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Title: Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook
Author: Montessori, Maria, 1870-1952
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Dr. Maria Montessori]

               DR. MONTESSORI'S
                 OWN HANDBOOK


               MARIA MONTESSORI



                   NEW YORK

            _Copyright, 1914, by_

   _All rights reserved, including that of
     translation into foreign languages_

                FASC May, 1914

              TO MY DEAR FRIEND


                 BUT OFFERED


  As a result of the widespread interest that has been taken
  in my method of child education, certain books have been
  issued, which may appear to the general reader to be
  authoritative expositions of the Montessori system. I wish
  to state definitely that the present work, the English
  translation of which has been authorised and approved by
  me, is the only authentic manual of the Montessori method,
  and that the only other authentic or authorised works of
  mine in the English language are "The Montessori Method,"
  and "Pedagogical Anthropology."

                                  [Signed: Maria Montessori]


If a preface is a light which should serve to illumine the contents of
a volume, I choose, not words, but human figures to illustrate this
little book intended to enter families where children are growing up.
I therefore recall here, as an eloquent symbol, Helen Keller and Mrs.
Anne Sullivan Macy, who are, by their example, both teachers to
myself--and, before the world, living documents of the miracle in

In fact, Helen Keller is a marvelous example of the phenomenon common
to all human beings: the possibility of the liberation of the
imprisoned spirit of man by the education of the senses. Here lies the
basis of the method of education of which the book gives a succinct

If one only of the senses sufficed to make of Helen Keller a woman of
exceptional culture and a writer, who better than she proves the
potency of that method of education which builds on the senses? If
Helen Keller attained through exquisite natural gifts to an elevated
conception of the world, who better than she proves that in the
inmost self of man lies the spirit ready to reveal itself?

Helen, clasp to your heart these little children, since they, above
all others, will understand you. They are your younger brothers: when,
with bandaged eyes and in silence, they touch with their little hands,
profound impressions rise in their consciousness, and they exclaim
with a new form of happiness: "I see with my hands." They alone, then,
can fully understand the drama of the mysterious privilege your soul
has known. When, in darkness and in silence, their spirit left free to
expand, their intellectual energy redoubled, they become able to read
and write without having learnt, almost as it were by intuition, they,
only they, can understand in part the ecstasy which God granted you on
the luminous path of learning.



 PREFACE                                                           vii
 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS                                                1
 A "CHILDREN'S HOUSE"                                                9
 THE METHOD                                                         17
     Didactic Material for the Education of the Senses              18
     Didactic Material for the Preparation of Writing
         and Arithmetic                                             19
 MOTOR EDUCATION                                                    20
 SENSORY EDUCATION                                                  29
 LANGUAGE AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD                                69
 FREEDOM                                                            77
 WRITING                                                            80
     Exercises for the Management of the Instrument of
         Writing                                                    86
     Exercises for the Writing of Alphabetical Signs                92
 THE READING OF MUSIC                                               98
 ARITHMETIC                                                        102
 MORAL FACTORS                                                     114


 Dr. Maria Montessori                                   _Frontispiece_

 FIG.                                                      FACING PAGE
  1.  Cupboard with Apparatus                                       12
  2.  The Montessori Pædometer                                      13
  3.  Frames for Lacing and Buttoning                               22
  4.  Child Buttoning On Frame                                      23
  5.  Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter only                         30
  6.  Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter and Height                   30
  7.  Cylinders Decreasing in Height only                           30
  8.  Child using Case of Cylinders                                 31
  9.  The Tower                                                     31
 10.  Child Playing with Tower                                      31
 11.  The Broad Stair                                               36
 12.  The Long Stair                                                36
 13.  Board with Rough and Smooth Surfaces                          37
 14.  Board with Gummed Strips of Paper                             37
 15.  Wood Tablets Differing in Weight                              47
      Color Spools                                                  42
 16.  Cabinet with Drawers to hold Geometrical Insets               44
 17.  Set of Six Circles                                            44
 18.  Set of Six Rectangles                                         45
 19.  Set of Six Triangles                                          45
 20.  Set of Six Polygons                                           46
 21.  Set of Six Irregular Figures                                  46
 22.  Set of Four Blanks and Two Irregular Figures                  47
 23.  Frame to hold Geometrical Insets                              48
 24.  Child Touching the Insets                                     49
 25.  Series of Cards with Geometrical Forms                        54
 26.  Sound Boxes                                                   55
 27.  Musical Bells                                                 60
 28.  Sloping Boards to Display Set of Metal Insets                 90
 29.  Single Sandpaper Letter                                       90
 30.  Groups of Sandpaper Letters                                   91
 31.  Box of Movable Letters                                        94
 32.  The Musical Staff                                             98
 33.  Didactic Material for Musical Reading                        100
 34.  Didactic Material for Musical Reading                        100
 35.  Didactic Material for Musical Reading                        100
 36.  Didactic Material for Musical Reading                        101
 37.  Didactic Material for Musical Reading                        101
 38.  Didactic Material for Musical Reading                        101
 39.  Dumb Keyboard                                                102
 40.  Diagram Illustrating Use of Numerical Rods                   107
 41.  Counting Boxes                                               110
 42.  Arithmetic Frame                                             110


Recent years have seen a remarkable improvement in the conditions of
child life. In all civilized countries, but especially in England,
statistics show a decrease in infant mortality.

Related to this decrease in mortality a corresponding improvement is
to be seen in the physical development of children; they are
physically finer and more vigorous. It has been the diffusion, the
popularization of science, which has brought about such notable
advantages. Mothers have learned to welcome the dictates of modern
hygiene and to put them into practice in bringing up their children.
Many new social institutions have sprung up and have been perfected
with the object of assisting children and protecting them during the
period of physical growth.

In this way what is practically a new race is coming into being, a
race more highly developed, finer and more robust; a race which will
be capable of offering resistance to insidious disease.

What has science done to effect this? Science has suggested for us
certain very simple rules by which the child has been restored as
nearly as possible to conditions of a natural life, and an order and a
guiding law have been given to the functions of the body. For example,
it is science which suggested maternal feeding, the abolition of
swaddling clothes, baths, life in the open air, exercise, simple short
clothing, quiet and plenty of sleep. Rules were also laid down for the
measurement of food adapting it rationally to the physiological needs
of the child's life.

Yet with all this, science made no contribution that was entirely new.
Mothers had always nursed their children, children had always been
clothed, they had breathed and eaten before.

The point is, that the same physical acts which, performed blindly and
without order, led to disease and death, when ordered _rationally_
were the means of giving strength and life.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The great progress made may perhaps deceive us into thinking that
everything possible has been done for children.

We have only to weigh the matter carefully, however, to reflect: Are
our children only those healthy little bodies which to-day are growing
and developing so vigorously under our eyes? Is their destiny
fulfilled in the production of beautiful human bodies?

In that case there would be little difference between their lot and
that of the animals which we raise that we may have good meat or
beasts of burden.

Man's destiny is evidently other than this, and the care due to the
child covers a field wider than that which is considered by physical
hygiene. The mother who has given her child his bath and sent him in
his perambulator to the park has not fulfilled the mission of the
"mother of humanity." The hen which gathers her chickens together, and
the cat which licks her kittens and lavishes on them such tender care,
differ in no wise from the human mother in the services they render.

No, the human mother if reduced to such limits devotes herself in
vain, feels that a higher aspiration has been stifled within her. She
is yet the mother of man.

Children must grow not only in the body but in the spirit, and the
mother longs to follow the mysterious spiritual journey of the
beloved one who to-morrow will be the intelligent, divine creation,

Science evidently has not finished its progress. On the contrary, it
has scarcely taken the first step in advance, for it has hitherto
stopped at the welfare of the body. It must continue, however, to
advance; on the same positive lines along which it has improved the
health and saved the physical life of the children, it is bound in the
future to benefit and to reenforce their inner life, which is the real
_human life_. On the same positive lines science will proceed to
direct the development of the intelligence, of character, and of those
latent creative forces which lie hidden in the marvelous embryo of
man's spirit.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As the child's body must draw nourishment and oxygen from its external
environment, in order to accomplish a great physiological work, the
_work of growth_, so also the spirit must take from its environment
the nourishment which it needs to develop according to its own "laws
of growth." It cannot be denied that the phenomena of development are
a great work in themselves. The consolidation of the bones, the
growth of the whole body, the completion of the minute construction of
the brain, the formation of the teeth, all these are very real labors
of the physiological organism, as is also the transformation which the
organism undergoes during the period of puberty.

These exertions are very different from those put forth by mankind in
so-called _external work_, that is to say, in "social production,"
whether in the schools where man is taught, or in the world where, by
the activity of his intelligence, he produces wealth and transforms
his environment.

It is none the less true, however, that they are both "work." In fact,
the organism during these periods of greatest physiological work is
least capable of performing external tasks, and sometimes the work of
growth is of such extent and difficulty that the individual is
overburdened, as with an excessive strain, and for this reason alone
becomes exhausted or even dies.

Man will always be able to avoid "external work" by making use of the
labor of others, but there is no possibility of shirking that inner
work. Together with birth and death it has been imposed by nature
itself, and each man must accomplish it for himself. This difficult,
inevitable labor, this is the "work of the child."

When we say then that little children should _rest_, we are referring
to one side only of the question of work. We mean that they should
rest from that _external_ visible work to which the little child
through his weakness and incapacity cannot make any contribution
useful either to himself or to others.

Our assertion, therefore, is not absolute; the child in reality is
not resting, he is performing the mysterious inner work of his
autoformation. He is working to make a man, and to accomplish this it
is not enough that the child's body should grow in actual size; the
most intimate functions of the motor and nervous systems must also
be established and the intelligence developed.

The functions to be established by the child fall into two groups:
(1) the motor functions by which he is to secure his balance and
learn to walk, and to coordinate his movements; (2) the sensory
functions through which, receiving sensations from his environment,
he lays the foundations of his intelligence by a continual exercise
of observation, comparison and judgment. In this way he gradually
comes to be acquainted with his environment and to develop his

At the same time he is learning a _language_, and he is faced not only
with the motor difficulties of articulation, sounds and words, but
also with the difficulty of gaining an intelligent understanding of
names and of the syntactical composition of the language.

If we think of an emigrant who goes to a new country ignorant of its
products, ignorant of its natural appearance and social order,
entirely ignorant of its language, we realize that there is an immense
work of adaptation which he must perform before he can associate
himself with the active life of the unknown people. No one will be
able to do for him that work of adaptation. He himself must observe,
understand, remember, form judgments, and learn the new language by
laborious exercise and long experience.

What is to be said then of the child? What of this emigrant who comes
into a new world, who, weak as he is and before his organism is
completely developed, _must_ in a short time adapt himself to a world
so complex?

Up to the present day the little child has not received rational aid
in the accomplishment of this laborious task. As regards the psychical
development of the child we find ourselves in a period parallel to
that in which the physical life was left to the mercy of chance and
instinct--the period in which infant mortality was a scourge.

It is by scientific and rational means also that we must facilitate
that inner work of psychical adaptation to be accomplished within the
child, a work which is by no means the same thing as "any external
work or production whatsoever."

This is the aim which underlies my method of infant education, and it
is for this reason that certain principles which it enunciates,
together with that part which deals with the technique of their
practical application, are not of a general character, but have
special reference to the particular case of the child from three to
seven years of age, _i.e._, to the needs of a formative period of

My method is scientific, both in its substance and in its aim. It
makes for the attainment of a more advanced stage of progress, in
directions no longer only material and physiological. It is an
endeavor to complete the course which hygiene has already taken, but
in the treatment of the physical side alone.

If to-day we possessed statistics respecting the nervous debility,
defects of speech, errors of perception and of reasoning, and lack of
character in normal children, it would perhaps be interesting to
compare them with statistics of the same nature, but compiled from the
study of children who have had a number of years of rational
education. In all probability we should find a striking resemblance
between such statistics and those to-day available showing the
decrease in mortality and the improvement in the physical development
of children.


The "Children's House" is the _environment_ which is offered to the
child that he may be given the opportunity of developing his
activities. This kind of school is not of a fixed type, but may vary
according to the financial resources at disposal and to the
opportunities afforded by the environment. It ought to be a real
house; that is to say, a set of rooms with a garden of which the
children are the masters. A garden which contains shelters is ideal,
because the children can play or sleep under them, and can also bring
their tables out to work or dine. In this way they may live almost
entirely in the open air, and are protected at the same time from rain
and sun.

The central and principal room of the building, often also the only
room at the disposal of the children, is the room for "intellectual
work." To this central room can be added other smaller rooms according
to the means and opportunities of the place: for example, a bathroom,
a dining-room, a little parlor or common-room, a room for manual work,
a gymnasium and rest-room.

The special characteristic of the equipment of these houses is that it
is adapted for children and not adults. They contain not only didactic
material specially fitted for the intellectual development of the
child, but also a complete equipment for the management of the
miniature family. The furniture is light so that the children can move
it about, and it is painted in some light color so that the children
can wash it with soap and water. There are low tables of various
sizes and shapes--square, rectangular and round, large and small. The
rectangular shape is the most common as two or more children can work
at it together. The seats are small wooden chairs, but there are also
small wicker armchairs and sofas.


In the working-room there are two indispensable pieces of furniture.
One of these is a very long cupboard with large doors. (Fig. 1.) It is
very low so that a small child can set on the top of it small objects
such as mats, flowers, etc. Inside this cupboard is kept the didactic
material which is the common property of all the children.

The other is a chest of drawers containing two or three columns of
little drawers, each of which has a bright handle (or a handle of some
color to contrast with the background), and a small card with a name
upon it. Every child has his own drawer, in which to put things
belonging to him.

Round the walls of the room are fixed blackboards at a low level, so
that the children can write or draw on them, and pleasing, artistic
pictures, which are changed from time to time as circumstances direct.
The pictures represent children, families, landscapes, flowers and
fruit, and more often Biblical and historical incidents. Ornamental
plants and flowering plants ought always to be placed in the room
where the children are at work.

