I go through books like a hound dog goes through chicken bones, which is to say I read a lot. My favorite subjects are sickness and healing: mold, bacteria, Lyme’s, heart, Alzheimer’s—you name it, I love to read about it. Cutting-edge medicine, remedies, nutrition, purges, herbs, peroxide, exercise—I consider it all. Currently, my favorite reading has to do with the brain—how it works, why it malfunctions, and how that affects human behavior. You can imagine how pleased I was when a kind lady in our church mentioned the book Brilliant Idiot. Just the title provoked me to immediately think of Mike. YEEKS, did I just write that? As I read the book, I became convinced that we are both halfway there—half brilliant and half idiot.
The book Brilliant Idiot is the firsthand experience of Dr. Abraham Schmitt. It is about his journey in overcoming dyslexia, and the profound effect it played upon his life. I totally related. For the first time I had an excuse for not knowing left from right. So many times my dad would fuss at me for not responding correctly when he said, “Hand me the one on the right.”
Mike and I both share many traits of dyslexia as well as many odd traits of extreme brilliance. We both spent our youth struggling with spelling. Even now as I write this I struggle with spelling the simplest words, including the word “simplest.” Schmitt lists 71 clues that enable us to identify a person who is using the right side of their brain more than the left.
Homeschooling parents who happen to have both sides of their brains functioning in unison are frustrated and sometimes angered by their children’s inability to grasp the standard workbook approach to schooling. They recognize that their child is not “slow” and is sometimes quite brilliant, so they reason that it must be laziness or inattention that causes the child not to perform properly. The children end up bearing the burden as they wear the “stupid” label and cringe under the criticism. Dyslexic kids can learn and be quite successful, as Dr. Abraham Schmitt demonstrates with his life and his teaching, but they must do so based on different parameters. The failure of parents and educators to make provision for variant learning skill sets, shutting out kids that could otherwise excel beyond their peers, grieves me so much that I wrote The BIG Book of Homeschooling.
About my book review, Dr. Abraham Schmitt’s book Brilliant Idiot is a superb recounting of his life, misadventures, failures, frustrations, and erosion of confidence. It tells about his struggle to dig out from under the pile of confusion to prove that he was indeed brilliant. He just couldn’t spell, read, or do normal schooling.
History is sprinkled with men and women of his caliber—brilliant thinkers, philosophers, mathematicians, artists, musicians, craftsmen, inventors—people who didn’t fit the mold of balanced-brain function but were able to use the other side of their brain in exceptional ways.
It is important to understand that the learning deficit is not a learning disability; it is a teaching disability. If you are a school teacher or a parent who has a child with a learning issue, don’t make their life miserable by trying to shove your little square peg into their round minds. Let your “brilliant idiot” learn in his or her own way (please read The BIG Book of Homeschooling), and when they are old, they will rise up and call you blessed. And you can call him Doctor or Professor, or Your Honor, or, maybe, call her Madam President.