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The journey of our children's education is interconnected with the journey of our lives.  We respond to their changing needs by observing our children, understaning our trauma rather than relentlessly following an educational ideology.

Our foundational values are to cultivate a small group environment of play, respect, enthusiastic learning, mindfulness & compassionate communication.  

Facilitators 2023

The program is deeply indebted to our incredible facilitators who choose to spend their time and passion with our youth members and adult overlaps with each other.  

Founding Facilitator &
Terri Shirshac, lifelong learner


Terri has been with HGEC since its inception, along with her two children, who have been homeschooled exclusively. She thrives on the energy and curiosity of children and works to instill a sense of wonder and fun in learning.

Terri earned a B.S. in Natural Resources Management from the University of Connecticut, took graduate level courses in forestry and ecology at the University of Minnesota, and worked as a field biologist and laboratory technician in Tennessee, Australia, Florida, and Panama.

Terri loves science, reading, math, travel, being active out in nature, learning new things, and being in community. She is happy to host offerings on biology, botany, geography, math, art history, current events, poetry and more, depending on children's interests.

Update July 2023:

Terri's teenage son joined HISD Heights High School in Fall 2023, and her tween daughter plans to continue experiencing and exploring at HGEC.  Terri provides integral structural support for the Tuesday and Thursday program.  

Founding Organizer & Facilitator
Sabrina Sharma Mahmood, needs analyst/ solution focused

Original Post
As my daughter approached Kindergarten, I went looking for an elementary school in Houston that was much like her preschool, from the ease of attendance to its foundation of kindness and respect that was in the soul of the school, infused through its director and teachers.  At 20 hours/ week the preschool allowed a life-balance while cultivating a community of children with loving adults at school, and the pleasure of relaxed family time at home. 
The unsuccessful search for a similar Kindergarten instead led me to learn about various other education models: homeschooling, unschooling (a form of homeschooling), democratic (free) schools, Liberated Learners, micro-schools, Reggio Emilio, the success of Finland, Agile Learning Centers, Acton Academy, Forrest schools, Waldorf, Montessori education, Project-based learning and more.  
I came across influences such as Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille, The Significance of Education by Jiddu Krishnamurti, Free at Last: Sudbury Valley School, Everyday Blessings by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, and Minimalism.  I intersected with mindfulness in a retreat by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 2008, and learned of Nonviolent Communication in 2015.  Mindfulness, as secular with Buddhism roots, and NVC, with heart-consciousness are infused in my essence.  Minimalism could be seen as a tangible outcome of mindful living and informs me in the choice to create an environment that supports my focus on the important few rather than the many distractions of modern life.
In the absence of a school that meets my ideals, I moved our family towards homeschooling in 2015.  Homeschooling, like most things in life, is a mixed experience and is sometimes chosen not with intention of going towards the model, but instead of simply trying to move away from the available choices.  We found ourselves struggling as my daughter was reluctant to "show up" for traditional academics in 2nd and 3rd grade, there was always a bike to ride or dog to play with instead. 
In January 2019 we left the individual homeschooling mindset for parent-led co-learning environment.  In January 2020, this model shifted to youth-led, interest-driven learning in community where children and adults have equal power and respect.  Of all the education pedagogy, the hybrid of ALC and Liberated Learners models appealed to me the most.  I also taught a few semesters of a senior-level construction management course at the University of Houston (UH) as an Adjunct Lecturer till 2020.  Learnings from the UH experience and connection with students continue to inform and impact HGEC.

Updated: Dec. 2023
In 2024 our organization is evolving to support 2-tracks of educational services based on youth-determined learning paths.  As our members grew into their high school years, we found they were leaving HGEC for conventional schooling.  In part, this is due to the natural child development movement into the evolution of what "play" looks like for 14-17-year-old is different from their 9-12-year-old self.   We found the older teens started looking towards traditional academics and conventional schooling as their next phase.  To support high-school age members, HGEC is starting a program for this subset.  Please see this page for more information. 



Continuously learning, unfolding & becoming

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Course Completion

2020 - 2021

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Anti-Bias Education
STAR Course
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