Another part of the working-room's equipment is seen in the pieces of
carpet of various colors--red, blue, pink, green and brown. The
children spread these rugs upon the floor, sit upon them and work
there with the didactic material. A room of this kind is larger than
the customary class-rooms, not only because the little tables and
separate chairs take up more space, but also because a large part of
the floor must be free for the children to spread their rugs and work
upon them.

In the sitting-room, or "club-room," a kind of parlor in which the
children amuse themselves by conversation, games, or music, etc., the
furnishings should be especially tasteful. Little tables of different
sizes, little armchairs and sofas should be placed here and there.
Many brackets of all kinds and sizes, upon which may be put
statuettes, artistic vases or framed photographs, should adorn the
walls; and, above all, each child should have a little flower-pot, in
which he may sow the seed of some indoor plant, to tend and cultivate
it as it grows. On the tables of this sitting-room should be placed
large albums of colored pictures, and also games of patience, or
various geometric solids, with which the children can play at
pleasure, constructing figures, etc. A piano, or, better, other
musical instruments, possibly harps of small dimensions, made
especially for children, completes the equipment. In this "club-room"
the teacher may sometimes entertain the children with stories, which
will attract a circle of interested listeners.

The furniture of the dining-room consists, in addition to the tables,
of low cupboards accessible to all the children, who can themselves
put in their place and take away the crockery, spoons, knives and
forks, table-cloth and napkins. The plates are always of china, and
the tumblers and water-bottles of glass. Knives are always included in
the table equipment.

_The Dressing-room._ Here each child has his own little cupboard or
shelf. In the middle of the room there are very simple washstands,
consisting of tables, on each of which stand a small basin, soap and
nail-brush. Against the wall stand little sinks with water-taps. Here
the children may draw and pour away their water. There is no limit to
the equipment of the "Children's Houses" because the children
themselves do everything. They sweep the rooms, dust and wash the
furniture, polish the brasses, lay and clear away the table, wash up,
sweep and roll up the rugs, wash a few little clothes, and cook eggs.
As regards their personal toilet, the children know how to dress and
undress themselves. They hang their clothes on little hooks, placed
very low so as to be within reach of a little child, or else they fold
up such articles of clothing, as their little serving-aprons, of which
they take great care, and lay them inside a cupboard kept for the
household linen.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In short, where the manufacture of toys has been brought to such a
point of complication and perfection that children have at their
disposal entire dolls' houses, complete wardrobes for the dressing and
undressing of dolls, kitchens where they can pretend to cook, toy
animals as nearly lifelike as possible, this method seeks to give all
this to the child in reality--making him an actor in a living scene.

                  *       *       *       *       *


My pedometer forms part of the equipment of a "Children's House."
After various modifications I have now reduced this instrument to a
very practical form. (Fig. 2.)

The purpose of the pedometer, as its name shows, is to measure the
children. It consists of a wide rectangular board, forming the base,
from the center of which rise two wooden posts held together at the
top by a narrow flat piece of metal. To each post is connected a
horizontal metal rod--the indicator--which runs up and down by means
of a casing, also of metal. This metal casing is made in one piece
with the indicator, to the end of which is fixed an india-rubber ball.
On one side, that is to say, behind one of the two tall vertical
wooden posts, there is a small seat, also of wood. The two tall wooden
posts are graduated. The post to which the seat is fixed is graduated
from the surface of the seat to the top, whilst the other is graduated
from the wooden board at the base to the top, _i.e._ to a height of
1.5 meters. On the side containing the seat the height of the child
seated is measured, on the other side the child's full stature. The
practical value of this instrument lies in the possibility of
measuring two children at the same time, and in the fact that the
children themselves cooperate in taking the measurements. In fact,
they learn to take off their shoes and to place themselves in the
correct position on the pedometer. They find no difficulty in raising
and lowering the metal indicators, which are held so firmly in place
by means of the metal casing that they cannot deviate from their
horizontal position even when used by inexpert hands. Moreover they
run extremely easily, so that very little strength is required to move
them. The little india-rubber balls prevent the children from hurting
themselves should they inadvertently knock their heads against the
metal indicator.

The children are very fond of the pedometer. "Shall we measure
ourselves?" is one of the proposals which they make most willingly and
with the greatest likelihood of finding many of their companions to
join them. They also take great care of the pedometer, dusting it, and
polishing its metal parts. All the surfaces of the pedometer are so
smooth and well polished that they invite the care that is taken of
them, and by their appearance when finished fully repay the trouble

The pedometer represents the scientific part of the method, because it
has reference to the anthropological and psychological study made of
the children, each of whom has his own biographical record. This
biographical record follows the history of the child's development
according to the observations which it is possible to make by the
application of my method. This subject is dealt with at length in my
other books. A series of cinematograph pictures has been taken of the
pedometer at a moment when the children are being measured. They are
seen coming of their own accord, even the very smallest, to take their
places at the instrument.


The technique of my method as it follows the guidance of the natural
physiological and psychical development of the child, may be divided
into three parts:

  Motor education.
  Sensory education.

The care and management of the environment itself afford the principal
means of motor education, while sensory education and the education of
language are provided for by my didactic material.

The didactic material for the _education of the senses_ consists of:

  (_a_) Three sets of solid insets.
  (_b_) Three sets of solids in graduated sizes, comprising:
        (1) Pink cubes.
        (2) Brown prisms.
        (3) Rods: (_a_) colored green; (_b_) colored alternately
            red and blue.
  (_c_) Various geometric solids (prism, pyramid, sphere, cylinder,
          cone, etc.).
  (_d_) Rectangular tablets with rough and smooth surfaces.
  (_e_) A collection of various stuffs.
  (_f_) Small wooden tablets of different weights.
  (_g_) Two boxes, each containing sixty-four colored tablets.
  (_h_) A chest of drawers containing plane insets.
  (_i_) Three series of cards on which are pasted geometrical forms
          in paper.
  (_k_) A collection of cylindrical closed boxes (sounds).
  (_l_) A double series of musical bells, wooden boards on which are
          painted the lines used in music, small wooden discs for
          the notes.

_Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing and Arithmetic_

  (_m_) Two sloping desks and various iron insets.
  (_n_) Cards on which are pasted sandpaper letters.
  (_o_) Two alphabets of colored cardboard and
          of different sizes.
  (_p_) A series of cards on which are pasted sandpaper
          figures (1, 2, 3, etc.).
  (_q_) A series of large cards bearing the same
          figures in smooth paper for the enumeration
          of numbers above ten.
  (_r_) Two boxes with small sticks for counting.
  (_s_) The volume of drawings belonging specially
          to the method, and colored pencils.
  (_t_) The frames for lacing, buttoning, etc., which
          are used for the education of the movements
          of the hand.


The education of the movements is very complex, as it must correspond
to all the coordinated movements which the child has to establish in
his physiological organism. The child, if left without guidance, is
disorderly in his movements, and these disorderly movements are the
_special characteristic of the little child._ In fact, he "never keeps
still," and "touches everything." This is what forms the child's
so-called "unruliness" and "naughtiness."

The adult would deal with him by checking these movements, with the
monotonous and useless repetition "keep still." As a matter of fact,
in these movements the little one is seeking the very exercise which
will organize and coordinate the movements useful to man. We must,
therefore, desist from the useless attempt to reduce the child to a
state of immobility. We should rather give "order" to his movements,
leading them to those actions towards which his efforts are actually
tending. This is the aim of muscular education at this age. Once a
direction is given to them, the child's movements are made towards a
definite end, so that he himself grows quiet and contented, and
becomes an active worker, a being calm and full of joy. This education
of the movements is one of the principal factors in producing that
outward appearance of "discipline" to be found in the "Children's
Houses." I have already spoken at length on this subject in my other

Muscular education has reference to:

  The primary movements of everyday life (walking, rising, sitting,
    handling objects).
  The care of the person.
  Management of the household.
  Manual work.
  Gymnastic exercises.
  Rhythmic movements.


In the care of the person the first step is that of dressing and
undressing. For this end there is in my didactic material a collection
of frames to which are attached pieces of stuff, leather, etc. These
can be buttoned, hooked, tied together--in fact, joined in all the
different ways which our civilization has invented for fastening our
clothing, shoes, etc. (Fig. 3.) The teacher, sitting by the child's
side, performs the necessary movements of the fingers very slowly and
deliberately, separating the movements themselves into their different
parts, and letting them be seen clearly and minutely.

For example, one of the first actions will be the adjustment of the
two pieces of stuff in such a way that the edges to be fastened
together touch one another from top to bottom. Then, if it is a
buttoning-frame, the teacher will show the child the different stages
of the action. She will take hold of the button, set it opposite the
buttonhole, make it enter the buttonhole completely, and adjust it
carefully in its place above. In the same way, to teach a child to tie
a bow, she will separate the stage in which he ties the ribbons
together from that in which he makes the bows.

In the cinematograph film there is a picture which shows an entire
lesson in the tying of the bows with the ribbons. These lessons are
not necessary for all the children, as they learn from one another,
and of their own accord come with great patience to analyze the
movements, performing them separately very slowly and carefully. The
child can sit in a comfortable position and hold his frame on the
table. (Fig. 4.) As he fastens and unfastens the same frame many times
over with great interest, he acquires an unusual deftness of hand, and
becomes possessed with the desire to fasten real clothes whenever he
has the opportunity. We see the smallest children _wanting_ to dress
themselves and their companions. They go in search of amusement of
this kind, and defend themselves with all their might against the
adult who would try to help them.


In the same way for the teaching of the other and larger movements,
such as washing, setting the table, etc., the directress must at the
beginning intervene, teaching the child with few or no words at all,
but with very precise actions. She teaches all the movements: how to
sit, to rise from one's seat, to take up and lay down objects, and to
offer them gracefully to others. In the same way she teaches the
children to set the plates one upon the other and lay them on the
table without making any noise.

The children learn easily and show an interest and surprising care in
the performance of these actions. In classes where there are many
children it is necessary to arrange for the children to take turns in
the various household duties, such as housework, serving at table, and
washing dishes. The children readily respect such a system of turns.
There is no need to ask them to do this work, for they come
spontaneously--even little ones of two and a half years old--to offer
to do their share, and it is frequently most touching to watch their
efforts to imitate, to remember, and, finally, to conquer their
difficulty. Professor Jacoby, of New York, was once much moved as he
watched a child, who was little more than two years old and not at all
intelligent in appearance, standing perplexed, because he could not
remember whether the fork should be set at the right hand or the left.
He remained a long while meditating and evidently using all the powers
of his mind. The other children older than he watched him with
admiration, marveling, like ourselves, at the life developing under
our eyes.

The instructions of the teacher consist then merely in a hint, a
touch--enough to give a start to the child. The rest develops of
itself. The children learn from one another and throw themselves into
the work with enthusiasm and delight. This atmosphere of quiet
activity develops a fellow-feeling, an attitude of mutual aid, and,
most wonderful of all, an intelligent interest on the part of the
older children in the progress of their little companions. It is
enough just to set a child in these peaceful surroundings for him to
feel perfectly at home. In the cinematograph pictures the actual work
in a "Children's House" may be seen. The children are moving about,
each one fulfilling his own task, whilst the teacher is in a corner
watching. Pictures were taken also of the children engaged in the care
of the house, that is, in the care both of their persons and of their
surroundings. They can be seen washing their faces, polishing their
shoes, washing the furniture, polishing the metal indicators of the
pedometer, brushing the carpets, etc. In the work of laying the table
the children are seen quite by themselves, dividing the work among
themselves, carrying the plates, spoons, knives and forks, etc., and,
finally, sitting down at the tables where the little waitresses serve
the hot soup.

Again, gardening and manual work are a great pleasure to our children.
Gardening is already well known as a feature of infant education, and
it is recognized by all that plants and animals attract the children's
care and attention. The ideal of the "Children's Houses" in this
respect is to imitate the best in the present usage of those schools
which owe their inspiration more or less to Mrs. Latter.

For manual instruction we have chosen clay work, consisting of the
construction of little tiles, vases and bricks. These may be made with
the help of simple instruments, such as molds. The completion of the
work should be the aim always kept in view, and, finally, all the
little objects made by the children should be glazed and baked in the
furnace. The children themselves learn to line a wall with shining
white or colored tiles wrought in various designs, or, with the help
of mortar and a trowel, to cover the floor with little bricks. They
also dig out foundations and then use their bricks to build division
walls, or entire little houses for the chickens.

Among the gymnastic exercises that which must be considered the most
important is that of the "line." A line is described in chalk or
paint upon a large space of floor. Instead of one line, there may also
be two concentric lines, elliptical in form. The children are taught
to walk upon these lines like tight-rope walkers, placing their feet
one in front of the other. To keep their balance they make efforts
exactly similar to those of real tight-rope walkers, except that they
have no danger with which to reckon, as the lines are only _drawn_
upon the floor. The teacher herself performs the exercise, showing
clearly how she sets her feet, and the children imitate her without
any necessity for her to speak. At first it is only certain children
who follow her, and when she has shown them how to do it, she
withdraws, leaving the phenomenon to develop of itself.

The children for the most part continue to walk, adapting their feet
with great care to the movement they have seen, and making efforts to
keep their balance so as not to fall. Gradually the other children
draw near and watch and also make an attempt. Very little time elapses
before the whole of the two ellipses or the one line is covered with
children balancing themselves, and continuing to walk round, watching
their feet with an expression of deep attention on their faces.

Music may then be used. It should be a very simple march, the rhythm
of which is not obvious at first, but which accompanies and enlivens
the spontaneous efforts of the children.

