Newtown as I know it

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and writer at Steady Mom

I never intended to write about my current location here, or in any online space. I crave privacy and am tiger-mother fierce about protecting that of my kids. But when you see the town in which you live and love plastered across national and international news, the time has come to open up.

I make my home in Newtown, Connecticut–scene of last week’s 2nd deadliest school shooting in US history. If we had not chosen to homeschool, all three of my babes would have walked through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday morning.

Who knows if all three would have come home again.

This tragedy hits close, shockingly close, to our home. Within walking distance families currently nurse a private grief that I find unimaginable.

What disturbs me, though, is that most of you are hearing about Newtown for the first time. Please know that there is another side than the sheer horror of what you’ve seen.

There’s the truth–what life is really like here. And though we’ve only lived in this town for a year and a half, this place will be part of our family’s heart, and history, forever.

This is Newtown as I know it:

I fell in love with this small town over two years ago. My kids attended a week-long summer camp here. After dropping them off I would wander–finding a place to write or take a walk–until time to pick them up again. Driving these country roads birthed a new dream for my family–a different type of life that would include fields and farms, refuge and freedom.

A safe place for my children to love, learn, and grow.

It has been that–and much more. You could say that Newtown was the answer to our prayers.

A stereotype holds that New Englanders keep their distance, but this community welcomed us warmly.

After Hurricane Sandy, when we lost power for four days, neighbors on both sides called and visited–inviting us to shower at their house, sleep on their floors, and borrow their camping stoves.

My children roam freely and play loudly for hours everyday outside our house. Once I noticed Elijah laying on the grass for several minutes, gazing at the sky.

“Watching hawks,” he said, when asked what captured his attention. I’ll always remember that moment. It struck me as exactly what a child should have the time and space for.

And it happened here. Newtown–a remarkable place to raise kids.

Though not exactly your typical family, I have never encountered even one rude look, glance, or comment about our uniqueness and diversity.

When checking out dozens of books recently, the librarian looked up at me with a warm smile and kindly said, “You must homeschool.” She went on to tell me of her positive experiences with other homeschooling families in the area.

Once my kids ran out to eagerly greet the oil man who had arrived to fill our tank. I walked out also, and he spoke up.

“Your son said you homeschool?”

As I answered yes, I wondered what would come next. But instead of questioning the validity of our educational choice, he opened up in my front yard about the learning struggles of his son. Turns out he and his wife had wondered about homeschooling themselves. He left that day with one of my cards for this blog, and an invitation to email me with any questions.

Our experience has shown us that Newtowners live and work with passion. I’ve been genuinely surprised to find that almost anyone hired to come to our house–from exterminators, to chimney sweeps, to tree choppers–exudes an excitement for their chosen line of work. My kids have come away thinking that “loving your job” is just what folks do.

Like I said, there’s something special here. A spark. Please remember that as you watch footage of terrified children running from classrooms and of lives irrevocably changed. That spark may be dim with sorrow, but it has not been extinguished in this courageous community.

Continue to send your prayers this direction. Not for us, who still have the privilege of tucking our little ones in tonight–but for those down the street and around the corner with empty beds and shattered hearts.

As for me, I will wake up tomorrow morning, look out the window at the field in the back, then do what I always do–thank God for sending us here. I will change my mind’s channel when images of horror and violence play on its screen, and replace it with images of what I know to be true about this beautiful community.

Treasured and cherished safely in my memory remains forever Newtown…as I know it.

Now you know it, too.

Further reading & resources:

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.” ~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Comments now closed. Thank you for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.


