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Maria Montessori was born in 
1870, and she was the first woman 
ever granted a medical degree by an 
Italian university. As a child, she 
showed great ability in mathema- 
tics and originally intended to be- 
come an engineer. She did post- 
graduate work in psychiatry. 

At the age of 28, Montessori be- 
came directress of a tax-supported 
school for defective children. Work- 
ing thirteen hours a day with the 
children, she developed materials 
and methods which allowed them to 
perform reasonably well on school 
problems previously considered far 
beyond their capacity. Her great 
triumph, in reality and in the news- 
papers, came when she presented 
children from mental institutions at 
the public examinations for pri- 
mary certificates, which was as far 
as the average Italian ever went in 

formal education — and her chil- 
dren passed the exam. 

Typically, she drew from her ex- 
perience the vigorous conclusion — 
that if these children could be 
brought to the academic levels 
reached by normal children, then 
there had to be something horribly 
wrong with the education of normal 
children. And so she moved on to 
the normal children of the slums. 
Thereafter, by her own desire and 
by public demand, she was an edu- 
cator, not a medical doctor. 

Montessori's insights and methods 
are contained in four basic texts, 
now republished: The Montessori 
Method, Spontaneous Activity in 
Education {The Advanced Montes- 
sori Method, volume 1), The Mon- 
tessori Elementary Material 
{The Advanced. Montessori Method, 
volume 2), and Dr. Montessori's 
Own Handbook. 

The Montessori Method, by Maria 
Montessori. Introduction by Martin 
Mayer. The education of children 
from 3 to 6. With all the original 
photographs. 50 photos/figures. 448 
pages. .$6.50 

Spontaneous Activity in Education, 
by Maria Montessori. The Advanced 
Montessori Method, volume 1. The 
education of children from 7 to 11. 
384 pages. $6.50 

The Montessori Elementary Mate- 
rial, by Maria Montessori. The Ad- 
vanced Montessori Method, volume 2. 
The education of children from 7 to 
11. 116 photos/figures. 512 pages. 


Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook, 
by Maria Montessori. 43 photos/ 
figures plus 1 four-color photo. 170 
pages. $5.00 

Montessori for Parents, by Dorothy 
Canfield Fisher. 20 photos plus 1 four- 
color photo. 288 pages. $5.95 

The Montessori Manual for 
Teachers and Parents, by Dorothy 
Canfield Fisher. Practical exercises 
and lessons on the use of the ap- 
paratus in homes and schools, nature 
study, and an extended discussion on 
Montessori discipline and obedience. 
15 photos plus 1 four-color photo. 154 
pages. $5.00 


18 Pleasant St., Cambridore, Massachusetts 02139 








18 Pleasant St., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 

Copyright, 1914, by 
Frederick A. Stokes Company 

All rights resernjed, including that of translation 
into foreign languages 

Printed in the U.S.A. 












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 elo- 
quent symbol, Helen Keller and Mrs. Anne Sulli- 
van Macy, who are, by their example, both teach- 
ers to myself — and, before the world, living docu- 
ments of the miracle in education. 

In fact, Helen Keller is a marvellous 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 idea. 

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 yon. 
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. 

Makia Montessoei. 



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 for 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 


1. Cupboard with Apparatus 12 

2. The Montessori Pedometer 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 ... 37 
Color Spools 42 

16. Cabinet with Drawers to Hold Geometrical In- 

sets 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 Fig- 

ures 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 improve- 
ment in the conditions of child life. In all civi- 
lized countries, but especially in England, statis- 
tics show a decrease in infant mortality. 

Eelated to this decrease in mortality a corre- 
sponding improvement is to be seen in the phys- 
ical development of children; they are physically 
finer and more vigorous. It has been the dif- 
fusion, 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 ns 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, ex- 
ercise, simple short clothing, quiet and plenty of 
sleep. Rules were also laid down for the meas- 
urement 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 aspira- 
tion 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 crea- 
tion, man. 