When they have learned in this way to master their balance the
children have brought the act of walking to a remarkable standard of
perfection, and have acquired, in addition to security and composure
in their natural gait, an unusually graceful carriage of the body. The
exercise on the line can afterwards be made more complicated in
various ways. The first application is that of calling forth rhythmic
exercise by the sound of a march upon the piano. When the same march
is repeated during several days, the children end by feeling the
rhythm and by following it with movements of their arms and feet. They
also accompany the exercises on the line with songs.

Little by little the music is _understood_ by the children. They
finish, as in Miss George's school at Washington, by singing over
their daily work with the didactic material. The "Children's House,"
then, resembles a hive of bees humming as they work.

As to the little gymnasium, of which I speak in my book on the
"Method," one piece of apparatus is particularly practical. This is
the "fence," from which the children hang by their arms, freeing their
legs from the heavy weight of the body and strengthening the arms.
This fence has also the advantage of being useful in a garden for the
purpose of dividing one part from another, as, for example, the
flower-beds from the garden walks, and it does not detract in any way
from the appearance of the garden.





My didactic material offers to the child the _means_ for what may be
called "sensory education."

In the box of material the first three objects which are likely to
attract the attention of a little child from two and a half to three
years old are three solid pieces of wood, in each of which is inserted
a row of ten small cylinders, or sometimes discs, all furnished with a
button for a handle. In the first case there is a row of cylinders of
the same height, but with a diameter which decreases from thick to
thin. (Fig. 5.) In the second there are cylinders which decrease in
all dimensions, and so are either larger or smaller, but always of the
same shape. (Fig. 6.)

Lastly, in the third case, the cylinders have the same diameter but
vary in height, so that, as the size decreases, the cylinder gradually
becomes a little disc in form. (Fig. 7.)

The first cylinders vary in two dimensions (the section); the second
in all three dimensions; the third in one dimension (height). The
order which I have given refers to the degree of _ease_ with which the
child performs the exercises.

The exercise consists in taking out the cylinders, mixing them and
putting them back in the right place. It is performed by the child as
he sits in a comfortable position at a little table. He exercises his
hands in the delicate act of taking hold of the button with the tips
of one or two fingers, and in the little movements of the hand and arm
as he mixes the cylinders, _without letting them fall_ and _without
making too much noise_ and puts them back again each in its own

In these exercises the teacher may, in the first instance, intervene,
merely taking out the cylinders, mixing them carefully on the table
and then showing the child that he is to put them back, but without
performing the action herself. Such intervention, however, is almost
always found to be unnecessary, for the children _see_ their
companions at work, and thus are encouraged to imitate them.

They like to do it _alone_; in fact, sometimes almost in private for
fear of inopportune help. (Fig. 8.)


But how is the child to find the right place for each of the little
cylinders which lie mixed upon the table? He first makes trials; it
often happens that he places a cylinder which is too large for the
empty hole over which he puts it. Then, changing its place, he tries
others until the cylinder goes in. Again, the contrary may happen;
that is to say, the cylinder may slip too easily into a hole too big
for it. In that case it has taken a place which does not belong to it
at all, but to a larger cylinder. In this way one cylinder at the end
will be left out without a place, and it will not be possible to find
one that fits. Here the child cannot help seeing his mistake in
concrete form. He is perplexed, his little mind is faced with a
problem which interests him intensely. Before, all the cylinders
fitted, now there is one that will not fit. The little one stops,
frowning, deep in thought. He begins to feel the little buttons and
finds that some cylinders have too much room. He thinks that perhaps
they are out of their right place and tries to place them correctly.
He repeats the process again and again, and finally he succeeds. Then
it is that he breaks into a smile of triumph. The exercise arouses the
intelligence of the child; he wants to repeat it right from the
beginning and, having learned by experience, he makes another attempt.
Little children from three to three and a half years old have repeated
the exercise up to _forty_ times without losing their interest in it.

If the second set of cylinders and then the third are presented, the
_change_ of shape strikes the child and reawakens his interest.

The material which I have described serves to _educate the eye_ to
distinguish _difference in dimension_, for the child ends by being
able to recognize at a glance the larger or the smaller hole which
exactly fits the cylinder which he holds in his hand. The educative
process is based on this: that the control of the error lies in _the
material itself_, and the child has concrete evidence of it.

The desire of the child to attain an end which he knows, leads him to
correct himself. It is not a teacher who makes him notice his mistake
and shows him how to correct it, but it is a complex work of the
child's own intelligence which leads to such a result.

Hence at this point there begins the process of auto-education.

The aim is not an external one, that is to say, it is _not_ the object
that the child should learn how to place the cylinders, and _that he
should know how to perform an exercise_.

The aim is an inner one, namely, that the child train himself to
observe; that he be led to make comparisons between objects, to form
judgments, to reason and to decide; and it is in the indefinite
repetition of this exercise of attention and of intelligence that a
real development ensues.

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--THE TOWER.]

The series of objects to follow after the cylinders consists of three
sets of geometrical solid forms:

(1) Ten wooden cubes colored pink. The sides of the cubes diminish
from ten centimeters to one centimeter. (Fig. 9.)

With these cubes the child builds a tower, first laying on the ground
(upon a carpet) the largest cube, and then placing on the top of it
all the others in their order of size to the very smallest. (Fig. 10.)
As soon as he has built the tower, the child, with a blow of his hand,
knocks it down, so that the cubes are scattered on the carpet, and
then he builds it up again.


[Illustration: FIG. 11.--THE BROAD STAIR.]

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--THE LONG STAIR.]

(2) Ten wooden prisms, colored brown. The length of the prisms is
twenty centimeters, and the square section diminishes from ten
centimeters a side to the smallest, one centimeter a side. (Fig. 11.)

The child scatters the ten pieces over a light-colored carpet, and
then beginning sometimes with the thickest, sometimes with the
thinnest, he places them in their right order of gradation upon a

(3) Ten rods, colored green, or alternately red and blue, all of which
have the same square section of four centimeters a side, but vary by
ten centimeters in length from ten centimeters to one meter. (Fig.

The child scatters the ten rods on a large carpet and mixes them at
random, and, by comparing rod with rod, he arranges them according to
their order of length, so that they take the form of a set of organ

As usual, the teacher, by doing the exercises herself, first shows the
child how the pieces of each set should be arranged, but it will often
happen that the child learns, not directly from her, but by watching
his companions. She will, however, always continue to watch the
children, never losing sight of their efforts, and any correction of
hers will be directed more towards preventing rough or disorderly use
of the material than towards any _error_ which the child may make in
placing the rods in their order of gradation. The reason is that the
mistakes which the child makes, by placing, for example, a small cube
beneath one that is larger, are caused by his own lack of education,
and it is the _repetition of the exercise_ which, by refining his
powers of observation, will lead him sooner or later to _correct_
_himself_. Sometimes it happens that a child working with the long
rods makes the most glaring mistakes. As the aim of the exercise,
however, is _not_ that the rods be arranged in the right order of
gradation, but that the child _should practise by himself_, there is
no need to intervene.

One day the child will arrange all the rods in their right order, and
then, full of joy, he will call the teacher to come and admire them.
The object of the exercise will thus be achieved.

These three sets, the cubes, the prisms, and the rods, cause the child
to move about and to handle and carry objects which are difficult for
him to grasp with his little hand. Again, by their use, he repeats the
_training of the eye_ to the recognition of differences of size
between similar objects. The exercise would seem easier, from the
sensory point of view, than the other with the cylinders described

As a matter of fact, it is more difficult, as there is _no control of
the error in the material itself_. It is the child's eye alone which
can furnish the control.

Hence the difference between the objects should strike the eye at
once; for that reason larger objects are used, and the necessary
visual power presupposes a previous preparation (provided for in the
exercise with the solid insets).

                  *       *       *       *       *


During the same period the child can be doing other exercises. Among
the material is to be found a small rectangular board, the surface of
which is divided into two parts--rough and smooth. (Fig. 13.) The
child knows already how to wash his hands with cold water and soap; he
then dries them and dips the tips of his fingers for a few seconds in
tepid water. Graduated exercises for the thermic sense may also have
their place here, as has been explained in my book on the "Method."

After this, the child is taught to pass the soft cushioned tips of his
fingers _as lightly as possible_ over the two separate surfaces, that
he may appreciate their difference. The delicate _movement_ backwards
and forwards of the suspended hand, as it is brought into light
contact with the surface, is an excellent exercise in control. The
little hand, which has just been cleansed and given its tepid bath,
gains much in grace and beauty, and the whole exercise is the first
step in the education of the "tactile sense," which holds such an
important place in my method.

When initiating the child into the education of the sense of touch,
the teacher must always take an active part the first time; not only
must she show the child "how it is done," her interference is a little
more definite still, for she takes hold of his hand and guides it to
touch the surfaces with the finger-tips in the lightest possible way.
She will make no explanations; her words will be rather to _encourage_
the child with his hand to perceive the different sensations.

When he has perceived them, it is then that he repeats the act by
himself in the delicate way which he has been taught.


After the board with the two contrasting surfaces, the child is
offered another board on which are gummed strips of paper which are
rough or smooth in different degrees. (Fig. 14.)

Graduated series of sandpaper cards are also given. The child perfects
himself by exercises in touching these surfaces, not only refining his
capacity for perceiving tactile differences which are always growing
more similar, but also perfecting the movement of which he is ever
gaining greater mastery.

Following these is a series of stuffs of every kind: velvets, satins,
silks, woolens, cottons, coarse and fine linens. There are two similar
pieces of each kind of stuff, and they are of bright and vivid

The child is now taught a new movement. Where before he had to
_touch_, he must now _feel_ the stuffs, which, according to the
degree of fineness or coarseness from coarse cotton to fine silk,
are felt with movements correspondingly decisive or delicate. The
child whose hand is already practised finds the greatest pleasure
in feeling the stuffs, and, almost instinctively, in order to enhance
his appreciation of the tactile sensation he closes his eyes.
Then, to spare himself the exertion, he blindfolds himself with a
clean handkerchief, and as he feels the stuffs, he arranges the
similar pieces in pairs, one upon the other, then, taking off the
handkerchief, he ascertains for himself whether he has made any

This exercise in _touching_ and _feeling_ is peculiarly attractive to
the child, and induces him to seek similar experiences in his
surroundings. A little one, attracted by the pretty stuff of a
visitor's dress, will be seen to go and wash his hands, then to come
and touch the stuff of the garment again and again with infinite
delicacy, his face meanwhile expressing his pleasure and interest.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A little later we shall see the children interest themselves in a much
more difficult exercise.


There are some little rectangular tablets which form part of the
material. (Fig. 15.) The tablets, though of identical size, are made
of wood of varying qualities, so that they differ in weight and,
through the property of the wood, in color also.

The child has to take a tablet and rest it delicately on the inner
surfaces of his four fingers, spreading them well out. This will be
another opportunity of teaching delicate movements.

The hand must move up and down as though to weigh the object, but the
movement must be as imperceptible as possible. These little movements
should diminish as the capacity and attention for perceiving the
weight of the object becomes more acute and the exercise will be
perfectly performed when the child comes to perceive the weight
almost without any movement of the hands. It is only by the repetition
of the attempts that such a result can be obtained.

Once the children are initiated into it by the teacher, they blindfold
their eyes and repeat by themselves these exercises of the _baric
sense_. For example, they lay the heavier wooden tablets on the right
and the lighter on the left.

When the child takes off the handkerchief, he can see by the color of
the pieces of wood if he has made a mistake.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A long time before this difficult exercise, and during the period when
the child is working with the three sorts of geometrical solids and
with the rough and smooth tablets, he can be exercising himself with a
material which is very attractive to him.

This is the set of tablets covered with bright silk of shaded colors.
The set consists of two separate boxes each containing sixty-four
colors; that is, eight different tints, each of which has eight shades
carefully graded. The first exercise for the child is that of _pairing
the colors_; that is, he selects from a mixed heap of colors the two
tablets which are alike, and lays them out, one beside the other. The
teacher naturally does not offer the child all the one hundred and
twenty-eight tablets in a heap, but chooses only a few of the brighter
colors, for example, red, blue and yellow, and prepares and mixes up
three or four pairs. Then, taking one tablet--perhaps the red one--she
indicates to the child that he is to choose its counterpart from the
heap. This done, the teacher lays the pair together on the table. Then
she takes perhaps the blue and the child selects the tablet to form
another pair. The teacher then mixes the tablets again for the child
to repeat the exercise by himself, _i.e._, to select the two red
tablets, the two blue, the two yellow, etc., and to place the two
members of each pair next to one another.

Then the couples will be increased to four or five, and little
children of three years old end by pairing of their own accord ten or
a dozen couples of mixed tablets.

[Illustration: COLOR SPOOLS]

When the child has given his eye sufficient practise in recognizing
the identity of the pairs of colors, he is offered the shades of one
color only, and he exercises himself in the perception of the
slightest differences of shade in every color. Take, for example, the
blue series. There are eight tablets in graduated shades. The teacher
places them one beside another, beginning with the darkest, with the
sole object of making the child understand "what is to be done."

She then leaves him alone to the interesting attempts which he
spontaneously makes. It often happens that the child makes a mistake.
If he has understood the idea and makes a mistake, it is a sign that
_he has not yet reached the stage_ of perceiving the differences
between the graduations of one color. It is practise which perfects in
the child that capacity for distinguishing the fine differences, and
so we leave him alone to his attempts!

There are two suggestions that we can make to help him. The first is
that he should always select the darkest color from the pile. This
suggestion greatly facilitates his choice by giving it a constant

Secondly, we can lead him to observe from time to time any two colors
that stand next to each other in order to compare them directly and
apart from the others. In this way the child does not place a tablet
without a particular and careful comparison with its neighbor.

Finally, the child himself will love to mix the sixty-four colors and
then to arrange them in eight rows of pretty shades of color with
really surprising skill. In this exercise also the child's hand is
educated to perform fine and delicate movements and his mind is
afforded special training in attention. He must not take hold of the
tablets anyhow, he must avoid touching the colored silk, and must
handle the tablets instead by the pieces of wood at the top and
bottom. To arrange the tablets next to one another in a straight line
at exactly the same level, so that the series looks like a beautiful
shaded ribbon, is an act which demands a manual skill only obtained
after considerable practise.

