You know those moments in life that bring you feelings of real warmth and appreciation for another’s goodness? The kind where you feel the successful efforts someone makes to create a uniquely positive difference for others?
Some of you may experience connections like these often and others may think moments like this are needed more in life. Either way, when the positive nature of such a time comes into our experience, we cannot help but stop and appreciate the serendipity of it. We may even feel a deeper sense of synchronicity with the moment.
We’ve all had them at one point or another, and when they appear—they’re extraordinary because of the undeniable sense of goodness they pour out.
When we act on our positive feelings or vibes and put self-constraining boundaries aside—we authentically connect with others—the results become exquisite learning experiences.
That is how I met Deborah. I began a search for unique experiential Math programs that might be of interest to my daughter.
Suddenly, a picture of a lovely woman riding a horse in the mountains appeared on my computer screen: “Horse Lovers Math.” If you don’t know her already, for her Unique Inspiring Math program, I would very much love for you to meet Deborah Stacey: creator and founder of the One and Only—Horse Lovers Math. She brought life to an idea that has transformed learning Math into a life connections experience. To hear her story of HUMAN INTEREST and ANIMAL LOVE merging for the benefit of LEARNING is AWESOME! It was the birth of something beautiful that emerged slowly over time!
A farm day learning event about ploughing
Many years of experience, challenges, growth and learning took place with a horse-loving girl who struggled in Math. She found a deep disconnect between what she was learning in school and her life outside the classroom. She never felt truly content in her classes—or that the content was relevant to her own personal life experience.
As she continued grow up, so did her passion for horses. She eventually brought all of her life experiences together to make a difference that has proven itself with children thriving because of Horse Lovers Math.
Here is our Collaborative:
Deborah, when you think back on your childhood, what would you say is the most defining moment; when your love of horses emerged?
Hi Jennie! Well, growing up in the suburbs, without a chance to be around live horses, my interest expressed itself through reading horse books (Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry), watching horse movies or TV shows (Fury, My Friend Flicka) and collecting horse models or anything horsey.
I remember reading Black Gold by Marguerite Henry. Toward the end of that book, when a big race comes up, I became so lost in the story that when my mother called me to dinner, I didn’t hear her.
I also had a dog, Mitty. I made little saddles and bridles for him to wear, and even created a jumping course for him in our back yard.
Your words there give us the essence of your precious purity, love of animals and of books. Mitty certainly reaped the reward of your loving horses!! I wish I would have known you when we were kids. You would have been a tremendous playmate!
Ok, tell us about your first actual hands-on experiences with horses, like when you got to visit the dude ranch…what was it like for you?
I grew up in California, just south of San Francisco, in San Bruno. For several years my family had a membership to the Napa Valley Ranch Club. We’d stay for a week, camping, and have all the activities available to us. This is where the horses came in. If I wasn’t riding, I was hanging out at the barn. That’s when it all became more real for me.
It must have been like being welcomed to your native home– the place you always felt you were meant to me. The backdrop of that beautiful mountainous environment, and you: living your dream to learn with one of the most intuitive animals.
Beautiful Deborah [Widget_Twitter id=”1″]
Well, going back to the development of the idea for Horse Lovers Math. Not everyone can say that their dream finally came to fruition after working and striving for so many years. It has been a life-long process for you, including the point when you yourself became a mom.
Your daughter brought back some of the original inspiration you had for this for this tremendous Horse Lover’s Math program. But your own personal experiences as a child also planted the seeds for what would come, correct?
Yes, I did not thrive in the institutional learning environment. I was terribly shy and lacked confidence. At school, I felt uncomfortable and tried to be invisible.
Outside the classroom was a different story.
A friend and I started up our own pretend horse school, teaching each other about horses.
It may have just been a school “for fun,” but it sounded like you both took it very seriously as well. Is that right?
It was but we sure did. We’d take turns being the teacher and student. Of course, being the teacher required a lot of research and study! We had a blackboard and even gave each other tests. No problems learning in this situation!
Later, when I graduated from high school it was a relief to be done with that portion of my education. Finally I was free to follow my passion—horses. Not far from my parents house was a riding stable and I began taking lessons.
Your parents have always been very supportive of your love of horses that is such a blessing!
I have been and am very thankful for their support of me. A few months later my riding instructor actually asked if I’d like to work at a small hobby farm outside of Montreal, Quebec. I was thrilled and jumped at the chance. A few weeks later I was in Montreal and walked into the barn. After meeting my new boss, I was instructed to go to the tack room and clean the tack. Fortunately there were instructions on the saddle soap can—I didn’t know how!
