Bearing Fruit

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”-  John 12:24
As a homeschooling mother of three, most of my energy over the past twenty-five years has been focused on the health and education of my family. I so enjoyed those years, and at times, I wished that my homeschooling world with three young children would go on forever. But, with the marriage of my eldest daughter last month, the “Newby Family of Five” is no more. Yet, instead of being sad at the lost, I am excited and delighted to see the new life that has sprung up in its place. There is a new family now, made up of a wonderful young man and my beautiful daughter, who will in many ways over the years, bear much fruit.
Because some old things must go to make room for the new, this will be my last regular post on my blog. Now, instead of homeschooling just three children, my tutoring “family” has grown to fifteen students from around the county who come to my home regularly to be taught and mentored. I need to focus more time on them, and I want to run with endurance the race that God has marked out for me so that I have a life that bears much fruit.
With heart-felt appreciation for those of you who have read my blog,
Debra Newby

The Perfect Wedding

After months of preparation, “The Day” finally arrived. Glue, thread and scissors had been put away. Tables and lights were set up. Food was made. Friends and family from around the country had arrived. And two young people stood before God and their community and made a covenant of marriage. Their parents stood near as the couple wove together three ropes representing the strength of their individual Christian upbringings binding together with the third cord of Christ. Their siblings stood at the side welcoming a new brother and a new sister into their families. It was a day of celebration as Jono and Melissa began their new life together as husband and wife.

Getting Ready for a Wedding

I sometimes ask my tutoring students if they want to have a wedding someday. Most answer with a shy smile and a “yes.” Then I tell them that planning a wedding is a lot like doing an algebra problem. (This usually surprises and alarms them!) I tell them that you have to take the “math problem,” break it into many smaller, more manageable parts, work on each part separately, and then put it all back together into one successful solution.

Our family and friends, a wonderful community of amazing people, have been working on the “parts” of my eldest daughter’s wedding for the past four months. There has been crafting, cooking, sewing, rehearsals and showers as we work toward the goal of uniting two young people in the covenant of marriage.

Enjoy some of the photo memories of the preparation and look for some photos of the wedding next month!

Flipping the Classroom

Sal Khan is revolutionizing the way we think about education. He says that our current educational model is based on Prussian ideas two hundred years old, and this system no longer works because it does not encourage creative and logical thinking which is needed in our modern-day information age. He is a proponent of “flipping the classroom” where students get their information from on-line instruction outside of the classroom, and then the students work with their teachers. Those teachers now help with the assignments and become mentors and coaches instead of a lecturers. He believes that learning should be personalized, students should move at their own pace, and the focus should be mastery. Too often in a classroom situation, the teacher moves on because of time constraints, unfortunately before many of the students have learned the material. It has been interesting for me to see how Khan's model of education coincides in many ways with my view of tutoring.

Khan has written a fascinating book about education and learning: The One World School House. You can also view his website at

Wedding Invitations

My lovely daughter is to be married to a fantastic young man in a few short months. Her vision for their wedding is unique and expresses her and her fiance's individuality.
 Both of them have a deep love of books, and she sought to incorporate that interest into their wedding invitations. Being blessed with many supportive friends and family who were willing to help her achieve this vision, she hosted a craft party where we came together and assembled the invitations. While enjoying homemade cookies and lemonade, we cut and glued the evening away.

First Grade

Over the past couple of years, I have had the honor and delight of spending most of my time with junior high and high school-aged students, tutoring them through a variety of their classes. I have enjoyed sharing my enthusiasm for many subjects with them, but the subject that the majority of students want assistance with is math. I am aware of how math builds through the years, and I know the skills the students will need as they continue their studies. That knowledge has made it all the more fun to be tutoring a first grader this summer.

Every week I get to pull out math manipulatives, pattern blocks and games and use them to prepare this young boy to think well, enjoy the math process and be prepared for what comes next. I realize that the patterning skills he is using will be helpful when he begins algebra years down the road. Understanding shapes and how they work together will help with geometry. But most of all, he is finding out
that learning is fun, and that will carry him down the road best of all.

San Luis Obispo Classical Academy History Day

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This month’s blog will consist mainly of photos from a dance I did a couple of weeks ago. A local private school has a yearly history day where students and their families come together to learn about a specific time period. This year they were studying the Civil War. They share food, music, games and dance! I was told that the estimated number of people expected was 450. Not all of those folks danced, but we had a large number of people dance for the very first time!

The location was a lovely, flat grassy area at Biddle Park in Arroyo Grande. A ladies’ trio, Atalanta Running, provided the live music. The dancers were enthusiastic, the weather lovely, and a grand time was had by all. Although I enjoy hosting my own Balls, calling dances for private events allows for experiences with new people in unique places!

All photos were taken by Evan Gillham.


A good friend of mine is fond of saying, “Western Civilization was built on private tutoring.” It is true that many of the great minds over the centuries have been nurtured and trained by personal tutors who focused on the students’ gifts, engaged them in stimulating conversation, and provided immediate feedback for optimal learning.