                  *       *       *       *       *

These exercises of the chromatic sense lead, in the case of the older
children, to the development of the "color memory." A child having
looked carefully at a color, is then invited to look for its companion
in a mixed group of colors, without, of course, keeping the color he
has observed under his eye to guide him. It is, therefore, by his
memory that he recognizes the color, which he no longer compares with
a reality but with an image impressed upon his mind.

The children are very fond of this exercise in "color memory"; it
makes a lively digression for them, as they run with the image of a
color in their minds and look for its corresponding reality in their
surroundings. It is a real triumph for them to identify the idea with
the corresponding reality and to _hold in their hands_ the proof of
the mental power they have acquired.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Another interesting piece of material is a little cabinet containing
six drawers placed one above another. When they are opened they
display six square wooden "frames" in each. (Fig. 16.)


Almost all the frames have a large geometrical figure inserted in the
center, each colored blue and provided with a small button for a
handle. Each drawer is lined with blue paper, and when the geometrical
figure is removed, the bottom is seen to reproduce exactly the same

The geometrical figures are arranged in the drawers according to
analogy of form.

(1) In one drawer there are six circles decreasing in diameter. (Fig.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--SET OF SIX CIRCLES.]

(2) In another there is a square, together with five rectangles in
which the length is always equal to the side of the square while the
breadth gradually decreases. (Fig. 18.)

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--SET OF SIX RECTANGLES.]

(3) Another drawer contains six triangles, which vary either according
to their sides or according to their angles (the equilateral,
isosceles, scalene, right angled, obtuse angled, and acute angled).
(Fig. 19.)

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--SET OF SIX TRIANGLES.]

(4) In another drawer there are six regular polygons containing from
five to ten sides, _i.e._, the pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon,
nonagon, and decagon. (Fig. 20.)

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--SET OF SIX POLYGONS.]

(5) Another drawer contains various figures: an oval, an ellipse, a
rhombus, and a trapezoid. (Fig. 21.)


(6) Finally, there are four plain wooden tablets, _i.e._, without any
geometrical inset, which should have no button fixed to them; also two
other irregular geometrical figures. (Fig. 22.)


Connected with this material there is a wooden frame furnished with a
kind of rack which opens like a lid, and serves, when shut, to keep
firmly in place six of the insets which may be arranged on the bottom
of the frame itself, entirely covering it. (Fig. 23.)


This frame is used for the preparation of the _first presentation_ to
the child of the plane geometrical forms.

The teacher may select according to her own judgment certain forms
from among the whole series at her disposal.

At first it is advisable to show the child only a few figures which
differ very widely from one another in form. The next step is to
present a larger number of figures, and after this to present
consecutively figures more and more similar in form.

The first figures to be arranged in the frame will be, for example,
the circle and the equilateral triangle, or the circle, the triangle
and the square. The spaces which are left should be covered with the
tablets of plain wood. Gradually the frame is completely filled with
figures; first, with very dissimilar figures, as, for example, a
square, a very narrow rectangle, a triangle, a circle, an ellipse and
a hexagon, or with other figures in combination.

Afterwards the teacher's object will be to arrange figures similar to
one another in the frame, as, for example, the set of six rectangles,
six triangles, six circles, varying in size, etc.

This exercise resembles that of the cylinders. The insets are held by
the buttons and taken from their places. They are then mixed on the
table and the child is invited to put them back in their places. Here
also the control of the error is in the _material_, for the figure
cannot be inserted perfectly except when it is put in its own place.
Hence a series of "experiments," of "attempts" which end in victory.
The child is led to compare the various forms; to realize in a
concrete way the differences between them when an inset wrongly placed
will not go into the aperture. In this way he educates his eye to the
_recognition of forms_.


The new movement of the hand which the child must coordinate is of
particular importance. He is taught to _touch the outline of the
geometrical figures_ with the soft tips of the index and middle finger
of the right hand, or of the left as well, if one believes in
ambidexterity. (Fig. 24.) The child is made to touch the outline, not
only of the _inset_, but also of the corresponding aperture, and, only
after _having touched_ them, is he to put back the inset into its

The _recognition_ of the form is rendered much easier in this way.
Children who evidently do not _recognize the identities of form_ by
the eye and who make absurd attempts to place the most diverse figures
one within the other, _do recognize_ the forms after having touched
their outlines, and arrange them very quickly in their right places.

The child's hand during this exercise of touching the outlines of the
geometrical figures has a concrete guide in the object. This is
especially true when he touches the frames, for his two fingers have
only to follow the edge of the frame, which acts as an obstacle and is
a very clear guide. The teacher must always intervene at the start to
teach accurately this movement, which will have such an importance in
the future. She must, therefore, show the child _how to touch_, not
only by performing the movement herself slowly and clearly, but also
by guiding the child's hand itself during his first attempts, so that
he is sure to touch all the details--angles and sides. When his hand
has learned to perform these movements with precision and accuracy, he
will be _really_ capable of following the outline of a geometrical
figure, and through many repetitions of the exercise he will come to
coordinate the movement _necessary_ for the exact delineation of its

This exercise could be called an indirect but very real preparation
for drawing. It is certainly the preparation of the hand to _trace an
enclosed form_. The little hand which touches, feels, and knows how to
follow a determined outline is preparing itself, without knowing it,
for writing.

The children make a special point of touching the outlines of the
plane insets with accuracy. They themselves have invented the exercise
of blindfolding their eyes so as to recognize the forms by touch only,
taking out and putting back the insets without seeing them.

                  *       *       *       *       *


Corresponding to every form reproduced in the plane insets there are
three white cards square in shape and of exactly the same size as the
wooden frames of the insets. These cards are kept in three special
cardboard boxes, almost cubic in form. (Fig. 25.)

On the cards are repeated, in three series, the same geometrical forms
as those of the plane insets. The same measurements of the figures
also are exactly reproduced.

In the first series the forms are filled in, _i.e._, they are cut out
in blue paper and gummed on to the card; in the second series there is
only an outline about half a centimeter in width, which is cut out in
the same blue paper and gummed to the card; in the third series,
however, the geometrical figures are instead outlined only in black

By the use of this second piece of the material, the exercise of the
eye is gradually brought to perfection in the recognition of "plane
forms." In fact, there is no longer the concrete control of error in
the material as there was in the _wooden_ insets, but the child, by
his eye alone, must judge of identities of form when, instead of
_fitting_ the wooden forms into their corresponding apertures, he
simply _rests_ them on the cardboard figure.

Again, the refinement of the eye's power of discrimination increases
every time the child passes from one series of cards to the next, and
by the time that he has reached the third series, he can see the
relation between a wooden object, which he holds in his hand, and an
outline drawing; that is, he can connect the concrete reality with an
_abstraction_. The _line_ now assumes in his eyes a very definite
meaning; and he accustoms himself to recognize, to interpret and to
judge of forms contained by a simple outline.

The exercises are various; the children themselves invent them. Some
love to spread out a number of the figures of the geometric insets
before their eyes, and then, taking a handful of the cards and mixing
them like playing cards, deal them out as quickly as possible,
choosing the figures corresponding to the pieces. Then as a test of
their choice, they place the wooden pieces upon the forms on the
cards. At this exercise they often cover whole tables, putting the
wooden figures above, and beneath each one in a vertical line, the
three corresponding forms of the cardboard series.

Another game invented by the children consists in putting out and
mixing all the cards of the three series on two or three adjoining
tables. The child then takes a wooden geometrical form and places it,
as quickly as possible, on the corresponding cards which he has
recognized at a glance among all the rest.

Four or five children play this game together, and as soon as one of
them has found, for example, the filled-in figure corresponding to the
wooden piece, and has placed the piece carefully and precisely upon
it, another child takes away the piece in order to place it on the
same form in outline. The game is somewhat suggestive of chess.

Many children, without any suggestion from any one, touch with the
finger the outline of the figures in the three series of cards, doing
it with seriousness of purpose, interest and perseverance.

We teach the children to name all the forms of the plane insets.

At first I had intended to limit my teaching to the most important
names, such as square, rectangle, circle. But the children wanted to
know all the names, taking pleasure in learning even the most
difficult, such as trapezium, and decagon. They also show great
pleasure in listening to the exact pronunciation of new words and in
their repetition. Early childhood is, in fact, the age in which
language is formed, and in which the sounds of a foreign language can
be perfectly learned.

When the child has had long practise with the plane insets, he begins
to make "discoveries" in his environment, recognizing forms, colors,
and qualities already known to him--a result which, in general,
follows after all the sensory exercises. Then it is that a great
enthusiasm is aroused in him, and the world becomes for him a source
of pleasure. A little boy, walking one day alone on the roof terrace,
repeated to himself with a thoughtful expression on his face, "The sky
is blue! the sky is blue!" Once a cardinal, an admirer of the children
of the school in Via Guisti, wished himself to bring them some
biscuits and to enjoy the sight of a little greediness among the
children. When he had finished his distribution, instead of seeing the
children put the food hastily into their mouths, to his great surprise
he heard them call out, "A triangle! a circle! a rectangle!" In fact,
these biscuits were made in geometrical shapes.

In one of the people's dwellings at Milan, a mother, preparing the
dinner in the kitchen, took from a packet a slice of bread and butter.
Her little four-year-old boy who was with her said, "Rectangle." The
woman going on with her work cut off a large corner of the slice of
bread, and the child cried out, "Triangle." She put this bit into the
saucepan, and the child, looking at the piece that was left, called
out more loudly than before, "And now it is a trapezium."

The father, a working man, who was present, was much impressed with
the incident. He went straight to look for the teacher and asked for
an explanation. Much moved, he said, "If I had been educated in that
way I should not be now just an ordinary workman."

It was he who later on arranged for a demonstration to induce all the
workmen of the dwellings to take an interest in the school. They ended
by presenting the teacher with a parchment they had painted
themselves, and on it, between the pictures of little children, they
had introduced every kind of geometrical form.

As regards the touching of objects for the realization of their form,
there is an infinite field of discovery open to the child in his
environment. Children have been seen to stand opposite a beautiful
pillar or a statue and, after having admired it, to close their eyes
in a state of beatitude and pass their hands many times over the
forms. One of our teachers met one day in a church two little brothers
from the school in Via Guisti. They were standing looking at the small
columns supporting the altar. Little by little the elder boy edged
nearer the columns and began to touch them, then, as if he desired his
little brother to share his pleasure, he drew him nearer and, taking
his hand very gently, made him pass it round the smooth and beautiful
shape of the column. But a sacristan came up at that moment and sent
away "those tiresome children who were touching everything."

The great pleasure which the children derive from the recognition of
_objects_ by touching their form corresponds in itself to a sensory

Many psychologists have spoken of the _stereognostic_ sense, that is,
the capacity of recognizing forms by the movement of the muscles of
the hand as it follows the outlines of solid objects. This sense does
not consist only of the sense of touch, because the tactile sensation
is only that by which we perceive the differences in quality of
surfaces, rough or smooth. Perception of form comes from the
combination of two sensations, tactile and muscular, muscular
sensations being sensations of movement. What we call in the blind the
_tactile_ sense is in reality more often the stereognostic sense. That
is, they perceive by means of their hands the _form of bodies_.

It is the special muscular sensibility of the child from three to six
years of age who is forming his own muscular activity which stimulates
him to use the stereognostic sense. When the child spontaneously
blindfolds his eyes in order to recognize various objects, such as the
plane and solid insets, he is exercising this sense.

There are many exercises which he can do to enable him to recognize
with closed eyes objects of well defined shapes, as, for example, the
little bricks and cubes of Froebel, marbles, coins, beans, peas, etc.
From a selection of different objects mixed together he can pick out
those that are alike, and arrange them in separate heaps.

In the didactic material there are also geometrical solids--pale blue
in color--a sphere, a prism, a pyramid, a cone, a cylinder. The most
attractive way of teaching a child to recognize these forms is for him
to touch them with closed eyes and guess their names, the latter
learned in a way which I will describe later. After an exercise of
this kind the child when his eyes are open observes the forms with a
much more lively interest. Another way of interesting him in the solid
geometrical forms is to make them _move_. The sphere rolls in every
direction; the cylinder rolls in one direction only; the cone rolls
round itself; the prism and the pyramid, however, stand still, but the
prism falls over more easily than the pyramid.

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: FIG. 26.--SOUND BOXES.]

Little more remains of the didactic material for the education of the
senses. There is, however, a series of six cardboard cylinders, either
closed entirely or with wooden covers. (Fig. 26.)

When these cases are shaken they produce sounds varying in intensity
from loud to almost imperceptible sounds, according to the nature of
the objects inside the cylinder.

There is a double act of these, and the exercise consists, first, in
the recognition of sounds of equal intensity, arranging the cylinders
in pairs. The next exercise consists in the comparison of one sound
with another; that is, the child arranges the six cylinders in a
series according to the loudness of sound which they produce. The
exercise is analogous to that with the color spools, which also are
paired and then arranged in gradation. In this case also the child
performs the exercise seated comfortably at a table. After a
preliminary explanation from the teacher he repeats the exercise by
himself, his eyes being blindfolded that he may better concentrate his

We may conclude with a general rule for the direction of the education
of the senses. The order of procedure should be:

(1) Recognition of _identities_ (the pairing of similar objects and
the insertion of solid forms into places which fit them).

(2) Recognition of _contrasts_ (the presentation of the extremes of a
series of objects).

(3) Discrimination between objects very _similar_ to one another.

To concentrate the attention of the child upon the sensory stimulus
which is acting upon him at a particular moment, it is well, as far as
possible, to _isolate_ the sense; for instance, to obtain silence in
the room for all the exercises and to blindfold the eyes for those
particular exercises which do not relate to the education of the sense
of sight.