Science evidently has not finished its prog- 
ress. 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 posi- 
tive 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 reen- 
force 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 char- 
acter, and of those latent creative forces which lie 
hidden in the marvelous embryo of man's spirit. 

As the child's body must draw nourish- 
ment and oxygen from its external environment, 
in order to accomplish a great physiological 
work, the ivorh of growth, so also the spirit 
must take from its environment the nourish- 
ment which it needs to develop according to its 
own *4aws 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 com- 
pletion 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 under- 
goes 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 pro- 
duces 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 im- 


posed by nature itself, and each man must ac- 
complish 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 ques- 
tion 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 observa- 


tion, comparison and judgment. In this way he 
gradually comes to be acquainted with his envi- 
ronment and to develop his intelligence. 

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 understand- 
ing 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 ig- 
norant 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 com- 
pletely developed, must in a short time adapt him- 
self 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 de- 
velopment 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 par- 
ticular case of the child from three to seven years 
of age, i.e., to the needs of a formative period 
of life. 

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 per- 
ception and of reasoning, and lack of character 
in normal children, it would perhaps be interesting 
to compare them with statistics of the same na- 
ture, 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 resem- 
blance between such statistics and those to-day 
available showing the decrease in mortality and 
the improvement in the physical development of 

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 chil- 
dren 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 

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 de- 
velopment of the child, but also a complete equip- 
ment for the management of the miniature fam- 
ily. 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 smaU. 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 indispen- 
sable 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 

Round the walls of the room are fixed black- 
boards at a low level, so that the children can 
write or draw on them, and pleasing, artistic pic- 
tures, 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 al- 
ways 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 be- 
cause 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 furnish- 
ings 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 


Fig. 1. — CuPBOARn with Apparatus. 

ly ii mWW- 'l ill L WIM 

Fig. 2. — The Montessori 


sow the seed of some indoor plant, to tend and 
cultivate it as it grows. On the tables of this sit- 
ting-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, pos- 
sibly 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 ^^Chil- 
dren'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 en- 
tire 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 modiJSca- 
tions 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 cas- 
ing 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 gradu- 
ated. 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 ex- 
tremely easily, so that very little strength is re- 
quired to move them. The little india-rubber 
balls prevent the children from hurting them- 
selves 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 pro- 
posals 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 pedome- 
ter are so smooth and well polished that they in- 
vite 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 bio- 
graphical record. This biographical record fol- 
lows the history of the child's development ac- 
cording 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 psy- 
chical 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 educa- 
tion, while sensory education and the education 
of language are provided for by my didactic ma- 

The didactic material for the education of the 
senses consists of: 

(a) Three sets of solid insets. 

(h) Three sets of solids in graduated sizes, 
comprising : 

(1) Pink cubes. 

(2) Brown prisms. 

(3) Eods: (a) colored green ; (&)' colored 

alternately red and blue. 

(c) Various geometric solids (prism, pyramid, 

sphere, cylinder, cone, etc.). 

(d) Rectangular tablets with rough and smooth 


(e) A collection of various stuffs. 

(/) Small wooden tablets of different weights. 
ig) Two boxes, each containing sixty-four 
colored tablets. 


(Ji) 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 

(I) A double series of musical bells, wooden 

boards on which are painted the lines 

used in music, small wooden discs for the 


Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing 
and Arithmetic 

(m) Two sloping desks and various iron insets. 

(n) Cards on which are pasted sandpaper let- 

(o) Two alphabets of colored cardboard and 
of different sizes. 

(p) A series of cards on which are pasted sand- 
paper figures (1, 2, 3, etc.). 

(q) A series of large cards bearing the same 
figures in smooth paper for the enumera- 
tion 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 move- 
ments of the hand. 


The education of the movements is very com- 
plex, 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 **unruli- 
ness" and ^' naughtiness." 

The adult would deal with him by checking 
these movements, with the monotonous and use- 
less 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, there- 
fore, 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 mnscular 
education at this age.j 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 move- 
ments is one of the principal factors in produ-cing 
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 books. 

