistinct from any other mainstream form of education.
Then I took a deep breath, went for a short walk (to get a chocolate chip cookie), and had a think about it.
What is the thing with “prom?” It’s been a big deal for a long time, at least in my life. I remember a poster advertising the local prom in some Midwestern town my family drove through while on vacation in the late 1950s. A dapper young fellow in a tux was illustrated twirling a sweet young thing in what memory places as a wasp-waisted, spaghetti-strapped Dior New Look gown. And linguistically, what is a ‘prom?’ In the U.S. it is used nowhere else other than in relation to an end-of-school dance with an obligatory ‘king’ and ‘queen,’ just as there are homecoming kings and queens, ‘courtwarming’ kings and queens, Valentine’s Day kings and queens. Our classless-society desire for a reason for glam has got to the point of a prom queen reality show that has no relevance other than to pretend that this national prom queen means something to the rest of us. Is there any other significance to ‘prom’ other than to serve as another school popularity contest resulting in pretend ‘royalty?’
To start my investigation, I did a search (of course). I was astonished to see 179 references on my hard drive. A hundred seventy-nine? What have I been subconsciously ignoring? (prom, that’s what)
OlyStudent08 wrote on May 2, 2008 12:49 PM:
“Additionally, is it really natural to attend a dance with your parents? Kids need to get away from their parents some times and just act naturally stupid like teenagers do. With their parents hovering over their every move, be it at home school or prom, there is no possible way this kids can feel comfortable “
So that’s what it is — a chance to “act naturally stupid.” Sounds like an entry for the Darwin Awards.
That view is, in some ways, just an American take on the prom phenomenon itself (and, of course, may be valid in an American setting). The socialization that young people receive may account for their reactions to situations that they see as eternal and graven in stone, such as going to the prom to get away from the old people who are cramping your style. I suppose if the reason for the prom was to be all about ‘me,’ to spend a bomb on the trappings, and then go out and get boiled as an owl, topped off with a trip to a motel to get it on, then, yeah, having the ’rents in tow could put a chill on the action.
What if, though, there was a meaning behind the prom (“prom” being taken from the word “promenade” if you were curious)? What if there was something to do other than pin matching flowers on each other, dance to the same old music everyone else is dancing to (depending on your crowd), and try to dodge the chaperones? While I was searching online for explanations for proms, I came across “Vanhojen Tanssit” which means “old dances” in Finnish. Apparently, it is a Big Deal in Finland because it honors the class we call ‘juniors’ becoming what we call ‘seniors.’ Instead of being a ‘school’s out, sauerkraut’ bash, it’s a ‘you made it!’ celebration. For a first-hand look, you can read a blog from an American exchange student who describes the twice-weekly practices as well as the event itself. YouTube also has some clips from other Vanhojen Tanssit events.
Seeing these kids in the YouTube clips reminds me of the popularity of ballroom dancing with our neighbors’ kids in Germany. Long before Mad Hot Ballroom was a hit in the United States, the kids living across from our back garden hung out after school with their friends at a ballroom in a local shopping mall. Closer to (my present) home is the Hyllningsfest in my daughter-in-law’s hometown of Lindsborg, Kansas.
Folk dancing and folk music lend a unique character and spirit to Svensk Hyllningsfest. The Dancers – from eager young grade school students who have been practicing for months to the Lindsborg Swedish Folk Dancers (high school age students) and the Lindsborg Folkdanslag (their adult counterparts) – are charming and enthusiastic performers.
The preparation for the fest seems to be similar to the preparation for the Vanhojen Tanssit.
So, about those homeschooled kids having a ‘prom?’ Good for them. School-leaving celebrations coupled with dances/balls/promenades/proms are popular around the world. Homeschooled kids would enjoy having a fancy celebration in an elegantly decorated banquet hall with their families and friends sharing their fun.