The cinematograph pictures give a general idea of all the sense
exercises which the children can do with the material, and any one who
has been initiated into the theory on which these are based will be
able gradually to recognize them as they are seen practically carried

It is very advisable for those who wish to guide the children in these
sensory exercises to begin themselves by working with the didactic
material. The experience will give them some idea of what the children
must feel, of the difficulties which they must overcome, etc., and, up
to a certain point, it will give them some conception of the interest
which these exercises can arouse in them. Whoever makes such
experiments himself will be most struck by the fact that, when
blindfolded, he finds that all the sensations of touch and hearing
really appear more acute and more easily recognized. On account of
this alone no small interest will be aroused in the experimenter.

                  *       *       *       *       *

For the beginning of the education of the musical sense, we use in
Rome a material which does not form part of the didactic apparatus as
it is sold at present. It consists of a double series of bells forming
an octave with tones and semitones. These metal bells, which stand
upon a wooden rectangular base, are all alike in appearance, but, when
struck with a little wooden hammer, give out sounds corresponding to
the notes doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh, doh [sharp], re
[sharp], fah [sharp], soh [sharp], lah [sharp].

[Illustration: Musical Scale (Chromatic)]

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--MUSICAL BELLS.]

One series of bells is arranged in chromatic order upon a long board,
upon which are painted rectangular spaces which are black and white
and of the same size as the bases which support the bells. As on a
pianoforte keyboard, the white spaces correspond to the tones, and the
black to the semitones. (Fig. 27.)

At first the only bells to be arranged upon the board are those which
correspond to the tones; these are set upon the white spaces in the
order of the musical notes, doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh.

To perform the first exercise the child strikes with a small hammer
the first note of the series already arranged (doh). Then among a
second series of corresponding bells which, arranged without the
semitones, are mixed together upon the table, he tries, by striking
the bells one after the other, to find the sound which is the same as
the first one he has struck (doh). When he has succeeded in finding
the corresponding sound, he puts the bell thus chosen opposite the
first one (doh) upon the board. Then he strikes the second bell, _re_,
once or twice; then from among the mixed group of bells he makes
experiments until he recognizes _re_, which he places opposite the
second bell of the series already arranged. He continues in the same
way right to the end, looking for the identity of the sounds and
performing an exercise of _pairing_ similar to that already done in
the case of the sound-boxes, the colors, etc.

Later, he learns in order the sounds of the musical scale, striking in
rapid succession the bells arranged in order, and also accompanying
his action with his voice--doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh. When
he is able to recognize and _remember_ the series of sounds, the child
takes the eight bells and, after mixing them up, he tries by striking
them with the hammer, to find _doh_, then _re_, etc. Every time that
he takes a new note, he strikes from the beginning all the bells
already recognized and arranged in order--doh, _re_, doh, re, _mi_;
doh, re, mi, _fah_; doh, re, mi, fah, _soh_, etc. In this way he
succeeds in arranging all the bells in the order of the scale, guided
only by his ear, and having succeeded, he strikes all the notes one
after the other up and down the scale. This exercise fascinates
children from five years old upwards.

If the objects which have been described constitute the didactic
material for the beginnings of a methodical education of the auditory
sense, I have no desire to limit to them an educational process which
is so important and already so complex in its practise, whether in the
long established methods of treatment for the deaf, or in modern
physiological musical education. In fact, I also use resonant metal
tubes, small bars of wood which emit musical notes, and strings
(little harps), upon which the children seek to recognize the tones
they have already learned with the exercise of the bells. The
pianoforte may also be used for the same purpose. In this way the
difference in _timbre_ comes to be perceived together with the
differences in tone. At the same time various exercises, already
mentioned, such as the marches played on the piano for rhythmic
exercises, and the simple songs sung by the children themselves, offer
extensive means for the development of the musical sense.

                  *       *       *       *       *

To quicken the child's attention in special relation to sounds there
is a most important exercise which, contrary to all attempts made up
to this time in the practise of education, consists not in producing
but in eliminating, as far as possible, all sounds from the
environment. My "lesson of silence" has been very widely applied, even
in schools where the rest of my method has not found its way, for the
sake of its practical effect upon the discipline of the children.

The children are taught "not to move"; to inhibit all those motor
impulses which may arise from any cause whatsoever, and in order to
induce in them real "immobility," it is necessary to initiate them in
the _control_ of all their movements. The teacher, then, does not
limit herself to saying, "Sit still," but she gives them the example
herself, showing them how to sit absolutely still; that is, with feet
still, body still, arms still, head still. The respiratory movements
should also be performed in such a way as to produce no sound.

The children must be taught how to succeed in this exercise. The
fundamental condition is that of finding a comfortable position,
_i.e._, a position of equilibrium. As they are seated for this
exercise, they must therefore make themselves comfortable either in
their little chairs or on the ground. When immobility is obtained, the
room is half-darkened, or else the children close their eyes, or cover
them with their hands.

It is quite plain to see that the children take a great interest in
the "Silence"; they seem to give themselves up to a kind of spell:
they might be said to be wrapped in meditation. Little by little, as
each child, watching himself, becomes more and more still, the silence
deepens till it becomes absolute and can be felt, just as the
twilight gradually deepens whilst the sun is setting.

Then it is that slight sounds, unnoticed before, are heard; the
ticking of the clock, the chirp of a sparrow in the garden, the flight
of a butterfly. The world becomes full of imperceptible sounds which
invade that deep silence without disturbing it, just as the stars
shine out in the dark sky without banishing the darkness of the night.
It is almost the discovery of a new world where there is rest. It is,
as it were, the twilight of the world of loud noises and of the uproar
that oppresses the spirit. At such a time the spirit is set free and
opens out like the corolla of the convolvulus.

And leaving metaphor for the reality of facts, can we not all recall
feelings that have possessed us at sunset, when all the vivid
impressions of the day, the brightness and clamor, are silenced? It is
not that we miss the day, but that our spirit expands. It becomes more
sensitive to the inner play of emotions, strong and persistent, or
changeful and serene.

    "It was that hour when mariners feel longing,
     And hearts grow tender."

              (Dante, trans. Longfellow.)

The lesson of silence ends with a general calling of the children's
names. The teacher, or one of the children, takes her place behind the
class or in an adjoining room, and "calls" the motionless children,
one by one, by name; the call is made in a whisper, that is, without
vocal sound. This demands a close attention on the part of the child,
if he is to hear his name. When his name is called he must rise and
find his way to the voice which called him; his movements must be
light and vigilant, and so controlled _as to make no noise_.

When the children have become acquainted with _silence_, their hearing
is in a manner refined for the perception of sounds. Those sounds
which are too loud become gradually displeasing to the ear of one who
has known the pleasure of silence, and has discovered the world of
delicate sounds. From this point the children gradually go on to
perfect themselves; they walk lightly, take care not to knock against
the furniture, move their chairs without noise, and place things upon
the table with great care. The result of this is seen in the grace of
carriage and of movement, which is especially delightful on account of
the way in which it has been brought about. It is not a grace taught
externally for the sake of beauty or regard for the world, but one
which is born of the pleasure felt by the spirit in immobility and
silence. The soul of the child wishes to free itself from the
irksomeness of sounds that are too loud, from obstacles to its peace
during work. These children, with the grace of pages to a noble lord,
are serving their spirits.

This exercise develops very definitely the social spirit. No other
lesson, no other "situation," could do the same. A profound silence
can be obtained even when more than fifty children are crowded
together in a small space, provided that _all_ the children know how
to keep still and want to do it; but one disturber is enough to take
away the charm.

Here is demonstration of the cooperation of all the members of a
community to achieve a common end. The children gradually show
increased power of _inhibition_; many of them, rather than disturb the
silence, refrain from brushing a fly off the nose, or suppress a cough
or sneeze. The same exhibition of collective action is seen in the
care with which the children move to avoid making a noise during their
work. The lightness with which they run on tiptoe, the grace with
which they shut a cupboard, or lay an object on the table, these are
qualities that must be _acquired by all_, if the environment is to
become tranquil and free from disturbance. One rebel is sufficient to
mar this achievement; one noisy child, walking on his heels or banging
the door, can disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the small community.


The special importance of the sense of hearing comes from the fact
that it is the sense organ connected with speech. Therefore, to train
the child's attention to follow sounds and noises which are produced
in the environment, to recognize them and to discriminate between
them, is to prepare his attention to follow more accurately the sounds
of articulate language. The teacher must be careful to pronounce
clearly and completely the sounds of the word when she speaks to a
child, even though she may be speaking in a low voice, almost as if
telling him a secret. The children's songs are also a good means for
obtaining exact pronunciation. The teacher, when she teaches them,
pronounces slowly, separating the component sounds of the word

But a special opportunity for training in clear and exact speech
occurs when the lessons are given in the nomenclature relating to the
sensory exercises. In every exercise, when the child has _recognized_
the differences between the qualities of the objects, the teacher
fixes the idea of this quality with a word. Thus, when the child has
many times built and rebuilt the tower of the pink cubes, at an
opportune moment the teacher draws near him, and taking the two
extreme cubes, the largest and the smallest, and showing them to him,
says, "This is large"; "This is small." The two words only, _large_
and _small_, are pronounced several times in succession with strong
emphasis and with a very clear pronunciation, "This is _large_, large,
large"; after which there is a moment's pause. Then the teacher, to
see if the child has understood, verifies with the following tests:
"Give me the large one. Give me the _small_ one." Again, "The large
one." "Now the small one." "Give me the large one." Then there is
another pause. Finally, the teacher, pointing to the objects in turn
asks, "What is this?" The child, if he has learned, replies rightly,
"Large," "Small." The teacher then urges the child to repeat the words
always more clearly and as accurately as possible. "What is it?"
"Large." "What?" "Large." "Tell me nicely, what is it?" "Large."

_Large_ and _small_ objects are those which differ only in size and
not in form; that is, all three dimensions change more or less
proportionally. We should say that a house is "large" and a hut is
"small." When two pictures represent the same objects in different
dimensions one can be said to be an enlargement of the other.

When, however, only the dimensions referring to the section of the
object change, while the length remains the same, the objects are
respectively "thick" and "thin." We should say of two posts of equal
height, but different cross-section, that one is "thick" and the other
is "thin." The teacher, therefore, gives a lesson on the brown prisms
similar to that with the cubes in the three "periods" which I have

_Period 1. Naming._ "This is thick. This is thin."

_Period 2. Recognition._ "Give me the _thick_. Give me the _thin_."

_Period 3. The Pronunciation of the Word._ "What is this?"

There is a way of helping the child to recognize differences in
dimension and to place the objects in correct gradation. After the
lesson which I have described, the teacher scatters the brown prisms,
for instance, on a carpet, says to the child, "Give me the thickest of
all," and lays the object on a table. Then, again, she invites the
child to look for _the thickest_ piece among those scattered on the
floor, and every time the piece chosen is laid in its order on the
table next to the piece previously chosen. In this way the child
accustoms himself always to look either for the _thickest_ or the
_thinnest_ among the rest, and so has a guide to help him to lay the
pieces in gradation.

When there is one dimension only which varies, as in the case of the
rods, the objects are said to be "long" and "short," the varying
dimension being length. When the varying dimension is height, the
objects are said to be "tall" and "short"; when the breadth varies,
they are "broad" and "narrow."

Of these three varieties we offer the child as a fundamental lesson
only that in which the _length_ varies, and we teach the differences
by means of the usual "three periods," and by asking him to select
from the pile at one time always the "longest," at another always the

The child in this way acquires great accuracy in the use of words. One
day the teacher had ruled the blackboard with very fine lines. A child
said, "What small lines!" "They are not small," corrected another;
"they are _thin_."

When the names to be taught are those of colors or of forms, so that
it is not necessary to emphasize contrast between extremes, the
teacher can give more than two names at the same time, as, for
instance, "This is red." "This is blue." "This is yellow." Or, again,
"This is a square." "This is a triangle." "This is a circle." In the
case of a _gradation_, however, the teacher will select (if she is
teaching the colors) the two extremes "dark" and "light," then making
choice always of the "darkest" and the "lightest."

Many of the lessons here described can be seen in the cinematograph
pictures; lessons on touching the plane insets and the surfaces, in
walking on the line, in color memory, in the nomenclature relating to
the cubes and the long rods, in the composition of words, reading,
writing, etc.

By means of these lessons the child comes to know many words very
thoroughly--large, small; thick, thin; long, short; dark, light;
rough, smooth; heavy, light; hot, cold; and the names of many colors
and geometrical forms. Such words do not relate to any particular
_object_, but to a psychic acquisition on the part of the child. In
fact, the name is given _after a long exercise_, in which the child,
concentrating his attention on different qualities of objects, has
made comparisons, reasoned, and formed judgments, until he has
acquired a power of discrimination which he did not possess before. In
a word, he has _refined his senses_; his observation of things has
been thorough and fundamental; he has _changed himself_.

He finds himself, therefore, facing the world with _psychic_ qualities
refined and quickened. His powers of observation and of recognition
have greatly increased. Further, the mental images which he has
succeeded in establishing are not a confused medley; they are all
classified--forms are distinct from dimensions, and dimensions are
classed according to the qualities which result from the combinations
of varying dimensions.

All these are quite distinct from _gradations_. Colors are divided
according to tint and to richness of tone, silence is distinct from
non-silence, noises from sounds, and everything has its own exact and
appropriate name. The child then has not only developed in himself
special qualities of observation and of judgment, but the objects
which he observes may be said to go into their place, according to the
order established in his mind, and they are placed under their
appropriate name in an exact classification.

