Home-school E-mail Newsletter Fills Void

Michael Woods
Special for The Republic
Sept. 7, 2005

As Arizona's home-school community mushroomed during the past decade, Nancy Manos knew there was no way families could keep up with the number of activities, classes and events that could help them teach their kids. So she made a way.

Manos' Happily Educating ouR Own e-mail newsletter reaches more than 900 families five days a week, most in the East Valley. Anything related to home schooling is fair game for the free e-mail, including items for sale, announcements of activities and meetings. The HERO Web site lists more long-term items as well as a business directory of HERO-reader recommended businesses.

"My idea, my vision for it, was to just create a place where people could share information that was specific to home schoolers," said Manos, who launched HERO in October 2002 as a two-page printed newsletter handed out to 29 families. A year later, 125 families were receiving the printed newsletter, which quickly wasn't making sense financially.

"It kept growing every month, so we shifted to an e-mail format and we created the Web site," said Manos, who lives in Gilbert. Less than three years after the original launch, there are 912 families on the list.

What some might see as a thankless job, Manos calls a "ministry" that she and her husband, James, "feel we can do using our gifts to help other people."

Dawna Somerville, who lives in Mesa and has home schooled for 13 years, says she signed up for HERO after meeting Nancy three years ago. She uses the daily e-mail to keep up with what is happening in the home-school community and to post her own announcements.

"I will make announcements of field trips or curriculum that I might want to look for, things of that nature," Somerville said. "I use it primarily for reading just so I can find out what is available to us out there."

Manos, who home schools her two daughters, says even though the newsletter is available to anyone, HERO is a Christian network. Carol Shippy of Tempe, who is on the board of directors of Arizona Families for Home Education state organization with the Manoses, said HERO has become a vital part of the home-school community.

"It allows the distribution of all types of information and it facilitates a sense of community because it extends far beyond the East Valley," Shippy said. "It gives a person who is new to home schooling a way to connect with other home schoolers."

As for the woman behind the scenes, who friends describe as "a bundle of energy," "cheerful and friendly" and "a sweetheart of a lady," Manos praises her husband for all of his help. "We just want to be a blessing," Manos said. "It's an investment that we want to make."