Heather Shirley, Chief Academic Officer at Classical Conversations shares her personal homeschooling journey – and why the new Classical Conversations Plus (CC+) higher-education partnership is so valuable for home educators.
In my early twenties, I was a very career-focused woman. Working for a large corporation, my days consisted of tackling new projects and consuming copious amounts of Diet Coke. Then three children came in four years. The world changed. My husband and I started a new kind of project: our homeschooling journey began. I directed my time and attention away from my career and toward chanting Latin declensions during dinner.
That was over 23 years ago, and who could have imagined the opportunities in store? March of 2020, Classical Conversations Plus announced a new partnership with Southeastern University that will allow homeschooling parents to work toward a master’s degree in classical studies while, and as part of, homeschooling through high school.
I value this new CC Plus partnership with the master’s degree program because it affirms
- the hidden work of the homeschooling parent
- the education of two generations
- the acquired skills of a lifelong learner
The master’s degree partnership recognizes the hidden work of homeschooling parents as we invest in the next generation. The days are long, but the years are short. Homeschooling is not easy. Many of us entered homeschooling under criticism, scrutiny, questions – doubts from family and friends. We often felt the need to defend our choice to homeschool, sometimes out loud and other times quietly. Many days, we battled our own questions: Am I doing the right thing? Is this best for my kids? Can I truly be the best teacher for my children?
We stayed the course, prayed, and kept learning with our children. We learned with our friends and their children. We studied weird things like logic and Latin and essay structure together. We read Hamlet and Homer together. We got together and had lively discussions and debates about humanity and freedom. We even relearned chemistry and algebra. We were redeeming our own education while pouring into the next generation. Our initial questions were beginning to be answered. And some of our questions were being transformed.
Early in the homeschooling journey, we asked normal parent questions: What about the SAT? Will my kids get into college? Slowly, seeing college student debt climb, our questions changed: Should they go to college? As we moved through high school, our questions got really crazy: Do I really have to give up my vision of homeschooling and its flexible lifestyle for college credit? Could our community-based curriculum earn college credit? Educational leaders worked together. Partnerships and programs were formed so that both students and parents could earn college credit as they learned side-by-side from the same curriculum. Who could have imagined this kind of one-room schoolhouse?
We began the homeschooling journey without many practical promises or guarantees. It was work that we cherished for its own sake. We challenged assumptions. We loved our children and, for some of us, that also meant opting out of mainstream education and opting into homeschooling. We never planned for pats on the back, let alone a certificate on the wall. We never imagined educational leaders might one day turn, partner, and affirm the homeschooling parent’s efforts.
Classical Conversations Plus with the new MA degree marks a new season for the homeschooling parent. The addition of the MA degree program is one more way of putting confidence in the heart of, and opening opportunities for, families in our communities. As lifelong learners, our parents have acquired valuable skills through an immeasurable experience, skills that enable them to pour back into the next generation. Let us press on together. Let us keep learning together. Let us keep reimagining education.
Heather Shirley and her husband, Ed, started G.I.F.T. homeschool in 1999, where they have graduated all three of their children. She joined the Classical Conversations leadership team in 2003, where she is able to serve and support parents who commit to learning alongside their children. In 2013, she received her CiRCE’s Master Teacher certification from the CiRCE Apprenticeship and is currently pursuing her MA in Humanities. Currently, Daniel, Emily, and Caleb are each on their journey from dabbling in college, careers, internships, military and missions.