Does not the student of the experimental sciences prepare himself in
the same way to observe the outside world? He may find himself like
the uneducated man in the midst of the most diverse natural objects,
but he differs from the uneducated man in that he has _special
qualities_ for observation. If he is a worker with the microscope, his
eyes are trained to see in the range of the microscope certain minute
details which the ordinary man cannot distinguish. If he is an
astronomer, he will look through the same telescope as the curious
visitor or _dilettante_, but he will see much more clearly. The same
plants surround the botanist and the ordinary wayfarer, but the
botanist sees in every plant those qualities which are classified in
his mind, and assigns to each plant its own place in the natural
orders, giving it its exact name. It is this capacity for recognizing
a plant in a complex order of classification which distinguishes the
botanist from the ordinary gardener, and it is _exact_ and scientific
language which characterizes the trained observer.

Now, the scientist who has developed special qualities of observation
and who "possesses" an order in which to classify external objects
will be the man to make scientific _discoveries_. It will never be he
who, without preparation and order, wanders dreaming among plants or
beneath the starlit sky.

In fact, our little ones have the impression of continually "making
discoveries" in the world about them; and in this they find the
greatest joy. They take from the world a knowledge which is ordered
and inspires them with enthusiasm. Into their minds there enters "the
Creation" instead of "the Chaos"; and it seems that their souls find
therein a divine exultation.


The success of these results is closely connected with the delicate
intervention of the one who guides the children in their development.
It is necessary for the teacher to _guide_ the child without letting
him feel her presence too much, so that she may be always ready to
supply the desired help, but may never be the obstacle between the
child and his experience.

A lesson in the ordinary use of the word cools the child's enthusiasm
for the knowledge of things, just as it would cool the enthusiasm of
adults. To keep alive that enthusiasm is the secret of real
guidance, and it will not prove a difficult task, provided that
the attitude towards the child's acts be that of respect, calm and
waiting, and provided that he be left free in his movements and in
his experiences.

Then we shall notice that the child has a personality which he is
seeking to expand; he has initiative, he chooses his own work,
persists in it, changes it according to his inner needs; he does not
shirk effort, he rather goes in search of it, and with great joy
overcomes obstacles within his capacity. He is sociable to the extent
of wanting to share with every one his successes, his discoveries, and
his little triumphs. There is therefore no need of intervention. "Wait
while observing." That is the motto for the educator.

Let us wait, and be always ready to share in both the joys and the
difficulties which the child experiences. He himself invites our
sympathy, and we should respond fully and gladly. Let us have endless
patience with his slow progress, and show enthusiasm and gladness at
his successes. If we could say: "We are respectful and courteous in
our dealings with children, we treat them as we should like to be
treated ourselves," we should certainly have mastered a great
educational principle and undoubtedly be setting an _example of good

What we all desire for ourselves, namely, not to be disturbed in our
work, not to find hindrances to our efforts, to have good friends
ready to help us in times of need, to see them rejoice with us, to be
on terms of equality with them, to be able to confide and trust in
them--this is what we need for happy companionship. In the same way
children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by
reason of their "innocence" and of the greater possibilities of their
future. What we desire they desire also.

As a rule, however, we do not respect our children. We try to force
them to follow us without regard to their special needs. We are
overbearing with them, and above all, rude; and then we expect them to
be submissive and well-behaved, knowing all the time how strong is
their instinct of imitation and how touching their faith in and
admiration of us. They will imitate us in any case. Let us treat them,
therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to
develop in them. And by kindness is not meant caresses. Should we not
call anyone who embraced us at the first time of meeting rude, vulgar
and ill-bred? Kindness consists in interpreting the wishes of others,
in conforming one's self to them, and sacrificing, if need be, one's
own desire. This is the kindness which we must show towards children.

To find the interpretation of children's desires we must study them
scientifically, for their desires are often unconscious. They are the
inner cry of life, which wishes to unfold according to mysterious
laws. We know very little of the way in which it unfolds. Certainly
the child is growing into a man by force of a divine action similar to
that by which from nothing he became a child.

Our intervention in this marvelous process is _indirect_; we are here
to offer to this life, which came into the world by itself, the
_means_ necessary for its development, and having done that we must
await this development with respect.

Let us leave the life _free_ to develop within the limits of the good,
and let us observe this inner life developing. This is the whole of
our mission. Perhaps as we watch we shall be reminded of the words of
Him who was absolutely good, "Suffer the little children to come unto
Me." That is to say, "Do not hinder them from coming, since, if they
are left free and unhampered, they will come."


The child who has completed all the exercises above described, and is
thus _prepared_ for an advance towards unexpected conquests, is about
four years old.

He is not an unknown quantity, as are children who have been left to
gain varied and casual experiences by themselves, and who therefore
differ in type and intellectual standard, not only according to their
"natures," but especially according to the chances and opportunities
they have found for their spontaneous inner formation.

Education has _determined an environment_ for the children. Individual
differences to be found in them can, therefore, be put down almost
exclusively to each one's individual "nature." Owing to their
environment which offers _means_ adapted and measured to meet the
needs of their psychical development, our children have acquired a
fundamental type which is common to all. They have _coordinated_ their
movements in various kinds of manual work about the house, and so have
acquired a characteristic independence of action, and initiative in
the adaptation of their actions to their environment. Out of all this
emerges a _personality_, for the children have become little men, who
are self-reliant.

The special attention necessary to handle small fragile objects
without breaking them, and to move heavy articles without making a
noise, has endowed the movements of the whole body with a lightness
and grace which are characteristic of our children. It is a deep
feeling of responsibility which has brought them to such a pitch of
perfection. For instance, when they carry three or four tumblers at a
time, or a tureen of hot soup, they know that they are responsible not
only for the objects, but also for the success of the meal which at
that moment they are directing. In the same way each child feels the
responsibility of the "silence," of the prevention of harsh sounds,
and he knows how to cooperate for the general good in keeping the
environment, not only orderly, but quiet and calm. Indeed, our
children have taken the road which leads them to mastery of

But their formation is due to a deeper psychological work still,
arising from the education of the senses. In addition to ordering their
environment and ordering themselves in their outward personalities,
they have also ordered the inner world of their minds.

The didactic material, in fact, does not offer to the child the
"content" of the mind, but the _order_ for that "content." It causes
him to distinguish identities from differences, extreme differences
from fine gradations, and to classify, under conceptions of quality
and of quantity, the most varying sensations appertaining to surfaces,
colors, dimensions, forms and sounds. The mind has formed itself by a
special exercise of attention, observing, comparing, and classifying.

The mental attitude acquired by such an exercise leads the child to
make ordered observations in his environment, observations which prove
as interesting to him as discoveries, and so stimulate him to multiply
them indefinitely and to form in his mind a rich "content" of clear

Language now comes to _fix_ by means of _exact words_ the ideas which
the mind has acquired. These words are few in number and have
reference, not to separate objects, but rather to the _order of the
ideas_ which have been formed in the mind. In this way the children
are able to "find themselves," alike in the world of natural things
and in the world of objects and of words which surround them, for they
have an inner guide which leads them to become _active and
intelligent explorers_ instead of wandering wayfarers in an unknown

These are the children who, in a short space of time, sometimes in a
few days, learn to write and to perform the first operations of
arithmetic. It is not a fact that children in general can do it, as
many have believed. It is not a case of giving my material for writing
to unprepared children and of awaiting the "miracle."

The fact is that the minds and hands of our children are already
_prepared_ for writing, and ideas of quantity, of identity, of
differences, and of gradation, which form the bases of all calculation,
have been maturing for a long time in them.

One might say that all their previous education is a preparation for
the first stages of essential culture--_writing_, _reading_, _and
number_, and that knowledge comes as an easy, spontaneous, and logical
consequence of the preparation--that it is in fact its natural

We have already seen that the purpose of the _word_ is to fix
ideas and to facilitate the elementary comprehension of _things_.
In the same way writing and arithmetic now fix the complex inner
acquisitions of the mind, which proceeds henceforward continually
to enrich itself by fresh observations.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Our children have long been preparing the hand for writing.
Throughout all the sensory exercises the hand, whilst cooperating
with the mind in its attainments and in its work of formation, was
preparing its own future. When the hand learned to hold itself
lightly suspended over a horizontal surface in order to touch rough
and smooth, when it took the cylinders of the solid insets and
placed them in their apertures, when with two fingers it touched the
outlines of the geometrical forms, it was coordinating movements,
and the child is now ready--almost impatient to use them in the
fascinating "synthesis" of writing.

The _direct_ preparation for writing also consists in exercises of the
movements of the hand. There are two series of exercises, very
different from one another. I have analyzed the movements which are
connected with writing, and I prepare them separately one from the
other. When we write, we perform a movement for the _management_ of
the instrument of writing, a movement which generally acquires an
individual character, so that a person's handwriting can be
recognized, and, in certain medical cases, changes in the nervous
system can be traced by the corresponding alterations in the
handwriting. In fact, it is from the handwriting that specialists in
that subject would interpret the _moral character_ of individuals.

Writing has, besides this, a general character, which has reference to
the form of the alphabetical signs.

When a man writes he combines these two parts, but they actually exist
as the _component parts of a single product_ and can be prepared

_Exercises for the Management of the Instrument of Writing_


In the didactic material there are two sloping wooden boards, on each
of which stand five square metal frames, colored pink. In each of
these is inserted a blue geometrical figure similar to the geometrical
insets and provided with a small button for a handle. With this
material we use a box of ten colored pencils and a little book of
designs which I have prepared after five years' experience of
observing the children. I have chosen and graduated the designs
according to the use which the children made of them.

The two sloping boards are set side by side, and on them are placed
ten complete "insets," that is to say, the frames with the geometrical
figures. (Fig. 28.) The child is given a sheet of white paper and the
box of ten colored pencils. He will then choose one of the ten metal
insets, which are arranged in an attractive line at a certain distance
from him. The child is taught the following process:


He lays the frame of the iron inset on the sheet of paper, and,
holding it down firmly with one hand, he follows with a colored pencil
the interior outline which describes a geometrical figure. Then he
lifts the square frame, and finds drawn upon the paper an enclosed
geometrical form, a triangle, a circle, a hexagon, etc. The child has
not actually performed a new exercise, because he had already
performed all these movements when he _touched_ the wooden plane
insets. The only new feature of the exercise is that he follows the
outlines no longer directly with his finger, but through the medium
of a pencil. That is, he _draws, he leaves a trace_ of his movement.

The child finds this exercise easy and most interesting, and, as soon
as he has succeeded in making the first outline, he places above it
the piece of blue metal corresponding to it. This is an exercise
exactly similar to that which he performed when he placed the wooden
geometrical figures upon the cards of the third series, where the
figures are only contained by a simple line.

This time, however, when the action of placing the form upon the
outline is performed, the child takes _another colored pencil_ and
draws the outline of the blue metal figure.

When he raises it, if the drawing is well done, he finds upon the
paper a geometrical figure contained by two outlines in colors, and,
if the colors have been well chosen, the result is very attractive,
and the child, who has already had a considerable education of the
chromatic sense is keenly interested in it.

These may seem unnecessary details, but, as a matter of fact, they are
all-important. For instance, if, instead of arranging the ten metal
insets in a row, the teacher distributes them among the children
without thus exhibiting them, the child's exercises are much limited.
When, on the other hand, the insets are exhibited before his eyes, he
feels the desire to draw them _all_ one after the other, and the
number of exercises is increased.

The two _colored outlines_ rouse the desire of the child to see
another combination of colors and then to repeat the experience. The
variety of the objects and the colors are therefore an _inducement_ to
work and hence to final success.

Here the actual preparatory movement for writing begins. When the
child has drawn the figure in double outline, he takes hold of a
pencil "like a pen for writing," and draws marks up and down until he
has completely filled the figure. In this way a definite filled-in
figure remains on the paper, similar to the figures on the cards of
the first series. This figure can be in any of the ten colors. At
first the children fill in the figures very clumsily without regard
for the outlines, making very heavy lines and not keeping them
parallel. Little by little, however, the drawings improve, in that
they keep within the outlines, and the lines increase in number, grow
finer, and are parallel to one another.

When the child has begun these exercises, he is seized with a desire
to continue them, and he never tires of drawing the outlines of the
figures and then filling them in. Each child suddenly becomes the
possessor of a considerable number of drawings, and he treasures them
up in his own little drawer. In this way he _organizes_ the movement
of writing, which brings him _to the management of the pen_. This
movement in ordinary methods is represented by the wearisome pothook
connected with the first laborious and tedious attempts at writing.

The organization of this movement, which began from the guidance of a
piece of metal, is as yet rough and imperfect, and the child now
passes on to the _filling in of the prepared designs_ in the little
album. The leaves are taken from the book one by one in the order of
progression in which they are arranged, and the child fills in the
prepared designs with colored pencils in the same way as before. Here
the choice of the colors is another intelligent occupation which
encourages the child to multiply the tasks. He chooses the colors by
himself and with much taste. The delicacy of the shades which he
chooses and the harmony with which he arranges them in these designs
show us that the common belief, that children love _bright and
glaring_ colors, has been the result of observation of _children
without education_, who have been abandoned to the rough and harsh
experiences of an environment unfitted for them.

The education of the chromatic sense becomes at this point of a
child's development the _lever_ which enables him to become possessed
of a firm, bold and beautiful handwriting.

The drawings lend themselves to _limiting_, in very many ways, _the
length of the strokes with which they are filled in_. The child will
have to fill in geometrical figures, both large and small, of a
pavement design, or flowers and leaves, or the various details of an
animal or of a landscape. In this way the hand accustoms itself, not
only to perform the general action, but also to confine the movement
within all kinds of limits.

Hence the child is preparing himself to write in a handwriting
_either_ large or small. Indeed, later on he will write as well
between the wide lines on a blackboard as between the narrow, closely
ruled lines of an exercise book, generally used by much older

The number of exercises which the child performs with the drawings is
practically unlimited. He will often take another colored pencil and
draw over again the outlines of the figure already filled in with
color. A help to the _continuation_ of the exercise is to be found in
the further education of the chromatic sense, which the child acquires
by painting the same designs in water-colors. Later he mixes colors
for himself until he can imitate the colors of nature, or create the
delicate tints which his own imagination desires. It is not possible,
however, to speak of all this in detail within the limits of this
small work.

