Seeing a child's eyes light up when they "get" a concept is one of the major reasons that I chose to homeschool. For some families, and children, regardless of their schooling situation, that light seems rather dim when there are learning disabilities that get in the way, and cover up that glow. As a homeschool support group leader, I am always on the lookout for resources that might help the families in my group dealing with a variety of issues, so I was pleased to be chosen to review a new book, A Life In Balance by Frank Belgau, founder of the Learning Breakthrough Program.
The book is the personal account (and fascinating read) of Dr. Belgau's journey that began with him sitting in the back of the class in elementary school. I didn't realize that the"back of the class" used to be a tangible position in the classroom based on mental acuity. However, Dr. Belgau didn't remain in the back of the class for too terribly long before something clicked, and he went on to be an airplane mechanic , astudent of the neurosciences, an educator and the inventor of a hands-on system that has been used as an ADHD and/or Dyslexia alternative treatment, and reading remediation system, as well as a tool to improve brain fitness, and more. It has also been used successfully with those who don't suffer from learning disabilities to improving reading and other brain processes.
Dr. Belgau's research was considered to be somewhat controversial from the 60's on, as it did not involve pushing medication, but rather pushing the body and the brain to achieve a balance that would allow them both to work fluently and productively. Unfortunately, because there wasn't big money to be made with a marketable drug (this is my cynical side speaking), the information that Dr. Belgau and his colleagues gathered and used has reached a far smaller audience than it might deserve.
I have a couple of quotes I'd like to share with you from the book, just to give you a taste...
"These are the lessons that I took away from the Air Force when I left to pursue teaching. First, that every system has basic operating principles, and that a study of the system must begin and end with an understanding of those principles. Second, there are people who make things look good, and people who make things goods, and even though you might be in the minority, it's better to make things good. Third, whatever you do, do it with honor, pursue excellence, and dedicate yourself to something greater than personal reward. And fourth: don't fly over a volcano, even it it's a slow eruption." p. 26
These lessons (well, all except the fourth, perhaps ;) ) are referred to throughout the book, and I find them refreshing and challenging. This is not only an informational read, but an inspirational one as well!
He quotes his professor F.E. McGahan from the University of Houston "You would be surprised by how many children are destroyed by the prognosis of dumb psychologists who have spent only thirty minutes testing them before labeling them and sending them to a class that the child should never be in. Testing should be designed to provide information on how to teach the child. We have a lot to learn~ that's what makes education such a fascinating field." p 38
And one more "The learning-disabled child's energy is like a wild Mustang, rebellious and very difficult to guide, but potent and wonderful when it's handled appropriately and in the right direction... Well intentioned medical professionals, including psychologists, had been misdiagnosing, mislabeling, and misdirecting learning-disabled children for years... We could see an alternative..." p 78
This was in the early 60's I think, and while we have progressed a little, this seems an all too familiar scenario today, which is why it is about time for the ideas that Dr. Beglau researched and refined to hit the mainstream.
The later portions of the book have even more material about brain research, what we understand and what we have yet to learn. It also includes descriptions of the tools developed by Dr. Beglau, and experiments and activities that can be tried at home, all written in a conversation tone, and fairly easily digested.
Dr. Belgau appears to be one of those giants upon whose shoulders a variety of other researchers and innovators have stood, and his story is well worth the read.
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Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty
- Company: Learning Breakthrough Program
- Product: A Life In Balance
- Ages: Parent-Read, may be of interest to older teens
- Price: List price $18.95