Homeschooling saved my kids’ lives: A personal response to Newtown

nowwhat2Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

If you’ve found your way to this post in 2015, 3 years since the tragedy in Newtown, please know that I am currently raising funds for my community and those affected by the shooting. Please head here for all the information. Thank you!

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?

Now What?

now what

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:

Building Community.

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

sandy hook

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

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. That was beautiful. Thank you. It inspires me to try to take time to visit some people I’ve been neglecting.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Inspire Kids: Sleepy Man Banjo Boys

  2. “May the same be said about the place where you live, without requiring a tragedy to bring about the transformation.” Exactly.
    Steph’s latest post: Making a Point vs Making a Difference

  3. after the shooting, i heard so many people talk about pulling their kids out of school and i kept going back to your article about not homeschooling out of fear. it really resonated with me. yes, i want to keep my kids safe but the world is full of danger; we need to teach them about it. shootings have happened in malls, churches, and movie theaters, too. we must live in this imperfect world and try to raise our children to do their best to change it. i homeschool my kids because i think that through homeschooling i can better enable them to be a part of that change.

  4. I feel so thankful for where we live and the truly wonderful neighbors we have. You words this morning have me wondering if they really know how much they are appreciated and what I can do to make sure they do.

    Thanks for opening up about this Jamie. Continuing to hold you, your family, and Newtown in our hearts and prayers.
    Kara’s latest post: Saying “yes” anyway

  5. I think of Newton and the horror of December 14th in my prayers. Your community has changed but it sounds like it is changing in a good way. May God and his angels be with you and your community every day.

  6. This gave me chills to read. Of course we don’t homeschool our kids because we’re scared. The what if’s for all those parents must be heart breaking. It’s nice to know the community is reaching out in support of each other.
    Kim’s latest post: Menu Plan Monday – All Primal

  7. Oh my, this post was so hard to read. I live far far away from you and still the death of innocent children touch a sensitive cord in my soft mother’s heart! I choose home to educate our precious daughter for many reasons, and fear wasn’t really one of them. But the safety of my precious little blessing is always behind all the choices I makes for them.
    Renee’s latest post: Caution kids at play

  8. I don’t really know what to say, accept…your right. My husband and I often talk of how we long for the community feel of the place we call home (this is not where we live currently.) But, you are right, as in your quote from Mother Theresa, we can make little ripples in the community God has placed us in. Thank you for sharing your personal story and perspective.

  9. Beautiful post. Thank you as always for the timely reminders.
    Debbye’s latest post: How (and When) To Transition Your Toddler From a Crib to a Bed

  10. I’m a homeschooler in Newtown too and I’ve also seen people growing together in our community. We live in a great town and when you put people first, it can only get better.

  11. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and ability to articulate it – I will be sharing this post on my FB page because you said exactly what I have been thinking in such a lovely way.

  12. Oh Jamie, that day seems like yesterday, and I’m so far removed. Thank you for sharing this, because it encourages me so.
    Aimee @ Simple Bites’s latest post: Five ideas for preserving Meyer lemons (recipe: Meyer Lemon Finishing Salt)

  13. Jackie B. says:

    Thank you for this simple reminder of how important life is. God bless you!

  14. Sending much love. I appreciate you helping us focus on the choices we have made ….

  15. Thank you for writing this thoughtful article.

  16. Such a thoughtful perspective. Being on a treadmill with life is such a pervasive thing that happens unless you act otherwise. Reaching out BEFORE a tragedy is such an important aspect of building community, thank you for the reminder. We will continue to reach out as we, too, hunger for that community feeling. I hope you continue to see positive effects in your community.

  17. Wow – sobering. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written post. I am especially touched by the description of how people are now living in your town – soulful, deep connected living. May God’s all powerful hand continue to touch your home and town.
    Krista’s latest post: Tragedy is a Humbling Reminder: 5 Ways to Keep People First in Your Day

  18. one thing you are doing, by writing this piece is bringing the truth forth. I recently read an appauling article in parenting magazine. I never read it cause I usually just get annoyed, but this one talked about what to do with the new town tragedy and i wondered what they said. here is the except…prepare yourself.
    1. be honest – the main rule of thumb is to never lie to your kids
    2. reassure them – tell them that their school is safe, that your community is different, that there are protections in place and it will never happen to them. even if you’re not sure that is true, you have to make sure they believe it. they have to go to school everyday.

    there were other things in it, but wow. I do not think I even need to comment on that except to say thank you for writing about it and i am so happy your little one is safe!!
    lana wilkens’s latest post: The World’s Advice

  19. I support homeschooling for many reason, this tragic event is only one of them.

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