Large numbers of age-segregated students in classrooms is a recent phenomenon historically. Although it is cost effective and provides parents a place to put their children for much of the day, it is not the ideal situation for every child.

I am currently reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Although I am extremely extroverted, I am familiar with introverts in that I am married to one, and I spent eighteen years homeschooling my introverted daughter. Introverts enjoy working alone for hours on projects that engage them. One or two friends over for a play date is often preferred to loud and overwhelming crowds of children that sap their energy.

Many children who struggle at school would benefit from one-on-one tutoring, away from the distractions and noise of the classroom. Private tutoring is an expensive option. However, for many children, the expense is worth the calmer present and brighter future that it brings.

Surrogate Homeschool Mom

During the Easter break, I had the privilege and honor of being a homeschool tutor for some students whose parents were out of town for the week. Interestingly, I had never officially met this family before, but they knew that I tutored because they had been to several Civil War Balls.

The mother of these students did not want her children to miss out on their studies while their parents were traveling, so she asked me to come and teach them at their grandmother’s home. She said that she wanted me to work on math for part of the time, and the rest of the time, I could teach them anything I was passionate about. Oh, the choices! I am passionate about so many things! I finally settled on logic, Greek and Latin root words, note taking and starting a nature journal. We made root word flash cards and played games with them, discussed the difference between Red Herring, Ad Hominem and Tu Quoque logical fallacies, and made contour and diagrammatic drawings of shells and leaves. The students were interested and enthusiastic, and I realized yet again how fortunate I am to be part of so many people’s lives.

Sewing Bee

Women have been sewing together for centuries. Mothers and daughters have gathered around roaring fires on winter evenings, hands busy and conversation lively.  Groups of ladies have combined their efforts onto single quilts made for dear friends, those in need or a lucky bride.  Today, I had the opportunity to participate in a modern version of this ancient ritual. At our “sewing bee,” each lady brought her own sewing machine and project. While the day included quilting for some, others covered cushions, designed curtains or made a hammock. But some things do not change. Hands were busy, the conversation lively, and beautiful and useful items were created.

Victorian Valentine's Day

For the Victorians, Valentine’s Day was a day for couples, true, but the Victorians also highly valued friendship as well. On Valentine’s Day, in keeping up with the Victorian’s passion for mementos, friendship jewelry was regularly exchanged. Popular symbols included an anchor representing hope and the single word “Mizpah” which meant “The Lord watch between thee and me when we are absent from one another.” Silver coins were often engraved with fancy designs, initials and commemorative messages, and these were worn as pins or pendants. The Victorians enjoyed mementos that reminded them of cherished relationships and happy times.

As straight laced and rigidly moral as the Victorians appeared, they were also quite the romantics. Since young ladies were often shielded by chaperones, it was sometimes difficult for a young man to know where he stood with his heart’s desire. 

Young ladies learned to signal their feelings with various items of apparel, and the gentlemen quickly caught on. If a lady handed a gentleman her glove, it meant she accepted him, whereas, if she handed him a mitten, it told the suitor to give up hope. If she drew her handkerchief across her check, she was sending a message of love, while twirling the handkerchief in her right hand meant that she loved another.
Gifts of love included a painted miniature portrait, a brooch containing a woven lock of hair or a piece of gemstone of particular significance. Flowers, too, had many meanings and could be used to communicate one’s thoughts and desires. However, the most important were the written affirmations of the heart. Letters were akin to personal visits and allowed one to express deep emotion.

Marriage was the ultimate goal of most young adult’s aspirations, for Victorians felt that only marriage and children could fill a house with true love. Their model was their beloved Queen Victoria who was a wife and mother who put her family above the many affairs of state.
Many poems of that era reflect this sentiment:
Oh may you live happy
The rest of your life
Get a good husband
And be a good wife.

“I often wished to have a friend
With whom my choicest hours to spend,
To whom I safely may impart
Each wish and weakness of my heart.
Who would in every sorrow cheer,
An mingle with my grief a tear,
And to secure that bliss for life,
I’d like that friend to be my wife.

Painting and Creating

We were created in the image of our creator … to create! Everyone expresses their need to create in different ways. Some garden, some sew, some fix up old houses or old cars, (some put together Civil War Balls J ) and others paint. We tend to think that painting is reserved for those who are especially gifted and talented. Knowing that artistic ability is not my gift, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could, with help and direction, create a painting that I enjoy.
My sister invited me to her house in Nashville for a week in October, and there I learned that some studios offer art classes to those that are artistically awkward and inexperienced. My sister, eldest daughter and I spent an afternoon creating “Birds on a Wire.” We not only had a lot of fun, but we walked away with a keepsake that will always remind us of that happy day.

When I returned home, I discovered that my dear artistically-gifted friend, Deborah Swanson, was offering classes in her art studio. (See for more info.) I gathered together with my husband and friends for an evening of art and history as Deborah gave us the background behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” that we were attempting to recreate. A grand time was had by all, and it was enormously satisfying to look at our paintings and say, “We did it! We created!”