Home Education Magazine
November-December 2004 - Articles and Columns
HEARTS: Homeschoolers Educating, Assisting, and Reaching-Out Through Service - Michele Pulis
Beyond the Basics
All across America, homeschoolers - who are frequently separated by religious, philosophical, political, and geographic distance - are joining together in common community service goals. In June, 2004, New Jersey homeschooling activist Michele Pulis established an effort called H.E.A.R.T.S. (Homeschoolers Educating, Assisting, & Reaching-out Through Service) to bring homeschoolers together in a common effort. The purpose of H.E.A.R.T.S. is to unite a diverse group of people in service to their communities - while increasing public awareness and acceptance of homeschoolers and homeschooling as a single focus, unrelated to any other issue.
"Homeschoolers differ widely in many respects; but one thing we all have in common is that we homeschool because we feel that is what is best for our children." said Pulis. "Homeschoolers are frequently involved in community service as part of their everyday living and learning. H.E.A.R.T.S. coordinates these efforts, offering one more common ground on which we can unite to provide service to our communities while also advancing homeschooling acceptance - an issue that is vitally important to all of us."
H.E.A.R.T.S. began as a small grassroots movement in New Jersey with a small group of devoted initial participants. The inaugural project involved collecting "wish list" donations for domestic violence shelters through the state. This was an ambitious undertaking as a first project; yet when the project ended, the tally showed that over 68 containers of goods were collected and distributed to domestic violence shelters through 17 counties in the state. H.E.A.R.T.S. kicked off their second theme "Winter Warmth" at the New Jersey Unschoolers Network Conference in September - collecting hats, scarves, and gloves for Hats 4 the Homeless in New York City.
By the end of the first project it was becoming clear that H.E.A.R.T.S. had the potential to take wing and fly. The initial core members discussed and brainstormed - and a form for future projects emerged. Annual campaigns were set up as 'themes' which could be completed locally- anywhere in the country. The American Homeschool Association (AHA), headed by Helen Hegener, managing editor of Home Education Magazine, offered support in the effort to spread the movement. The AHA began a H.E.A.R.T.S. discussion list "AHA-HEARTS" (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AHA-HEARTS/), while Pulis set up a national website and began to spread the message through contacts with hundreds of group owners.
H.E.A.R.T.S. currently has 12 chapters in 9 states across America plus many additional non-affiliated participants. All efforts are detailed on the H.E.A.R.T.S. website (http://www.h-e-a-r-t-s.org) in a way that allows groups as small as a parent and child to fully participate. Seven annual themes as well as several "special projects" are featured.
A large part of the success of H.E.A.R.T.S. is due to the ease of participation. Each theme presents full detailed instructions and a press release for an individual project, as well as suggestions for alternate projects related to the theme. Community participation in all projects is always encouraged and appreciated.
Another important feature is that community service participation by children of all ages is suggested and encouraged. For example, details are provided for participation in "Sight Night" - a project through which children collect used eyeglasses while Trick or Treating. Other projects suggest children produce items such as cards (to send to nursing homes for holidays - or to be included with donations to homeless shelters and other projects), bookmarks (to be included with book donations for Children's Book Week), and even simple fleece blankets (for Project Linus) - simple instructions are planned to be included on the website.
"When Michele Pulis started H.E.A.R.T.S. a new day dawned for the homeschooling community: A sunny, bright, and hopeful day filled with rewarding service for homeschooling families and much needed assistance to communities and individuals in need of support and encouragement." says Helen Hegener, publisher Home Education Magazine. "By tapping into the intrinsic strengths of the homeschooling movement, H.E.A.R.T.S. provides a strong base of support for community service and related projects across the nation and around the world."
Please visit the website: http://www.h-e-a-r-t-s.org for more information or to join in this community service movement. Though the website is a new and evolving project, the current theme and project sections are complete. Please join us. Together we can make a difference!
© 2004 Michele Pulis
November-December 2004 - Articles and Columns
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