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. 
Ehythmic 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 cloth- 
ing, shoes, etc. (Fig. 3.) The teacher, sitting by 
the child's side, performs the necessary move- 
ments 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 ad- 
just 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 

Fig. 3. — Frames for Lacing and Buttoning. 

Fig. 4. — Child Buttoning on 
Frame, ( Photo taken at Mr. 
Hawker's School at Runton.) 


great patience to analyze the movements, per- 
forming them separately very slowly and care- 
fully. 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 want- 
ing 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 chil- 
dren it is necessary to arrange for the children 
to take turns in the various household duties, 
such as housework, serving at table, and wash- 
ing 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 dif- 
ficulty. 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 in- 
telligent in appearance, standing perplexed, be- 
cause 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 chil- 
dren 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 cMld. The rest develops of itself. The 
children learn from one another and throw them- 
selves into the work with enthusiasm and delight. 
This atmosphere of quiet activity develops a fel- 
low-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 per- 
fectly 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 sur- 
roundings. 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 wait- 
resses 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 move- 
ment 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 

Music may then be nsed. 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 ac- 
company 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, free- 
ing 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 educa- 

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 some- 
times discs, all furnished with a button for a 


handle. In the first case there is a row of cylin- 
ders 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 di- 
mensions, 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 cylin- 
ders, 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 tak- 
ing 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 place. 

Fig. 5. — Cylinders Decreasing ix Diameter only. 

Fig. G. — Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter and Height. 





Fig. 7. — Cyxinders Decreasing in Height only. 

Fig. 8. — Child using Case of 


Fig. 9.— The Tower. 


10. — Child Playing avith Tower. (Photo taken at Mb. 
Hawker's School at Runton.) 


In these exercises the teacher may, in the first 
instance, intervene, merely taking out the cylin- 
ders, 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 in- 
tervention, however, is almost always found 
to be unnecessary, for the children see their com- 
panions at work, and thus are encouraged to im- 
itate them. 

They like to do it alone; in fact, sometimes al- 
most 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 be- 
long 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 tlie 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 dimen- 
sion, for the child ends by being able to recog- 
nize at a glance the larger or the smaller hole 


wMch 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 mate- 
rial itself J and the child has concrete evidence of 

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 mis- 
take 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 

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 indefi- 
nite repetition of this exercise of attention and of 
intelligence that a real development ensues. 

The series of objects to follow after the cylin- 


ders consists of three sets of geometrical solid 
forms : 

(1) Ten wooden cubes colored pink. Tlie 
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. 

(2) Ten wooden prisms, colored brown. The 
length of the prisms is twenty centimeters, and 
the square section diminishes from ten centi- 
meters 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 table. 

(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. 12.) 

The cliild 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 pipes. 

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 correc- 
tion of hers will be directed more towards pre- 
venting 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^re petition of the 
exercise which, by refining his powers of obser- 
vation, will lead him sooner or later to correct 


himself. Sometimes it happens that a child work- 
ing 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 
hy himself J 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 recogni- 
tion 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 above. 

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 

Hence the difference between the objects should 
strike the eye at once; for that reason larger 


Fig. 13. — Board with Rough and Smooth 

. j ^ 

1 - , 



Fig. 14. — Board with Gummed Strips of 

Fig. 15. — Wood Tablets Differing in Weight. 


objects are used, and the necessarj visual ppw^ 
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 exer- 
cises 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 liglitly as possible 
over the two separate surfaces, that he may 
appreciate their difference. The delicate move- 
ment 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 edu- 


cation 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 inter- 
ference is a little more definite still, for she takes 
hold of his hand and guides it to touch the sur- 
faces 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 ditferent 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 sur- 
faces, 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 ca- 
pacity for perceiving tactile differences which are 
always growing more similar, but also perfect- 


ing the movement of whicli lie 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 colors. 