  1. As another local homeschooler, I know Newtown. I grew up near Dodgingtown. We are often at the movie theater , the dentist and the library. It is a wonderful town, and the tragedy just doesn’t seem real. I am blessed that my children are all home with me, and I that do not know anyone directly, who has suffered a loss . But tears come to my eyes every time I think about those families. We had considered moving to Newtown, but we haven’t found the right house, we would have put our two youngest in that school since it came highly recommended. My 6 soon to be 7 year old said that those kids went to God’s house since he has plenty of room and they will celebrate Christmas there, their parents will see them again, when their hair gets all white and it won’t be too long. (Her words) Not sure what she was trying to tell me. Ha ha, my kids have pointed out a random white hair or two that seemed to pop up from nowhere. But overall I like her view point. With every drop of rain, I am also crying for the survivors and the pain they are feeling. I pray for them as they grieve. We are still considering Newtown as we search for a new home. It is a great town. May God Bless you.

  2. Beautiful post. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing with us Newtown as you know it. As a mama I am praying for all those mamas there whose hearts are aching. Christmas blessings to you and yours!
    Pam’s latest post: It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  3. Thank you ! It’s so good to remember the picture as a whole — and not just one corner. My heart has been grieving so much for these families — and for the communities nearby who walk with them. Praying still …

  4. I homeschool too but this article rubbed me the wrong way. My first thought was “fear mongering”. I think you have to be careful not to try to scare people into homeschooling. My sister pulled her child out of public school on Friday (the day of the shootings) and I think she made a foolish choice out of fear. Homeschooling is VERY difficult for some people (due to personalities or other reasons) and should be done for the right reasons. Not because you are afraid your child’s school will be shot up.

    • Mothering4Him says:

      First, I didn’t feel this article put the fear into anyone. It was trying to take the fear OUT of people and look at the good! Second, people think that if they (or others) decide to homeschool it’s an “end-all” decision. You could homeschool for a week and change your mind (although it’s a lot of work for mom…ha ha). Third, Mom is almost (notice I said ALMOST) always the best teacher, as she loves her children more than anyone and will find a way to meet their needs. If someone is unselfish enough to take on this HUGE task (& unless you’ve done it…you have NO clue how hard it is!), then they either quit or become devoted. Does it look like a brick and morter school…NO! But it doesn’t have to. Please don’t impose YOUR goals on HER children! (and then blame this sweet blogger, to boot.) I bet there will be a LOT of moms pulling kids to homeschool after this. Homeschooling is already growing 25% a year without a tragedy like this.

    • That’s actually the complete opposite of what I’m saying here, Sydney. Fear was not at all a reason for why we chose to homeschool. Newtown is a wonderful and safe community, which is what I’m trying to say in this post. But I can’t deny that the fact that we homeschool might have saved one or more of my children’s lives last week. I don’t think everyone should homeschool and certainly not because of a random act like this one.

      In the past I’ve written about your very point–that people should not homeschool out of fear. I still believe it with all my heart. You can find that post here:

  5. I grew up around drug dealers, murderers, pedifiles and crazy people of all sorts. My mother ran a biker bar in a very rough redneck community. I went through the public school system that to say was inadequate would be an understatement. I was verbally, emotionally and physically abused my entire life. I put myself through college and returned to that neighborhood as an educator. I taught first and second grade at my elementary school. Many of the parents of my students remember me from the neighborhood and come to say hello. It is still the same community. Rough in every way. I am happy I returned to be that one teacher for some child in need. What made the difference for me was a mother who took the time to sit down to look me in the eyes every day and ask me how I was. She talked me through my problems. She cheered me on through my battles and did not try to fight them for me. She held me tight when I needed comfort and held me accountable when I needed to be straightened out. My mother never sat at the bar that she ran but she never condemned those that did. She taught me that when you become a mother you make the commitment to being present in the moment, every moment, good or bad. We are all homeschooling our children. Teach them to be fearless but empower them to protect themselves no matter where they live. Teach them how to live outside the constraints of their social environment. Then listen…really listen.

  6. Amen, Cindy! There is only one Hope.

  7. thanks for talking ybout your sweet little town which has to see so much sorrow now ♥
    Tina´s PicStory’s latest post: mein stück himmel ♥