Aww, I know we can all relate to moments like that. When you are going through it, it feels as if it can’t end soon enough. But it all comes out for the better in the end right? Talk about a life learning experience!
I know! Well, around this same time I learned about a two-year Horsemanship program just starting up at Humber College in Toronto. I decided to enrolled and about a year later moved to Toronto to continue my Equine education.
So, it has been a real journey (literally and figuratively) for you Deborah.
You expressed earlier that as a child you went through struggles with traditional learning, rote memorization in school and not enough relevant real world content. This is still common today.
Many students attending school do not feel connected to what is being taught in class. Some students just sort of tap-out, gleaning little from the process. Can you touch on this a bit for parents, homeschool families and students who may be reading this and could relate to these feelings of futility with conventional learning processes?
~Sweet Onwyn with Buster~
Absolutely, my own daughter Onwyn is now 31-years-old. The idea for HLM came to me back in the mid-90’s. We were living on a farm, as I was still working with horses and my daughter was in elementary school. I’d also been writing for years. For the first year or so after I came up with the idea I tried to interest a publisher—without success. Finally I had to shelf it for a time and move on but I never gave up on the idea. I always knew it was a good one.
Wow! That had to be the most challenging thing to do, put your dream aside like that. It’s so interesting you share this. Some of the best authors I have come to know, have expressed going through similar experiences– when they had to put their dream aside for a while. But the dream always remained present in-heart and with additional years of wisdom and growth, it eventually came to fruition. Seems to be one of our life lessons, in being human, right?
Yes, I think so Jennie.
Deborah, you and I talked about being reluctant Math learners as youngsters ourselves. Can you share a little about how you worked with your daughter to help her make the connection between her innate love for horses and a subject in school she did not relate to?
I started out by simply changing the context of the questions in my daughter Onwyn’s math homework.
At first the questions I created were more basic. Then I began looking for Math itself—as it exists in the real-world—and with horses.
Onwyn, improved in Math because of these efforts.
I bet! Well, I know Onwyn is pictured as a young girl with a pony, Buster (you leased for her) while you all were living on the farm. It’s on your Facebook page: Facebook.com/Horse Lovers Math.
So, you have finally gotten your program up and running and it is making a difference in more ways than you ever imagined. To conclude our Collaboration and this touching story, please tell us how you finally got Horse Lovers Math going full-force and more specifically, what you are up to in relation to fulfilling this precious dream!
Ok well, in 2011 I decided if HLM was ever going to become a reality for students, it was time. I still kept some outside work going. It is literally ‘outside’—I have my own gardening business. Gardening is another passion of mine, so I love this work too. Since 2011 though, I’ve been easing back on gardening and giving more time to HLM. This year, in 2015 I have begun to let go of my gardening business completely to focus full time on HLM.
When I create content for HLM, whether for the website or the workbooks, I feel like I’m writing to myself as a young girl. I’m hoping that HLM can open the doors to learning for kids who are struggling academically. That they come to realize they’re intelligent, and that learning can be fun when approached from a place of innate passion.
One of my goals with HLM is to help bring awareness to kids about the fact that they can have a career with horses and it’s not dependent on being a good rider. There are many universities and colleges now offering Equine Science programs.
Now that my own children are both grown up, I realized I needed & wanted to be around kids again. I started volunteering at our local elementary school, a ten minute walk away. This is my fourth year helping out in the 4th, 5th & 6th grade Math classes. I love being around kids and it’s been a great way to keep up to date on the lives of kids today.
That is awesome! You are awesome! The students LOVE Horse Lovers Math and have responded so well to the program. I have seen results in video on your website and from the amazing posts your share on Twitter! Aren’t you doing a few other things as well?
I continue educating myself in Math and recently took an online course through Stanford University, ‘How to Learn Math: For Students.’
There is a growing movement to reform education in general —Math education in particular. People like Jo Boaler and Dan Meyer are fantastic inspirations and I’ve already been influenced by their work.
This year I’m hoping to start an after school Horse Lover’s Math Club. I’ve got plenty of great content and am eager to share it with the kids to see how they respond.
Horse Lover’s Math is much bigger than I ever imagined and for it—I’ll never stop learning.
It has been more than a privilege to learn from you and share your story. I believe that your real-life story is one that will inspire others to find you and reach out for information; particularly if they would like to enhance their own child’s Math experience.
Deborah, Thank YOU! We will look for your tweets and awesome sharing on Twitter!
Facebook.com/Horse Lovers Math
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