I’ve read A Life in Balance, a book of about 200 pages from Learning Breakthrough Program as part of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew. It’s written by Frank Belgau (as told to Eric Belgau) and details Frank Belgau’s life in biography form as he works with kids who struggle with learning, then details what he learned and how it might help your struggling student. Belgau worked for many years with learning disabled students to find and practice alternative ADHD treatments, Dyslexia treatment, to improve reading and brain fitness.
I wasn’t so sure this book really applied to me. I have, at least thus far, children who are learning at a normal pace without major struggles. I admit I found it a bit tedious, learning of Belgau’s steps that took him to where he is today and what he’s learned. I kept reading, though, and went back to what I’d learned in other places regarding coordination, balance, and activity and how the brain functions and even heals. Belgau’s story of his personal struggles to learn to read and how everything clicked after the summer he practiced running (and therefore, coordination) for hours on end was pretty amazing. I’ve read other articles that indicated the same correlation. Our brains, all of us, are fearfully and wonderfully made, and to realize how it can heal and learn better with some mere movements is quite remarkable.
When Belgau began teaching in the 1960’s, he was told – by a principal he liked and admired – to have the “minimally brain injured” (not a term I’ve ever heard, but use to describe learning disabilities) students sit with their heads down covered by a paper to keep them from distracting the other students. They were thought to be incapable of learning! Belgau didn’t take no for an answer, and persisted time and again to learn how to teach. He, in turn, was amazed by the capabilities, the perseverance, the level of learning these students were truly capable of accomplishing.
Page 74 had my favorite line. I quote,
“When the principal arrived at the school the next morning, all of the kids were jumping, hopping, twisting, and turning all over the sidewalk. He immediately strode into his office, called Jack, and (I was told later) shouted, “Do you know what he’s done now?” I have always taken it as a personal compliment that Jack didn’t need to ask who “he” was.”
As one who, merely by my Christian faith, my decision to have more children than many, and my decision to homeschool, doesn’t follow the rules, I felt like I’d found a friend in Belgau and his decision to learn, to practice, to figure the best way to teach out – despite criticism, difficulty, and even perhaps loss of friendships in his field. He wanted to learn, to teach, to help – and he did.
A great deal of equipment that Belgau found to be the best helps in teaching is available and detailed on his website. He talks about it often, but near the end of the book several exercises and helps are detailed. These can be started right away without a lot of equipment.
A Life in the Balance is available on Amazon for $16.94 (and selling fast from their little “order now” memo!). It contains 216 pages and is sold in paperback form.
There are dozens of other reviews of this book from other homeschoolers who read it and let you know what they thought too; they can be found at the Review Crew Blog.