_Exercises for the Writing of Alphabetical Signs_

[Illustration: FIG. 29.--SINGLE SANDPAPER LETTER.]


In the didactic material there are series of boxes which contain the
alphabetical signs. At this point we take those cards which are
covered with very smooth paper, to which is gummed a letter of the
alphabet cut out in sandpaper. (Fig. 29.) There are also large cards
on which are gummed several letters, grouped together according to
analogy of form. (Fig. 30.)

The children "have to _touch_ over the alphabetical signs as though
they were writing." They touch them with the tips of the index and
middle fingers in the same way as when they touched the wooden insets,
and with the hand raised as when they lightly touched the rough and
smooth surfaces. The teacher herself touches the letters to show the
child how the movement should be performed, and the child, if he has
had much practise in touching the wooden insets, _imitates_ her with
_ease_ and pleasure. Without the previous practise, however, the
child's hand does not follow the letter with accuracy, and it is most
interesting to make close observations of the children in order to
understand the importance of a _remote motor preparation_ for writing,
and also to realize the _immense_ strain which we impose upon the
children when we set them to write directly without a previous motor
education of the hand.

The child finds great pleasure in touching the sandpaper letters. It
is an exercise by which he applies to a new attainment the power he
has already acquired through exercising the sense of touch. Whilst
the child touches a letter, the teacher pronounces its sound, and she
uses for the lesson the usual three periods. Thus, for example,
presenting the two vowels _i_, _o_, she will have the child touch them
slowly and accurately, and repeat their relative sounds one after
the other as the child touches them, "i, i, i! o, o, o!" Then she
will say to the child: "Give me i!" "Give me o!" Finally, she will ask
the question: "What is this?" To which the child replies, "i, o."
She proceeds in the same way through all the other letters, giving,
in the case of the consonants, not the name, but only the sound. The
child then touches the letters by himself over and over again,
either on the separate cards or on the large cards on which several
letters are gummed, and in this way he establishes the movements
necessary for tracing the alphabetical signs. At the same time he
retains the _visual_ image of the letter. This process forms the first
preparation, not only for writing, but also for reading, because it
is evident that when the child _touches_ the letters he performs the
movement corresponding to the writing of them, and, at the same
time, when he recognizes them by sight he is reading the alphabet.

The child has thus prepared, in effect, all the necessary movements
for writing; therefore he _can write_. This important conquest is the
result of a long period of inner formation of which the child is not
clearly aware. But a day will come--very soon--when he _will write_,
and that will be a day of great surprise for him--the wonderful
harvest of an unknown sowing.

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: FIG. 31.--BOX OF MOVABLE LETTERS.]

The alphabet of movable letters cut out in pink and blue cardboard,
and kept in a special box with compartments, serves "for the
composition of words." (Fig. 31.)

In a phonetic language, like Italian, it is enough to pronounce
clearly the different component sounds of a word (as, for example,
m-a-n-o), so that the child whose ear is _already educated_ may
recognize one by one the component sounds. Then he looks in the
movable alphabet for the _signs_ corresponding to each separate sound,
and lays them one beside the other, thus composing the word (for
instance, mano). Gradually he will become able to do the same thing
with words of which he thinks himself; he succeeds in breaking them up
into their component sounds, and in translating them into a row of

When the child has composed the words in this way, he knows how to
read them. In this method, therefore, all the processes leading to
writing include reading as well.

If the language is not phonetic, the teacher can compose separate
words with the movable alphabet, and then pronounce them, letting the
child repeat by himself the exercise of arranging and rereading them.

In the material there are two movable alphabets. One of them consists
of larger letters, and is divided into two boxes, each of which
contains the vowels. This is used for the first exercises, in which
the child needs very large objects in order to recognize the letters.
When he is acquainted with one half of the consonants he can begin to
compose words, even though he is dealing with one part only of the

The other movable alphabet has smaller letters and is contained in a
single box. It is given to children who have made their first attempts
at composition with words, and already know the complete alphabet.

It is after these exercises with the movable alphabet that the child
_is able to write entire words_. This phenomenon generally occurs
unexpectedly, and then a child who has never yet traced a stroke or a
letter on paper _writes several words in succession_. From that moment
he continues to write, always gradually perfecting himself. This
spontaneous writing takes on the characteristics of a _natural_
phenomenon, and the child who has begun to write the "first word" will
continue to write in the same way as he spoke after pronouncing the
first word, and as he walked after having taken the first step. The
same course of inner formation through which the phenomenon of writing
appeared is the course of his future progress, of his growth to
perfection. The child prepared in this way has entered upon a course
of development through which he will pass as surely as the growth of
the body and the development of the natural functions have passed
through their course of development when life has once been

For the interesting and very complex phenomena relating to the
development of writing and then of reading, see my larger works.


[Illustration: FIG. 32.--THE MUSICAL STAFF.[A]]


  [A] The single staff is used in the Conservatoire of Milan and
      utilized in the Perlasca method.


When the child knows how to read, he can make a first application of
this knowledge to the reading of the names of musical notes.

In connection with the material for sensory education, consisting of
the series of bells, we use a didactic material, which serves as an
introduction to musical reading. For this purpose we have, in the
first place, a wooden board, not very long, and painted pale green. On
this board the staff is cut out in black, and in every line and space
are cut round holes, inside each of which is written the name of the
note in its reference to the treble clef.

There is also a series of little white discs which can be fitted into
the holes. On one side of each disc is written the name of the note
(doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh).

The child, guided by the name written on the discs, puts them, with
the name uppermost, in their right places on the board and then reads
the names of the notes. This exercise he can do by himself, and he
learns the position of each note on the staff. Another exercise which
the child can do at the same time is to place the disc bearing the
name of the note on the rectangular base of the corresponding bell,
whose sound he has already learned to recognize by ear in the
sensorial exercise described above.

[Illustration: FIG. 39.--DUMB KEYBOARD.]

Following this exercise there is another staff made on a board of
green wood, which is longer than the other and has neither indentures
nor signs. A considerable number of discs, on one side of which are
written the names of the notes, is at the disposal of the child. He
takes up a disc at random, reads its name and places it on the staff,
with the name underneath, so that the white face of the disc shows on
the top. By the repetition of this exercise the child is enabled to
arrange many discs on the same line or in the same space. When he has
finished, he turns them all over so that the names are outside, and so
finds out if he has made mistakes. After learning the treble clef the
child passes on to learn the bass with great ease.

To the staff described above can be added another similar to it,
arranged as is shown in the figure. (Fig. 32.) The child beginning
with doh, lays the discs on the board in ascending order in their
right position until the octave is reached: doh, re, mi, fah, soh,
lah, ti, doh. Then he descends the scale in the same way, returning to
_doh_, but continuing to place the discs always to the right: soh,
fah, mi, re, doh. In this way he forms an angle. At this point he
descends again to the lower staff, ti, lah, soh, fah, mi, re, doh,
then he ascends again on the other side: re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti,
and by forming with his two lines of discs another angle in the bass,
he has completed a rhombus, "the rhombus of the notes."

After the discs have been arranged in this way, the upper staff is
separated from the lower. In the lower the notes are arranged
according to the bass clef. In this way the first elements of musical
reading are presented to the child, reading which corresponds to
_sounds_ with which the child's ear is already acquainted.

For a first practical application of this knowledge we have used in
our schools a miniature pianoforte keyboard, which reproduces the
essentials of this instrument, although in a simplified form, and so
that they are visible. Two octaves only are reproduced, and the keys,
which are small, are proportioned to the hand of a little child of
four or five years, as the keys of the common piano are proportioned
to those of the adult. All the mechanism of the key is visible. (Fig.
39.) On striking a key one sees the hammer rise, on which is written
the name of the note. The hammers are black and white, like the

With this instrument it is very easy for the child to practise alone,
finding the notes on the keyboard corresponding to some bar of written
music, and following the movements of the fingers made in playing the

The keyboard in itself is mute, but a series of resonant tubes,
resembling a set of organ-pipes, can be applied to the upper surface,
so that the hammers striking these produce musical notes corresponding
to the keys struck. The child can then pursue his exercises with the
control of the musical sounds.


[Illustration: FIG. 33.

On the wooden board, round spaces are cut out
corresponding to the notes. Inside each of the spaces there is a figure.
On one side of each of the discs is written a number and on the other the
name of the note. They are fitted by the child into the corresponding

[Illustration: FIG. 34.

The child next arranged the discs in the notes cut out on
the staff, but there are no longer numbers written to help him find the
places. Instead, he must try to remember the place of the note on the
staff. If he is not sure he consults the numbered board (Fig. 33).]

[Illustration: FIG. 35.

The child arranged on the staff the semitones in the
spaces which remain where the discs are far apart: do-re, re-mi, fah-soh,
soh-la, la-ti. The discs for the semitones have the sharp on one side and
the flat on the other, e.g., re[sharp]-mi[flat] are written on the
opposite sides of the same disc.]

[Illustration: FIG. 36.

The children take a large number of discs and arrange them
on the staff, leaving uppermost the side which is blank, i.e., the side
on which the name of the note is not written. Then they verify their work
by turning the discs over and reading the name.]

[Illustration: FIG. 37.

The double staff is formed by putting the two staves
together. The children arrange the notes in the form of a rhombus.]

[Illustration: FIG. 38.

The two boards are then separated and the notes remain
arranged according to the treble and bass clefs. The corresponding key
signatures are then placed upon the two different staves.]


The children possess all the instinctive knowledge necessary as a
preparation for clear ideas on numeration. The idea of quantity was
inherent in all the material for the education of the senses: longer,
shorter, darker, lighter. The conception of identity and of difference
formed part of the actual technique of the education of the senses,
which began with the recognition of identical objects, and continued
with the arrangement in gradation of similar objects. I will make a
special illustration of the first exercise with the solid insets,
which can be done even by a child of two and a half. When he makes a
mistake by putting a cylinder in a hole too large for it, and so
leaves _one_ cylinder without a place, he instinctively absorbs the
idea of the absence of _one_ from a continuous series. The child's
mind is not prepared for number "by certain preliminary ideas," given
in haste by the teacher, but has been prepared for it by a process of
formation, by a slow building up of itself.

To enter directly upon the teaching of arithmetic, we must turn to the
same didactic material used for the education of the senses.

Let us look at the three sets of material which are presented after
the exercises with the solid insets, _i.e._, the material for teaching
_size_ (the pink cubes), _thickness_ (the brown prisms), and _length_
(the green rods). There is a definite relation between the ten pieces
of each series. In the material for length the shortest piece is a
_unit of measurement_ for all the rest; the second piece is double the
first, the third is three times the first, etc., and, whilst the scale
of length increases by ten centimeters for each piece, the other
dimensions remain constant (_i.e._, the rods all have the same

The pieces then stand in the same relation to one another as the
natural series of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

In the second series, namely, that which shows _thickness_, whilst the
length remains constant, the square section of the prisms varies. The
result is that the sides of the square sections vary according to the
series of natural numbers, _i.e._, in the first prism, the square of
the section has sides of one centimeter, in the second of two
centimeters, in the third of three centimeters, etc., and so on until
the tenth, in which the square of the section has sides of ten
centimeters. The prisms therefore are in the same proportion to one
another as the numbers of the series of squares (1, 4, 9, etc.), for
it would take four prisms of the first size to make the second, nine
to make the third, etc. The pieces which make up the series for
teaching thickness are therefore in the following proportion: 1 : 4 :
9 : 16 : 25 : 36 : 49 : 64 : 81 : 100.

In the case of the pink cubes the edge increases according to the
numerical series, _i.e._, the first cube has an edge of one
centimeter, the second of two centimeters, the third of three
centimeters, and so on, to the tenth cube, which has an edge of ten
centimeters. Hence the relation in volume between them is that of the
cubes of the series of numbers from one to ten, _i.e._, 1 : 8: 27 :
64: 125 : 216 : 343 : 512 : 729 : 1000. In fact, to make up the
volume of the second pink cube, eight of the first little cubes would
be required; to make up the volume of the third, twenty-seven would be
required, and so on.


 A =====-----=====-----  B
     1    2
     1    2    3
     1    2    3    4
     1    2    3    4    5
     1    2    3    4    5    6
     1    2    3    4    5    6    7
     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8
     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9
     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10


The children have an intuitive knowledge of this difference, for they
realize that the exercise with the pink cubes is the _easiest_ of all
three and that with the rods the most difficult. When we begin the
direct teaching of number, we choose the long rods, modifying them,
however, by dividing them into ten spaces, each ten centimeters in
length, colored alternately red and blue. For example, the rod which
is four times as long as the first is clearly seen to be composed of
four equal lengths, red and blue; and similarly with all the rest.

When the rods have been placed in order of gradation, we teach the
child the numbers: one, two, three, etc., by touching the rods in
succession, from the first up to ten. Then, to help him to gain a
clear idea of number, we proceed to the recognition of separate rods
by means of the customary lesson in three periods.

We lay the three first rods in front of the child, and pointing to
them or taking them in the hand in turn, in order to show them to him
we say: "This is _one_." "This is _two_." "This is _three_." We point
out with the finger the divisions in each rod, counting them so as to
make sure, "One, two: this is _two_." "One, two, three: this is
_three_." Then we say to the child: "Give me _two_." "Give me _one_."
"Give me _three_." Finally, pointing to a rod, we say, "What is this?"
The child answers, "Three," and we count together: "One, two, three."

In the same way we teach all the other rods in their order, adding
always one or two more according to the responsiveness of the child.

The importance of this didactic material is that it gives a clear idea
of _number_. For when a number is named it exists as an object, a
unity in itself. When we say that a man possesses a million, we mean
that he has a _fortune_ which is worth so many units of measure of
values, and these units all belong to one person.

