If you're like me (and a lot of other moms I know), you are always anxious to read more about the things that make your kids unique (academically and neurologically) and how to help them capitalize on that uniqueness rather than try to "fix" it. What a treat it is, though, to read a book that conveys that information in an easygoing and story like fashion. You really get the best of both worlds - a great story, but also really helpful and useful information. Frank Belgau, as told to Eric Belgau, has written just such a book with A Life in Balancefrom Learning Breakthrough Program.
This book is 210 pages long and was written for adults (although older teens might find it interesting as well). At the time of this writing, its price is $16.94.
The first part of this book reads like an autobiography or a memoir. We read about Frank Belgau and how he struggled with school as a young boy at a time when students were seated in the classroom in descending order of IQ. Coming from a family of easy intelligence, he felt like an anomaly and a failure. One fall, though, he discovered that after a summer of physical exercise and living and playing outdoors, his academics fell into place. He no longer had to sit in the back of the classroom. He found a mentor and friend in a science teacher who challenged the way he thought.
Frank went on to become a teacher. Through an experience with a child labeled as mentally retarded, he began to realize that underneath society's confining labels were children whose brains were very much alive and which were just waiting to be unlocked. After earning his Master's degree at U of H (University of Houston for those who don't live in my hometown), Frank began working with Minimally Brain Injured children at North Shore Elementary (it really adds a whole new element to the story to know the places talked about in the book!). Through a process of trial and error (I can't give away the whole book), Frank finds ways to work with these kids who have been deemed pretty much lost causes by the educational system. His results are both amazing and inspirational. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book is a fascinating, one-sitting read.
This book takes place over the course of decades. It begins when Frank is a little boy in a 1930s school system that sounds almost barbaric by today's standards. It continues through the 1960s when he is honing his techniques that almost miraculously find a connection between physical activity and mental acuity. Finally, the book talks about the exciting 1980s during which Frank's Learning Breakthrough Program really came into its own after being pilot-tested in Alpine, TX.
The last part of the book talks briefly about neural networks and how the brain works. In a way, I was sad to have the riveting "story" part of the book end, but this last 50 or so pages definitely felt relevant to my life, as I suspect it will to any mother whose child's brain is just a little bit different.
A Life in Balance is a great book. It is a quick and easy read. If you don't read it in one sitting like I did, you'll appreciate the short chapters that make it very easy to pick up and put down without missing a beat. I feel like I have been given a lot of new food for thought that I will be digesting for quite some time to come. I can't ask for more than that from a book.
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