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 fine- 
ness 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 ex- 
ertion, he blindfolds himself with a clean handker- 
chief, 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 him- 
self whether he has made any mistake. 

This exercise in touching and feeling is pecul- 
iarly attractive to the child, and induces him to 


seek similar experiences in his surroundings. A 
little one, attracted by tlie 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 mean- 
while 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 tab- 
lets, 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 

The child has to take a tablet and rest it deli- 
cately 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 move- 
ments should diminish as the capacity and atten- 
tion for perceiving the weight of the object be- 
comes more acute and the exercise will be per- 


fectly performed when the child comes to per- 
ceive the weight almost without any movement of 
the hands. It is only by the repetition of the at- 
tempts that snch 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 haric 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 him- 
self with a material which is very attractive to 

This is the set of tablets covered with bright 
silk of shaded colors. The set consists of two 
se^axata- boxes each containing sixty-four col- 
ors; that is, eight different tints, each of which 
has eight shades carefully graded. The first ex-; 
, ercise 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. 

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 

Color Spools 


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 interest- 
ing attempts which he spontaneously makes. It 
often happens that the child makes a mistake. 
If he has understood the idea and makes a mis- 
take, 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 distinguish- 
ing 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 direction. 

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 train- 
ing in attention. He must not take hold of the 
tablets anyhow, he must avoid touching the col- 
ored silk, and must handle the tablets instead by 
the pieces of wood at the top and bottom. To ar- 
range 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, 

Pjg, 10. — Cabinet with Drawers to hold Geometrical Ixsets. 

Fig. 17. — Set of Six Cikclk: 

Fig. 18. — Set of Six Rectangles. 

Fig. 19. — Set of Six Triangles. 


of course, keeping the color lie 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 digres- 
sion for them, as they run with the image of a 
color in their minds and look for its correspond- 
ing 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 form. 


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

(1) In one drawer there are six circles de- 
creasing in diameter. (Fig. 17.) 

(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 gradu- 
ally decreases. (Fig. 18.) 

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

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

(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 

Fig. 20. — Set of Six Polygons. 

Fig. 21. — Set of Six Irregular Figures. 

Fig. 22. — Set of Four Blanks and Two Irregular Figures. 


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 ar- 
ranged 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 geo- 
metrical 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 

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 

Afterwards the teacher's object will be to ar- 
range 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 com- 
pare 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 

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 

Fig. 24. — Child Touching the Insets. 


(MoNTEssoRi School, 


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 place. 

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 touch- 
ing 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 form. 

This exercise could be called an indirect but 
very real preparation for drawing. It is cer- 
tainly the preparation of the hand to trace an en- 
closed form. The little hand which touches, 
feels, and knows how to follow a determined out- 
line is preparing itself, without knowing it, for 

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 geo- 
metrical 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 aper- 
tures, he simply rests them on the cardboard fig- 


Again, the refinement of the eye's power of dis- 
crimination 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 ab- 
straction. 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 them- 
selves invent them. Some love to spread out a 
number of the figures of the geometric insets be- 
fore 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 card- 
board series. 

Another game invented by the children consists 


in putting out and mixing all tlie 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 corre- 
sponding 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 ex- 
ample, 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 

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 persever- 

jWe 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, rect- 
angle, 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 foimed, and in which the 
sounds of a foreign language can be perfectly 

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 ad- 
mirer 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 distribu- 
tion, 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 I a rect- 
















Fig. 25. — Series of Cards with Geometrical Forms. 

Fig. 26. — Sound Boxes. 


angle!" 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, 
^'Kectangle." The woman going on with her 
work cut off a large comer 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, w^ho 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 demon- 
stration to induce all the workmen of the dwell- 
ings 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 reali- 
zation 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 beau- 
tiful 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 sup- 
porting 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, tak- 
ing 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 exercise. 

Many psychologists have spoken of the stereo- 
gnostic 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 sensa- 
tions, 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 fonn of bodies. 

