A Different Kind of Prom

The Gay-Straight Alliance in the city where I live, Lexington, KY, recently announced it was sponsoring a “Pride Prom,” a formal event where all teens can feel welcome, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Perhaps, in the current world most of our teens live in, an alternative prom for children who don’t fit in is needed.

But let me introduce you to a different world.

For the past 12 years, I have been part of the leadership of a prom for homeschooled teens. Any 9th-12th grade student who participates in one of the 10 programs of Bluegrass United, a Lexington, KY high school homeschool group, is welcome at our prom. We usually have 100+ students who dance the night away at some of Lexington’s most beautiful and popular event venues. For the past two years, our prom has been held at the most exclusive event venue in Lexington—Castle Post, a spectacular 10,000+ square foot, turreted castle situated on 50 acres in the heart of Lexington’s horse country.

Other than the beautiful prom venues and unique educational choice of the students who attend, there is one other big difference in our homeschool prom compared to a traditional school prom — no dates.

Yes, we prohibit dates and discourage pairing off at our proms. Instead, our homeschool prom is intended to be an end-of-the-year celebration of the many friendships that have been forged during the year.

Before you scoff at such an event, let me assure you that parents and students alike love our proms. What’s not to love?

Everyone attends our homeschool prom.

Nobody has to wait to be asked to our homeschool prom and nobody has the pressure of asking. Nobody feels forced to pair up with someone just to get a date and nobody feels like a neglected wallflower if they show up without one.

Everyone dances at our homeschool prom.

Girls dance with boys and boys dance with girls. Girls dance with girls and boys dance with boys. Sometimes there’s no partners at all as students circle up and dance with large numbers of other students at the same time. Our homeschool students often measure the success of a homeschool prom not by who they dance with, but how many they dance with.

Dancing and personal behavior is appropriate at our homeschool prom.

When dates are expected and promoted at proms, no one should be surprised when teen dating concerns are on full display. Couples dancing too intimately, couples looking for dark corners or slipping out to cars, couples leaving proms early for more private destinations — these are the hallmarks of proms where “coupledom” is glorified.

How did we get to a point in American education where schools feel the need and desire to host date events anyway? Is this the business of schools? While some social events can help forge a stronger learning environment by promoting friendships and community among students, date events do the exact opposite. They divide students and promote exclusivity.

Gay students don’t feel comfortable at traditional school proms? Well, welcome to the world of the shy and the dateless. They have not felt welcome at school proms since their inception.

Schools could solve a lot of issues associated with proms by taking a cue from the homeschool community and getting out of the dating business altogether. They should leave dating concerns up to students and parents to figure out on their own and turn their proms into rockin’ celebrations of friendship where ALL students feel welcome and wanted instead.

Until next time…Be fearless.