Chapter 10 of “The Well-Balanced Child”

This chapter, entitled “Learning From the Ancients:  Education Through Movement” begins with the suggestion that in the process of change and innovation, we have taken movement and music, two front pieces to a quality education in years gone by and thrust them aside.  This chapter takes a look at education in different ancient era and cultures. Continue reading

“Turning Children Around”–Chapter 9 of “The Well Balanced Child”

In the beginning of this book, many readers asked, “Yes! I see these problems in my own children, but what do I DO about it?”  Hopefully, this chapter will help answer some of those questions.

The first thing to consider is PLAY.  The  book goes into scenarios of how movement and play improved not only  learning, but also societal skills and decreases criminal activity in children.

From page 132, “ Play networks may help stitch individuals into the social fabric that is the staging grounds for their lives….Under conditions of social isolation, separation, hunger, fear, anger, or anxiety, play activity is markedly reduced or absent.”

Carrie here:   If you have children ages 3 and up who are not “playing well”, I think there are several things to consider:  Continue reading

Part Three of “Feeding, Growth and The Brain”

We are going to wrap up this chapter by taking a quick peek at the other nutrients mentioned:

Magnesium – is intricately involved in working with calcium and phosphorus. A deficiency in magnesium can manifest as over-anxiety, irritability, labile emotions, craving for sweets and alcohol, and stiffness of fine motor movements.   Kelp, fresh green peas, whole grains, nuts and seeds are sources.  See page 117 of the chapter for more information. Continue reading

Part Two of “Feeding, Growth and the Brain”

We are continuing our look at Chapter 8 of “The Well Balanced Child:  Movement and Early Learning” by Sally Goddard Blythe with this interesting chapter on feeding, growth and brain development.  The authors takes a look at several important nutrients and the research surrounding their effect on brain development.  This post is going to look at zinc, because I think it is surprising the amount of research conducted on this one mineral.

Zinc – is essential for all aspects of development, and affects sperm production and fertility but also successful outcome of pregnancy and maternal behavior.  Studies looking at zinc deficient diets in the pregnancies of rats showed that these rats failed to mother their offspring.  The baby rats showed lethargy, reduced weight gain, and increase in emotionality compared to those rats fed a zinc-enriched diet.  Growth, sexual maturity, learning ability, resistance to stress, and behavioral control are all linked to zinc.  Depression, sensitivity to light, impaired sense of taste and smell, and anorexia and bulimia are all linked to lower zinc levels.

More than that, the chapter sites a source as saying, Continue reading

“Feeding, Growth and The Brain”

This is Chapter 8 of “The Well Balanced Child:  Movement and Early Learning” by Sally Goddard Blythe.  This chapter is about diet and how diet affects the brain.

The beginning of the chapter discusses different theories about the role of diet in ancient mankind, and questions why human babies are born with so much subcutaneous fat.  The author also discusses research that has been found that for brain development, the ratio of Omega –3 and Omega-6 fats are about in a one to one balance.  “Omega-3 fatty acids are relatively scarce in the land food chain, but predominate in the marine food chain.  It is possible that at one time in our ancestral history, seafood formed a much larger proportion of the diet than in modern times.”   The stores of fat laid down before birth provides a storehouse of sorts for the first years of life when the brain is rapidly myelinating.  (Remember, myelination is the fatty sheaths that are laid around nerves to make nerve conduction faster).

The author discusses low birth weight babies, and how these babies are prone to more neurologic impairment and also at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and renal failure later in life.  Low-birth babies are actually more susceptible to diabetes and prone to obesity in adulthood due to the insulin producing cells of the pancreas being “over-worked”.  This information is nothing new to those of us in the medical field, but I do wonder how many parents know this.  I also find that this book spends so much time going through different things leading to a child having challenges and rarely seems to focus on what would help,(at least yet), so I worried that parents reading this would be upset and feel hopeless.  If you have had a low birth weight baby and this information is new to you, please don’t panic discuss this with your health care team!  Your health care provider will have more up-to-date information than what is in this book.

One of the best ways to protect all of our children, low birth weight or not, is to breastfeed.    Human milk is high in essential fatty acids,which helps in a number of ways, including such things as forming the membrane barriers around cells, determining the fluidity and chemical reactivity of membranes, serving as a starting point for hormone-like substances that help regulate blood pressure, platelet stickiness and renal function and more.

But a lack of vitamin and mineral co-factors, particularly zinc, magnesium, and vitamins B3, B6, and C, prevents synthesis of fatty acids.  This points to “the importance of a varied and healthy diet at all times of life, but particularly prior to and during pregnancy and breast-feeding – times when modern women are sometimes tempted to restrict their diet…”  The author also points out that a healthy gut bacteria and flora helps set the stage for the efficient absorption of nutrients.