It is the special muscular sensibility of the 
child from three to six years of age who is form- 
ing 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 ob- 
jects 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 

In the didactic material there are also geomet- 
rical solids — pale blue in color — a sphere, a prism, 
a pyramid, a cone, a cylinder. The most attrac- 
tive 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 direc- 
tion only; the cone rolls round itself; the prism 
and the pyramid, however, stand still, but the 
prism falls over more easily than the pyramid. 

Little more remains of the didactic material 
for the education of the senses. There is, how- 
ever, 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 set of these, and the exer- 
cise consists, first, in the recognition of sounds 
of equal intensity, arranging the cylinders in 
pairs. The next exercise consists in the compari- 
son of one sound with another; that is, the child 
arranges the six cylinders in a series accord- 
ing to the loudness of sound which they pro- 
duce. The exercise is analogous to that with the 
color spools, which also are paired and then ar- 
ranged 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 con- 
centrate his attention. 

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) Eecognition of contrasts (the presentation 
of the extremes of a series of objects). 


(3) Discrimination between objects very sim- 
ilar to one another. 

To concentrate the attention of the child upon 
the sensory stimulus which is acting upon him at 
a p:articular 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 out. 
. It is very advisable for those who wish to guide 
tne 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. Who- 
ever 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 musi- 
cal 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 semi- 
tones. These metal bells, which stand upon a 
wooden rectangular base, are all alike in appear- 
ance, but, when struck with a little wooden ham- 
mer, give out sounds corresponding to the notes 
doh, re, mi, f ah, soh, lah, ti, doh, doh #, re #, f ah S, 
soh #, lah *. 


^ i^^g^^^ i 

^l_i J_J_J_J^£p 

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 suc- 
ceeded 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 rec- 
ognizes 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 exer- 
cise 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 musi- 
cal scale, striking in rapid succession the bells ar- 


ranged 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 strik- 
ing 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 

If the objects which have been described con- 
stitute 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 exer- 
cises, and the simple songs sung by the children 
themselves, otf er extensive means for the develop- 
T»ent of the musical sense. 

To quicken the child's attention in special rela- 
tion 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 ^ Wesson 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 in- 
hibit all those motor impulses which may arise 


from any cause whatsoever, and in order to in- 
duce in them real 'immobility/' it is necessary 
to initiate them in the control of all their move- 
ments. The teacher, then, does not limit herself 
to saying, "Sit still,'' but she gives them the ex- 
ample 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., sl 
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 twi- 


light 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 op- 
presses the spirit. At such a time the spirit is 
set free and opens out like the corolla of the con- 

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 change- 
ful 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 

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 tilings 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 


whicli it has been brought about. It is not a grace 
taught externally for the sake of beauty or re- 
gard 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 
hy all, if the environment is to become tranquil 
and free from disturbance. One rebel is suffi- 
cient to mar this achievement; one noisy child, 
walking on his heels or banging the door, can 
disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the small com- 


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 recog- 
nize 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 com- 
pletely 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 chil- 
dren's songs are also a good means for obtain- 
ing exact pronunciation. The teacher, when she 
teaches them, pronounces slowly, separating the 
component sounds of the word pronounced. 

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 pro- 
nounced 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 fol- 
lowing tests: "Give me the large one. Give 
me the small one." Again, "The large one." 


'^Now the small one.'' ''Give me tlie 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 respec- 
tively "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 described: 


Period 1. Naming. ^'This is thick. This is 

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 ob- 
ject on a table. Then, again, she invites the child 
to look for the thickest piece among those scat- 
tered 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 accus- 
toms 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 ^Hhree periods," and by asking him to 
select from the pile at one time always the * ^ long- 
est," at another always the *^ shortest." 

