Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
It started off like any other normal day.
I woke, showered, and made breakfast for the kids. During the Christmas season I usually read from a selection of holiday books during meals–that day we began The Story of Holly and Ivy. We enjoyed it so much that I postponed our regular post-breakfast routine so we could keep reading.
We took a short break to make some hot chocolate and start a fire. I had no idea that while we were getting cozy, children a few miles down the street were literally running, or hiding, for their lives.
Around 11 am my phone rang. I don’t usually answer during “schooltime,” so I let it go to voicemail. I sucked in my breath when I heard my neighbor’s tearful message:
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s been a shooting at Sandy Hook school. There are reports that a second shooter may be at large in the area. Lock your doors and keep the kids inside.”
I immediately ran outside to our barn/office where my husband Steve was working, staying calm so I wouldn’t attract the kids’ attention. I felt sure that some sort of minor misunderstanding was being blown out of proportion by the media and would be cleared up soon.
But as minutes turned into hours, reports grew worse instead of better. Horror overshadowed Newtown as I know it on this normal, not at all normal day. Perhaps most surreal of all was the knowledge that if we had not chosen to homeschool, all three of our kids would have attended Sandy Hook Elementary–with my youngest in the first grade.
People often move to this county because of the schools, known as some of the best in the country. A couple of times Steve and I discussed whether we should enroll the kids. “Think how much writing progress I could make” I dreamily mentioned a couple of times.
Now I shudder to remember those conversations. What if we had made a different choice?
We made our educational decision not for a second out of fear for our kids’ safety, but out of believing it to be the right path for our family.
But I now find myself in this place of acknowledging that our choice to homeschool may have saved my youngest child’s life. At the very least, it saved all three of my kids from a severe, violent trauma that hundreds of children (and their parents) within a few miles of us currently grapple with.
How do we process that? How can we make sense of it all, move forward?
It’s been over three months since that day, time to consider the response to this terrible tragedy in my backyard. I wanted to postpone writing until I could usher some major call to action–legislation to change, funds to raise, something to do. Without a doubt, we do need change and I hope it comes soon.
But when I got right down to it, what I feel like we most need in this moment, what our response should be no matter where we live is this:
So many people these days survive on a virtual treadmill of sorts–racing from job to activity to daycare to school to home. None of that is wrong in and of itself, but many of us lack margin of any sort in our lives.
Homeschooling families can be just as busy as anyone else. But by making an alternative choice for our children’s education we have placed ourselves on a separate lifestyle path. Many of us, in doing so, have acknowledged that we want more out of life than what the American dream has on offer. Through our choice we’ve granted ourselves and our families time–time to grow, time to learn, and time to reach out to those hurting nearby.
Building community could mean a position on a committee or spearheading some other public effort, but it doesn’t have to. It might mean making cookies, visiting the elderly, inviting a neighbor over, picking litter up from your street, slowing down to talk when you’d rather rush past, putting people ahead of productivity.
It means being willing to ask for help when we hurt and giving help to others when they hurt. Doing onto others what we want them to do for us–so basic, so simple, so revolutionary.
Good from evil
Newtown has always been a lovely place to live, but I’ve grown to appreciate it even more since December 14th. I’ve seen neighbors hugging in the street, strangers asking each other how they’re really doing, people passing by on a walk taking time to introduce themselves.
In our grief, we’ve grown stronger. In our grief, we’ve grown together.
May the same be said about the place where you live, without requiring a tragedy to bring about the transformation. And may it start with you–with all of us.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
~ Mother Teresa