Catholic homeschool student writing

Homeschool Writing Classes: Meet Natalie Schira

Meet Natalie Schira, Writing Instructor

Today, I am talking with Natalie Schira, a middle school writing instructor with Homeschool Connections. Natalie graduated from Saint Mary’s College Notre Dame in 2012 with a major in English Literature and a minor in secondary education. Before joining HSC, Natalie taught writing for nine years in a brick-and-mortar school. Natalie has also been an inspirational speaker and is a vibrant part of our Aquinas Writing Advantage teaching team!

Your background is in teaching in brick-and-mortar classrooms. When did you first consider online education, and what made you take the plunge to transition?

That is an excellent question. I’ve always treasured my students. Additionally, I celebrate technology. It is a personal gift to me because of the accessibility tools it provides. I have limited vision due to congenital glaucoma, and I use technology every day, both professionally and personally. Technology also connects students and ignites learning. While I would not wish a pandemic on anyone, COVID-19 taught me that I could use technology even further to effectively instruct virtually.

In 2021, I learned of a staff reduction at my former school. God was clearly kicking me out of the nest!  I understood the Holy Spirit’s prompting and began exploring the virtual instruction adventure I felt called to embrace. My prayer was simple: “Show me the vineyard, LORD, and I will go to work for you.”

I already knew homeschooled students were wonderful long before I joined Homeschool Connections. I previously had the privilege of working with several homeschooled students, and I found them bright, dedicated, expressive, and hilarious. One prime example was a young woman named Isabella. She had taken several HSC courses and spoke well of the program. Unfortunately, she passed away due to brain cancer in 2020. Her younger brother, also a terrific young man, was in my class the year I left the physical classroom. He told his parents, and with (I am convinced) a little prompting from Isabella in Heaven, the family generously sent details about Homeschool Connections to me. The program was precisely what I had been praying to find. I now have the privilege of teaching with Aquinas Writing Advantage and am proud to serve our students and families.

Tell us a bit about your Aquinas Writing Advantage classes.

I proudly teach middle school writing with the Aquinas Writing Advantage program, where academic and creative writing experts surround me. In fact, thanks to the innovation of Senior Director Erin Brown, her exceptional leadership team, and my dedicated colleagues, AWA won a first-place iLearn award in 2023, for which I am tremendously proud. I teach our Writing Essentials and Simplified Writing courses for middle schoolers and provide one-on-one writing support as the middle school Writing Support Specialist.

What do you particularly enjoy about working with students to build their writing skills?

Something I particularly enjoy about working with students to build writing skills is encouraging their confidence. When students develop aptitude in academic writing, they also develop tools to share their perspectives. Students who can write well invite the world to hear their voices. AWA is specifically designed to focus on academic writing tools so students develop skills incrementally. The gradual process allows us to celebrate each step and to help students recognize how the steps and individual skills of writing work together.

I also delight in connecting with students. I enjoy their stories during mic checks, their meaningful questions and observations during class, and their authentic humor and curiosity.

Learning to write well is also about learning to think; critical thinking is the base for all we do, both in academics and within our relationships and lives!

Many people are concerned about the growing influence of Artificial Intelligence today. In an age where we can get AI to create any text we wish from a prompt, why is it still important for students to master writing?

AI is exciting. However, it is a tool like any other. Some, like our students, will use tools well. Others will abuse them. We are responsible for training ourselves and our students and for living with integrity.

Students should learn the writing process for two reasons. First, originality is simply the right thing to do. One of the ways I knew I connected with Homeschool Connections was by reading the reminder in our courses that copied work violates the Seventh Commandment. Since I have begun interacting with students, I have referred to plagiarism as intellectual theft. God calls us to do more than simply steal ideas because the ideas are readily available. He also gives each of us distinct ideas which we alone can share.

The second reason to learn the writing process is the power of originality. God calls us to use our voices, and life proves more fun and rewarding when we do. Of course, sources are a key aspect of the academic journey. However, until students learn to process and synthesize ideas, we allow them to live in an echo chamber. When students learn to think independently, students also require a mechanism for sharing comments, observations, and arguments. The best tool we can offer is the writing process.

Students who can write can process emotions, ask questions, form conclusions, and communicate with the world around them.

Finally, what would you say to students who are hesitant about writing, who maybe would like to write but don’t see themselves as good communicators?

I would remind students that writing is a process. No piece of writing is perfect on the first try. In fact, writing is a process of rewriting. Yes, writing takes effort and determination. However, the investment produces life-changing results.

Take pride in practice.

One doesn’t run a mile in record time during a first workout. A child wouldn’t play a stunningly melodic scale when first presented with an instrument. While students appreciate the need for practice in other parts of life, the need to practice writing often feels uncomfortable. Consequently, I encourage students to replace writing procrastination with steady practice.

Students can build confidence and aptitude by investing just a few minutes of writing each day. I also strive to remind my students that feedback is a compliment. I offer suggestions because the students’ content offers value. Each writing opportunity presents an invitation to grow!

Finally, I encourage students to call on the Holy Spirit. His inspiration will instill lifelong discipline and creativity.


I truly enjoyed my conversation with Natalie. She is an inspiration as a teacher and also as a faith-filled person. If you want to learn more about Natalie’s middle school writing classes and the Aquinas Writing program with Homeschool Connections, visit Aquinas Writing Advantage (AWA) or check our Course Finder. As Natalie mentioned, AWA recently won first place in the i-Learn awards for online writing programs. I highly recommend it.

I also invite you to join me and other Catholic homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group today.

Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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