So, if we add 7 to 8 (7 + 8), we add a _number to a number_, and these
numbers for a _definite_ reason represent in themselves groups of
homogeneous units.

Again, when the child shows us the 9, he is handling a rod which is
inflexible--an object complete in itself, yet composed of _nine equal
parts_ which can be counted. And when he comes to add 8 to 2, he will
place next to one another, two rods, two objects, one of which has
eight equal lengths and the other two. When, on the other hand, in
ordinary schools, to make the calculation easier, they present the
child with different objects to count, such as beans, marbles, etc.,
and when, to take the case I have quoted (8 + 2), he takes a group of
eight marbles and adds two more marbles to it, the natural impression
in his mind is not that he has added 8 to 2, but that he has added 1
+ 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 to 1 + 1. The result is not so clear, and
the child is required to make the effort of holding in his mind the
idea of a group of eight objects as _one united whole_, corresponding
to a single number, 8.

This effort often puts the child back, and delays his understanding of
number by months or even years.

The addition and subtraction of numbers under ten are made very much
simpler by the use of the didactic material for teaching lengths. Let
the child be presented with the attractive problem of arranging the
pieces in such a way as to have a set of rods, all as long as the
longest. He first arranges the rods in their right order (the long
stair); he then takes the last rod (1) and lays it next to the 9.
Similarly, he takes the last rod but one (2) and lays it next to the
8, and so on up to the 5.

This very simple game represents the addition of numbers within the
ten: 9 + 1, 8 + 2, 7 + 3, 6 + 4. Then, when he puts the rods back in
their places, he must first take away the 4 and put it back under the
5, and then take away in their turn the 3, the 2, the 1. By this
action he has put the rods back again in their right gradation, but
he has also performed a series of arithmetical subtractions, 10 - 4,
10 - 3, 10 - 2, 10 - 1.

The teaching of the actual figures marks an advance from the rods to
the process of counting with separate units. When the figures are
known, they will serve the very purpose in the abstract which the rods
serve in the concrete; that is, they will stand for the _uniting into
one whole_ of a certain number of separate units.

The _synthetic_ function of language and the wide field of work which
it opens out for the intelligence is _demonstrated_, we might say, by
the function of the _figure_, which now can be substituted for the
concrete rods.

The use of the actual rods only would limit arithmetic to the small
operations within the ten or numbers a little higher, and, in the
construction of the mind, these operations would advance very little
farther than the limits of the first simple and elementary education
of the senses.

The figure, which is a word, a graphic sign, will permit of that
unlimited progress which the mathematical mind of man has been able to
make in the course of its evolution.

In the material there is a box containing smooth cards, on which are
gummed the figures from one to nine, cut out in sandpaper. These are
analogous to the cards on which are gummed the sandpaper letters of
the alphabet. The method of teaching is always the same. The child is
_made to touch_ the figures in the direction in which they are
written, and to name them at the same time.

In this case he does more than when he learned the letters; he is
shown how to place each figure upon the corresponding rod. When all
the figures have been learned in this way, one of the first exercises
will be to place the number cards upon the rods arranged in gradation.
So arranged, they form a succession of steps on which it is a pleasure
to place the cards, and the children remain for a long time repeating
this intelligent game.

After this exercise comes what we may call the "emancipation" of the
child. He carried his own figures with him, and now _using them_ he
will know how to group units together.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.--COUNTING BOXES.]

For this purpose we have in the didactic material a series of wooden
pegs, but in addition to these we give the children all sorts of small
objects--sticks, tiny cubes, counters, etc.

The exercise will consist in placing opposite a figure the number of
objects that it indicates. The child for this purpose can use the box
which is included in the material. (Fig. 41.) This box is divided into
compartments, above each of which is printed a figure and the child
places in the compartment the corresponding number of pegs.

Another exercise is to lay all the figures on the table and place
below them the corresponding number of cubes, counters, etc.

This is only the first step, and it would be impossible here to speak
of the succeeding lessons in zero, in tens and in other arithmetical
processes--for the development of which my larger works must be
consulted. The didactic material itself, however, can give some idea.
In the box containing the pegs there is one compartment over which the
0 is printed. Inside this compartment "nothing must be put," and then
we begin with _one_.

Zero is nothing, but it is placed next to one to enable us to count
when we pass beyond 9--thus, 10.

[Illustration: FIG. 42.--ARITHMETIC FRAME.]

If, instead of the piece 1, we were to take pieces as long as the rod
10, we could count 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. In the didactic
material there are frames containing cards on which are printed such
numbers from 10 to 90. These numbers are fixed into a frame in such a
way that the figures 1 to 9 can be slipped in covering the zero. If
the zero of 10 is covered by 1 the result is 11, if with 2 it becomes
12, and so on, until the last 9. Then we pass to the twenties (the
second ten), and so on, from ten to ten. (Fig. 42.)

For the beginning of this exercise with the cards marking the tens we
can use the rods. As we begin with the first ten (10) in the frame, we
take the rod 10. We then place the small rod 1 next to rod 10, and at
the same time slip in the number 1, covering the zero of the 10. Then
we take rod 1 and figure 1 away from the frame, and put in their place
rod 2 next to rod 10, and figure 2 over the zero in the frame, and so
on, up to 9. To advance farther we should need to use two rods of 10
to make 20.

The children show much enthusiasm when learning these exercises, which
demand from them two sets of activities, and give them in their work
clearness of idea.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In writing and arithmetic we have gathered the fruits of a laborious
education which consisted in coordinating the movements and gaining a
first knowledge of the world. This culture comes as a natural
consequence of man's first efforts to put himself into intelligent
communication with the world.

All those early acquisitions which have brought order into the child's
mind, would be wasted were they not firmly established by means of
written language and of figures. Thus established, however, these
experiences open up an unlimited field for future education. What we
have done, therefore, is to introduce the child to a higher level--the
level of culture--and he will now be able to pass on to a _school_,
but not the school we know to-day, where, irrationally, we try to give
culture to minds not yet prepared or _educated to receive it_.

To preserve the health of their minds, which have been _exercised_ and
not _fatigued_ by the order of the work, our children must have a new
kind of school for the acquisition of culture. My experiments in the
continuation of this method for older children are already far


A brief description such as this, of the _means_ which are used in the
"Children's House," may perhaps give the reader the impression of a
logical and convincing system of education. But the importance of my
method does not lie in the organization itself, but _in the effects
which it produces on the child_. It is the _child_ who proves the
value of this method by his spontaneous manifestations, which seem to
reveal the laws of man's inner development.[B] Psychology will perhaps
find in the "Children's Houses" a laboratory which will bring more
truths to light than thus hitherto recognized; for the essential
factor in psychological research, especially in the field of
psychogenesis, the origin and development of the mind, must be the
establishment of normal conditions for the free development of


  [B] See the chapters on Discipline in my larger works.


As is well known, we leave the children _free_ in their work, and in
all actions which are not of a disturbing kind. That is, we
_eliminate_ disorder, which is "bad," but allow to that which is
orderly and "good" the most complete liberty of manifestation.

The results obtained are surprising, for the children have shown a
love of work which no one suspected to be in them, and a calm and an
orderliness in their movements which, surpassing the limits of
correctness have entered into those of "grace." The spontaneous
discipline, and the obedience which is seen in the whole class,
constitute the most striking result of our method.

The ancient philosophical discussion as to whether man is born good or
evil is often brought forward in connection with my method, and many
who have supported it have done so on the ground that it provides a
demonstration of man's natural goodness. Very many others, on the
contrary, have opposed it, considering that to leave children free is
a dangerous mistake, since they have in them innate tendencies to

I should like to put the question upon a more positive plane.

In the words "good" and "evil" we include the most varying ideas, and
we confuse them especially _in our practical dealings with little

The tendencies which we stigmatize as _evil_ in little children of
three to six years of age are often merely those which cause
_annoyance_ to us adults when, not understanding their needs, we try
to prevent their _every movement_, their every _attempt to gain
experience for themselves in the world_ (by touching everything,
etc.). The child, however, through this _natural tendency_, is led to
_coordinate his movements_ and to collect impressions, especially
sensations of touch, so that when prevented he _rebels_, and this
rebellion forms almost the whole of his "naughtiness."

What wonder is it that the evil disappears when, if we give the right
_means_ for development and leave full liberty to use them, rebellion
has no more reason for existence?

Further, by the substitution of a series of outbursts of _joy_ for the
old series of outbursts of _rage_, the moral physiognomy of the child
comes to assume a calm and gentleness which make him appear a
different being.

It is we who provoked the children to the violent manifestations of a
real _struggle for existence_. In order to exist _according to the
needs of their psychic development_ they were often obliged to snatch
from us the things which seemed necessary to them for the purpose.
They had to move contrary to our laws, or sometimes to struggle with
other children to wrest from them the objects of their desire.

On the other hand, if we give children the _means of existence_, the
struggle for it disappears, and a vigorous expansion of life takes its
place. This question involves a hygienic principle connected with the
nervous system during the difficult period when the brain is still
rapidly growing, and should be of great interest to specialists in
children's diseases and nervous derangements. The inner life of man
and the beginnings of his intellect are controlled by special laws and
vital necessities which cannot be forgotten if we are aiming at health
for mankind.

For this reason, an educational method, which cultivates and protects
the inner activities of the child, is not a question which concerns
merely the school or the teachers; it is a universal question which
concerns the family, and is of vital interest to mothers.

To go more deeply into a question is often the only means of answering
it rightly. If, for instance, we were to see men fighting over a piece
of bread, we might say: "How bad men are!" If, on the other hand, we
entered a well-warmed eating-house, and saw them quietly finding a
place and choosing their meal without any envy of one another, we
might say: "How good men are!" Evidently, the question of absolute
good and evil, intuitive ideas of which guide us in our superficial
judgment, goes beyond such limitations as these. We can, for instance,
provide excellent eating-houses for an entire people without directly
affecting the question of their morals. One might say, indeed, that to
judge by appearances, a well-fed people are _better, quieter, and
commit less crime_ than a nation that is ill-nourished; but whoever
draws from that the conclusion that to make men good it is _enough_ to
feed them, will be making an obvious mistake.

It cannot be denied, however, that _nourishment_ will be an essential
factor in obtaining goodness, in the sense that it will _eliminate_
all the _evil acts, and the bitterness_ caused by lack of bread.

Now, in our case, we are dealing with a far deeper need--the
nourishment of man's inner life, and of his higher functions. The
bread that we are dealing with is the bread of the spirit, and we are
entering into the difficult subject of the satisfaction of man's
psychic needs.

We have already obtained a most interesting result, in that we have
found it possible to present _new means_ of enabling children to reach
a higher level of calm and goodness, and we have been able to
establish these means by experience. The whole foundation of our
results rests upon these means which we have discovered, and which may
be divided under two heads--the _organization of work_, and liberty.

It is the perfect organization of work, permitting the possibility of
self-development and giving outlet for the energies, which procures
for each child the beneficial and calming _satisfaction_. And it is
under such conditions of work that liberty leads to a perfecting of
the activities, and to the attainment of a fine discipline which is in
itself the result of that new quality of _calmness_ that has been
developed in the child.

Freedom without organization of work would be useless. The child left
_free_ without means of work would go to waste, just as a new-born
baby, if _left free_ without nourishment, would die of starvation.
_The organization of the work_, therefore, is the corner-stone of this
new structure of goodness; but even that organization would be in vain
without the _liberty_ to make use of it, and without freedom for the
expansion of all those energies which spring from the satisfaction of
the child's highest activities.

Has not a similar phenomenon occurred also in the history of man? The
history of civilization is a history of successful attempts to
organize work and to obtain liberty. On the whole, man's goodness has
also increased, as is shown by his progress from barbarism to
civilization, and it may be said that crime, the various forms of
wickedness, cruelty and violence have been gradually decreasing during
this passage of time.

The _criminality_ of our times, as a matter of fact, has been compared
to a form of _barbarism_ surviving in the midst of civilized peoples.
It is, therefore, through the better organization of work that society
will probably attain to a further purification, and in the meanwhile
it seems unconsciously to be seeking the overthrow of the last
barriers between itself and liberty.

If this is what we learn from society, how great should be the results
among little children from three to six years of age if the
organization of their work is complete, and their freedom absolute? It
is for this reason that to us they seem so good, like heralds of hope
and of redemption.

If men, walking as yet so painfully and imperfectly along the road of
work and of freedom, have become better, why should we fear that the
same road will prove disastrous to the children?

Yet, on the other hand, I would not say that the goodness of our
little ones in their freedom will solve the problem of the absolute
goodness or wickedness of man. We can only say that we have made a
contribution to the cause of goodness by removing obstacles which were
the cause of violence and of rebellion.

Let us "render, therefore, unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and
unto God the things that are God's."


Transcriber's Note:

  Illustrations have been moved closer to their relevant paragraphs.

  The page numbers in the List of Illustrations do not reflect the new
  placement of the illustrations, but are as in the original.

  The list of "didactic material for the _education of the senses_" on
  pages 18-19 is missing item (j) as in the original.

  Author's archaic and variable spelling is preserved.

  Author's punctuation style is preserved.

  Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.

  Passages in bold indicated by =equal signs=.

  Typographical problems have been changed and are listed below.

Transcriber's Changes:

  Page vii: Was 'marvellous' [In fact, Helen Keller is a =marvelous=
           example of the phenomenon common to all human beings]

  Page 46: Was 'anvles' [which vary either according to their sides or
           according to their =angles= (the equilateral, isosceles,
           scalene, right angled, obtuse angled, and acute)]

  Page 63: Added commas [recognized and arranged in order--doh, _re_,
           =doh,= re, _mi_; doh, =re,= mi, _fah_; doh, =re,= mi, fah,
           _soh_, etc. In this way he succeeds in arranging all the]

  Fig. 35 caption: Was 'si' [the spaces which remain where the discs
           are far apart: do-re, re-mi, fah-soh, soh-la, la-=ti=. The
           discs for the semitones]

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