In the next post, we will take a peek at some of the vitamins and minerals necessary for brain development and fatty acid absorption.

Many blessings,


“Of Many Minds”–Brain Development and Education

Tonight, we are back with Chapter 7 of “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning”, entitled “Of Many Minds”.  This is a fairly lengthy chapter and I want to focus on the parts of it related to education for you all to ponder.

This chapter makes the point that one of the most important things that happen in childhood is that connections are made within the brain, between higher and lower regions and also between the two hemispheres of the brain.  Piaget called this period the “sensory motor period” and I think with good reason! There is discussion about the important role about the cerebellum, which you can find on pages 93-94.

This is a great quote from page 94:  “Although learning can take place at any stage in development, it is more efficient if it coincides with the time of neurological ‘readiness.’”  This statement appears to be in stark contrast to the American school system today, where facts are stuffed into the child with little regard for what is happening physiologically, never mind holistically, with the child.

The right hemisphere develops slightly ahead of the left hemisphere up until about age 7.  The right hemisphere is associated with whole word recognition, maths, rhythm, spatial orientation, language (emotional), visual, intuitive, holistic kinds of things.  “The years of optimum right-hemisphere dominant development are years when learning is still strongly linked to sensory-motor activity.” Continue reading

“Music And The Brain”–Chapter 6 of “The Well Balanced Child”

Music is processed at ALL levels of the brain – from heart rate, breathing and arousal to feelings and emotions to visual images and associations- it is all there.

Infants respond to music and imitate rhythm before they even develop speech.  “Nursery rhymes, songs and movement to music can all be used in the first five years to develop other skills in preparation for literacy.  Musical training also helps to develop left-hemispheric abilities such as sound discrimination, timing, numeric skills, and expressive language.  These abilities are essential for the understanding of phonics, and for developing short-term memory in the absence of visual cues.”  Music involves sequencing, and successful tonal memory actually bears a close relationship to reading age.

This could be promising for children with dyslexia.  Several interesting studies were mentioned on pages 79 to 80 of this chapter, including one Danish study that involved 1000 children who used a specific series of frequency-specific music tapes to improve the hearing discrimination and speed of processing.  At the end of one year, there was a 70 percent reduction in the signs of dyslexia in the group.  Continue reading

“The Music Of Language”–Chapter Five of “The Well-Balanced Child”

This chapter was so interesting; it started with a story of the author’s second son who was diagnosed with a hearing impairment and despite how his hearing continued to hover at 60 decibels and  he would not speak outside of the home and nor could he read, he became a chorister.  The Master of Choristers mentioned that in his choir all the choristers’ reading ability improved dramatically, whether they were poor readers to begin with or not.  The author’s son eventually went to university on a choral scholarship, and she noted that the years her son made the greatest progress was when he started to sing.

Music becomes the second language for a child after movement.  An infant in utero can hear  from external sources only low to medium frequencies that correspond to the range of most vocal melodies and the range of notes on a piano.  The rhythm, cadence, and timbre of the mother’s voice, a intra-uterine source of sound, provides the first link for the development of language and speech.

An infant’s ears are partially filled with fluid for a few days after birth.  In this way, “the baby inhabits an auditory hinterland between the uterine and extra-uterine world.”  Once the fluid clears up,the infant narrows down hearing to the frequency range used in his or her own language.  (What was not mentioned here, which I wonder about, are infants whose parents speak to them in two or three separate languages from birth.  It would seem the range of frequencies would be ever expanded).  The author does remark,  “In the first three years of life, a child has a potential to learn any language on earth if it is exposed to the sounds of that language regularly over a long enough period of time.  After three years of age, the window of opportunity starts to close, and by six years of age the capacity to learn language as an innate skill starts to diminish.”

Hearing starts to develop also with auditory orientation, the way we can locate where a sound is coming from even without seeing the source.  The author remarks on page 73: “Vision tells us what is happening in front and to the sides; hearing and balance help us to know what is happening behind.” This ability to match sounds and sights become the basis for reading and writing.

Using voice in play, through chanting,  through speech and through song are vitally important for hearing and speech development.  Our next chapter is about music and the brain and will explore this further…

Many blessings,

“Reflexes and The Developing Mind”–Part Two

This is Part Two of the post covering Chapter 4 in “The Well-Balanced Child” by Sally Goddard Blythe.  You can find the first part of this post here:

We are going to take a quick peek at the last four reflexes in this chapter. Continue reading