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 col- 
ors 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 ex- 
tremes ^Mark" and *4ight," 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 touch- 
ing 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, rea- 
soned, and formed judgments, until he has ac- 
quired a power of discrimination which he did 
not possess before. In a word, he has refined his 
senses; his observation of things has been thor- 
ough 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 rich- 
ness 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 sci- 
ences 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 observa- 
tion. If he is a worker w^ith the microscope, his 
eyes are trained to see in the range of the micro- 
scope 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 bot- 
anist 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 distin- 
guishes the botanist from the ordinary gardener, 
and it is exact and scientific language which char- 
acterizes 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" in- 


stead 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 with- 
out 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 se- 
cret of real guidance, and it will not prove a dif- 
ficult 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 per- 
sonality 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 dis- 
coveries, and his little triumphs. There is there- 
fore no need of intervention. *^Wait while ob- 
serving." 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 liimself 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 cour- 
teous in our dealings with children, we treat them 
as we should like to be treated ourselves,'' we 
should certainly have mastered a great educa- 
tional principle and undoubtedly be setting an 
example of good education. 

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 chil- 
dren 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 chil- 
dren. We try to force them to follow us without 
regard to their special needs. We are overbear- 
ing 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 sacri- 
ficing, 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 de- 
sires 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 grow- 
ing 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 ad- 
vance 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 ex- 
periences by themselves, and who therefore differ 
in type and intellectual standard, not only accord- 
ing 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 ex- 
clusively to each one 's individual ' ' nature. ' ' Ow- 
ing to their environment which offers means 
adapted and measured to meet the needs of their 
psychical development, our children have ac- 
quired 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 independ- 
ence of action, and initiative in the adaptation of 
their actions to their environment. Out of all this 
emerges a personality, for the children have be- 
come 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 perfec- 
tion. 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 psycho- 
logical work still, arising from the education of 
the senses. In addition to ordering their environ- 
ment 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 Mm to dis- 
tinguish identities from differences, extreme dif- 
ferences 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 atten- 
tion, observing, comparing, and classifying. 

The mental attitude acquired by such an exer- 
cise leads the child to make ordered observa- 
tions in his environment, obser\^ations 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 
ivords the ideas which the mind has acquired. 
These words are few in number and have refer- 
ence, 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 ex- 
plorers instead of wandering wayfarers in an un- 
known land. 

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 calcula- 
tion, 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 conclusion. 

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 writ- 
ing and arithmetic now fix the complex inner ac- 


quisitions of the mind, which proceeds hencefor- 
ward continually to enrich itself by fresh observa- 

Our children have long been preparing the hand 
for writing. Throughout all the sensory exer- 
cises 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 fas- 
cinating *' synthesis" of writing. 

The direct preparation for writing also con- 
sists in exercises of the movements of the hand. 
There are two series of exercises, very different 
from one another. I have analyzed the move- 
ments 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 move- 


ment which generally acquires an individual char- 
acter, so that a person's handwriting can be rec- 
ognized, and, in certain medical cases, changes in 
the nervous system can be traced by the corre- 
sponding alterations in the handwriting. In fact, 
it is from the handwriting that specialists in that 
subject would interpret the moral character of 

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

When a man writes he combines these two parts, 
but they actually exist as the comppnent parts of 
a single product and can be prepared apart. 

Exercises for the Management of the 
Instrument of Writing 

(The Individual Part) 
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 but- 
ton 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 * Onsets/' 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 dis- 
tance 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 in- 
teresting, 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 per- 
formed 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 con- 
tained by two outlines in colors, and, if the colors 
have been well chosen, the result is very attrac- 
tive, and the child, who has already had a con- 
siderable 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 in- 
stance, 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 in- 

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 iriduce- 
ment 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 hea\y 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 be- 
comes the possessor of a considerable number of 
drawings, and he treasures them up in his own 
little drawer. In this way he organises the move- 
ment of writing, which brings him to the manage- 
ment of the pen. This movement in ordinary 
methods is represented by the wearisome pothook 
connected with the first laborious and tedious at- 
tempts at writing. 

The organization of this movement, which be- 
gan 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 pre- 
pared designs with colored pencils in the same 
way as before. Here the choice of the colors is 
another intelligent occupation which encourages 

Fig. 28. — Si oping Boards to Display Set of ^NIetai, Txsets. 

Fig. 29. — Single Sandpaper Letter. 


C V Z 

Fig. 30. — Groups of Sandpaper Letters. 


the child to multiply the tasks. He chooses the 
colors by himself and with much taste. The deli- 
cacy of the shades which he chooses and the har- 
mony with which he arranges them in these de- 
signs show us that the common belief, that chil- 
dren love hf'ight and glaring colors, has been the 
result of observation of children without educa- 
tion, who have been abandoned to the rough and 
harsh experiences of an environment unfitted for 

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 lie 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 children. 

The number of exercises which the child per- 
forms 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 educa- 
tion of the chromatic sense, which the child ac- 
quires by painting the same designs in water-col- 
ors. 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 

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 alphabeti- 
cal 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 sur- 
faces. The teacher herself touches the letters to 
show the child how the movement should be per- 
formed, 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 un- 
derstand the importance of a remote motor prep- 
aration for writing, and also to realize the im- 
mense strain which we impose upon the children 
when we set them to write directly without a pre- 
vious 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 al- 
ready 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 ex- 
ample, presenting the two vowels i, o, she will 
have the child touch them slowly and accurately, 
and repeat their relative sounds one after tlie 
other as the child touches them, '4, 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 thisf 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 alphabet- 
ical 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 move- 
ment corresponding to the writing of them, and, 


Fig. 31. — Box of Movable Letters. 


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. 

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 signs. 

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 in- 
clude reading as well. 

If the language is not phonetic, the teacher can 
compose separate words with the movable alpha- 
bet, and then pronounce them, letting the child re- 
peat by himself the exercise of arranging and re- 
reading them. 

In the material there are two movable alpha- 
bets. 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 alphabet. 

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 al- 
phabet 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 perfect- 
ing 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 func- 
tions have passed through their course of develop- 
ment when life has once been established. 

For the interesting and very complex phenom- 


ena relating to the development of writing and 
then of reading, see my larger works. 


When the child knows how to read, he can make 
a first application of this knowledge to the read- 
ing 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 introduc- 
tion 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 exer- 
cise described above. 

Following this exercise there is another staff 

Fig. 32. — The Musical 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, 

* The single staff is used in the Conservatoire of Milan and 
utilized in the Perlasca method. 


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 

To the staff described above can be added an- 
other similar to it, arranged as is shown in the fig- 
ure. (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 de- 
scends 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 com- 
pleted a rhombus, ^Hhe rhombus of the notes." 

After the discs have been arranged in this way, 


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 chihl into the cor- 

re^-DOiidiiiL' ' ■- 

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). 

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-si. The discs for the semitones have the sharp on one 
side and the flat on the other, e.g., rej-mib are written on the 
opposite sides of the same disc. 


Fig. 3G. 

The children take a largo number of discs and arrange them on 
the stafl', 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. 

Fig. 37. 

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

Fig. 38. 

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


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 musi- 
cal 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 knowl- 
edge we have used in our schools a miniature 
pianoforte keyboard, which reproduces the essen- 
tials 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 notes. 

With this instrument it is ver^^ 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 piano. 

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 cor- 
responding to the keys struck. The child can then 
pursue his exercises with the control of the musical 


The children possess all the instinctive knowl- 
edge 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 ob- 
jects, and continued with the arrangement in gra- 
dation of similar objects. I will make a special 
illustration of the first exercise with the solid in- 
sets, 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 ab- 
sorbs the idea of the absence of one from a con- 
tinuous series. The child's mind is not prepared 

Fig. 30. — Dr:sir. Keyboard. 


for number *^by certain preliminary ideas," 
given in haste by the teacher, but has been pre- 
pared for it by a process of formation, by a slow 
building up of itself. 

To enter directly upon the teaching of arithme- 
tic, 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 rela- 
tion 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 dimen- 
sions remain constant (i.e., the rods all have the 
same section). 

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 ac- 
cording 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 centime- 
ters, 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 an- 
other 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 follow- 
ing 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. 

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 succes- 
sion, 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 cus- 
tomary 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/' 

1 2 

1 2 


1 2 



1 2 




1 2 





1 2 






1 2 







1 2 








1 2 








Fig. 40. — Diagram Illustrating Use of Numerical Rods. 

Then we say to the child: ''Give me tivo/' 
"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 num- 
ber 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 be- 
long 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 homo- 
geneous units. 

/ Again, when the child shows us the 9, he is 
y handling a rod which is inflexible — an object com- 
/ plete 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 calcula- 
tion easier, they present the child with dif- 
ferent 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 impres- 
sion 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 num- 
ber, 8. 

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

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 subtrac- 
tions, 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 cer- 
tain 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 construc- 
tion of the mind, these operations would advance 
very little farther than the limits of the first sim- 
ple and elementary education of the senses. 

The figure, which is a word, a graphic sign, will 


permit of that unlimited progress which the math- 
ematical 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 analo- 
gous to the cards on which are gummed the sand- 
paper 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 ex- 
ercises 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 pleas- 
ure 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. 

For this purpose we have in the didactic ma- 

Fig. 41. — Couxtixg Boxes. 

Fig. 42. — ARiTiniETic Frame. 


terial a series of wooden pegs, but in addition to 
these we give the children all sorts of small ob- 
jects — 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 com- 
partment 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 im- 
possible 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 contain- 
ing the pegs there is one compartment over w^hich 
the is printed. Inside this compartment ^ ' noth- 
ing 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, 


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. 

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 

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 figTires. Thus estab- 
lished, however, these experiences open up an un- 
limited 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. Mj ex- 
periments in the continuation of this method for 
older children are already far advanced. 

MoEAL. Factobs 

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 im- 
portance of my method does not lie in the or- 
ganization itself, but in the effects which it pro- 
duces on the child. (Jt is the child who proves 
the value of this method by his spontaneous man- 
ifestations, which seem to reveal the laws of 
man's inner development.* Psychology will 
perhaps find in the ^^ Children's Houses" a labora- 
tory 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 con- 
ditions for the free development of thought. 

As is well known, we leave the children free 
in their work, and in all actions which are not of 

* See the chapters on Discipline in my larger works. 


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 mani- 

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 order- 
liness 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 evil. 

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

In the words **good" and '^eviP* we include the 
most varying ideas, and we confuse them espe- 


cially in our practical dealings with little children. 

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 coordi- 
nate his movements and to collect impressions, 
especially sensations of touch, so that when pre- 
vented 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 out- 
bursts 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 ns the things which seemed necessary 
to them for the purpose. They had to move con- 
trary 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 con- 
nected with the nervous system during the dif- 
ficult period when the brain is still rapidly 
growing, and should be of great interest to 
specialists in children's diseases and nervous de- 
rangements. The inner life of man and the 
beginnings of his intellect are controlled by spe- 
cial laws and vital necessities which cannot be 
forgotten if we are aiming at health for man- 

^ 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 limita- 
tions as these. We can, for instance, provide ex- 
cellent eating-houses for an entire people with- 
out directly affecting the question of their morals. 
One might say, indeed, that to judge by appear- 
ances, a well-fed people are better^ quieter, and 
commit less crime than a nation that is ill- 
nourished ; but whoever draws from that the con- 
clusion 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 organisation of 
work, and liberty .s4 mU <2 Onci < 1~ < *^ ^'^ ^ 

It is the perfect organization of work, permit- 
ting 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, there- 
fore, 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 \vick- 
edness, 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 puri- 
fication, and in the meanwhile it seems uncon- 


sciously 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 1 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 imper- 
fectly along the road of work and of freedom, 
have become better, why should we fear that the 
same road mil 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 vio- 
lence and of rebellion. 

Let us ' ^ render, therefore, unto CaBsar the things 
that are Csesar ^s, and unto God the things that are 









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